The State of Storytime

Also known as: how my library is handling virtual storytimes and outdoor in-person storytimes. I’ll be posting some themes coming up, but I wanted a catch-all blog post to explain how I’m actually doing storytimes right now.

Virtual Storytimes

Set-Up
Our library’s virtual storytimes are hosted via a live closed-room Zoom and registration is required to access the Zoom room. As of this moment in time, we have kept the same Zoom room for each ten-week (or thirteen-week) session of storytime without having any problems with Zoom bombing.

For additional security measures, we have the waiting room enabled AND an additional staff person in storytime to manage the waiting room/keep an eye on participant’s screens to make sure there’s no inappropriate behavior. (In storytime, the inappropriate behavior we’re mostly looking for is a friend taking the Zoom room with them to the bathroom. TRUE STORY, though it was a neighboring library’s storytime.)

[We’ve also done several sessions of pre-recorded videos that have posted to both Facebook and YouTube for families to watch on-demand. One series focused on rhymes and was a 3-5 minute video; the other was a flannelboard/prop/songs storytime that was a 25-30 minute video. I chose those activities because I wouldn’t be breaking copyright by leaving the videos up over time.]

In Storytime
Part of setting up a successful live virtual storytime is making sure participants know what to expect. After our hello song and hello rhyme, I lay out the expectations for participants, just like I would in-person, at the beginning of each Zoom storytime. My expectations are:

  1. Participants can turn their camera on or off as needed, depending on what’s going on in their space.
  2. Participants will always have their microphones muted so that everyone can hear me.
  3. It’s all right if kids move away from the screen to take a break during storytime — that’s age appropriate behavior!


Lastly, I also introduce the second staff member in storytime and remind participants that they can reach out via the chat if they are having any Zoom trouble.

Storytime Observations
I’ve definitely observed that I have a much slower pace in a Virtual Storytime than I do at traditional storytimes. Because of our virtual environment, I find that I’m bringing the book very close to the computer to point out small details and to make connections to day-to-day life. It’s almost like getting to do a lapsit WITH a group of kids.

Also, I try to incorporate tactile elements into storytime. I lead the group in different kinds of activities that ask them to find something in their home that represents the color that they want to say or guess. (Think of playing “Little Mouse, Little Mouse” on the flannelboard and instead of the kids shouting, they hold up the color they are thinking of!)

I do also have some families that really enjoy using the chat function. I often have a moment in storytime where I ask a question during a reading and I offer a couple of options to answer: “You can tell someone who is in the room with you or you can work together to type your answer to me in the chat”.

Attendance
Lastly, I’ve been using polls in Zoom to get attendance numbers for the storytime. I ask that our participants count how many people (grown-ups) included watched storytime today. Options range from “2” to “6 or more”. I also have a “Preschool Class” option that includes my email address so the class can email me the number of students watching. As for non-responses (which happen every time!), the additional staff member counts the number of unique patron logins during the program. We subtract the number of poll answers from the total number of unique patron logins, then we multiple that number by two.

So: seven users answer the poll totaling 29, but there were nine unique screens so the number we report is 33.

I recognize that there’s a chance that we’re under-reporting numbers, but it’s the best I can do in a virtual environment where screens are optional!

In-Person Storytimes

Set-Up
I’m very fortunate that my library is directly against a city park AND that the library has an intergovernmental agreement with the Park District, which has allowed us to use a portion of the park for our outdoor storytime events. All I have to do is make sure they know the dates ahead of time so that no lawn/tree care is scheduled during storytime.

While I’m a naturally loud person and I have a lot of practice projecting my voice for a group of people, I’m still competing against the children in the playground, traffic, and a train that comes approximately ten minutes into storytime. So I got a voice amplifier and a wireless microphone to make my storytimes easier on my vocal cords.

For distancing, I have a piece of yarn measured out to ten feet and use that to space lawn flags in the grass so that households know where to sit to maintain distance between each other. I’m using ten feet because each spot is for a group of people and therefore they won’t all be able to sit at the center of each flag.

All of our storytimes at the library also have a second staff member, called a clerk, who attends storytime to collect attendance, welcome latecomers and direct them into the program, and to provide any additional support for the storytime presenter. This continued in my outdoor programs, which is lovely since there’s the added complication of the road.

Lastly, I have three teen volunteers who I position in a diamond shape (with me making the fourth point) around the storytime area. These volunteers hold up additional copies of the book that I’m reading so a household has the opportunity to turn and face a volunteer if they are having trouble seeing my copy of the book due to the distance from social distancing.

In Storytime
Because we’re outside, I am only using books, songs, and rhymes this summer. No flannelboards, puppets, or props since a) they aren’t big enough to see with the distance; b) they’re easily blown away (no, seriously, I had a whole flannelboard on an easel that fell at an outreach storytime years ago); and c) it’s a lot to manage.

I specifically chose big movement books that are designed for interactive, audience participation. (Think a lot of the books featured at my Shake, Shimmy, & Dance program.)

Storytime Observations
Outdoor storytimes definitely provide patrons with a great experience and it’s very nice seeing families again in-person. I feel like it’s the most “normal” I’ve felt in quite some time, even if these storytimes take a big effort to complete (seriously, masking while performing is…something!).

Attendance
The library is asking for registration to make sure that we can safely distance our households. We are collecting registration two weeks in advance through our program software.

Conclusion

These are the storytime programs that are currently working for us! I truly don’t know what the future holds for storytime programming as we move back inside this fall and winter. From what I’ve read, there won’t be a vaccine for this age group until 2022. So, I’m just doing my best and waiting for science to come through!

Ukulele in Storytime

A graphic featuring a teal ukulele. The text reads: “Ukulele in Storytime at Storytime Katie”.

While I’m figuring out exactly where to start with storytime posts and how I want to format that at this point, I thought I’d write about one of my newest loves in storytime: the ukulele!

History (of me & the uke!) 

I’ve always loved music, as evidenced by the music programming (and kits) on the blog. But the violin is not exactly the made-for-storytime instrument that I was looking for. (And I’m dreadfully out of practice at that.) When my beloved co-worker J introduced me to Wiggleworms music, I started looking at the Old Town School of Folk Music and saw that they taught adult music classes which included the ukulele. 

So, I signed up in spring of 2019 for an Introduction class. Honestly, I learned enough at the Introduction class to play ukulele in storytime! And I also fell in love with the instrument, and wound up taking more classes. 

 

In Storytime

I’ve played my ukulele a couple of different ways in storytime: as an extension activity in a traditional storytime, and as a whole storytime unto itself — thirty minutes of ukulele! I also hosted three virtual Ukulele Concerts over last summer which incorporated music knowledge, history of the instrument, and caregiver early literacy tips. 

Because of when I learned uke and (finally) felt comfortable performing in front of a storytime audience, I’ve only done two in-person ukulele outreach storytimes (30 minutes). Everything else has been virtual — which means I’ve had the ability to tape a chord sheet above the computer/phone and follow along there. 

My goal when I return to in-person programming is to have each song mostly memorized, with the chord sheet only there as a back-up. 

 

Resources

(specific to storytime) 

  • Storytime Ukulele: My favorite resource for storytime songs and chord charts! This blog has both an A to Z list and a subject list, which are very helpful to search to match storytime themes.
  • Ukulele Storytime: Rose has both tutorials for how to play individual songs AND full ukulele storytimes available for you to view! My favorite song that I’ve learned from Rose is “Peace Like a River”.
  • Miss Mary Liberry: My good friend Mary has fantastic ukulele tutorials on her blog. In addition to all the other things she’s taught me about storytime — which are MANY — her finger-picking tutorial on “Sleeping Bunnies” is not to be missed. 

(to learning the ukulele & getting music)

  • Cynthia Lin Music: I love having videos on demand to watch and play along with. Cynthia Lin’s videos are wonderful and her video was the only way that I was able to figure out chucking.
  • Ultimate Guitar (app): While I have multiple ukulele apps on my phone, I think this one has the most selection when I’m trying to find children’s music artists (like Laurie Berkner!). On the app, I do switch to searching “ukulele” to make sure I’m getting uke chords, but that’s mostly while I’m wading through the popular music. 

 

Ukuleles

As for ukuleles, I have four. My “Introduction” teacher said once you start buying ukuleles, you kind of don’t stop — and….well, that’s a yes for me. Two of my ukuleles come with me to outreach storytimes: one is a Mahalo soprano ukulele that I let the children touch and play at the end of storytime; the other is my primary uke — a concert fluke from the Magic Fluke company.

[Note: the storytimes where the children touched the ukulele were pre-pandemic storytimes.]

My other ukes are a Kala soprano travel, and a Kala mahogany concert (in blue!) that I’ve re-strung with a low G string. I haven’t brought either of them to use in storytime, but I did feature the soprano travel in one of my Ukulele Concerts where I talked about the different sizes and shapes of a ukulele. 

 

I’m planning to include PDFs of my chord charts when I post anything about ukulele in storytime. (I made the chord charts to how I best read charts, so it may not be suited to everyone’s preferences.) Other than that, I’m happy to attempt to answer any questions! 

*taps mic* Is this thing still on?

A screenshot of my WordPress posts page. It features 837 published posts and 208 drafts. The most current draft is dated 9/15/2020.

*quietly creeps into the blog*

Hey, y’all. Since the last time I blogged…I settled into my new job in my third library, WordPress changed the entire way to make a post, and we entered a global pandemic. Naturally, it seems like the perfect time to dust off the blog and return to posting on a semi-regular schedule.

I have to admit that I don’t entirely know what today’s blog readers are looking for. And I’m not even sure what would be helpful for me in the archiving aspect of my blog. But I do know that I have a pile of storytimes and themes, loads of new flannelboards, a laptop of my own again, and lots of opinions.

So, hang around and see what happens here…you know, if you still want to!

Outreach Storytime: Pets

My turn to choose the theme at our grocery store storytime! I went with Pets since I really wanted to re-use my new flannelboard for My Bus.

The Plan

Books

Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer*
My Bus by Byron Barton*
Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani*
This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne
What Pet to Get? by Emma Dodd*

Extension Activities

Flannelboard: “Dear Zoo”*

Flannelboard: “My Bus”*

Puppet & Song: “The Goldfish”*

Puppet: “I Have a Little Turtle”*
I have a little turtle (put hands on top of one another)
He lives in a box (make box)
He swims in a puddle (swimming motion)
He climbs on the rocks (climbing motion)
He snapped at a mosquito (clap)
He snapped at a flea (clap)
He snapped at a minnow (clap)
And he snapped at me (clap)
He caught the mosquito (cup hands together)
He caught the flea (cup hands together)
He caught the minnow (cup hands together)
But he didn’t catch me! (shake finger “no”)
Credit: Childhood

How It Went

This was such a fun storytime! I did My Bus with the flannelboard and the kids loved being able to play the part of a dog or cat to board the bus. (To accommodate larger groups, I double or triple the amount of animals in the story. A bit of math, but it’s manageable.) Our most successful book was What Pet to Get? by Emma Dodd. The kids really enjoyed imagining different kinds of pets and I think the grown-ups appreciated the spot of humor at the end.

I did have a storytime blunder today and completely miss-rhymed during “I Have a Little Turtle”. I’m not sure where my mind was! I think my favorite part of storytime was swimming along to Laurie Berkner’s “The Goldfish” song in the grocery store though. I highly recommend it!

Outreach Storytime: Interactive Stories

I was so happy when one of my preschools asked for “Interactive Stories” as a theme because there are SO MANY good books that invite audience participation and movement!

The Plan

Books

Hop, Hop, Jump! by Lauren Thompson****
The Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage**
Play This Book by Jessica Young*
Shake the Tree! by Chiara Vignocchi****
Ten in the Bed by Jane Cabrera***

Extension Activities

Flannelboard: “Going on a Bear Hunt”****

Flannelboard: “Red Crane, Red Crane”**

Prop Sticks: “Green Says Go”***

Prop: Song Cube****

How It Went

Preschool 1 (four classrooms)
I got to read in this preschool’s library! Each classroom had their own storytime. Both The Mixed-Up Truck and Shake the Tree! worked well in every classroom. Hop, Hop, Jump got one class too riled up and their teachers had to redirect them a few times to make sure they gave their classmates enough space. The “Going on a Bear Hunt” flannelboard continues to be a massive success when paired with a hidden bear puppet. I actually didn’t use any rhymes or songs on their own, other than my opening/closing routines since the kids were up and moving the entire storytime. I would definitely repeat this theme again!

Outreach Storytime: Spring

As it was seasonally appropriate, so many of my preschools and centers requested a “spring” theme. Needless to say, while this is a great storytime plan that worked well for every group that I visited, I’m very glad to put it away for the year.

The Plan

Books

Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek********
Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson*******
Splish, Splash Ducky! by Lucy Cousins******
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes****
Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood******

Extension Activities

Flannelboard: “Five Little Ducks”*******

Flannelboard: “Planting a Rainbow”****

Folder Story: “Old MacRainbow’s Flower Garden” (found at Fun With Friends at Storytime)****

Puppet: Flutter, Flutter Butterfly********
Flutter, flutter butterfly,
Floating in the spring sky
Floating by for all to see,
Floating by so merrily
Flutter, flutter butterfly,
Floating in the spring sky
Credit: Best Kids Book Site (site is down)

ASL: “Butterfly”********

Fingerplay: “Here is the Beehive”********
Here is the beehive. (hold up fist)
Where are the bees? (shrug)
Hidden away where nobody sees. (move other hand around fist)
Watch and you’ll see them come out of the hive (bend head close to fist)
One, two, three, four, five. (hold fingers up one at a time)
Bzzzzzzzz! (wave fingers)
Credit: Co-worker at old library

How It Went

Preschool 1: four classrooms
At this preschool, I presented in one of the larger classrooms and different groups rotated to storytime. This preschool was enamored with Wow! Said the Owl and did the best job of remembering our secret code to say “WOW!” together. (I wave my hand at the group instead of pointing.) As always, Butterfly, Butterfly is a sure-fire win due to the pop-up page at the end. And it worked so well with our ASL sign!

Preschool 2: two classrooms
My friends at this school remained in their classrooms and I traveled. Since it was only two storytimes and their classrooms were right next to each other, it worked out. This group really responded to the planting element of spring. Their favorite activities were definitely the “Planting a Rainbow” flannelboard and the folder story. I really appreciated the teachers in this group because they carefully wrote down each book and I could tell that they were just as engaged in the storytime as the kids were.

Preschool 3: eight classrooms (two per storytime)
I had a lot of fabulous surprises at this preschool — mostly especially the “thank-you” notes that were given to me as each set of classrooms came for their storytime. I had a child notice the endpapers of Splish, Splash Ducky which led to a great conversation about authors and illustrators and why that book had a picture of a person on the inside cover. My friend asked me after every book if there were any more author/illustrator pictures and we checked every time. These groups *loved* singing “Five Little Ducks” with the flannelboard, as well as the “Flutter, Flutter Butterfly” puppet and rhyme. I extend this song now to other silly actions (jumping, spinning, hiding) and the kids love when the butterfly peeks out from behind me during the hiding verse.

Bookgarteners: Karen Beaumont

For an overview of the Bookgarteners program, please visit this post.

Karen Beaumont is an author that I think needs to have a larger following. So many of her books are storytime hits, that I wanted to call attention to her as an author for my kiddos.

Group Program

To begin our program, I explained what an author was and what an illustrator was. I talked about how each book has one of each. Sometimes they are the same person and sometimes they are not. Karen Beaumont was the author of the books that I had chosen to highlight, but she worked with lots of different illustrators. One of my favorite connections was a preschooler that recognized David Catrow’s art from both I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More and I Like Myself!. We didn’t watch any YouTube videos because I couldn’t find any. Ms. Beaumont, please record some videos for your young fans!

Afterwards, it was time to read Move Over, Rover! together.

Sequence Cards with Move Over, Rover!
2.B.ECb: With teacher assistance, retell familiar stories with three or more key events.

I had originally wanted to make several flannelboard copies of the story for the kids to use in their retelling, but time got the best of me this past spring and I opted instead to purchase a set from Teachers Pay Teachers which included story character cards that I used as sequencing cards. Each child got their own pack and we worked through the story together. I was impressed at their recall for the order of the animals!


Activity Stations

Four activity stations were spread out around the room. I had one adult volunteer in the room with me to help control the flow of kiddos. (You’ll notice that I changed from a teen to an adult volunteer at this program. Ultimately, it was too much for one teen volunteer to handle and I was unable to get two teens during the after-school time.)

Do-a-Dot Marker on the Wall for I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More
25.A.ECd: Visual Arts. Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials.

This wall art activity was inspired by TeachPreschool, via Pinterest. I simply had to let them paint on the wall, right? TeachPreschool’s blog post is amazing, with tons of great art content. Since I was doing this activity in another program, I chose to make it a bit tidier with do-a-dot markers and large post-it notes. And the great part was I could change the “canvas” with each child so they got to take their pictures home.


Music Dancing with Baby Danced the Polka
19.B.ECa: Coordinate movements to perform complex tasks.
19.B.ECc: Combine large motor movements with and without the use of equipment.
25.A.ECa: Movement and Dance. Build awareness of, explore, and participate in dance and creative movement activities.
25.A.ECc: Music. Begin to appreciate and participate in music activities.

This idea came from my own head. I love music and I love exposing children to different kinds of music. Baby Danced the Polka gave me an opportunity to play some polka music and dance around the room with the kids. We did wind up playing a rousing edition of Freeze Dance as well, inspired by the lead of some of the kids.


I Like Me/All About Me Paper for I Like Myself!
5.A.Eca: Experiment with writing tools and materials.
5.B.ECa: With teacher assistance, use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to express an opinion about a book or topic.
16.A.ECb: Develop a basic awareness of self as an individual.
30.B.ECa: Describe self using several basic characteristics.

This writing exercise came from Simply Second Grade, via Pinterest. I knew that this activity was going to prove more difficult for my three-year-olds, which is why I had my adult volunteer stationed here to either spell words out loud for them or to write down what they dictated. All of the kids were able to at least write their names, hooray! I used a coloring page that I was able to find online.


Dino Wash for Dini Dinosaur
12.C.ECb: Experiment with changes in matter when combined with other substances.

The station that could have ended all stations. The kids were so excited with this station and I loved the science component. Before class, I made a sloppy mixture of flour and brown tempera paint to make the mud. I did not use a recipe and added more flour to the paint to make it more consistent. I tossed some dinosaurs in the muddy bin and put water in the cleaning bin. Ta-da — they were cleaning Dini Dinosaur. Seriously, I could have just had this station and they would have been happy as clams.


Wrap-Up

This was a perfect spring Bookgarteners. All the kids really loved the two very messy stations (painting and dino washing) and my older friends really spent time working on their “All About Me” papers. The dancing station was hard to integrate as a station and I’m not sure that I’ll repeat it like that or if I would just do a dance before stations.

Bookgarteners: Donald Crews

For an overview of the Bookgarteners program, please visit this post.

Donald Crews was a natural pick for the Bookgarteners program. His books are beloved by children, and he also has a huge fanbase with all of the fabulous vehicle books at our library.

Group Program

To begin our program, I explained what an author was and what an illustrator was. I talked about how each book has one of each. Sometimes they are the same person and sometimes they are not. Donald Crews had written and illustrated all of the books I had with me today, but I knew that he had worked as only an illustrator on a few books so I mentioned that to the kids. Then, we watched a YouTube video from the Association of Library Service to Children that Crews recorded about his influences.

Afterwards, it was time to read Freight Train together.

Sequencing Color Bracelets with Freight Train
2.B.ECb: With teacher assistance, retell familiar stories with three or more key events.

This is a weird source of inspiration, but nonetheless…I will forever remember a church story/lesson because it was told with a beaded bracelet. I thought that the kids would benefit from making a pipe cleaner beaded bracelet to “tell” the story of Freight Train. This did require a bit of prep work on my part. I sorted beads into ziploc bags to make the distribution of the activity easier. You could also set up a line with small buckets with each of the colored beads.


Activity Stations

Four activity stations were spread out around the room. I had one teen volunteer in the room with me to help control the flow of kiddos.

Sensory Transportation Scene for all books
19.A.ECd: Use eye-hand coordination to perform tasks.

This sensory transportation scene came from Lalymom, via Pinterest. I bought foam stickers from Oriental Trading and used clear contact paper with the sticky side out towards the kids. And if you’re wondering what it looked like at the end of the class, I give you this:


Shape Train Matching with Freight Train
7.A.ECa: Compare, order, and describe objects according to a single attribute.

This shape matching activity came from Toddler Approved, via Pinterest. I made two trains so that more kids could use this station at the same time. I also did not create an outline of the shape and opted instead for the word since I was aiming for preschoolers as opposed to toddlers. The kids LOVED this section and I had some families who asked if they could take this one home.


Counting Dots with Ten Black Dots
6.A.ECd: Connect numbers to quantities they represent using physical models and informal representatives.

This math activity came from Munchkins and Moms, via Pinterest. I invested in some foam puzzles from the dollar store and splurged for the black gems online. I absolutely plan to reuse both of these items in future Bookgartener programs. This was the most self-directed station and I think it gave the kids great confidence to be able to do it “all by themselves”. (The two art stations were also self-directed, but needed supervision from me and my volunteer.)


Wheel Stamping for all books
25.A.ECd: Visual Arts. Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials.

This art station came from Pre-K Pages, via Pinterest. I didn’t need to buy anything for this station as both ink and vehicle cars were something that the library already owned. This was a FRENZIED station, as exhibited by the only picture I managed to get during the program:


Wrap-Up

I loved every minute of this program and the activities that I had curated and chosen. I think this would be better suited for a fall session though, as my older kids breezed through a lot of activities. Luckily, they all wanted to go back and go the activities again, so I was safe!

Shake, Shimmy, & Dance: 11/17

shakeshimmyanddance

The Plan


Book
Music Class Today! by David Weinstone
I know that I’ve used this book before and will continue to use it again. It depicts so many of the things that kids will see in our Music & Movement programs, it’s a great primer for them before we start. I also think it’s important to reinforce that kids may not join in right away and that’s okay too!

Props
Scarves!

The Playlist

Hello & How Are You? — Old Town School of Folk Music
Hello, Goodbye — Caspar Babypants
Move Like an Animal — Birdie’s Playhouse
If You’re Happy and You Know It — Old Town School of Folk Music
El Train — Laura Doherty
Pop Goes the Weasel — Caspar Babypants
Dance Floor Super Hero — The Fresh Beat Band
Shake Hands With Friends — Ella Jenkins

How It Went

I kicked today off with a cover of a Beatles song, by Caspar Babypants: Hello, Goodbye. Some of the best reactions came not from caregivers (who did really appreciate it!), but from co-workers who heard it passing by the door or through the vent system. They had a great time with it!

Move Like an Animal was fun and initiated a great game of pretend with all of the kiddos. And another version of If You’re Happy and You Know It drew in the caregivers around the room. We kept that interaction going by jumping on the El Train and traveling around the room.

For our scarves, we practiced tossing them into the air when Caspar Babypants said “POP” during Pop Goes the Weasel and then they became superhero capes with Dance Floor Super Hero. A fabulous program with lots of fun had by all.

(For an example of the Powerpoint and handouts that I made for each Shake, Shimmy please visit the original post.)

Parenting Packs: Caring for Your Teeth

bookbundlesparentingpacks

For an overview of the Book Bundles and Parenting Packs early literacy kits, please visit the original post. The cost listed is the list price of each item, regardless of whether or not we got it on sale/discount. The activity sheets and resource guide amount was calculated by cost of binder clip + lamination sheets.

Itemized List

  • Brush, Brush, Brush by Alicia Padron ($6.95) — Baker & Taylor
  • I Have a Cavity by Lisa M. Herrington ($23.00) — Baker & Taylor
  • Maisy, Charley, and the Wobbly Tooth by Lucy Cousins ($6.99) — Baker & Taylor
  • Pony Brushes His Teeth by Michael Dahl ($7.99) — Baker & Taylor
  • Social Stories (2) by DuPage County Health Department ($10.00) — donated
  • Play-Doh Doctor Drill ‘n Fill ($29.99) — Amazon
  • Smile Tooth Brushing Timer (2) ($11.98) — Amazon
  • Mesh Bag & Vinyl Bag ($6.98) — The Container Store
  • Activity Sheets & Resource Guide ($3.00) — created in-house

Total: $122.87


The Manners Pack has been checked out three times in the past two months since its debut.