Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Library Sneakers- Kindergarten Tour at the Library!

Do you have kindergarten classes visit your library? When I first came to La Crosse a specialized 2nd grade tour was already in place. You can read all about them on Bryce's blog. It was developmentally perfect for 2nd graders, and it really helped build our relationship with each individual school and their library media specialist.

After helping with 2nd grade tours when I first joined the team, we realized that adding Kindergarten to the mix was the next step in solidifying our relationship with the schools. Plus, this way we get to see a child at least two times during their first three years of school!

First, we contacted each school and asked for their school roster. This allows us to look up each child, see if they have a card, waive any fines, and send home a library card application if they need a card. Our goal is that every kindergartner will have an opportunity to get a card they can actually use by the time they leave our tour. Of course, this doesn't always work if caregivers don't sign the form or bring it back.

For scheduling the tour, we send out a mass email to each library media specialist and ask them to respond with 3 dates and times that work in the month of January or February. Since all of the second grade classes visit during this time too, we scale our programming way back during these two months to accommodate all of our tour friends.

When the kindergarten class comes, we gather in our programming space and talk about what the library does and what it means to be a library sneaker. We emphasize that ONLY kindergartners in La Crosse get to call themselves library sneakers and that it is a very special honor. We also share the "prizes" they get for returning to the library.

If they return one time and say they're a library sneaker at our service desk, then they get a very special Library Sneaker tote bag. Again, ONLY kindergartners in La Crosse get this tote bag. If they return a second time and say they're a library sneaker then they get their very own Pete the Cat bookmark. This is a perfect transition into us reading our very favorite book Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. Kindergartners are usually shrieking with excitement at this point.

After reading Pete the Cat we break into our three groups for the next section of the tour. Each group gets to do all three parts, and we rotate every 7-9 minutes. One group gets a room tour, one gets a super secret tour, and one gets to hear another favorite book.

The room tour is fun because it's a chance for us to show them where they can find books best suited to their tastes in the room. It's also a chance for us to talk about the library desk and how we love to help people find good books and movies. We simply look for a certain shoe and sing "I love my ____ shoe" as we dance over to the right section. The librarian in charge of this tour is always the head dancer or head sneaker depending on their preference.

The super secret background tour is well loved by everyone because the kids get to see how a book drop works, and we tell them that everything they see is secret. ONLY kindergartners in La Crosse get to go on the super secret tour. Really it's just a quick walk through circulation and talking about how our process works, and then it's time to switch spots again.

For the additional story, we started using The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak. I know some people have had storytime misses with this one, but our groups love it. I start by explaining that I've never read the book before but Miss (whoever else is doing part of the tour) said that I would really like it, so I thought we would try it. I act really surprised of course during all the ridiculousness, and I also follow my fingeralong the words as I read them. This has really helped the kindergartners make the connection that I have "no control" over what I'm saying. Plus, they're learning all about that print awareness!

Out of everything we do, The Book With No Pictures is the thing the kids remember when they come back to visit us. Their caregivers have heard all about it, and they have to read it or even go out and buy a copy themselves.

For my librarian friends who like stats- this is what our current year looked like: 53 students already had a library card. 429 students did not have a library card at all. They were all sent home a library form, and 260 of them returned it. That's 60% of students that now have a brand new library card!!! 45 students had fines on their card. 21 of them were over $10, which means their card has been blocked. For these cases a personalized letter was sent home from our circulation manager explaining the situation and inviting the family to visit the library and speak with her so they could work something out. The other 24 students had fines under $10 and we just waived them completely. Last year we saw over a 30% return visit from our kindergarten friends.

So, if you don't give specialized tours then please consider it. If you have any questions, want to read the scripts we use, or just want to pick my brain then contact me!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

UW-Whitewater's Early Childhood Conference: April 8-9, 2016

Hello all! Hopefully I will return to my regularly scheduled blogging soon. I have quite a few drafts that are just waiting for some much needed attention.

If you live in the Wisconsin/Illinois area I wanted to put a conference on your radar. It's a conference dedicated to Early Childhood! It's primarily day care providers who attend this conference, but I went last year and it was amazing.

Registration isn't outrageous, and there are some great sessions being offered. You can check out all of the different sessions here, and even find mine. I'll be talking all about programming with babies and toddlers in childcare and library settings. I hope to see some of you there!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Babies Need Words Every Day- The Blog Tour!

I'm excited to share the schedule for the amazing Babies Need Words Every Day blog tour! Some amazing ladies are going to be blogging about Babies Need Words Every Day, an ALSC initiative focused on bridging the 30 Million Word Gap, by providing caregivers with proven ways to build their children's literacy skills.

The initiative includes eight beautiful posters that share simple rhymes and tips for caregivers to read. There's even a booklist that shares some great books to check out at the library. The best part is that everything is FREE! You can print out as many posters and booklists as you want, and hang them everywhere. Check out the link here to get started.

I'll be updating this schedule daily to include the newest posts!

Show Me Librarian

Storytime Secrets
Storytime Katie

Abby the Librarian
Miss Meg's Storytime

Fat Girl Reading
Bryce Don't Play
Read Sing Play

Storytime Underground

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Early Literacy Center - A Monster Who Loves Cookies!

To go along with our newest bakery theme in our Play & Learn area, we wanted to make a fun tactile experience for little ones. After scouring the web and Pinterest, we realized that Cookie Monster was the obvious choice.

The La Crosse Public Library has been fortunate enough to receive a grant through DPI and Americorp. The grant provides the library with two workers who focus on early literacy and community building for a full year. This grant has been amazing and I'll give all the details in a later post. I'm mentioning it now because they did the work on this Play & Read theme and deserve the credit. 

For this project we re-purposed our plastic mailbox that we've used previously in our Early Literacy Center, and simply added a few decorations. The mailbox just so happened to be the perfect shade of blue!

We made laminated card stock cookies and turned our wall activity into both a color identification game and sorting activity.

In various places on the wall we included prompts for the caregivers and children to interact with Cookie Monster.

Of course, we also included an early literacy tip for caregivers. Explaining why these simple activities matter plays such an important part in early literacy awareness.

Best of all, this activity was free! We re-purposed everything from earlier Play & Learn activities, so the only new thing we needed to add was the construction paper on the mailbox and the fun cookies. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Books2Go- Daycare Outreach

Before I came to my current library, there was a dedicated Outreach Librarian position. Unfortunately, with budget cuts it was a position that was not filled after the librarian retired. This really hurt our relationship with local daycares since we could no longer visit them on a monthly basis. As much as we wanted to continue this outreach, there wasn't enough staff time to make it possible.

We provide a yearly preschool tour, themed around a book character, for daycares to come visit the library. However, we've realized the logistics of taking a field trip with 15-30 children, under the age of 5, can be a nightmare. The centers have to get permission slips, pay for a bus, and coordinate it around their already busy day. We also offered to come to each center once a year and provide an outreach storytime. While centers took advantage of this offering, they were disappointed that once a year was all our staff could feasible do with our reduced staff.

The department decided to emphasize outreach events at the centers when parents were in attendance during this transition period. Attending literacy nights, family days, and more- the department wanted to focus on bringing our literacy message to caregivers in person.

Luckily, our boss, Marge Loch-Wouters, developed a great initiative to keep the daycares supplied with books and use minimal staff time. Books2Go debuted in 2010 with 13 local daycares and Headstart opting into the program.

A weekly Books2Go cart- ready for checkout! 
Each month we deliver a bag of 10 books to every classroom. We check out each center's books on a library card that doesn't accrue fines. These cards are only used for Books2Go, and the centers do not know the barcode. We have separate child care provider cards they can obtain if they would like to check out books themselves. Making special library cards was an important way for us to keep track of the number of books each center had, and allowed us to see if any books were missing each month.

Some things that didn't work with this initiative:

  • Advertising- Each month we tried stuffing the bags with flyers for the centers to hang up, upcoming program flyers, or library card registrations. The next month we would find 95% of these items still in the bag. Eventually we realized we were wasting a lot of staff time and money photocopying things that no one was using.
  • Volunteers- Initially we wanted to use volunteers to deliver our books each week to the daycares. However, the majority of our volunteers are retired folks who we quickly realized could not physically lift over 40 pounds of books at each drop off location. Our volunteers also use their own vehicles for insurance reasons, and we quickly realized that this would be asking too much with all of our deliveries.
  • Emails- Most daycare workers are extremely overworked and underpaid. After trying to communicate via email for various reasons we quickly realized that most centers check their emails once a week at most. We've since learned that if we have important time sensitive information to convey (a change in delivery schedule, missing books, etc) we need to call them on the phone. 

Some of the biggest pros with this initiative:

  • Lost Books- Initially we expected that each center would lose books throughout the year, and we were willing to take this loss. However, we've been pleasantly surprised with how responsible the centers have been. Each center is so excited about this program, even five years later, that they take extra care to have the books ready for us during pick up day.
  • Day Care Relationship- We had high hopes that this monthly delivery service would start repairing the library's relationship with the local day care centers. While they knew we had lost the Outreach Librarian position they were still upset that we no longer could offer monthly outreach visits. This initiative has definitely helped to rebuild those relationships. It has been a great solution so far to our shrinking staff.
  • Circulation- We are happy that this program helps boost our circulation numbers each month, especially as we've been seeing a gradual decease in circulation numbers. We currently serve 17 sites and check out 720 books each month to our centers. That's over 8500 extra books we're circulation each year! 
A quick shout out to the various staff members, and former boss Marge Loch-Wouters, who were fountains of information in regards to this post, since I wasn't here when the initiative started. I asked Marge specifically for her biggest pro and con with this project and here was her response:

Pro: Book Exposure! Making sure that kids in care were exposed to a wide variety of books- both new and classing- on an ongoing basis was key. This was an important change from the book bins that had been left at the centers monthly. Each of the old bins had been developed with a grant over a decade before this initiative and the books shared with the kids were never updates. So providers and kids were being exposed to the same books every year. Having fresh books through Books2Go for kids and caregivers to discover was BIG!

Con: Adapting- Helping out child care community adapt to a change necessitated by budge cuts (the first of many ongoing cutback) was a big challenge. As a department, we looked at what we could sustain that would provide early literacy benefits no matter what future budgets were like.

Do any of you do special outreach initiatives to daycares beyond traditional storytimes? I would love to hear about them!


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