Thursday, January 15, 2015

Storytime 101: Rethinking the Basics

Today I had the pleasure of presenting, "Storytime 101: Rethinking the Basics" as part of YSS Powerhouse Presents, a series of webinars geared toward all things youth services! All of the webinars are sponsored by the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association and you should join today if you're not a member! A special thanks to the South Central Library System for hosting me today and making the process extremely fun and easy.

My slides are full of great links below so check them out. If you're interested in the recording of the webinar, check here.

I hope everyone had fun listening in to my flu riddled self. Good thing it was a webinar so you all couldn't catch my germs!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Early Literacy Center – Fruit & Veggie Color Matching

We've changed up our Play & Learn area with a food theme! Our pillar game this quarter is all about matching the fruits and veggies to the right color.

We include a fun parent tip as well as directions for the games.

I tried to pick fruit that was recognizable (like grapes), but also throw in some new vocabulary words (like pomegranate). I simply put velcro pieces on the back of the fruits and vegetables and put the other part of the velcro on the right colored paper.

We also made this cute little folder to hold all the fruit when kids are done.

I've seen parents counting the food, talking about what the food tastes like, and even making up food stories! It's been awesome. Tune in next week when I reveal the flannel story and big furniture piece we've added. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolve to Rock!

I'm participating in the Resolve to Rock initiative with Storytime Underground. It's all about setting your professional goals in 2015 and holding yourself accountable for them throughout the year. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 goals.

1. Make Stronger Community Connections. I've started on this already by enrolling in a class called "Early Literacy Community Development". I'm partnering with a local parenting resource center to investigate how to better serve our community. Hopefully, this will start us in the right direction for our community. One of my big goals this year is to make our way back into headstart and local daycares. We've had connections in the past that need some love and nurture to bring back. This year my goal is to find the time to make this happen!

2. Keep Trying New Things. Next year I'm doing my first ever webinar and solo presentation. I'm extremely nervous about them, but also so excited! One of my goals is to keep trying new things this year. This includes everything from storytime books, to blogging, to continuing education opportunities. There is so much out there to explore!

3. Get Out of My Comfort Zone. I've been fortunate enough to make some amazing friendships through library. Some of my closest friends have resulted because of my library/blogging ties. While this is amazing and I love them dearly, I'm going to try really hard not to depend on them during conferences. It's so nice to have people you know walk the exhibits and go to sessions with you, but I've been thinking a lot lately about the connections I could be missing because I'm no longer "looking". Maybe a new best friend is sitting 2 chairs over super uncomfortable because she knows no one (me 2 years ago), or maybe someone in the row behind me is looking for an early literacy consultant and they want to pay them a million dollars a year (obviously the dream). Point is, I want to make sure that I'm leaving myself open to these interactions at conferences. Chances are you'll still see me with a buddy at ALA, but I'm hoping to go solo for at least a few hours.

4. Stop the Negativity. This is a super personal one for me that I think will also be the hardest. I have a tendency that when I get annoyed/mad/irritated with something that it gets very hard to move past it. Of course once I've reached this level of annoyance I have to tell someone about it so I usually turn to my coworkers, friends, or husband. Totally normal behavior I know, but I've realized that this does nothing for me other then feed the negativity. Once I start ranting about something it's hard for me to move on to more positive things that day. So, my goal is that I just won't invite the negativity in during the day. Obviously, we all know there will be exceptions to this rule but I'm going to try so hard to follow it. Maybe I'll start a chocolate reward system for myself for every day I go without negativity?

5. Be More Like Beyoncé. There's really nothing else to say.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Baby Storytime: 2014 Edition

The most visited post on my blog is "My Baby Storytime". After almost 2 years in La Crosse, I've made a lot of changes though! Here is the new and improved version of how I facilitate my infant and baby storytimes.

Room Setup– Blankets and pillows really help contain little ones and make the parents more comfortable too! My song sheets are directly behind me so no parent has to figure out the words to the songs. I sing the same songs every week, so usually by week 3 they have them all memorized. At the beginning of each new 6-week session I will usually introduce a new rhyme or two and rotate out others. This keeps the content fresh and helps me not stab my eyes out from singing the same 10 songs for months and months.

Bouncing Babies (0-9 mos) Set-up

For my 1 year old storytime I use a slightly different set-up. The pillows and blankets are just tripping hazards for their unsteady toddling and I need more space for the group. I used 10 spots for this picture, but I usually set down 16 of them and have a wider circle. I set down these small cushions only for the first session. If I put them down each week kids will eventually start fighting with them and it becomes a huge distraction for some. Setting the room up the first class helps everyone understand the shape I want them to sit in, and is worth the headache for the first session. I've tried simply telling the caregivers to sit in a half-circle and they all seem to forget what it looks like if I don't do the cushions at least once.

Little Movers (10 mos-23 mos) Set-Up

Nametags: I still hand these out as the caregivers and babies are walking in. This helps me memorize their names and get a count for how many are in attendance. I remind caregivers to stick nametags on their child's back so they can't reach them. If your class is small enough, make a nametag for the parents too!

My Introduction: I always start each session with a welcome. For the first two classes of a session I will also explaining the timeline of what will be happening.

"Welcome to Storytime! My name is Miss Brooke and I'm so excited to see you all today. We're going to read great books and sing a lot so everyone get your singing voice ready! All of the words to my songs are on the wall, so please sing with me because your baby loves to hear your voice. If your little one is having a rough day feel free to step out and come back if you can. If you need to leave early I promise I won't be offended. Just come back and try again next week. Is everyone ready?"

Song Wall: 11x17 sheets taped together and laminated

Timeline:  "Storytime usually last about 15-20 minutes. We always start about 5 minutes late to give everyone enough time to come and settle in. Once storytime is over I will throw out book and toys and you all can stay and play! This is a great time to make new friends and have some one-on-one time with your little one."

Caregiver Introduction: The first few classes of a new session I also go around the circle and have my caregivers introduce themselves, their child, give the child's age, and a fun fact about them. The fun fact can be stressful for some caregivers at first so I always say, "You can tell me something they love or something they hate. Tell me about a milestone they just hit or just something you just really want me to know about them!" I start out the exchange with my name, how long I've been in La Crosse, and a fun fact about myself. This helps break the ice because I always make it super ridiculous. The introductions combined with the nametags make learning names much easier for me.

Books: I have changed the way I approach books in infant and baby storytime. I used to go into storytime with a plan for 3 books. This is WAY too much in my opinion. I did it this way because that's what I read on a lot of other outlines and in different books. I stuck with this for about a year before I realized I was making reading a forced activity. Yes, I would still have a few kids by the third book but the majority were lost. I now do one book as a reader and the group does one book with me for choral reading. Two books for the entire storytime. The rest is singing, talking, dancing, and rhyming. This has made the storytime experience a much more enjoyable one for both myself and the participants.


Opening Song

Opening Rhyme/Movement

Flannel Game (Little Mouse or The Shape Game)






Choral Reading (Usually a different book each week. I always start and end the session with Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. though)

Shakey Eggs/Scarves/Parachute (I usually only do one during each class. Sometimes I will hand out shaky eggs to get the parachute back though.)

Nursery Rhyme

Closing Song

Buy it here

Playtime: Are you playing at the end of your baby storytimes? If not, start immediately! It is such a great time to make those bonds with caregivers and to encourage and model play with their babies. For a list of toys I use check here. I always put a stack of books out first and then my toys.

If I have a storytime immediately after one group I will put my clean-up bin down 15 minutes before the next class. If there is no group in the programming room after then I let them stay as long as they want.

I also stopped handing out bubbles to my parents. They were such a headache. They spilled everywhere, parents didn't really want to use them, and kids wanted to just drink them. Instead, I took the genius advice of Kendra from Read, Sing, Play and bought this bubble blower from Gymboree. Stop whatever you're doing and buy this immediately. You basically become a bubble machine. The kids will flock to you which is nice for the parents who want a moment to catch up with their storytime buddies. Plus you get a lap full of babies!

A refill bottle lasted me an entire year, because you have to use so little of the solution to get SO MANY BUBBLES! Gymboree should really just hire me to sell these at ALA. Maybe we can make a black market type thing at ALA? So many possibilities....

Organization: I started storing my toys in plastic bins. This keeps kids from losing focus during the storytime. I also have the book I'm reading and the bubbles (ignore them in this picture) hidden in my tote bag. Keeping my table more organized has really helped with the overall chaotic-ness of storytime. I know exactly where everything is and the kids can't grab anything off the table I don't want them to have. Invest in plastic bins.

Cleaning: I use Lysol wipes on everything after my storytimes. I take the pillow covers and quilts home every other week to wash them. Any item I give to the babies, I assume they will try to eat so I plan accordingly with how I'm going to clean it before my next class.

Final Thoughts: This is simply what I do. Maybe you read 5 books every storytime and love it. Maybe you read and sing the same books every single storytime. Maybe you think you storytime is the best and you are never going to change it.

My challenge to you is to ask yourself- Do your kids and caregivers love it too? Are you reading all 5 books simply so you can say you read 5? Are your caregivers starting to roll thier eyes when you announce it's time for The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Have you had some caregivers who have heard the same books and songs for multiple years?

Please just stop and reflect about your storytimes. If you're struggling to plan or not enjoying them as much as you once were then it's time to change it up. Try only reading a few books. Try singing more and using different songs. Use CDs. Try whatever you want, but simply try something different. As our dear friend Albert Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." Don't let storytimes drive you insane! I hope it is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of your job. Need to talk about it or have questions? Email me at berasche at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I had a fabulous time swooping into the Wisconsin Dells (Wisconsin's own little Las Vegas) this past week. I would highly reccommend that everyone go and check their state association out. While I love ALA, it's really lovely to go to a conference where the majority of people you meet are within driving distance. It's also really refreshing to see how many amazing things are happening in your very own state! We have some amazing people in Youth Services in Wisconsin. Go join the Youth Services Section if you're already a WLA member. If you're not, then definitely become one. If you don't live in Wisconsin, then just move here. Totally worth it, I swear.

Web Banner 2

The safari-themed hotel really helped set my mood for the conference. For the record, I am not being sarcastic. I truly loved the outrageous hotel. I know people thought it was outlandish (it was) and over the top (absolutely), but I loved it. I loved the stupid lobby music, all the little shops, restaurants, and tourist trap places. I would go to the Dells on a monthly basis if I had the vacation time! So there.

I had the pleasure of presenting two different programs while at WLA. I was lucky enough to present with some of my favorite colleagues Linda and Sara. We decided to be as ridiculous as possible and Sara made up a Chuck Norris themed presentation. I'll include the slides because they're amazing. Unfortunately, you'll literally get nothing from the slides other than laughs. We did give really great information though and you can get all the info about our tours FIELD TRIP ADVENTURES! here  here and here. Sara is a genius with slide decks.

Next, I presented with two lovely women, Tiffany Meyer and Ann Hardginski, about preschool programming. We wanted to encourage people to break out of their storytime ruts, and try new things! Throughout the presentation we talked about a variety of different programs and our crowd had great questions. The slides are included below. If you have any questions about a specific program email me and I will forward it on to the right presenter.

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