Tuesday, March 30, 2010

School's Out!

For the next week and a half, the public schools in New York City are on spring recess. A mere six weeks after taking a week hiatus for midwinter recess, mind you. Sadly there is no spring break for public librarians.

Rather my library is at its busiest when school is out of session, as families look for free, enriching activities outside of their New York City sized apartments. My approach is to offer programs on most days for both the sanity of the kids that stay for hours as well as mine.

During the school year the programming budget is very limited, so all of these suggestions are quite cheap or "free", using old supplies and left over summer reading club prizes. The targeted age range is kindergarten through sixth grade, to be as inclusive as possible. Attendance can vary from twenty to fifty children. So how exactly do we satisfy many children of different ages with little funding?

Family Film

Hey, it is school vacation after all! Showing a movie is one of the easiest activities to plan -- the most difficult part is finding something to (legally) screen. Weston Woods DVDs come with public viewing rights, and feature animated adaptations of popular books. Occasionally newly released DVDs will grant libraries viewing rights for a short period of time, as I’ve experienced with Wayside School and Pinocchio; otherwise, the fee to show a movie can be $75 and up.

Wikki Stix Workshop

Wikki Stix were truly one of the best summer reading club prizes EVER. Also known as Bendaroos, they are small bendable reusable craft sticks that can be used to create virtually anything. As we still have some left-over from last summer, my co-worker is leading a open ended workshop where kids can place them in designs on coloring sheets or just make whatever they choose.

April Fools’ Day Fun

Our program on April 1st will involve sharing tricky books and crafts. Some possible titles to share are Guess Again by Mac Barnett and What’s Going On In There? by Geoffrey Grahn.

There’s a great recent non-fiction book too, The Kids’ Guide to Pranks, Tricks and Practical Jokes by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt .

Or you could go old school with the original trickster himself, Anansi.

There are many funny craft options: a trick cup that drips while drinking, an April’s Fool Day card that won't open, and a fake bug on a string to scare others. We’ll also pass out a word search that doesn’t include any of the listed words… let’s see how long it takes the kids to figure it out! All of the necessary materials we already had, such as construction paper for cards, Styrofoam cups, and plastic bugs left over from an insect themed summer reading club a few years past.

BINGO & Lanyard Crafts

Friday is fancy with two options depending on one’s grade level. For children in kindergarten through grade three, Number BINGO it is. There are some serious BINGO addicts at my library -- kids would happily play for hours if allowed. I suppose the simple, competitive element is what is so appealing. Our BINGO set allows up to thirty kids to play at once, and there are small prizes like stickers, tattoos, and erasers (again left-over prizes). My talented, crafty co-worker will be guiding the tweens in making lanyards in the auditorium.

Music & Movement Games

On the last day of break I’m leading Music & Movement Games, as by this time most kids are quite bored with restless energy. I’ve planned many possible activities to adapt according to the ages and interests of the children who attend. Musical Chairs is always popular, along with the similar Hot Potato, Duck, Duck, Goose, Simon Says, and LIMBO. Surprisingly even the older kids enjoy dancing to Jim Gill’s "Silly Dance Contest", or will try "My Bonnie" and "Knuckles, Knees." You could even do the more generic Freeze Dance using any popular CDs or the radio. If you need to bring down the energy level, some low key possibilities are seeing how many words can be made out of “It’s Spring Break”, playing Hangman, or memory games like Grocery Store.

And this is how I’ll be spending my “spring break”, with countless children, at the library.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Oh dear

I just realized that my last three picture book reviews have all been books featuring cats! First there was Henry, then my shout-out to Cat & Mouse, and just yesterday Meeow. It might appear that I'm one of those crazy cat librarians... not that there's anything wrong with that!

It's only that I'm more of a dog lover myself. In fact, a dog owner. Meet my dog Baxter!

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend, along with the promise of featuring a wider range of characters in upcoming reviews.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hello Kitty

Meeow and the Little Chairs
by Sebastian Braun
Boxer Books
ISBN: 9781906250881

Meeow first caught my eye with his resemblance to Chococat.
Chococat was always my favorite Sanrio character, but Meeow brings stiff competition with his fashionable scarf. Plus he has a mouth! Even better than accessorized smiling cats however, is the direct storytelling, presentation and liveliness perfectly considered for toddlers.

In Meeow and the Little Chairs, Meeow is introduced along with his four friends who have come over to play. His friends are different animals appropriately enough named after the sound they make: Baa the Sheep, Moo the Cow, Quack the Duck and Woof the Dog. Each is featured carrying various colored props, and working together with the special item Meeow finds in his bookbag, they create a very exciting game!

There is a certain genius behind creating the most simple of stories that are engaging for the youngest children. Short, repetitive sentences are combined with dialogic style questions like, "What have you found Meeow?" and "What can they be doing?" to build interest. The concise text integrates concepts of animal names and sounds, colors and imaginative play with opportunities for read aloud extensions using noises and movement. Primary colored cartoon characters are depicted energetically in motion, even more noticeable amid the uncluttered background with boldly sized font.

The cheerful, developmentally conscious approach is exactly captured on the inside jacket flap:
Say hello to Meeow. Like every young child, Meeow has fun making things! Play and learn with Meeow.

Meeow and the Big Box was also published in 2009, with the upcoming Meeow and the Pots and Pans hitting shelves April 6, 2010.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Storytime Tricks: Using the Flannel Board

Flannels! I use these visual props to enhance songs and rhymes during storytime. As I have no budget for purchasing readymade flannels, I make my own as a way to update my storytime repertoire. My method of creating flannels -- a bit of a misnomer as I don't use this fabric -- requires only paper, plastic and sandpaper.

Note: for those who may be confused as to what is a flannel board, it's literally a board covered in flannel. There are many versions available, and below is the one that I use complete with pockets.

My flannel making technique in four easy steps:

1) Find a coloring page online or draw an image yourself
2) Color image (or outsource to your library volunteers)
3) Cut out and laminate pictures. You might be fancy enough to have access to a laminating machine. As I don't, I use KAPCO, a hard plastic designed to cover books, which also works wonderfully for this purpose.
4) Stick a small square of sandpaper to the back using double stick tape.

Voila! The pictures will stick to the flannel board, and I find them much more aesthetically pleasing than using flannel fabric with sharpie markings.

The flannels I use most often are "Little Red Wagon" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep". Both have the same concept -- a color themed nursery rhyme/song with an interactive element of guessing which color we'll sing about next. After first singing about the title color, I keep the rest of the options in the pocket of the flannel board and have children predict which color will be chosen at random. Once we've sang with three or four different colors, we'll wave goodbye to each color as a further way to practice color names. As in, "bye bye, blue wagon" or "bye bye, yellow sheep" and so on.

This is the "Little Red Wagon" flannel:

And the "Baa Baa Black Sheep" flannel:

A seasonal flannel I adore is "Five Little Snowmen", just because it's rather fun to act out the melting of each snowman. You can even display the lyrics for parents. Last time I sang this song one observant child asked me why there was one snowman whose nose wasn't colored black. Good question!

Some further resources you can use for flannel ideas are The Flannel Board Storytelling Book by Judy Sierra (H.W. Wilson, 1997), Storytime Magic: 400 Fingerplays, Flannel Boards and Other Activities by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker (ALA, 2009) and Flannelboard Stories for Infants & Toddlers by Ann Carlson (ALA, 2005).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Class Visit Favorite

I must admit my love for Ian Schoenherr. Cat & Mouse was my favorite picture book of 2008 due to the combination of beloved nursery rhymes, the striking layout incorporating the movement of text amidst ample white space, and of course the expressive illustrations (obvious cat owner). Plus he lives just a few subway stops away from my library!

So I was quite excited to read his next book, Read It, Don't Eat It, which has quickly become one of my preferred titles to share during early elementary class visits.

I start with reading the inside book flap: "You are holding a book. What should you do with it? Open it and you will find out." The title page features a bear intently reading a book. On the following page he proceeds to smelling it... turn one more page, and as he is shown nibbling at the corner of a spine, the book begins with, "Read it, don't eat it."

Each spread offers a short statement of advice on the left side, paired with a humorous drawing on the right. Suggestions range from, "No dog-ears, please" to "Please return it when you're done." The illustrations provide a natural extension for discussion, particularly in the case of "Don't censor, delete or deface." The book closes with, "Share it with a friend, a sister, a brother. Now go out and get another." Sigh... yes indeed.

Being presumptuous, I imagine he wrote this book with children's librarians in mind. Not only is it a brilliant introduction to proper book care utilizing such vocabulary as borrow, overdue and renew but it's also a highly entertaining way to transition to my speech about how to use the library.

Mr. Schoenherr recently released a new book in February, titled, Don't Spill the Beans! I've heard it involves keeping secrets and birthday surprises! Our copy is on order and I'm eagerly anticipating its arrival.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Field Trip to NYPL

One of the best parts of working in a library, naturally, are the books. Collection development is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. I become aware of new titles using professional review journals, blogs, publisher and vendor websites, browsing at book stores, speaking with other librarians and by working the reference desk with my avid readers.

Another more exciting and direct way of learning about new books is to attend a publisher's preview, which I did this past Friday at the New York Public Library. Adult non-fiction was the focus with representatives from HarperCollins and Macmillan presenting their upcoming 2010 titles. Marilyn Johnson, the author of This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All was the scheduled guest speaker, but alas she had to cancel due to the snowy weather. In fact, New York City schools were closed for the day. But it takes much more inclement weather to close public libraries! Witness the stoic lions below:

But back to the book:

I've heard so much buzz about this title, and am now in the middle of chapter four thanks to the copies provided by HarperCollins. Johnson was inspired to write this in-depth study of twenty-first century librarian culture when researching her previous book, The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, about the obituary writing profession. She noticed that some of the most memorable obituaries were about, of all people, librarians. So far I'm enjoying the profiles of the various specialties within librarianship, particularly the mention of the "tattooed, hard-partying children's librarian." Hmmm, I certainly don't know anyone that meets that description...

An excellent source for upcoming titles frequently cited during the preview was the blog EarlyWord. I've only discovered this collection development website within the past year, and it is a goldmine not just for the earliest information on new releases but also the convenient links to award books, publisher's catalogs, movie and television tie-ins and best of the year lists.

Another exciting event of the morning was finally getting my New York Public Library card! Now my New York City library card collection is complete... and I must say that Brooklyn is winning the cuteness contest (then again as someone who works with young children I am rather biased.) Besides the access to another varied collection and the ability to reserve DVDs (sadly not an option in Queens), I'm also looking forward to using their language learning database Mango.