2019 Picture Books: Outer Space

To infinity and beyond! Check out these 2019 picture books about space, the moon, stars, planets, and everything else out there in the great void. I am sad to report that Mythical Creatures lost out to this category once again in my Instagram poll. One day!

Which ones are you looking forward to reading? Or have you read one and loved it? Let me know in the comments!

Here are the other books in my 2019 Picture Book series:

A little girl rallies her neighbourhood to come see a comet. Side note: I want her earrings.
A gorgeous cover! A girl tries to count all the stars in the sky.
This book would help her along.
Is it just me or is that dog giving some serious side eye?
After all…
A little girl dreams of being a star.
Fun Fact: The author’s sister is my colleague and fellow children’s librarian here in Vancouver!
Funny shenanigans ensue when Pluto finds out it is not a planet after all.
Stars. They’re what’s for breakfast.
A little girl finds a star for a pet.
A magical story about the power of imagination. I love the metaphor.
Mostly just empty space, amirite?
A mother travels to the moon to find a cure for her sick son.
Send Curiosity right over.
Curiosity has a birthday.
Apparently everyone is having birthdays in space!
Someone meets a new friend in outer space.
A little girl accidentally knocks the moon out of the sky. Whoops.
A nonfiction title about a chemist who made a difference.
Yolen is back in the house, ya’ll.
Come back here!
A nonfiction pick featuring the history of the moon told by the moon itself.
Learn about Apollo 11’s historic mission.
Whoa, it’ s like if you combined the two books above this one you’d get this exact book.
Moon travel is getting so much love this year.
Apollo 12 gets some attention.
The Year of the Astronaut.
Seriously, folks, you could refresh your entire space exploration collection this year.
I told you.
I love the colours used here!
This will also be on my School Stories list.
There’s gotta be!
And maybe it’s your babysitter!
The astronaut stuffie!!
Sequel to How To Find Gold.
Please let this be sung to “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.”
A girl searches for another planet with life.
The C is yellow because it looks like a crescent moon, get it?
A celebrity author takes on self-esteem in this exploration of the night sky.

There you have it! I’d love to know which ones you are eager to read!

Spring Bunny Scavenger Hunt Update

Four years ago I shared the Spring Bunny Scavenger Hunt I created as a passive spring break program. It features 9 book character bunnies you can hide around your library for kids to search and find.

Since it’s been four years and the kids at my library have seen these bunnies already, I enlisted the help of my lovely co-worker Laura F. to create 6 new bunnies we could swap in. Thank you, Laura, for your amazing artistic skills!

The scavenger hunt sheet and original files can all be downloaded in the first post. You can download the new bunnies here.

Children’s Librarian Christine McManus from the London Public Library in London, Ontario created two more bunnies that she has graciously agreed to share. Check out Paddington and Pippi!

If you are looking for more scavenger hunt ideas, check out my Book Character Silhouette Scavenger Hunt too.


2019 Picture Books: Feelings and Emotions

I ran an Instagram poll this week asking which booklist you wanted to see next: Feelings or Mythical Creatures. I have to admit, I was rooting for the magical, but I stick to my word!

Social emotional learning is the process by which children understand and manage their emotions, show empathy towards others, and maintain positive relationships with the people around them. Asking children how a character feels when reading a book is a great way to help them develop these skills. Here’s some 2019 picture books that make it really easy to do just that.

See the other posts in my 2019 Picture Book series:

This might be my favourite book cover of the year. THE HAIR. THE OVERALLS.
Yay for more Todd Parr books!
Ya for even more Todd Parr books!
Okay but can we all agree that’s the cutest cactus you’ve ever seen.
Lizzy Rockwell writes amazing nonfiction that works perfect in storytime.
You go, girl.
A story about kindness and self love.
A great story about being brave and overcoming fears.
Written by a poet.
Happy girls in yellow dresses are having a year.
We’ve all been there.
I really want to know what the MM stands for.
A nervous little dog overcomes his fears.
Poor buddy.
A bad mood threatens to sweep through the whole town.
A poetic expression of love through the seasons.
Superbuns might be my new favourite nickname.
Bullies come in all shapes and sizes.
Third book in the series after I’m Bored and and I’m Sad.
I recommend all of the books in this series.
Part of his series. A lion family celebrates a new arrival.
A story of loneliness and exclusion.
A story of building confidence and getting reassurance.
I love Woodcock’s illustrations so much.
Hunger is definitely a feeling and one of the very first babies learn to communicate.
The tagline reads: Being bored has never been so much fun.
A little girl struggles with self doubt.
Frustration. Grumpiness. This bear looks like it is about to lose it.
Everyone should be able to express their emotions freely. Also works as a starting school story.
A German import about waking up on the wrong side of the bed.
Gurl, if I had your hair I’d be happy too.
This cover is everything.
Melvin has another one out this year about family.
I get asked a lot for books about worry and anxiety. Glad to have another one to recommend.
A book about grief and loss.
Feeling left out is no fun at all.
A perfect introduction to Norse mythology.
Did anyone else think that was Charlie Brown on the cover?
A girl uses art to deal with anxiety.
You go, Mousie!
Written by a psychologist to help kids battle negative thoughts.
The Beatles are back, baby.
A story about facing your monsters.
Do you see the butterfly wings?!
A sequel to the title character.
I sang this title to the tune of “Fear the Reaper” and that says a lot about me.
A bluebird narrates their year and all the things that bring them joy.
Includes 12 sayings of affirmation.
*heart eye emojis*

Which ones are you most looking forward to reading? Let me know in the comments!

Repetition in Storytime, Part 2

In my first post about repetition I discussed what happens in the brain when we repeat information to young children and how repetition can benefit learning and language acquisition. In Part 2 I’m going to explore how we can incorporate repetition in storytime. What does it actually look like? How much is too much? Will the families get bored? Will I get bored?

I don’t think there is one answer to these questions. My aim here is to share what some storytime experts have recommended and to share what I do in my storytimes. What do you do in your storytimes? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Repetition Within a Storytime

Matching Hello and Goodbye Songs

One way to include repetition within a storytime is to pick a matching hello and goodbye song. Something with the same tune and mostly the same words. It’s easier for families to pick up. I also like how it makes the storytime come full circle. Two of my favourites are Hello, Friends and Bread and Butter.

Repeating Songs

In babytime especially, I always sing a song or rhyme more than once. At least twice but sometimes even three times. When I’m teaching a new song or rhyme I will do it twice at the beginning of storytime and then repeat it twice at the end of the storytime. I explicitly tell caregivers that we’re going to repeat the song a lot because it helps us learn. It’s a great chance to give an early literacy message about the power of repetition!

One of the things toddlers and preschoolers love is when you repeat a song but change it slightly or add a new verse. Think of songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and try adding verses with different emotions. Or a classic like “Open, Shut Them” – have you ever tried the extended version? You can sing songs like this back-to-back or sing one verse at the beginning of storytime and do the second verse at the end of storytime. Either way you are helping to reinforce the words and concepts in the music.

Repeating Stories

One way to repeat the information in a story is to choose books that have a repetitive phrase or sentence. Before I read these books I introduce the phrase and have the whole group practice it together. I ask them to say it with me as I read. Not only do kids get practice saying a phrase over and over again but the storytime becomes interactive. If it’s a short phrase I will also point to it as I read. Here are some of my favourite storytime books with repetition.

There are some books where it’s easy to add an action with the phrase too. Here are some examples:

We make the hand motions for pouring and mixing, and then raise our hands as we shout, “presto!”
We flex our muscles on both arms when we say we are strong and brave. Then we make the superman pose when we head off to rescue things.

In addition to books with repetition in them, I’ve also done storytimes where I repeat the story in 2 -3 different formats. I always start by reading the book. Then I usually either do it again as a felt story or with props like puppets. This works especially well with toddlers. Older preschoolers may get bored if the story isn’t challenging enough, but toddlers will eat this up. If I have a small enough group I will pass out the felt pieces before I tell the story and have the little ones help me tell it by taking turns coming up to the felt board. This “one story, many ways” is highly recommended for sensory storytimes and for making storytimes inclusive to children of all abilities. I make a point to tell caregivers why we are repeating the story in a different format. They are sold though when they see how engaged their little ones become. You can do this with any book, but here are some I’ve shared on Jbrary before:

Pick a Sound of the Day

This isn’t something I’ve done a lot myself, but I’ll never forget the kindergarten teacher who told me she’d rather have a classroom full of kids who know the sounds of each letters than a classroom full of kids who can write each letter. I’ve seen many people blog about “Letter Storytimes” where they plan a storytime around a specific letter of the alphabet. That’s not really my style, but I could definitely see choosing a “Sound of the Day” like the “sss” sound or the “chh” sound and then choosing a book and song that both have that sound in it. Throughout the storytime you can draw attention to the sound and practice it repeatedly. I’d encourage caregivers to look for things throughout their day after they leave storytime where they can continue to repeat the sound with their little one. What a great way to support phonological awareness!

Repetition Across Storytimes

How Much To Repeat?

In Storytime for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy, authors Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin Diaz state, “Repetition is important for preschoolers, but even more important for babies from birth to age two. About two-thirds of the items are repeated in each storytime. Some items from the first storytime are skipped over for new items, and then we comeback to them during the last couple of weeks. Sometimes you’ll get requests for a favorite – never turn them down! Children need repetition to learn.” In STEP Into Storytime, Ghoting again notes that “Storytimes for infants often repeat 70 to 80 percent of materials from week to week.”

In my babytime programs I follow this loose guideline. I repeat about 75% of the songs and rhymes each week so that caregivers learn them and have a higher rate of singing them at home. Every session I’ll pick about 10 core songs and rhymes that we repeat each week and about 5 more to rotate in to add a bit of variety, especially for using props like scarves and egg shakers.

For toddlers and preschoolers, here are the things I repeat each week:

It’s not a coincidence that the songs I repeat are the ones the kids ask for again and again. They get a boost of confidence when they know them and can sing along. On my first post about repetition, a storytime presenter named April left a comment describing her “rhyme time” portion of storytime where she repeats the same three stretching and movement songs every week with great results. I’m here to confirm that you do not need to think of new songs and rhymes for every single storytime. Especially if you are doing themes. If I do a theme I pick a book, felt story, and one song that all connect but the rest of the content I keep consistent from week to week.

Repetition with Variety

Repetition is important, but as Betsy Diamant-Cohen, Melanie Hetrick, and Celia Yitzhak note in their book Transforming Preschool Storytime, “Repetition with variety is the name of the game… in order to make things really stick, in order to facilitate learning and improve our memory, we do not just need repetition – we also need variation. Psychologists have shown that repetition with added variation in context or task demands can strongly enhance learning and memory.”

So what does this look like in storytime? With songs and rhymes, I like to introduce the first verse one week and then expand upon it in the coming weeks. For example, I love teaching the kids Bananas Unite and then introducing subsequent fruits and vegetables over the course of the 10-week storytime session. Even better, I ask kids to help me make up our own verses!

I love using felt pieces with this song too!

Here are some of my other favourite songs to adapt and change over the course of a storytime session:

Another way to repeat with variation is through stories themselves. As I mentioned above, I love doing the “one story many ways” model. Instead of repeating the story within a storytime, you can also repeat the story in different formats over the course of a storytime session. This requires more prep work – choosing the books, gathering props, figuring out the extension activities, etc. In my Planning a Storytime Session post I shared how I implemented the model over the course of 9 weeks. Here’s what it looked liked.

I chose three books that I also had the felt and puppet version to. There are lots of different ways to add variety while also repeating information though! The Transforming Preschool Storytime book provides 8 recommended books with 6 weeks of extension activities if you want to see some clear examples. I also recommend the books Read! Move! Learn! and Books in Motion.

How much of your storytime do you repeat from week to week? What are your storytime tips and advice for implementing repetition? I’d love to chat in the comments!

2019 Picture Books: Women Biographies

You all said you liked posts where I showcase new picture books based on a theme so I’m making this a huge series! Seriously. There will be about 15 more of these.

I’m kicking the whole thing off with a list perfect for International Women’s Day. Check out these 2019 picture books featuring fierce girls and women. Get your collection development budget ready, friends, because you’re going to want them all.

Here are the other posts in my 2019 Picture Book series (links will be added as as each post goes live):

Meet the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation.
A must have for all libraries!
One of the few I could find featuring an Asian woman.
Of particular interest to my American friends.
This one is only based on a true story but it fills a gap in stories about Hawaiian women.
Hamilton fans rejoice!
Meet the lady who flew.
Glamorous movie star and brilliant inventor all in one!
Travel through the alphabet to meet Broadway’s leading ladies.
Meet the English surrealist artist Leonora Carrington
I imagine this story will particularly well loved on the East Coast.
Apparently Emily is having a year!
I am loving the focus on contemporary women this year.
The illustrations are giving me Disney flashbacks in the best way.
Learn about one of the first entomologists and scientific illustrators .
What’s that? TWO books about famous entomologists?!
Good to see Ada still getting lots of picture book love.
Meet the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.
They’ve been getting a lot of book love lately!
Told you so.
How one girl proved that girls can ride bikes too. (duh?)
An animal rights activist story.
This cover is absolutely gorgeous!
Discover tons of female athletes who broke barriers.
For dinosaur lovers everywhere.
From French orphan to style icon.
Inspired by Mary Edwards Walker, a 19th-century doctor who was arrested many times for wearing pants.
A heroic escape from slavery from a very brave woman.
There are so many women I’ve never heard of. This is one of them.
The story of the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera,.
Part of a series!
Billie Jean is also having a year.
A unique artist from the 1950s.
Discover how Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty used a computer to aid in WWII.
Perfect for fans of Hidden Figures.
Two Katherine Johnson books this year!
Learn about the first first female member of the Royal Geographic Society.
A touching story about a conservationist and her rhino friend.
Add this to your Malala collection.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Frida as a child on the cover before.
This is another woman I’ve never heard of!
I am loving all these books featuring women in science.
I wish this would have taken off!
A dynamic author + illustrator duo. A must buy.
Meet Maria Mitchell, America’s first professional astronomer.
Learn about famous women from different countries and time periods.
You get a book! You get a book! You get a book!

Which ones are you looking forward to reading? Let me know in the comments!

Flannel Friday: Please, Mr. Panda

I know Flannel Friday doesn’t do weekly round-ups anymore, but I still love the flannel community. When I saw Brooke post a picture of Mr. Panda on Instagram I begged her to write it up as a guest post here. Luckily, she agreed!

Brooke Cusmano is a recent graduate of the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She loves her new gig as a Youth Services Librarian at Rolling Meadows Library, which is located in a northwest suburb of Chicago. You can follow her on Instagram @brookethelibrarian.  Take it away, Brooke!

Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony is one of my favorite books to read for either a preschool or toddler storytime. It’s a versatile book that can be used for a variety of themes such as manners, kindness, bears or the letter P. It makes a nice flannel, too, with the colorful donuts contrasting against the gray background and simple black and white animals. And because of the repetition, Please Mr. Panda is also an easy book to do from memory or from a few notes.

6 Tips for Creating Awesome Flannel Stories6

1. Bigger is Better

As long as you have the storage and a big enough flannel board, make the pieces big enough that everyone in the back can see them.

2. Photocopy the animal from a book (or use an image /clipart from online) and then trace the outlines onto a piece of felt.

This is a technique that Miss Darlene from the Rolling Meadows Library taught me. It is a fool-proof / non-artsy-person way to create a flannel.

For Please Mr. Panda, I first photocopied all of the animals from the book, increasing the size of the penguin and the skunk, yet still keeping within proportion to the rest of the animals.

Once photocopied and cut, I traced the panda flipped over so that the lined side became the backside of the flannel piece.

Back Side
Front Side

3. It’s Not You, It’s the Scissors

If you find yourself struggling to cut through felt. STOP, and get a new pair of scissors.

This freshly cut white felt outline is the piece in which all other colored felt pieces will be glued onto, which brings me to my 4th tip…

4. Layers

Layering felt pieces brings a thickness and brightness in color to the flannel. It’s also a lot easier than trying to color felt with a marker.

Once you’ve completed the white felt piece, layer all of the other black and colored pieces on top of it. I cut out the next pieces from the original photocopy. In the picture below I am cutting out the arm and the legs.

Flip these pieces over as well and trace the outline onto black felt. I used a SILVER SHARPIE for dark felt.

Once these pieces are cut, we glue them in place onto the white outline.

5. Use Elmer’s Glue, lots and lots of Elmer’s Glue

Especially around the edges. The felt absorbs the glue, so you basically need a puddle to get the layers to stick together. When the glue dries the felt hardens and becomes nice and stiff.

We continue on this way…cutting from the photocopied panda, tracing onto the felt, and then gluing onto the white template until the panda is complete. I actually decided to make the Panda two-sided so I could turn him over every time he says, “No, you cannot have a donut. I have changed my mind.” Unfortunately these two pieces did not fit seamlessly, so I built the gray piece to fit in between them. This ended up being a much thicker piece than I usually like, but it didn’t fall off the flannel board – so a win!

6. Google Eyes!

I love the use google eyes whenever possible on flannels because…umm…google eyes. In this flannel I used them on the whale, penguin and skunk.

I hope these tips help you to create the flannels of your dreams. 😛 These techniques can be used with any illustration or clip art you find, whether in a book or online. Happy Flannel Making!

Repetition in Storytime, Part 1

The other day on Jbrary’s Instagram account I put a poll out asking people to vote on my next blog topic. 61% of you voted for repetition in storytime! I’ve been thinking about repetition a lot lately. Here are some questions I’ve been pondering:

  • What role does repetition play in brain development and language acquisition?
  • How much repetition do you or should you include in storytime?
  • What are different ways to use repetition with young children, particularly in storytime?

When I first started as a children’s librarian I didn’t have a clear answer to any of these questions. I remember learning the basic “repetition is good” mantra in my MLIS children’s courses, but I wasn’t confident in how to effectively translate that message into a storytime program or a storytime series. Now that I’ve been doing storytime for five years and have spent time reading relevant research I’d like to come back to these questions.

I’m breaking this discussion into two parts. This post will cover the what and the why – What is happening in the brain when we repeat words, sentences, and stories to children? Why does repetition aid in brain development and language acquisition? I will write a second post exploring the question of how – How much repetition should we include in storytime? How should we structure our storytimes? What are different ways to repeat content?

Early Brain Development and Repetition

When babies are born their brains are ready to learn. Every time they are stimulated by something in the their environment – language, people, physical sensations – their brain cells reach out and make neural connections. Neural connections in the brain are called synapses, and when they are stimulated repeatedly they become ‘hardwired.’ Hardwired means they are less likely to be pruned as the child grows older. When we repeat information it makes these synapses thicker. The brain recognizes these thicker synapses and keeps them because they are strong.

This image from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University shows the amount of synapses over the course of 14 years and the natural pruning process. Repetition of language and stories in the early years helps make that middle picture full of strong synapses that are less likely to be pruned.

Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz summarize this process in their book Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library: Partnering with Caregivers for Success. They say, “Children ages three to ten have three times as many synapses as an adult. As a child grows, there are fewer synapses, but they are more organized. Some of the synapses are pruned. What makes some synapses stay and some be pruned away? Repetition! The synapses that are used repeatedly are the ones that are kept, and the ones that are little used get pruned.”

Repetition and Learning

For adults, hearing the same story again and again can be quite boring. We’re not experiencing anything new or unexpected. But for young children, repetition isn’t boring at all. In fact, when they repeat songs or books they are experiencing it in a new way each time. The first time a child hears a song or reads a book, for example, they are often just taking in the experience. With books, most of their attention will be on the pictures. When they experience it again they build on their knowledge – they will start to notice different things and begin to learn from it. Concepts and words become part of their memory and they are able to recall it later. A blog post on repetition summarizes it perfectly: “…as they repeat the process again and again, they go from experiencing to anticipating, from understanding basic concepts to exploring the activity to its fullest extent.”

There have been recent research studies that aim to understand how repetition impacts learning. A 2015 study found that parents who repeated words to their 7-month-olds have toddlers with larger vocabularies. I particularly like this study because it stresses the quality of conversations not just the quantity of words we say. Another study done in 2013 showed that children learned more words when they read the same story repeatedly in a shared storybook setting. That’s not the only reason we read books over and over again with young children, but it does exemplify the learning benefits of repetition.

The Benefits of Repetition

  • Outside of words and stories, repetition also helps babies and toddlers learn the consequence of an action. Ever seen a toddler drop their cup or pacifier over and over again? They are learning about cause and effect.
  • Repetition helps young children remember information and build memory. Having a working memory is a key step in developing executive function skills.
  • Repeating an action or learning to say a word eventually leads to mastery. When a child masters a skill they feel proud and happy!
  • Kids generally thrive on routine and certainty. Having daily routines or experiencing repetition through play is comforting and gives a child a sense of security. This helps them build trust and feel safe. Children need to be feel safe and love for their brains to turn on for learning.
  • When we repeat stories, kids begin to internalize them and can join in the storytelling. This increases their feeling of self-worth. That feeling of affirmation that “I can do this, I know what I’m doing” is invaluable for every little learner. A great self-esteem booster!

This post covered why repetition is important to learning and how it affects brain development and language acquisition. The next post will explore how we can support repetition in a storytime setting. I’d love to hear your ideas on how much and what you repeat in storytime! Feel free to leave me a comment below.

2019 Picture Books Featuring Babies

Do you have a favourite moment of your work week? I feel like 99% of the time mine happens in babytime. I mean, I got high-fived by a 10-month old today. Hard to beat that in my opinion.

I’m always on the lookout for new books to share in babytime, either to read aloud or to put on display. Here are some 2019 picture books that I think will be great to share at babytime. I haven’t read any of these yet. They just got that cover appeal. Let me know in the comments what new releases you are looking forward to sharing in babytime this year!

And don’t miss the other books in my 2019 Picture Book series!

I am always looking for ways to incorporate more languages in storytime.
Bilingual with a beat? Yes, please!
I hope this one is singable!
This looks perfect for pointing out body parts.
A sequel to the lift-the-flap feminist guidebook for babies that came out last year.
Baby animals still count as babies.
Finally a baby mermaid book! By a classic author too.
I’ve seen lots of good buzz about this one and think it would be great to give to parents at babytime who have multiple children.
A story about expecting parents and bonding with a newborn.
I think some parents would love this one. Or love to pass it to older siblings.
Babies AND dogs?!
This book instantly reminded me of the way my niece used to say “shoes” which was a very drawn out “shooooeeeeessss.”
Follow the baby orangutan as it goes on a wild adventure through the jungle.
You wouldn’t know it from the cover but this is an alphabet book!
A rhyming jaunt through the busy life of a little one.
Perfect for all those future activists.
Diverse depictions of families fill this story of a stroller that gets passed along to people in the community.
Is this the only book about twin babies in existence? Fills a gap regardless.
I’ll cheer to that!
I am always on the lookout for books set in places outside of North America. This one takes place in West Africa.
I’m crossing my fingers this one makes a good read aloud.
Babymoons. They are all the rage these days.
It’s actually about baby moons!!
Can we please take a moment to appreciate the side eye that baby in the stripes is giving?
A great gift for new parents.

On a side note, I’d love to get feedback from everyone regarding these types of posts. They are fun and easy for me to write, allowing me time to work on my more meatier posts in the meantime. Do you enjoy them? Do you like seeing what’s coming out soon? Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or requests!