Thursday, September 17, 2015

Webinar Opportunity- Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers!

I have an webinar on Tuesday, September 22nd called "Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers" and I think you should sign up!

Kendra (Read, Sing, Play) and I will be talking all about programming for babies and toddlers. We'll be sharing programs that have been successful for us, while also talking about lessons we've learned through the past few years.

We're even going to talk about things that haven't been featured on our blogs yet! Such as the fabulous bubble wrap wall you see above, and the ball pit below.

This is our passion in life, so it will definitely be entertaining. Plus, we'll even tell you jokes! What more could you want? We want to see you on Tuesday. Sign up here! 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Backpack Buddies!

Every year, we have a stealth  program during the month of August. This year we decided to do a school themed "Backpack Buddies"!

We wanted to give back to our local families with this program, so we decided to raffle off six backpacks at the end of the month.

To enter, kids simply had to check out books, and then come to the children's desk. We gave them each a pencil to write their name on (practicing those literary skills!) and a raffle entry. We had 3 separate "groups" the backpacks were for: PreK, K-2nd, and 3rd-5th. This let us purchase the most common supplies on each school list for the grade range. 

Do you all know how expensive school supplies are? I personally had no idea until we went on the purchasing run for all the items. Our caregivers told us over and over again how nice it was that there was even a possibility that they could win some free school supplies. My advice if you do something similar is to go school school in early July. We had parents offering us cash for the dry erase markers in the backpacks. Apparently the entire city was sold out!

Doing this program in August turned out to be pretty daunting. We are short-staffed, and were busier than usual during this normally slower month. Wrapping up summer reading, giving out summer reading prizes (books), helping kids complete their last minute summer reading lists, and this passive program was a little overwhelming. It seemed so simple and easy in theory, but with our staffing issues it was simply too much.

Next year we will definitely modify this program. We're hoping to partner with a local organization to purchase more backpacks and school supplies to give away. We also think we will have a "Back to School Bash" where we raffle off the backpacks during a program, instead of a month long activity.

Each winner we called was extremely excited for their backpack and supplies. Caregivers seemed even more excited then some of the kids! We had just over 900 entries total during the month, and while it was crazy we absolutely loved seeing the kids when they came to pick up their prize.

My absolute favorite moment came from one of our PreK winners. They are a loyal storytime family, and were extremely excited to be winners and get such a fun backpack. Later in the day, the mom called me to ask if we would mind if they donated the backpack to one of the local schools. She is a former teacher and remembered all of the kids who would show up for school without backpacks, and her little guys already had their own. Of course we said yes, and it made us so proud to call this family our patrons. We have some truly amazing people in our city.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Early Literacy Center- Letter of the Week

Hello everyone! After a summer of resignations and retirements, I finally have a chance to write a much overdue blog post.

4/4/14 - 6

Today I'm going to be talking about our "Letter of the Week" we offered over the past year. We got the majority of our letter ideas from the amazing No Time For Flash Cards website.

We went through the entire alphabet, while changing the letter every Monday. We updated our bulletin board each week with new, easy to recognize items that also started with the same letter. Having kids run into the room to see what the new letter was each week was a really fun experience at the desk.

We had a great college assistant who prepped our craft each week. She cut out the letters with our Cricut machine, added any supplies we needed in separate plastic baggies (all the pom poms in one, the google eyes in another, etc), and then threw them all in a tub. Since our desk is usually pretty busy, our goal was to make the letters as easy as possible. Staff simply handed a letter to each kid and then reached into the baggies to hand out the necessary supplies. 

For the first two weeks we had kids trace and cut out their own letters instead of using the Cricut, but after observing we saw that overwhelmingly it was the caregivers doing the letter and cutting. Since we also wanted it to be as non-staff intensive as possible, taking away the scissors was appreciated by all. I know scissor usage is a great skill for littles to practice, but it wasn't feasible with our staffing. I made sure to include weekly literacy tips on the "craft table" that talked all about letters, scissor usage, etc.

The weekly activity started out with low participation and a lot of resistance from the staff (which could have had a direct correlation on participation). Some people thought it was too time consuming. Others thought that kids and caregivers just were not interested in doing a weekly craft at the library. I compromised that if patrons still were not interested by week 4, then I would come up with a different passive program. Luckily, I didn't hear a single complaint after week 3!

We soon had patrons coming in every week specifically to do the letter of the week craft. Caregivers told me they were making scrap books at home of the letters, and even creating their own letter themed weeks depending on where we were in the alphabet.

After the letter K, we consistently averaged over 50 kids a week. For a passive program, that required very little staff time, this was definitely a win in our book. If you have a volunteer that could prep the supplies each week, then it would be even better!

Seeing each unique letter made every day a little better, especially during summer reading craziness. It was a great opportunity for us to talk about process rather than product with the caregivers. One of my hesitations was having an "example" letter each week on the bulletin board. However, we stressed to caregivers to allow the kids do their own thing and that the examples were simply there to remind kids to ask for the letter craft. It helped that the "example" was on a bulletin board a good distance from the craft table. Unless caregivers got up to walk 20 feet and checked the bulletin board, they had nothing to compare their child's letter to.

Luckily, caregivers really listened to the staff's prompting and we ended up with some amazing creations! If you're looking for an easy passive idea to run (for 26 weeks!) then this is a great one. You could even leave each letter up for 2 weeks and end up with an entire year of passive crafting! We used supplies we already had in the library, with a few exceptions. In total, we spent under $20, for 26 weeks of programming that ended up with 850 participants. That's under 3 cents a craft!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Early Literacy Center- Baby Doll Doctor

To go along with the theme of "Community Helpers" for Summer Reading, I wanted to make sure I added a new table activity for little ones.

I realized having kids play doctor would be the perfect activity in our Play and Learn space. I purchased two baby dolls and a doctor's bag. If you're thinking of doing this activity, please purchase baby dolls that are different races. Just like the patrons you see every day, baby dolls come in different colors too. Out of all the positive comments I've received from this activity, parents thanking me for not just having Caucasian baby dolls have been the most abundant. Have your baby dolls reflect your community!

I added a quick prompt for caregivers and children, and simply set everything out on the table.

My biggest concern was that the baby dolls would be stolen, so they're marked with our initials throughout their clothes, as well as on their skin. We've had a few kids sneak them into strollers or just walk out with them, but the caregivers always bring them back when they see the markings. Caregivers have been very appreciative that we made it easy for them to remember where they saw the baby doll.

Kids have really enjoyed this new activity. Some kids are gentle and tell us that their baby has a fever and needs to rest. Another child told me their doll had been in a car accident and was attempting CPR. One child even became a surgeon to save the baby doll's life, while making her younger sister be the nurse. Sometimes though, the baby just has a boo-boo and needs a band-aid. The imaginative play that happens with these two baby dolls is amazing!

Overall, this was definitely a successful activity and one I would encourage all of you to do!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Early Literacy Messages in Action!

When the lovely Lindsay from Jbrary started tweeting about organizing a blog tour for early literacy tips, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I started brainstorming ideas and trying to decide what I wanted to say. There is so much that I love to say about early literacy, and it can be hard to get it all in one blog post. 

I decided to do a top 5 list (because I'm obsessed with lists) of things I wish I knew about early literacy tips when I first became a librarian. 

1. Make it fun! I think this is the most important thing to keep in mind when sharing early literacy tips. If caregivers feel like they're being lectured, or spoken down to, then they're not going to pay attention to you. Or worse, they're going to feel like you don't respect them and their parenting choices. I share "Fun Facts!" with my caregivers instead of calling them early literacy tips. To me this makes it seem less like a student/teacher relationship and more "We're all friends!".

Also, make sure the tips you're sharing are fun. No one, other than your other librarian friends, want to hear all about the statistical data you found. Instead, I always try to make it short and sweet. My goal is to give them useful knowledge that they'll remember and also share with their caregiver friends.

For example, because of all the Jurassic World excitement, I read a dinosaur book at my under 2's storytime. The book "Dinosaurs" by Simms Taback includes the name of real dinosaurs like Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Brachiosaurus. After reading a few pages my "Fun Fact!" was, "Saying the name of hard words and not simply skipping them is really important for little ones. While saying scientific names of dinosaurs might seem silly, you're building their vocabulary!"

2. Interact with your caregivers. A great way to make your early literacy interactions less awkward is to know your audience! Talk to them before and after storytimes. I start each storytime with introductions and this usually breaks the ice with the group. Also, you might be surprised by how many questions your caregivers have for you. Questions that might even lead you to your next "fun fact" to share at storytime!

3. It's ok to not have a tip in every single storytime. This is so important! Don't feel pressure to give out an early literacy tip at every single storytime. Especially if you are working in a new place, age group, etc.

Read your crowd. If it's going to seem awkward or forced then just skip it that week. If two kids in the room are howling and another one is running in circles, maybe it's time to start a song instead. You can always try to insert a tip later if the timing seems right.

You can also completely change the tip you were going to share. One week I had planned to talk about colors, but when I lost my voice due to allergies I decided to talk about singing instead. "Singing, even if you think your voice is the worst, is a great way to bond with your little one. Your child loves your voice, and they don't care if you have perfect pitch!"

4. You're allowed to give tips if you're not a parent. This was a hard one for me at first. While I love my job and love researching early literacy, I don't have any children. Why would caregivers listen while I tell them how to raise their child? The key is that you're not telling them how to raise their child. You're simply giving them information about how to develop the skills their child needs to get ready for reading and writing. You're never judging their parenting or telling them they're doing something wrong!

5. Be confident in your knowledge. There's a reason you're doing your job! You're an expert! Make sure you know the information that you're sharing with your caregivers. Research it and make sure there is information to back it up. Plus, really delving into the research behind your early literacy tips will just make you more knowledgeable about the topic! You might even find your tip for next week's storytime while you're investigating.

How do you share early literacy messages? Tell me your tips! Also, be sure to check out a round up of all the great early literacy posts on Jbrary at the end of the week!


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