HELP Reads & Literature Reviews

Recently I was asked how I find current and relevant research related to children’s librarianship. Let me introduce you to my secret research weapon called HELP Reads. HELP stands for The Human Early Learn Partnership which is “a collaborative, interdisciplinary research network, based at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia.” My alma mater is pretty cool.

Their mission is to create, promote, and apply new knowledge to help children and families thrive. To that end, every month they release a research review which “aims to expand awareness of topics in human development, particularly social epigenetics, social determinants of health, socio-emotional learning, Aboriginal children and youth, and family policy.” And this research review is a GOLDMINE, friends.

To help spread awareness of the research and to encourage my fellow library workers to read it, I’ve decided to share their reports every month and highlight a few articles that look interesting to me. My goal is to help their research reach a broader audience and to push children’s librarians to think critically about how we can apply it to our work with kids and families. I’m sure some of these articles will make their way to the Library Services for Children Journal Club.

September 2019 Research Review

Here’s the 2019 HELP research review. At the beginning of the review they share the Editor Picks. You can visit their website to see the archive going back to 2015. Here are a few articles I’m going to dig into:

Play Today: B.C. Handbook

I’m interested in this handbook because it was written by the B.C. Ministry of Education and takes into account the new B.C. Early Learning Framework and School Curriculum. With play being such a big topic in early literacy, I’m interested in learning more about the types of play and strategies to support play-based learning. A great resource to keep in mind when advocating for play in the future.

The Psychobiology of Emotional Development: The Case for Examining Sociocultural Processes

This article from the Developmental Psychobiology journal caught my attention because I’ve been thinking a lot of the sociocultural context of early literacy. Especially with regards to Every Child Ready to Read. I’m interested to learn how this affects emotional development and what role the library could possibly play.

National Progress Report on Early Learning and Child Care

I love getting the big picture. This report from the government of Canada gives the lay of the land for each province’s pressing issues and goals. I think this information is really good to know about in terms of advocating for funding and designing programs that match government goals.

Using Two-Eyed Seeing in Research With Indigenous People: An Integrative Review

This one stuck out to me because I’ve never heard of two-eyed seeing and I’m intrigued. As researchers become more aware of the implications of “studying” Indigenous people, I hope more Indigenous-led methods of research are taken into account.

Which articles grab your attention? Where do you find current research related to our field? Hit me up in the comments.

Center for Childhood Creativity

Sometimes you stumble upon a website or resource that’s just so good you have to write an entire blog post about it. I should probably have one about Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child too. Today’s post is all about the Center for Childhood Creativity, the research and advisory division of the Bay Area Discovery Museum located in California (I know I have no right to feel a swell of pride anytime anything great comes from my state of birth, but YOU GO, GIRL).

The Center for Childhood Creativity positions itself as “the missing link between academic research and adults’ work with children ages 0-10.” Did you say academic research? Did you say working with kids? I am all ears folks.

The first resource I want to highlight from them is the Reimagining School Readiness Toolkit which was created specifically for librarians.

In the Reimagining School Readiness Position Paper, they look at over 150 research studies from cognitive and developmental psychology to identify skills and conditions for kids to success in school and later in life. I LOVE that they define “early childhood” as up to age 8. My province, British Columbia, is also re-writing our Early Learning Framework to include this expanded age range. The 6 key findings are clearly presented and they challenge us to change our checklist of things we look for in kids to measure success.

Once you’ve read the position paper, check out the Promising Practices: A Guide for Library Staff. They sort their 6 key findings into three categories and give specific examples of things you can do in a library setting. The three categories are: Talk & Play, Science & Math, Body & Brain.

Also included in the toolkit are case studies, bookmarks, math activities, flyers, and posters. They designed all materials so you can add your own library’s logo!

The CCC also has a plethora of information on how to cultivate creativity. If you want some program inspiration check out their Creativity Catapult and browse through their curated list of research-backed activities for kids ages 2 – 14 years. If you want to dig into the research read their reports: Inspiring a Generation to Create: Critical Components of Creativity in Children and The CREATE Framework: Learning Environments to Develop Creativity.

The first report lays out 7 critical components of creativity in children: Imagination & Originality, Flexibility, Decision Making, Communication & Self-Expression, Motivation, Collaboration, Action & Movement. The second report uses the CREATE acronym to lay out a pedagogical framework for creating experiences that foster creative problem-solving. Both of these are a wonderful planning tool for libraries – think about how they could transform your summer reading programs!

Lastly, I want to draw your attention to two reports that are specific to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Their report called Shared Discoveries: Positive Parent-Child Relationships and Child Development is packed with early literacy tips you can share in storytime, and it also works well as a source for advocating for library programs that allow us to help facilitate these relationships. Secondly, for those of you deep in the world of STEM learning, they have a report called The Roots of STEM Success: Changing Early Learning Experiences to Build Lifelong Thinking Skills which presents 6 key findings for harnessing STEM abilities in the early years and using it to promote lifelong learning.

Whew, are you feeling the research bug yet? Grab me a pen and highlighter and I am ready to go!

Have you come across any amazing resources that inform your work as a children’s librarian? I’d love to learn about them!

Professional Development Books: Child Development

Welcome to Part 3 of my Professional Development Books series. Part 1 showcases books about language and literacy, while Part 2 features my go-to program planning resources.

This post is all about child development, child psychology, and brain development. In truth, I have not read all of these in full – this list is partly for my own reading inspiration. My goal is to read one a month. Anyone with me?

The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids (2014) by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl
I am a little biased about this one because firstly, if my last name didn’t give it away, my family is Danish, and secondly, this is how I raise the little one in my life. The authors spend a chapter each on the 6 elements of PARENT: Play, Authenticity, Reframing, Empathy, No Ultimatums, and Togetherness. Written in accessible language, this is a great book to read for yourself or to recommend to other caregivers.

The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange
A design critic steps into the world of children by investigating how toys, homes, schools, playgrounds, and cities affect children’s health, values, and behaviours. Though not directly related to library service, this is a fascinating look at the other things in the world that heavily influence child development.

Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn – and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less (2003) by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff
These two authors are also on my Literacy and Language list. In this book they push against the accelerated learning trend and make the case for play (which we know is so important!). I haven’t read it yet, but they’ve got a 2017 book out called Becoming Brilliant that I also want to check out.

The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children (2016) by Alison Gopnik
I recommend all of Gopnik’s books. This is her most recent one which centers on the myth of “good parenting.” She argues that prescriptive parenting has made life worse for adults and kids, and offers advice on how to create a safe and stable environment for children which fosters exploration and experimentation. I also put it on my Language and Literacy list.

The Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (2010) by Ellen Galinsky
Committed to providing a research-based parenting advice book, Galinsky lays out 7 critical areas where science can inform our interactions with small children. Filled with lots of suggestions that caregivers can use (or not). Highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about executive function.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (2009) by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
I’ve written about my love of this book before, and it’s no wonder it’s a bestseller. Each chapter covers a different topic – praising children, sleep, race, lying, self-control, teen rebellion, and more. A quick, fun read that will get you thinking in new ways.

Nurturing Personal, Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood: A Practical Guide to Understanding Brain Development and Young Children’s Behaviour (2018) by Debbie Garvey
Case studies and examples fill this guide which aims to inform early childhood educators about brain development and encourages them to reflect on their own practice. Some topics such as reward systems and food eating aren’t as applicable to a library setting as a home or childcare, but there’s lots of recent research to explore here.

The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive (2019) by W. Thomas Boyce
I first learned about this book through an interview with the author on NPR. Using the metaphor of the two flowers, Boyce examines what makes some children able to cope with stress, while others are more sensitive and reactive. An interesting look at how we can support kids who need it most.

The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life (2010) by Alison Gopnik
As I said, I recommend everything written by Gopnik. This one is especially relevant for those of us serving babies. Learn about memory, attachment, language acquisition, and how babies view the world.

Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps – And What We Can Do About It (2009) by Lise Eliot
A neuroscientist takes on assumptions and stereotypes about gender that start from birth. I like how she explains how small differences become amplified over time with parental reinforcement, but also how she looks at the role of genes and hormones to see what differences actually exist. Differences among us are presented as emerging, malleable characteristics rather than fixed biological traits.

The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children (2007) by David Elkind
Another push towards play as a method of learning versus the regimented educational curriculum popular in the 1990s. Elkind explores how play can help with reading, science, and math. An easy read with lots of great examples.

The Psychology of Babies: How Relationships Support Development From Birth to Two (2014) by Lynne Murray
Written by a professor of developmental psychology, I highly recommend this book to anyone doing babytime. Learn how a baby’s brain grows and changes in the first two years and how relationships can aid that development. I love the photograph sequences that illustrate main concepts so you see it in action.

The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind (2000) by Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff, and Patricia K. Kuhl
Revolutionary when it was published this book argues that “evolution designed us to both teach and learn.” Although the research they cite can’t be counted as groundbreaking anymore, they do a great job of using cognitive science to explain children’s brains and language development.

Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child (2007) by Lisa Guernsey
Despite being published in 2007, this book offers a great framework for choosing digital media that I still use today – Content, Context, and Your Child. Guernsey provides a critical look at technology for little ones but doesn’t give into the fear mongering common in the media.

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (2015) by Frances E. Jensen
Changes the question about teens from “What were they thinking?” to “How were they thinking?” The first four chapters provide the inside (brain) scoop on what’s happening as teens develop and were the most interesting to me. The next 12 chapters dive into specific topics such as drug and alcohol use, sleep, taking risks, mental illness, and stress. Highly recommend for those us serving teens and trying to understand them better.

The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow (2017) by Laura A. Jana
The premise of this book is based on the premise that the Information Age requires much different thinking abilities than the Industrial Age (which we still see in the structure of our schools). The author argues that the first five years are a prime time to develop what she calls QI Skills and she spends a chapter each describing how we can foster emotional intelligence and qualities such as curiosity, creativity, and empathy.

Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College (2011) by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
This one contains the most science-y language and the most breadth covering from birth to teenage years. The neuroscientist authors lay out neural development, the importance of play, and how children’s brains adapt to school and other challenging environments.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind (2011) by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
Written by a psychotherapist and a clinical professor of psychiatry, this popular book explains how a child’s developing brain affects emotions and behaviour. Written for caregivers, this book gives concrete strategies for dealing with common parental frustrations that are tied to brain development. Includes a chart showing the 12 strategies applied to different ages and stages.

Do you have a book about child development that has impacted the way you think or serve children in libraries? I would love to know about it!

Professional Development Books: Program Planning

This post is Part 2 of my Professional Development Books series. Part 1 features my top choices for books about language and literacy. This week I’m sharing books that I’ve used and others have found helpful when it comes to planning library programs. Most of them focus on storytime and the early years.

Did I miss one of your favourites? Let me know in the comments! I’m especially on the look-out for books about serving school-age kids outside of a school environment.

Artsy Toddler Storytimes: A Year’s Worth of Ready-to-Go Programming (2013) by Carol Garnett Hopkins
If you provide craft or extension activities after storytime or if you need STEAM storytime ideas, this is the book for you. The author provides 52 thematic storytime programs with additional art experiences and templates attached to each one.

Baby Storytime Magic: Active Early Literacy Through Bounces, Rhymes, Tickles, and More (2014) by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker
An excellent introduction to the logistics of babytime for beginners. Includes ideas for how to engage caregivers as well as sample program outlines and information on early literacy. See also: Baby Storytime: A Beginner’s Guide.

Books in Motion: Connecting Preschoolers with Books Through Art, Games, Movement, Music, Playacting, and Props (2013) by Julie Dietzel-Glair
Written specifically for storytime providers, this annotated bibliography gives you 500 titles with suggested extension activities categorized by the type listed in the title above. Easy to browse. Includes lots of ideas to shake up storytime while you are reading a book. See the companion nonfiction book below.

Cooking Up a Storytime: Mix-and-Match Menus for Easy Programming (2014) by Susan Anderson-Newham
Using a cooking metaphor, the librarian author outlines the necessary ingredients for a successful storytime. Includes brief information about early literacy, language development, and Every Child Ready to Read. The chapters on incorporating math, science, and poetry are the most unique.

Diversity Programming for Digital Youth: Promoting Cultural Competence in the Children’s Library (2014) by Jamie Campbell Naidoo
This book defines cultural competence and provides a guide for planning culturally competent programs that avoid stereotypes. Also covers research on digital media and children with examples of how libraries implement digital storytimes and more. Some of the apps may be dated at this point, but it includes an annotated list of digital media that promotes cultural competence.

Folktales Aloud: Practical Advice for Playful Storytelling (2014) by Janice M. Del Negro
Provides a range of oral stories broken down by age group that can be used in storytelling programs. Includes tips for how to add dramatic elements and how to cater to different groups. Highly recommended if you want to up your oral storytelling game. Includes a list of folktales to check out.

Including Families of Children with Special Needs (2014) by Carrie Scott Banks
This book is not just about program prep but addresses making your entire library accessible and friendly to people of all ages and stages. American in context, it covers the history of inclusion, staff training resources, library design, and program content. Lots of discussion around policies and attitudes which can shape your space in a positive way.

Let’s Start the Music: Programming for Primary Grades (2014) by Amy Brown
Ready-to-go program templates for the musically motivated. Aimed at grades K – 3, I think most of these can be adapted for preschoolers too. Really useful when you’re searching for songs to play in programs and books that keep a beat.

More Storytime Magic (2016) by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker
If you are just beginning as a storytime presenter and don’t know where to start, any of the books by this duo are good to check out. They provide thematic storytime plans with book, song, and flannel story suggestions. Also see their original book, Storytime Magic, and their follow-up Multicultural Storytime Magic for more ideas.

Nonfiction in Motion: Connecting Preschoolers with Nonfiction Books through Movement (2016) by Julie Dietzel-Glair
This slim volume is an annotated bibliography of 200 nonfiction picture books with suggested movement activities that tie into the five early literacy practices identified in Every Child Ready to Read, second edition. Books are grouped into five larger themes to make browsing easier.

The Ramped-Up Read Aloud: What to Notice as You Turn the Page (2019) by Maria Walther
A new favourite! Though written by a teacher for teachers, this book gives 101 picture books aimed at school-age kids and how to read them in a way that connects to larger concepts such as understanding feelings, developing a growth mindset, and considering point of view. A great resource for school-age visits.

Reading Pictures Books With Children: How to Shake Yo Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See (2015) by Megan Dowd Lambert
I already wrote an entire blog post about why this book is so great and why every children’s librarian should read it and own it. It changed the way I view picture books and how I read them with kids of all ages. Can’t recommend enough!

Read! Move! Learn! Active Stories for Active Learning (2007) by Carol Totsky Hammett and Nicki Collins Geigeert
A short introduction to why movement is connected to literacy gives way to an annotated list of over 70 picture books with suggested motor skill activities. Each spread shares literacy tips, related games, and vocabulary and concept connections. Although the titles are older, a great starting point for anyone developing music and movement programs.

Roots and Wings: Affirming Culture and Preventing Bias in Early Childhood (2016) by Stacey York
Though aimed at teachers and early childhood educators, this book provides a great overview of the psychology of prejudice and racial awareness through childhood. Lots of good tidbits we can apply to our storytime programming especially when it comes to talking to kids about race.

STEP Into Storytime: Using StoryTime Effective Practice to Strengthen the Development of Newborns to Five-Year-Olds (2014) by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Kathy Fling Klatt
Child development meets storytime in this well researched guide to planning and developing storytimes. Learn how to be intentional in your choices, how to scaffold material to different ages, and how to plan mixed-age storytimes. Sample storytime outlines included.

Stories, Songs, and Stretches! Creating Playful Storytimes with Yoga and Movement (2017) by Katie Scherrer
This slim volume guides you through planning and preparing a yoga storytime for preschoolers. In addition to teaching some basic yoga moves, it includes 12 thematic storytime outlines you can print and use.

Storytimes for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy (2013) by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin – Diaz
This book expertly explains the transition from the six skills presented in Every Child Ready to Read to the five practices presented in the second edition, and how storytime providers can incorporate those five practices. Learn how to incorporate an early literacy aside (explain, example, empower). Includes many sample storytimes for the 0 – 5 crowd that are a good jumping off point for planning your own. Also check out this duo’s 2006 book Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library for even more ideas.

Supercharged Storytimes: An Early literacy Planning and Assessment Guide (2016) by Kathleen Campana, J. Elizabeth Mills, and Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting
Research based! Coming from the VIEWS2 research out of the iSchool at the University of Washington, this book provides you with a planning tool to help you craft interactive and intentional storytimes that serve your community. I love the focus on reflection and assessment as a constant part of our practice. One of my storytime bibles.

Transforming Preschool Storytime: A Modern Vision and a Year of Programs (2013) by Betsy Diamant-Cohen and Melanie A. Hetrick
This is the book to read if you want to incorporate repetition in storytime or learn how to tell a story in different ways. They take 8 books and give 6 weeks worth of activities related to the story. I recommend this one to preschool teachers a lot!

What are your favourite programming planning resources? Let me know in the comments!

Professional Development Books: Literacy and Language

Did you see the recent blog post on ALSC by the two ladies behind The Cardigan calling for more free professional development for children’s librarians? Hear, hear. One of the ways I try to get in my professional development is to read books relating to serving children and working in libraries.

Today I’m sharing the first of a series of blog posts on professional development books. This week is all about literacy and language – how do we learn to talk, how can we support emergent literacy, what does the newest brain research tell us? These books seek to answer these questions. Other posts in this series will include books about programming support and child development. Stay tuned!

Did I miss one of your favourite books on this topic? I’d love to learn about it in the comments!

Born Reading: Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age – From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between (2014) by Jason Boog
The author consults authors, librarians, publishers, and child development experts to piece together a year-by-year guide to instilling a love of reading in your children. Includes reading on a variety of technology – from books to screens.

Growing a Reader From Birth: Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy (2004) by Diane McGuinness
I think this book was my bible in my early literacy course during my MLIS degree. Go from babbling to developing vocabulary to reading print and learn the science behind what’s happening in a child’s brain. An essential read.

Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 3 (2011) edited by Susan B. Neuman and David K. Dickinson
For those looking for research studies about early literacy, this is the tome for you! Studies cover brain development, language development, self-regulation, sociocultural contexts, and early intervention. I wish there were more recent volumes.

How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life (2000) by Roberta Michnick and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
Written by developmental psychologists this book takes you on a chronological journey through learning language. I like their “try this” asides where they offer concrete things to do with your baby to encourage language development.

Many Languages, Building Connections: Supporting Infants and Toddlers Who Are Dual Language Learners (2012) by Karen N. Nemeth
This thin book is aimed mostly at preschools and daycares, but it includes chapters on how to welcome diverse families and engage them in your programs. Sample training worksheets are included in the back.

Proust and Squid: The Story of Science and the Reading Brain (2007) by Maryanne Wolf
Written by a cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert, this book takes you on a journey of how the brain learns how to read. Language is natural to humans; reading is not. It’s a tough skill you have to learn, and Wolf shows why some kids will struggle with it. This one’s got an evolutionary lens I love.

Raising a Bilingual Child (2007) by Barbara Zurer Pearson
If you’ve ever been asked by a storytime caregiver if it’s okay to speak more than one language to a child, then you definitely need this book. Pearson covers the benefits of bilingualism and how to create a bilingual home environment. As a children’s librarian this book gives me the knowledge to talk about this subject with my community.

The Read-Aloud Handbook (2019) by Jim Trelease
The 8th edition of this classic comes out this year! Like Mem Fox, Trelease is interested in helping families read aloud to kids. He tells you why and how to do it, and includes an updated read aloud booklist with new diverse titles.

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever (2001) by Mem Fox
Australian literary expert Fox presents an easy-to-read guide for how to read aloud to small children and why its so important for their development. I found it a little commanding in tone at times, but the three secrets of reading are not intimidating for parents.

Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them (2014) by Jefffrey D. Wilhelm and Michael W. Smith
Finally a book about school-age kids! Mostly geared towards schools and teachers, librarians can use the arguments in this book to push for reading for pleasure and the many educational benefits it can bring. A great choice for parents who are questioning lexile levels and other reading measurements.

Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens (2015) by Lisa Guernsey and Michael H. Levine
These two authors are known for their research and writing on digital media and young children, and in this book they present an argument for why “we cannot allow technology to exacerbate social inequalities” (ix). They dive into a world of raising readers alongside smart phones and tablets – a critical, balanced view that urges us to do the same.

Time to Talk: What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Speech and Language Development (2017) by Michelle MacRoy-Higgins and Carlyn Kolker
Written by a speech-language pathologist, this book covers language acquisition milestones for a typically developing child. The goal is to demystify the process of learning language for parents and caregivers, and there’s lots of great tidbits we can use as early literacy tips in storytime.

Any you’ve read and loved? Please let me know!

Community Mapping

One of the things I’d like to write more about is community-led children’s librarianship.  A few years ago Dana wrote an introductory post about this topic with great examples. She also pointed to the Bible of community work: The Community-Led Libraries Toolkit.  This model of service positions the community members as experts and asks library staff to examine the different barriers to access users face.  I believe community outreach is a key part of our job, one I’m not willing to outsource to volunteers.  So let’s dive deeper into the toolkit strategies that help me better understand my neighbhourhood. We’ll start with community mapping.

When I moved to my current library branch a year and a half ago I had a fair idea of the demographics. I looked up data from the Human Early Learning Partnership based out of the University of British Columbia which shows me the level of vulnerability and developmental health of the early years and middle years children in my specific catchment.  I knew the types of stores and restaurants in the area because I don’t live far away.  What I didn’t have a good grasp of were the key services for kids ages 0 – 12 years old: daycares, preschools, schools, and out-of-school care facilities. These were the groups I wanted to reach out to but I didn’t know where they were located.

Enter community mapping and Google maps. I’m a visual learner and have a much easier time keeping track of information when I can look at a picture. In the Community-Led Libraries Toolkit one of the strategies for getting to know your area is called community asset mapping. Community asset mapping “focuses on learning about the organised or formal groups in a community. It helps you learn about the services provided in the community and identify potential community partners, providing a launch pad for you to enter the community.” I decided to create a Google map specifically mapping those three groups to better understand the spread of services. Here’s what my map looks like.  The yellow book icon is the library, the blue children are out-of-school care facilities, the purple houses are elementary schools, and the pink babies are preschools and daycares.

To create a map first open Google My Maps then select “Create a New Map.” There are tons of customization options. I didn’t do anything fancy. This website has a short video tutorial if you’d like to see a step-by-step guide. I like how you can colour code points, change the icons, and add notes.

Now I can easily spot daycares and preschools not within walking distance to the library or on an awkward public transit route. It’s also easy to spot the services that are clustered around a school, something I keep in mind when visiting classes.  When I schedule an outreach visit I look at the map and check to see if there is another centre nearby I can visit, either to drop off information, do an informal storytime, or simply collect more information.

There is a notes field attached to each point on the map that allows me to track how often I visit, the centre’s access to books, if the centre has an institutional library card, the socioeconomic status of the families, language spoken in the centre, etc. You can write in anything you find useful! It’s great for an at-a-glance summary of the spaces families are using for childcare and learning in my neighbourhood. Here’s an example:

Community asset mapping can be used for much broader purposes too. In the toolkit, they list the following questions to consider when creating your map:

  • Who lives, works, or visits around here? Where do people go?
  • What do they identify as the best places to shop for groceries, stop for coffee, check a bulletin board, or relax in a park?
  • Are there different “best places” for youth, families, seniors, or specific ethnic or economic groups?
  • What types of services and resources are available in the community?
  • What kinds of places or activities do people feel are missing from the community?

You can also invite the community to help you create your map. I’ve seen libraries make giant maps that they put on display and ask library users to add the places they frequent. You can also have staff go on community walks and come back and add any new developments they spot.

How do you get to know what’s in your library’s community? I’d love to hear about any other ideas!


It Takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian: Introducing “The Cardigan”

I can’t even tell you how much excitement I have for this announcement! When Katherine and Allie told me about The Cardigan I immediately asked if they would write about it so I could help spread the news.  Read on to learn about this amazing resource for library staff serving children.

Who We Are and the Vision

We (Allie & Katherine) are two Children’s Librarians working together in a public library in Oklahoma. Katherine primarily works with early childhood kids and Allie works with elementary kids.

Before working with Katherine, I (Allie) worked in a small rural public library in another state. It was my first full-time Children’s Librarian position out of library school. In this new position as a solo Children’s Librarian, it wasn’t long before I began to feel a little alone. I spent my free time researching great resources (like Jbrary!) to help me feel connected and up-to-date, but soon finding the time, support, and energy to research the relevant information left me exhausted.

This is a trend we have both noticed since becoming Children’s Librarians:  finding relevant and current professional development resources can be challenging, tedious to sift through, or costly. So we dreamt up the idea of a newsletter: a visually appealing platform made up of high-quality, bite-sized information related to the profession with real-world implications. Articles posted on social media can be difficult to keep track of, so the newsletter format allows us to preserve all of our resources in one place. Each newsletter will be turned into a PDF and accessible through a Google Drive folder. In this way, we hope to create a repository of the best tools available to help us become excellent at our jobs.

The Cardigan Newsletter

This newsletter is called “The Cardigan” and drops in your inbox on the 20th of every month. In every newsletter, we will explore the following topics with links to professional resources:

  • Learn. Deepen your knowledge on a topic related to Children’s Services.
  • Play.  Play is a right! Learn quick tips to optimize play experiences in libraries.
  • Plan. Learn about an interesting program you can easily replicate at your library.
  • Consider. Libraries are for everyone! Read resources about the importance of inclusive Children’s Services.
  • Connect. Discover new places to find content.
  • Reflect. Where we reflect on the deeper questions regarding Children’s Librarianship.
  • Read.  Check out some of our favorite books.
  • Ask. Where we answer your questions!

After some reflection, we settled on “it takes a neighborhood to nourish a Children’s Librarian” as our motto because we want to center in on the reality that we need each other to be happy, healthy, and effective librarians. We are both relatively new to the profession, and we hope to create a digital “neighborhood” with Children’s Librarians of all strengths and competencies.

This will happen in three ways:

  • Our “Celebrate” section: We want to celebrate your awards, promotions, and hard work!
  • Our “Share” section: You can e-mail us your cool programs and initiatives related to Children’s Services and we will select a few to feature each month.
  • Our Instagram and hashtag: We are going to use our Instagram (@thecardigannewsletter) to feature other ideas and programs, and the “shares” we aren’t able to fit in the newsletter. Tag your library-related Instagram and Facebook posts with #thecardigannewsletter so that we can see what you are up to!

How to Join the Neighborhood

We hope you’ll join the neighborhood and subscribe to The Cardigan! This little newsletter is our humble attempt to contribute to the need for professional development in our field; we know it won’t solve all of our problems, but we are excited to do our part and would love to have you along for the ride.

Here are four action items:

  • Subscribe to the Cardigan here.
  • Contribute to our first “Ask” section. Email us at with “Ask” in the subject line with any library-related question.  We will do our best to answer, but if we can’t, we will bring in an expert.
  • Contribute to our first “Celebrate” section. E-mail us at, with “Celebrate” in the subject line, along with a brief description (2-3 sentences) of your successes. Celebrating coworkers is also welcomed; please ‘cc them in the submission e-mail so that we can get their permission to be featured. Examples of things to celebrate include: trying something new, practicing radical self-care, getting a job, getting published, being a great coworker… Whatever you deem to be an accomplishment!
  • Contribute to our first “Share” section. You can e-mail us your cool program ideas at, with “Share” in the subject line. Please include at least one photo, along with a short (100-150 word) description.

We can’t wait to see you around the neighborhood!

Katherine & Allie

Guest Post: Storytime Out Loud: A Storytime Podcast

Are you ready to have your storytime life changed? Because I am about to introduce you to two ladies who have started the first ever (at least, the only one I know about) podcast all about library storytime! It’s called Storytime Out Loud and there are three episodes out already.  You can also follow them on Instagram and Facebook. I asked Christy and Lauren to write a guest post about who they are and why they started Storytime Out Loud. Read on to learn about this amazing new professional development resource!

Hi, we’re Christy and Lauren! We are youth services librarians at a large regional public library in Raleigh, NC where we plan and present baby, toddler, preschool and family storytimes. We just started recording a brand-new podcast called Storytime Out Loud, where we’re having a blast talking storytime ideas, new books, and much more. Other topics include anything in the “culinary-retro-film-Gilmore Girls-Broadway” world. Is that a thing? It is now.

Our podcast is for anyone doing storytime. Especially those who enjoy modern ideas, are looking to adapt tried-and-true resources in different ways, are interested in learning about new picture books, work in libraries, preschools and daycares, and like to have fun! To be honest, it’s for anyone who will listen, but this was our purpose in creating it. It took us forever to make the leap using every excuse we could think of… kids, time, our pie-baking regimen. I mean, let’s be real, we know nothing about podcasting. But we finally took the plunge, and our hope is that we can provide fresh and modern storytime ideas, as well as connect with others who are working with young children.

Over the years we have gained a robust knowledge of storytime and surrounding topics, from songs and rhymes to books and storytelling. Our backgrounds play a big role in our book selection and storytime choices. Before working in public libraries, Lauren was a school librarian, while Christy worked with children in the performing arts, yet somehow, we ended up with similar storytime styles. We enjoy collaborating and bouncing ideas off each other. We’re like peanut butter and jelly. Mario and Luiji. Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins. You get the picture.

Our podcast topics range from what’s happening in the world around us to random things we like talking about. We can be totally crazy, but we have a lot of fun. Christy may or may not belt out the Pippi Longstocking theme song from 1988 every now and then. Ultimately, we want you to feel like you are right there at the table with us. After our chat, we present the themed content in Storytime Selections. This includes rhymes, songs, games and flannels. The ideas are explained and demonstrated. Sometimes you just have to break into song. You just do. Christy knocks it out of the park with her vocal skills, and Lauren tries her best.

Our Book Buzz segment features new and forthcoming books that we are excited about. Get ready for a lot of great new books, Lauren just can’t seem to rein it in and always leaves listeners with something to look forward to. The words/lyrics, as well as any visuals are posted afterwards on our social media accounts, so you have everything you need to weave these ideas into your own programs.

One of the books featured in Book Buzz!

Recording the podcast has been so much fun that we’ve decided to go from a monthly program to bi-weekly. Connecting with our community and listeners is huge for us, and we are really hoping that this will continue to evolve as we go. In the future, we hope we will be able to feature YOU and YOUR wonderful ideas. We would love to interview librarians and other professionals who present storytime. There are so many in this field who inspire us (Jbrary, we’re looking at you!), and we love learning from our community of fellow youth services pros. In the next few months you can expect more of our favorite storytime theme ideas, a firsthand look at School Library Journal’s Day of Dialog, information from our big in-library event called the Storybook Ball, a visit to a conjuring arts library in NYC, special guests, and our favorite recorded music. Then: some original songs? Yeah, maybe. All we have to do is learn to play the guitar, drums, and keyboard, and find someone who will produce…for free. We’ll work on it.

 You can find us on Twitter @StoryOutLoud and Instagram @StorytimeOutLoud. Our website isn’t complete yet, but you can find us there very soon at Let us know what you’d like to hear discussed in future episodes! Anything goes!