Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

This chapter book begins in a rather confusing way. The reader might even feel like the first 20 pages were cut out of their book. Don't worry though, at the end of the book you're no closer to the answer.

I adore Lemony Snicket. I think Daniel Handler is an absolute genius and I went into this book with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. The book is truly confusing, so I would definitely prepare the reader that they have to stick with the book through the first 50 pages or so for it to start making sense...sort of.

The book is all about a young boy, Lemony Snicket, who has joined a secret organization and is beginning his apprenticeship. Unfortunately, his teacher, S. Theodora Markson,  is ranked dead last on a list of most talented teachers. Lemony knew this though and still chose her. Why? And what does the S. in her name stand for?!

The majority of this book takes place in a little town called Stain'd-by-the-sea. Its a town that has completely dried up both figuratively and literally. Its biggest business used to be selling octopus ink, but it's almost all gone. Even worse, almost all of the stores are closed down and there are very few residents left. One might think there would be nothing at all exciting left in this town. However, one of the residents just got robbed and needs help!

During the 261 pages, the reader ends up with more questions then they had in the beginning. However, poor Lemony seems to be asking all the wrong questions at the wrong time. With all of the characters and plot twists in this chapter book, the reader often wonders, "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" Here's  a hint: It's never who you expect.

I am very excited for the next book in this series. I would give this to any chapter book reader who likes the Series of Unfortunate Events, mystery books, or books that are a just a little bit different. This chapter book has a lot of Snicket's sarcastic and witty humor, and overall melancholy that he made famous in the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Also, the illustrations are absolutely brilliant!

Lemony Snicket "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" is available now!

Book provided by my library

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Toddler Storytime #1

Toddler storytime is very rambunctious at my library. We originally had two toddler storytimes a week when I first started, but have since bumped it up to four. We currently hold two on Tuesday and two on Thrursday at 9:30 & 10:00. Each session is 15-20 minutes long.

We usually have a full room with anywhere up to 26 people. Once we reach the 26 mark, we encourage parents to come to the next storytime at 10:00. Our current storytime numbers are at a record high!

Early Literacy Tip
I try to include a small definition of an early literacy tip each week. This week we talked about talking! I said, "Today all of our books are going to involve talking!  Talking is one of the easiest and most important things you can do with your child. Talking to your child helps increase their vocabulary, conversation skills, and increases their knowledge of the world around them."

Opening Song
Hands Are Clapping
This has been the storytime opening song since I started and it works lovely with toddlers!

Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting
This is a perfect toddler storytime book. There are opportunities to count, make animal noises, and make predictions about what is happening!

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Where Is Baby's Belly Button by Karen Katz
This is a wonderful lift-the-flap book. You can get the little ones up and moving and recognizing body parts with you.

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
This is a perfect rhyme to do after my last book. Since it is difficult for my toddlers to process what each body part is and then find it on their body, we sing this really really slow. However, as the storytime session goes along, I begin singing this song a little bit faster each time. By the end of the session, I am usually singing the song at normal speed and all of my little ones are following right along!

Early literacy Tip
Parents feel free to talk to your little one about what is occurring in the books. Talking is a fun and interactive way to help your child think about the story and understand what is happening!

Peekaboo Puppy! by Beth Harwood
At this point the children were a little restless, but asked for more books. I always keep one really short book with me for instances like this. This is a very quick board book with only about 7 pages and has lots of opportunity for interaction. I kept them guessing, moving, and making noise the entire time for this book.

Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands

My little ones were very wiggly at this point, so we did this rhyme 3 times sitting down. By the end they were quiet little angels!

Tuck Me In
This is a sweet book where each animal needs to be tucked in by turning the page/blanket. I think having children take turns, while chaotic, is great for this age group. It helps them learn patience, sharing, and sequences. I started the book by describing that our baby animals were very sleepy and they needed to be tucked in. Only children who were sitting nicely would be able to help tuck the baby in. This works for usually about 75% of them. Some are too excited to sit, and they always get a turn regardless. This is a great book because after each child everyone waves goodnight to the baby animal and says shhhhhhh. Its a very soothing end to storytime.

Early Literacy Tip
In the closing tip, I always praise the group for being such good talkers/singers/readers, etc. I then try to say at least one thing they can do at home to continue building early literacy skills at home.

"Taking a walk, grocery shopping, or driving are all great times to talk about the things around you and what is occurring. This helps build you child's vocabulary and general knowledge. Talk to your little one as much as you can! Your voice is a soothing and wonderful thing for them to hear."

Closing Song
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Friday, November 16, 2012

Murder Mystery at the Library!

Our teens have been begging for a murder mystery at the library for quite some time. With this year's Teen Read Week theme being "It Came From The Library" I thought it was finally time to attempt one.

The teen patrons at my library are very tricky creatures. We have continuously tried to do monthly programs, everything from anime to writing clubs to book chats, and they have all failed pretty miserably. One month we might have ten teens and the next we'll have zero. All of our monthly programs are based on ideas teens had suggested, so it's difficult to pinpoint what the problem is.

I've come to the conclusion that the teens in this area are simply over-programmed. One month they might be free to attend the monthly craft session, while the next they might have academic bowl, sports practice, etc. However, we seem to have success with our special one-time-only programs. I think it's because they are generally held on Saturdays, and they don't feel an obligation to come back at the same time every month.

We held our first event for Teen Read Week on Wednesday. We decorated donated cupcakes, and played Supernatural Jeopardy that I made up based on random trivia questions. We had 5 teens attend, which is a huge number for us, especially on a Wednesday!

I was anxiously excited for our Clue game. It takes a lot of prep time, so I was nervous it would be a bust. Luckily, we had 8 teens show up! This is a wonderful for us, especially for holding two teen events in a week. 

The preparation for the program included making character name tags, readying the packets for each team, and making the life-sized game board.

Our lovely necklace nametags
The packets included a checklist that helped them decide the killer/weapon/room, clue cards, and a pen. The padded envelope also provided the teams something to write on and helped them hide their checklist from others. 

Making the life-sized board took about 2 hours. Everything was mapped out beforehand, but the actual laying of the tape took longer than expected. We used way less squares than what the traditional Clue game had, but we kept the number of rooms the same.

We planned for this program to last about an hour, but we quickly realized that wasn't going to happen. Teens were trying so hard to have different strategies and special techniques that it ended up taking about an hour and a half to finish. At the 50 minute mark, we stopped rolling the die, and they just moved to a different room when it was their turn. At the 65 minute mark, they had solved everything except the room, so I began to eliminate rooms for them.

My teens absolutely loved this program! Even players who had been eliminated early for wrong guesses stayed the whole time to see who solved the mystery. My inspiration for this program came from the lovely Abby the Librarian blog. She did a similar program in the past, and I've wanted to replicate ever since I first read about it. Her programs and storytimes are wonderful so definitely check her out!

If you're curious, it was Professor Plum, with the wrench, in the Billiards Room. The teen playing Professor Plum was very apologetic and claimed it was an accident. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Our Splendiferous, That Means Fabulous, Fancy Nancy Party!

Fancy Nancy is extremely popular at my library. There are usually ZERO books on the shelves, and we're constantly getting requests for them. Naturally, holding a Fancy Nancy party just made sense. Plus, it gave all of us an excuse to dress up and get all fancy!

Getting ready for this program requires some advanced planning. I'm a fan of using as little money as possible since our budget is so tiny. This required me to make some calls to see if we could get donations from the local community. We have to be careful about calling for donations at my library. We use local businesses during our Summer Reading program as well, so we want to make sure we're not asking the same businesses for multiple donations. 

We were fortunate enough to get a local cupcake bakery to donate 36 mini-cupcakes. These looked absolutely tiny when we received them, but they ended up being the perfect size for our little ones! If they were any bigger we would have had to deal with mega sugar-highs.

Once we had the donation secure, we began planning the decorations. This was definitely the most exciting part of the entire process. As you know, Fancy Nancy is a very posh little girl who has exceptional tastes, so we tried to think as fancy- on a budget- as we could. 

We went shopping at our local Dollar Tree and bought all of the tablecloths, utensils, and tiaras. For our signage around the room we used scrapbook paper with fancy words printed on them. We also found pictures of fancy things, such as the Eiffel Tower and backed them with some pink paper.

Our outline for the party was:
  • Children arrive and sign the autograph wall and find their seats. We had registration the two weeks before so we made a seating arrangement for the ladies and gentlemen. 
  • Once everyone had arrived, we served our fancy lemonade and cupcakes. 
  • After everyone had finished we had two lovely volunteers, our children's room assistants who were off that day, agree to be fancified by the kids. We bought all the fancy jewlery and accessories at the Dollar Tree. 



Once we were done getting fancy, we all practiced walking with books on our heads, and played feather boa limbo. As we were wrapping up the activites we told each participant to stop by our "photo booth" to get their picture taken. We simply took some white poster paper and painted polka dots on it. The frame was a cheap wooden one that we spray painted bright pink. We had each parent sign a release form and posted everyone's picture on our library website. Parents absolutely loved this and I think we will continue to use this idea for sharing pictures.

This program was an absolute blast! We had everyone on our list show up and then some. I hate turning people away, so we planned for about 10 extra people just in case. We even had 2 boys and a dad partipate! Everyone came dressed up in their fanciest clothes and had a fabulous time. The programming on this one can get a little heavy, but it's definitely worth it in the end to see all their smiling faces. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Palooza!

Every year my library hosts an event called Pumpkin Palooza right before Halloween. This year we had the added excitement of an approaching hurricane! Luckily, the program went off without a hitch and the hurricane missed us.

The program is an extremely budget friendly one. The main expense is staff time due to all the crafting, but that can obviously be toned down.

The outline for the program is:
  • Patrons bring in carved pumpkins from home and fill out an entry form.  
  • An all ages storytime starts. I'll post my Halloween storytime later.
  • After storytime, a costume parade commences throughout the library.  Each service desk had a special goodie to hand out to the kids. 
  • When everyone is done trick-or-treating, winners from the pumpkin contest are announced and refreshments are served.  
Remember how I said the program was budget friendly? The only expense for this program was buying apple cider.

All of the trick-or-treating goodies were leftover Summer Reading prizes that would not be usable for next year. The winners of the pumpkin carving contest won a book and the delicious donuts we served were donated by a local donut shop.

We use movable walls in our lobby when we have a big program, since we do not have an actual program room.  The walls are kind of ugly, so I'm a big believer in over-decorating. All the pumpkins, leaves, etc were made by the children's staff!

We also held a staff pumpkin decorating contest earlier in the week. I asked the staff to keep their pumpkins at the library and used them to decorate. They ended up being a perfect decoration for the storytime area!

Even with the approaching hurricane, this year's Pumpkin Palooza was the highest attended ever! We had over 90 participants, which is huge for us. This was definitely a fun and easy program that will continue to be repeated every year. The thing I'm most proud of? I made this scary house by hand. Yes, I watched like 10 Youtube videos before and during. However, my stick figures are usually crooked, so I was definitely happy with the results.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vote! Vote! Vote!

I am a huge fan of displays at my library. I am also a fan of things being fun and interactive.  With some suggestions from a lovely coworker, we decided to celebrate the election season! 

We decided to make our own voting booth at the desk and kept it as simple as possible. We simply took a box, decorated it, and decided what we wanted the children to vote on. The votes are cast with popsicle sticks.

Even though the election is over, we are keeping the display up the entire month of November. The kids absolutely love it! Something we didn't expect was how excited the parents would be about voting too.

We count the votes for the week on Saturday and put up the new candidates on Mondays. Spiderman was the week 1 winner against Batman. Curious George won this week in case you were wondering. 

YA Review: Survive by Alex Morel

Looking for a young adult book about depression, dysfunctional families, plane crashes, or love? I have just the book for you.

Survive by Alex Morel is a young adult novel that is packed with action. In the very beginning of the book we are introduced to Jane and soon learn she is planning on killing herself. Due to her current circumstances, living in a mental hospital, she decides the best time to put the plan into action is in the bathroom of the plane she's flying home in. Of course, there is an obnoxious boy sitting next to her on the plane which just seals the deal that she's making the right decision. Everything is on track for the plan when she enters the bathroom and begins to take the pills. Then, the plane crashes and everything changes.

This is a quick read, and once you get past the first 50 pages, you are on edge the rest of the book. I personally enjoyed this book because I found myself genuinely caring if the protagonist was going to make it out alive. She has been dealt a rough hand and is slightly difficult to relate to, but I bet you'll find yourself rooting for her in the end too.

This is a wonderful survival story for both guys and girls. I know some of my male teens are put off by female protagonists, but I could definitely convince them to give this one a try.  I'd give this book to any teen who is looking for a Hatchet type book. I also think this book would be liked by dystopian fans.  For my teen readers who always want a love story, well this book has a little of that too.  Remember the annoying boy? He's the only other survivor.

Survive is available now!

Book provided by my library

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preschool Storytime- Letter K

Preschool storytimes at my library are always a blast. We've been growing in attendance the past 6 months and range anywhere from 15-30 kids each session. We hold the storytime every Tuesday & Thursday and it is advertised as ages 3-5. I repeat all the same books on Thursday, unless one really did not work.

Opening Song
If You Listen and You Hear Me 
We've been trying to find a new preschool opening song since I started in January. After numerous attempts, I think this one is our winner. The kids really enjoy it and love getting to make so much noise!

Letter of the Week
Even though we do not theme our storytimes, we do a letter of the week for preschool time. This is a wonderful and easy way to insert some early literacy into your storytime. We all say the letter, make the letter sound, talk about words that begin with the letter, draw the imaginary letter in the air, and finally sing the alphabet song. We also make at least one connection with our letter to a book we're reading. This is a new addition we are trying this session, but our kids love it. I've had numerous parents tell me that their child likes to point out the letter the rest of the week!

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
This is one of my all time favorite picture books. It is a beautiful story about friendship and it works well at small and large storytimes. I always use this book as an opportunity to talk about emotions (lonely, sad, happy, homesick, etc).

At this point I judge my audience on whether they can handle another book or need a break.  Eight times out of ten we will go into another story.

Good Thing You're Not An Octopus by Julie Markes
This is a fabulous interactive books. Parents always enjoy this one just as much as the children. 

This is currently my favorite storytime rhyme. You can make it a calm one with them sitting down, or really get into it by smacking the floor, etc.

My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems
I love anything by Mo Willems.  The man is an absolute genius. I know some storytellers find Elephant & Piggie books hard to tell, but I personally adore them. It is dependent on the audience, but I've never had one fail on me yet!

Five Little Monkeys
This is a perfect song to turn to when you're crowd starts getting a little restless. We usually have some younger siblings in our preschool time, so this rhyme is great for all ages.

A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson and Joan Rankin
Karma Wilson is usually storytime gold. This is a great book because of the repetition, counting, and the surprise ending.

Closing Song
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
This is our storytime ending song for both toddlers and preschoolers. It is by far the crowd favorite. I've had multiple parents tell me they do it at home at least once a day. You know you have a winner when there are home requests!

This storytime went really well! There were some younger sibling in the group that were getting very restless and disruptive so I ended about 5 minutes early of our usual 30 minute time. We always give small handouts at each storytime that has our books, rhymes, book suggestions, and a coloring page.  Kids love lining up at the end to get their special paper!

Welcome to Reading With Red!

Hello all!
My name is Brooke, and I am a professional children's librarian. I moved from Indiana to Virginia for my first professional librarian job right out of graduate school.  It is also the first time I've ever lived out of state. I currently am the only professional children's librarian for my library system of three branches. I program for ages 0 through 19 and love every minute of it!  Moving, starting a new job, and planning for all ages has led me to have a lot of great experiences.  I will be sharing storytimes, book reviews, and children's and teen programming with this blog.

I have bright red hair and I love it, in case you were wondering about the blog's title.  I'm very excited to share and learn with this blog, and I hope you'll all join me in this new adventure!


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