Category: How To

“Weeding: The Human Side” Presentation

Last Monday, I had the pleasure of speaking to the CLASS (Chicago Librarians Across Southern Suburbs) professional group. I spent the majority of my time answering questions from the group about weeding after giving my background on weeding and collection management.

  • Weeded the entirety of my former library’s youth collection, much of which hadn’t been touched in quite a long time.
  • Re-cataloged all picture books at my former library into subject categorization.
  • Currently manage a picture book collection of 12,000-15,000 picture books & 6,000-8,000 beginning readers.
  • Co-taught a workshop with my department head training all Kids & Teens paraprofessional staff members on weeding in 2014.
  • Huge believer in constant weeding and daily collection management. Big advocate for weeding.

I prepared a presentation for the group, but didn’t have time to share it. The first slideshow is how the presentation would have looked that day:

And this second slideshow contains an outline of my notes and talking points integrated with the original slideshow.

I am putting this up to help and aide librarians in learning how to weed and to feel confident doing so. Please do not use my presentation as your own. Furthermore, all images in the presentation are either stock photos that I’ve purchased the rights to use, images I’ve taken myself, or screenshots from websites.

If you’d like to arrange for me to speak to your group either in-person or virtually, I’d be happy to discuss details via email [simplykatie[at]gmail[dot]com].

Early Literacy Messages In Action!

[Graphic by Kelly of Ms. Kelly at the Library!]

Nearly a month ago, Lindsey from Jbrary tweeted this out:


And I knew immediately that I was *IN* for this project.


You’re avoiding using early literacy tips in storytime. You’re thinking that parents have got enough to do without adding another thing to their plate. You’re thinking that parents will feel attacked and be frustrated with you. And you might be thinking, “Who am I — a woman without children — to try and explain anything to caregivers about the children that they know best?”

And by “you” in that story, I’m actually talking about me.

Yep. It took me a long time to get comfortable with early literacy tips and using them. But I believe in them SO MUCH that I regularly include four to five tips in each week’s storytime. And yes, you heard that number right. Let me take the time to break down those concerns up above.


toddlerhandouts1. Parents have enough to do with adding another thing to their plate.

Yes, that’s true. But many parents are showing up in storytime FOR that extra guidance. So here’s how you can present it without making anyone feel like it’s an assignment: put it in that handout. Every week, I write up some of the early literacy tips from The Early Literacy Kit and tie it into Every Child Ready to Read 2. I often change up the activity to match the theme of the week. On the reverse side is an activity page for the child. (On the inside is a booklist and some fingerplays/songs that we sang that week. You can see the front and inside on this ALSC blog post.)

And now they’re there. The parents that are interested in going further can and other parents don’t have to feel guilty.

2. Parents will feel attacked and be frustrated with you.

Here’s where reading from a card will get you in trouble. I use scripted early literacy tips as a jumping off point. I will write out the whole tip on my storytime plan, but what comes out of my mouth is a completely different story.

For example, in for my Family Storytime about cake, I wrote out: “Children can help you measuring things in all kinds of ways — in deciding whether something will fit in a certain space, in cooking, and in making things. Understanding the concept of measuring begins to develop one of the mathematical skills children will need in school.” What actually came out of my mouth? “The next time you’re baking at home, ask your child if they’d like to help ‘The Little Red Hen’ out. Measuring is a great math skill!”

See the difference? The first one sounds preachy and know-it-all if I were to say it out loud. (I don’t think it sounds that way written out though.) The second way is much more conversational and it ties into the book I had just finished reading, creating a pretty flawless transition.

3. Who am I to explain anything to caregivers about *their* children?

First of all, you’re an educated early literacy specialist, that’s who! Everything that I do at storytime has a benefit or a reason behind it. The easiest way to share early literacy tips is to explain WHY you’re doing the activity in storytime.

When I passed out foam hearts to the kids to dance with during Hugs and Kisses storytime, I also encouraged the kids to give them to the caregivers and the other kids. Why did I do this seemingly silly activity? “Today, we’re practicing sharing since our toddlers will be school-age soon and in need of this skill!”

When my toddlers got too fussy, I kept it real at Cars storytime. I told the parents it was okay to put down a book if their child was becoming too frustrated. And then I did it! “Our group seems ready to get up and move, am I right? Let’s put this book away — and feel free to do this at home, too! Let’s make reading fun.”

When some parents expressed a frustration with reading the same old book every night, I introduced a new way to sing a familiar book (Brown Bear sung to Twinkle Twinkle) in babytime. “This is a great way to re-visit an old favorite in a new way!”


It takes time for these to flow out naturally and organically. And if it doesn’t for you — write them out in conversation style beforehand. Practice in your mirror. Use your family. If you have pets, dogs make great test subjects for storytime prep! (If my dog-nephew Winston tries to kiss me while I sing, I know it’s a hit.)

I actually started using tips with my Song Cube. I memorized tips to tell parents depending on what song comes up. And even after several sessions, I still have to model how to sing the ABCs to Mary Had a Little Lamb every time!


So, how do parents receive the tips and do they provide feedback? Here’s some quotes from our Winter 2015 storytimes. (Spring 2015 isn’t yet typed up; summer reading is coming!!)

I liked how the program included the parents or the caregiver.

I love the research and explanations that Ms. Katie provides.

[Co-worker] did a great job in teaching the parents different methods of interaction with books & our children.

Katie does a terrific job explaining the “why” behind activities.


And that’s why I think early literacy messages are so important. If you’d like to talk more about them, please leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter: @storytimekatie.

And make sure to check out Jbrary‘s round-up of all the posts this Friday!

Storytime Essentials: Five Most Beloved Purchased Puppets/Sets

Photo booth style!

1. Folkmanis Grizzly Bear Cub
They don’t make my bear cub anymore, but they do have another bear available. (I think mine looks more friendly in the face.) This is a perennial favorite for the “Sleepy Bear” rhyme, singing “Grr Grr Went the Big Brown Bear”, hidden behind the flannelboard to eat strawberries and to chase the kids on a bear hunt.

2. Merry Makers Scaredy Squirrel
Scaredy Squirrel has a big place in my heart. “Scaredy Squirrel” the book was the very first book I read to kids in a library and the first puppet that made me go, “OH MY GOSH, I MUST HAVE HIM.” Scaredy has helped me on fall school visits by showing kids the library is nothing be scared of.

3. Manhattan Toy Old MacDonald
I think every librarian needs a good farm set. My set isn’t sold through Manhattan Toy; you need to catch it on a re-sale website. Obviously good for “Old MacDonald”, but also for “Over in the Barnyard” and “Ah-Choo!”

4. Manhattan Toy FlipFlaps Butterfly
I cannot find this one sold anywhere and I am terribly sorry about that. I love this puppet. It’s so easy to manipulate and move around with. I wish there were more FlipFlaps made. I use this all the time with “Flutter, Flutter Butterfly”.

5. Folkmanis Golden Retriever
Where would I be without Applesauce, the storytime mascot from my last library? Applesauce came with me to my new library because he was mine and the library finally purchased their own golden retriever puppet to maintain the tradition I started. He’s been a superhero, eaten strawberries off the flannelboards, led a game of “Applesauce Says”, and been mended countless times when I use this Band-Aids flannelboards.

So whether or not puppets are your style, I hope at least the pictures amused you since I had fun taking them on my dinner break! And if puppets are your thing, maybe you’ve found a new way to use one of your favorites or have found a new friend to purchase.

Family Storytimes


Our family storytimes are held in our very large meeting room. They are drop-in and typically average 40-50 people in the room. While we have a wide variety of ages, I am mostly seeing ages 3-5 as the main participants with a few toddler or baby siblings.

I modified Lindsey’s AMAZING toddler planning sheet for family storytimes. I changed it around a bit, but it is the single most useful planning tool I’ve ever found for a storytime!


I took this idea from Audrey, who shared it with us at Guerrilla Storytime! (PS – THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!)

Hi everyone! My name is Miss Katie and I’ll be leading family storytime this session; this is week __ of seven. It’s time for everyone to warm-up. Let’s start with our elbows. (Everyone rubs their elbows.) A couple of quick pieces of information about the library: restrooms are located right outside the meeting room and on either side of the storytime room. Feel free to use them as you or your child needs to.

Switch elbows! It’s all right if you child gets up and moves during storytime. Just be sure to keep them clear of the front of the room as I’ll be walking back and forth throughout the storytime. If they do enter that space, please just re-direct them, although they do not have to sit back down.

Switch to your knees! If your child becomes uncomfortable at any time, please take them out of the room to settle them down. You are welcome to rejoin us once your child has calmed down. If you need to leave, please try to come back next week. Sometimes it takes children more time than adults to be comfortable in a space or program.

Switch to your head! You are your child’s best model for storytime behavior. Please participate in the singing, rhymes, and activities that we are doing. Your child will look to you for how to behave. And with that, I think we’re warmed up. Let’s start storytime!

Opening Song
Our hello song has four words in ASL, which is American Sign Language. The first word we need to learn is “hello”; make a salute from your head. The next word is “friend”; we take one finger and then another finger and our fingers give each other a hug. Then we need to learn how to say “time”; we point to where we might wear a watch. Last, we need to learn the word “say”; we put our finger on our chin and imagine our words coming out of our finger as we move like this.

Okay, now we’re ready to sing:

“Hello Friends”
Hello friends, hello friends
Hello friends, it’s time to say hello

(Insider tip: watch Jbrary sing it here!)


Here’s where everything changes week-to-week. I always have four books, several flannelboards and puppets and props, a featured music CD, and fingerplays/movement activities planned. I’ll talk about those in each write-up.


Closing Rhyme
I used Melissa‘s “This Is Big, Big, Big” as the beginning of my closing routine. You can try and pry this rhyme out of my repertoire, but I will shout “NEVER!” and cling to it like a first edition signed Harry Potter book.

Closing Song
For our closing song, I just sing “Goodbye Friends” which is also available in the video above!

Storytime Essentials: Picture Books for a Deserted Island


I absolutely love playing the game that begins with this question: “If you were on a deserted island and you could only have X amount of X, what would you take?”

So, for today’s post I’ll write about the ten picture books I’d want on my deserted island. You know…in case it’s not really deserted and there’s a colony of children just craving a storytime!


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Colors, animals, rhythm — this really is one of the most versatile books. As a bonus, it can be sung to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, so it could work as a lullaby as well in case I need to lull the children to sleep.

Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek
Whether it’s an insects storytime or a colors storytime, the surprise pop-up butterfly at the end will clearly thrill children. And there’s a chance that perhaps a predator might be scared of the pop-up and it could be used as self-defense, right?

Can You Make a Scary Face by Jan Thomas
With this interactive book, we’d burn off the multitude of calories acquired by drinking coconut milk and eating berries (read: very little amount of calories), and we would definitely be laughing as we did. Bonus points: practicing our scary faces for protection.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.
Besides the relating to our tropical environment, this great rhythmic story would be comforting to the children because it’s a story that nearly every kid in my library knows. Plus, we’d need to learn our ABCs somehow, right?

Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee
A bounce, an adventure, and a safe tumble in the hay await us here. We’d also have a nice break from all of the jungle animals with these sweet domestic animals. Also: I’ve never known this book to flop, especially if I get all the kids to jump with me.


Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (pop-up)
This simple story will remain us of simpler times when we could send the animals that scare us back to the zoo and away from us. The pop-up edition will give us more than enough bang for our buck and while kids may know the answers to the animals after a few re-reads, they will love the book all the same.

Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd
Another title that can used for a multitude of themes: colors, counting, dogs, baths. It also can be substituted as a bedtime and since I’m betting money that I don’t have my flannelboard collection, I would absolutely need a visual to tell this story.

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
Again: we have to exercise sometimes! This is another book that is great for identifying animals and also has Eric Carle’s amazing illustrations. (I tried really hard not to repeat authors, but you can see that I failed on several occasions.) This fun, engaging book will keep all the kids around no matter how distracting the island may be.

It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle
We’re definitely going to relate to this book in the jungle. (But whereas, the main character is more scared of tigers, I’d be more scared of the snakes!) I think it would be a great read for my island kids and hopefully remind us that scary things can sometimes work out in our favor.

Press Here by Herve Tullet
This would be a great read and fun for the kids even as they grew up. While I mostly picked preschool & under books, this is one of the ones that would carry us through the grade school years. Plus, we could rotate turns and the kids would look forward to the day when they were the star of the story!

I hope that I won’t be lost anytime soon, but even without the deserted island question, these are ten of my favorite storytime books that I am proud to own in my professional collection!

Storytime Essentials: Songs That Never End


No, no, no, I’m not talking about that song.

I’m talking about songs that you can keep adding more verses to as long as you need them.

1. You Can Hear (Tune: She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain)
You can hear the lions roaring at the zoo, ROAR ROAR!
You can hear the lions roaring at the zoo, ROAR ROAR!
You can hear the lions roaring, you can hear the lions roaring,
You can hear the lions roaring at the zoo, ROAR ROAR!

Have the children suggest animals for you to sing next. Just be prepared for someone to name an animal (koala bear!) that you have no idea what sound to use. (For the record: I went with a generic chompchomp for anything I couldn’t sound out since all animals have to eat!) I originally learned this song from Perpetual Preschool.

2. When Animals Get Up In the Morning
When animals wake up in the morning, they always say hello
When animals wake up in the morning, they always say hello
And what do they say? [animal noise]
And that is what they say!

Another great animal noise song! I do tend to plan this one out more in advance since I typically use puppets with it. But it could also be turned into a game where the children pull out a puppet and have to provide the noise. I originally learned this song from Jbrary.

3. Sticky, Sticky Bubblegum
Sticky, sticky, bubblegum, bubblegum, bubblegum
Sticky, sticky bubblegum
Sticking your fingers to your head

Preschoolers with stick with this song for the whole storytime if you let them! I originally learned this from a school group that was visiting the library and got stuck without a bus for nearly an hour after their scheduled departure time! Their teachers did a great job keeping them entertained and taught all their classroom songs to me. Since I learned it by rote, my version is a little different than both the Carole Stephens and the Dr. Jean version. The closest approximation is this video.

4. Driving Round In My Red Car (Tune (approximately): Bumping Up & Down In My Little Wagon)
Driving round in my little red car
Driving round in my little red car
Driving round in my little red car
Zoom zoom zoom zoom zoom

I actually remember this song from childhood. This is a great song for color identification and also for getting the wiggles out. Invite the children to drive imaginary cars in their seats (or if you’re really feeling brave, let them drive around the room) and watch the magic happen. I couldn’t find a video that sounds anything like how I sing this, so maybe one day I’ll record my own!

5. Wake Up Toes
Wake up toes, wake up toes
Wake up toes and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
Wake up toes, wake up toes
Wake up and wiggle in the morning

This is a great one for babies and toddlers. Parents and caregivers can help out by touching or helping move each body part as we sing about it. This is another song that I learned from the fabulous ladies from Jbrary.

As a final note: I tend to choose opening songs that can be extended. You can read more about those in the last edition of “Storytime Essentials”. I know I missed February’s edition, but I will be back in April with a new topic!

Storytime Essentials: Opening & Closing Songs


Since I started doing storytime, I’ve done a few different opening/closing songs before I finally settled on the ones at my old library: “Clap and Say Hello!” and “We Wave Goodbye Like This”.

In the past, I’ve done “Here, Here” and “Mr. Sun” for opening songs and mostly the “ABCs” for closing.

At my new library, I wanted to try something different! Since I was doing Toddler Storytime, I wanted a song that I could repeat for as long as I needed depending on the energy of the group. And my other thought was that I wanted a song that was available on CD so that the rest of my team could play the song if for whatever reason (like PLA/ALA) that I can’t be there. I first read about the song on Kendra’s blog Read Sing Play and found this video from King County Library System to learn it.

As for my closing song, I wanted something short and it wound up that the rhyme “Tickle the Clouds” worked out the very best for me and for my group.

The reason I think opening and closing songs/activities are so essential is that they create a framework for your storytime, encourage repetition, and set-up a routine for your patrons to recognize.

Storytime & Flannelboards Presentation

Last week, I presented an hour and fifteen minute presentation all about flannelboards for a fabulous Illinois group, Prairie State Story League.


(I have no idea why the “Performing” title slide put the G on its own line. I promise it wasn’t that way in the actual presentation.)

Also: I updated my flannelboards hand-out from this spring; and I also traced several flannelboards to make some patterns which are available here: patterns!

Patterns include:

I want to thank the Prairie State Story League for having me present and I’d also like to thank Schaumburg Township Library District for hosting the event.

And of course, I want to thank everyone that came to the workshop — I had such a wonderful time meeting and talking with you! If you have any questions, please let me know either through a comment, email [simplykatieATgmailDOTcom] or via Twitter — @storytimekatie.

Flannelboard Workshop

Last week I gave a workshop to Milwaukee County librarians last week on how to make flannelboards! Since I’m me and always take things further than they probably need to be, I made a quick presentation before doing a Q&A while the group made the flannelboards.

And I also made a hand-out with flannelboard resources that I’m also including here: Flannelboard Workshop Resources.

I want to thank everyone that came to the workshop — I had such a wonderful time meeting and talking with you! If you have any questions, please let me know either through a comment, email [simplykatieATgmailDOTcom] or via Twitter — @katietweetsya.

Picture Book City: Neighborhood List & Info Sheet


That moment when you’re cleaning out your draft section and you realized that you never finished a series? Yeah, that’s this post right here. This was supposed to be a short post anyways, too!

The official list of Picture Book City neighborhoods:

  • Bedtime
  • Celebrations
  • Concepts (Streets: 123s, ABCs, Colors, Opposites, Shapes, Size, Time
  • Fairy & Folk Tales
  • Favorites (Streets: Awards)
  • Growing Up (Streets: Baby, Family, Feelings, Health, Jobs, Loss, Manners, School
  • Nature (Streets: Bugs, Dinosaurs, Farm, Forest, Ocean, Pets, Seasons, Zoo
  • Rhymes & Songs
  • Stories (Streets: Libraries, Monsters, Pirates)
  • Transportation (Streets: Cars, Con, Truck)

For further information on Picture Book City, check out these documents I wrote/made for patrons and staff:

Patron Information — This is still out in the department for parents to take. It is a document holder I’m constantly refilling since patrons are still taking it a year after PBC was finished!

Picture Book City Training Manual — This is what I wrote for our Tech Services department and for our Pages. It’s also been used to train new staff members in Reference as well.

I will finish this series in the next month (March) with an update about the section after a year and information about doing Picture Book City in Spanish!