Friday, April 12, 2013

KidLit Pilgrimage: Klickitat Street

Me on Klickitat Street, 2001 (Excuse the bad fashion..)
Today is Drop Everything and Read Day, in honor of Beverly Cleary's birthday, and today's KidLit Pilgrimage is also in honor of Ms. Cleary. She was my favorite author growing up and is probably a huge part of why I became a children's librarian.

My husband was a consultant for many years, which meant that he's worked in lots of different cities. Pre-kids, I always enjoyed spending a weekend or two where he was staffed and getting to explore a new city. One of my fondest memories is when he was staffed in Maryland, and we spent a morning getting library cards to allow us access to the Library of Congress. Swoon.

He worked off and on outside Portland, Oregon for a number of years, the first time in 2001.  And the first time I went out there to visit him, I had one thing on my mind: visiting Beverly Cleary's Portland. 

I didn't know a lot about Portland as a kid growing up in suburban Chicago, but I did know that you could see Mount Hood on clear days. And that Ramona lived in Klickitat Street. And... that's about it.  I didn't even know if Klickitat Street was even real, but I was excited to learn that it was. So I printed up directions from the hotel we were staying at to Klickitat Street (this was long before smartphones or GPS, back when the concept of Google Maps was amazing. Actually, it was probably Mapquest back then... Anyway...)

Cleary, I believe, never lived on Klickitat Street, but she lived close by and she'd always loved that particular name, so when she started out writing the adventures of Henry Huggins, she set his house on Klickitat. Cleary's books, I think, have a very real time and place. As a kid, I really had no idea what Ramona's neighborhood looked like -- my worldview at that point didn't expand much past "1970s planned suburban subdivision" -- but as soon as I started walking around Klickitat Street and the surrounding neighborhood, I knew I was walking where Ramona lived. I could just recognize the landscape from Cleary's familiar words.

The city of Portland has erected a beautiful sculpture garden in the neighborhood park.  There's a neighborhood map that points out local landmarks and their significance in Cleary's books, and there's also sculptures of Ramona, Henry, and Beezus.  It's just perfect.  I've been back to Portland many times since then, but I've not made a pilgrimage back to the garden.  I'll have to take my kids there the next time I go.


Henry Huggins

Neighborhood map

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Elephant Storytime

Week two of our spring storytime session brings... elephants!

I did my usual welcome song, "Welcome Welcome Everyone," and dove right into the mystery bag. (When I brought all my props into the programming room, some eagle-eyed preschoolers were quick to remind me I had forgotten the mystery bag!)

Everything in the bag began with E this week, which turned out to be a hard one.  There was an elephant, of course, and an egg (left over from Easter), a ball that looked like Earth, an eraser, and an envelope.  We had a great vocabulary discussion about the envelope -- kids got Earth right away, but no one knew the word envelope, guessing instead "letter' or "mail."  One of my storytime kids had a name that began with E, and the audience also shouted out "ear" and "elevator."

The Ant and the Elephant by Bill Peet

A series of jungle animals refuse to help each other, but a humble ant and a mighty elephant prove you're never too big or small to help someone. I selected this beforehand, but was a little worried about it because of its length.  And it turns out I was right on both counts. It was really much too long for my audience today, so I ended up paraphrasing and telling the story in my own words rather than read the text.  In retrospect, this would have probably made a great flannel story, although I do love Bill Peet's illustrations.The kids and parents, however, did really like the story and responded to its message.  I was able to demonstrate dialogic reading, by asking the kids to predict what each animal would do, and also we worked on narrative skills, by asking the kids to recall what each animal's problem was.

Five Elephants in a Bathtub Flannel

I saw a couple references to this online, but I did not have the time to make my own elephants, so I used the printable template provided by Sunflower Storytime. The kids really loved this, too.  I'm usually not a huge fan of the storytime standby Five Little Whatsits, in which the presenter puts five little elephants or birds or monkeys on the board and recites a cute little poem... mainly because I don't think I'm very good at presenting them and my audience seems bored. I do love ones like this, though, where the kids are as much a part of the rhyme as I am. 

Big Little Action Rhyme

I came up with this idea minutes before storytime and decided to run with it.  I was glad I did because it was big hit.  I started out by saying in our last book, we read about an elephant who was very very big (and here I made myself as physically big as possible and spoke in a big voice) and a very little ant (and here, I crouched down into a tiny ball and squeaked my words).  I asked them to think of other things that were big and little, and started out by asking everyone to pretend they were trees and whether or not they were big or little.  After we were big tall trees, I asked them to think of something that was little, kind of thinking along the lines of a flower or something, but someone yelled, "A worm!" so worms we were.  The kids made great contributions to this one, and I followed their lead as to what big and small things we pretended to be.  We were little mice and birds and big dinosaurs and ostriches, and it led very nicely into the next book which was...

Big and Little by John Stadler

Told by a mouse circus leader, this lift-the-flap book follows Ellie the Elephant as she climbs a ladder and dares to dive into a little glass of water.  This one begs to be read aloud to an audience, and mine enjoyed the cute twist ending.  This was a short read, and I love adding quick little books like this to my storytimes. I almost overlooked it thinking it was too young for my audience, but I'm glad I didn't.

"You're an Elephant," Geof Johnson off the Exercise Party CD

I've made a conscious effort to include recorded music in my storytimes, especially as a way to work on gross motor skills and give the active kids a chance to move their bodies.  This one was perfect -- there's a repeated part where you have to stomp your feet, wave your ears, and swing your trunk like an elephant.  The rest of the time, we just free-formed danced pretending we were elephants.  A welcome break and a great lead-in into my final book which was....

Let's Go For a Drive by Mo Willems

Oh, how could you do an elephant storytime without an Elephant and Piggie book?  I thought this one was especially fun to read aloud because there's a repeated refrain of "Drive-drive-drivey-drive-drive." I got the kids to sing along with me, and again, it was a great way to demonstrate dialogic reading as I asked the kids to predict what items would need on their drive to protect them from the sun and the rain.  This one got giggles from kids and parents alike.

To finish it out, we closed, as I always try to, with a version of "If You're Happy and You Know It." We were elephants, and we knew it, so we stomped our feet, waved our ears, and shook our tails.  (The kids really liked shaking their tails!!)

For our craft, we had a patchwork elephant -- very Elmer-esque, if you ask me.  Kids got an outline of an elephant on white paper that was divided up into little puzzle segments and construction paper in different colors that had been cut to match the puzzle segments. This was a challenge for the kids in a good way, and a lot of the caregivers were vocally appreciative of this craft.

There were a lot of other great elephant books, and I had planned to read What to Do If An Elephant Stands On Your Foot, but... I ran out of time. Oh well!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sheep/Lamb Storytime

March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, so what better theme to kick off our spring storytime session with than lambs?  (I took the liberty of extending the theme to sheep in general, not just those of the baby variety.)

I presented this storytime three times this week with alterations to each group: once to my regular preschool storytime crowd at the library, and twice at a local preschool as part of our outreach program. At the preschool, I presented to a group of two year olds and to a group of three and four year olds.

With both preschool groups, I opened (as I always do) with my Mystery Bag. I shamelessly stole this concept from the a post on the ALSC Blog last fall, and have been using it to great success this year. (The Mystery Bag deserves an entire post of its own!)  The Mystery Bag gets filled with items that start with the same letter as the theme for that week. I show the kids the letter and demonstrate the sound it makes and ask them to guess what might be in my bag that starts with that sound.  I decided to get a little bit tricky this week and go with things that started with the sound "SH" for sheep. In my bag, I had a shirt, a shoe, a shovel, a pair of shorts, and, of course, a sheep.  This one was a little bit tricky for the kids: the abundance of clothes threw them off and made them think of other items of clothing, and I think the consonant blend may have been a bit too sophisticated. Nevertheless, everyone enjoyed it for sure.

Books I used for this storytime were:

Sneaky Sheep by Chris Monroe
I read this to both groups of preschoolers, and they really loved it. Two sheep want to explore a dangerous meadow high atop a mountain, but are thwarted at every turn by the loyal sheepdog who guards their flock.Not only was it hilarious, but it turned out to be a great one for dialogic reading. I asked the kids before the book started why the thought the sheep would be sneaky, or what the dangers to sheep might be, or how the sheep might get out of an especially tough situation.

The Sheep Fairy: When Wishes Have Wings by Ruth Louise Symes
I also read this to both groups of preschoolers. A sheep rescues a fairy, who grants her one wish as thanks. Sweet and funny.

Three Bags Full by Ragnhild Scamell
A generous sheep gives her woolly coat away to help other animals stay warm, but what is she to do when winter comes to the farm? Mrs. Farmer come to the rescue! I thought this book was very sweet, but it wasn't a smash hit with my first group of preschoolers, so I didn't read it to my second. I think this would be better in a smaller group or one on one.

Where Is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox
A classic for a reason. I read this to all three groups, who all adored it and really engaged with it. I don't think any of the adults were familiar with it, so I was pleased to introduce it to everyone. It was a lot of fun to read the book to different groups on the same day and see how they became more sophisticated at guessing some of the sheep ("brave sheep," "clown sheep") as they got older.

Wee Little Lamb by Lauren Thompson
The two-year-old group I read this to was perhaps the quietest and best-behaved group of twos I've ever presented to, and boy, did they love this sweet book about a little lamb who is too shy to go play with the other creatures in the field but instead wants to stay close to his mama. It was adorable and would be great for one year olds as well.

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
A hit with the two-year-old group as well. We had a lot of fun continuing to say "Beep beep!" throughout the story, even though it was only written on the first page. A nice introduction to rhyming words.

We sang "Baa Baa Black Sheep," of course, and my other main storytime activity this week was my color lambs.  I cribbed the idea from 1234 More Storytimes.

I put up a white lamb and had everyone sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" with its fleece as white as snow, but then I said, "You probably didn't know that Mary had a lot of other lambs, too, who were all sorts of colors!" With my younger kids, who were just learning their colors, I put up the lambs one by one, named the color, and put up the object that was that color. Then we sang the song again, e.g. "Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was as red as an apple."  With my older kids, I put all the lambs out at once at the top half of the board, and all my objects at the bottom of the board, and asked them to match them up. We also named different things that were each color.  This was a huge hit with all groups. It took a very long time, so I didn't get to a lot of my other flannels or songs this week. I had an idea of doing baby animal vocabulary -- sheep/lamb, horse/foal, cow/calf -- which I still think would be great, but I just ran out of time. I'll have to save it for another storytime...

For the craft, the kids made a lamb puppet out of a brown paper bag, some paper cut-outs, and a cotton ball.

Monday, April 1, 2013

You Say Goodbye...and I Say Hello

When I started doing storytime last year, I had a mix of babies to toddlers to preschoolers.  My department tried to standardize the welcome song as "The More We'll Get Together" as our welcome song and "The Wheels on the Bus" as the goodbye song.

And for some reason, well, I just wasn't feeling these.  I don't know why -- they're perfectly good choices -- but I didn't love them. And as I quickly learned out, if you don't love something at storytime, if you are only doing it half-hearted, your audience response will be half-hearted.... at best.

I tried a lot of different hello and goodbye songs, but this is what ended up working for me.

For my hello song, for all ages, I do:

(to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)
Welcome, welcome everyone
Now you're here, let's have some fun
First we'll clap our hands like so
Now reach down and touch your toes
Welcome, welcome everyone
Now you're here, let's have some fun.

If you've ever attended a Gymboree class, this is probably familiar to you. At least, it's where I learned it, with my kids.  I love it for a few reasons:
  • The tune is simple and familiar, so kids and caregivers catch on quickly
  • It immediately invites children to listen and interact with me
  • It's appropriate for all ages, so I only have to remember one song. For babies, the parents can clap their hands and touch their toes, and for my preschoolers, I can try to trick them by saying things like "touch your nose" or "tickle your toes."
And for my goodbye song, I try to make up a theme-specific version of If' You're Happy and You Know It (e.g. "If you're a bear and you know it, show your claws" or "If you're an owl and you know it, go Hooo-hooo.")  To me, it's the perfect compromise between the old and the new.  Everyone knows the song, so kids and caregivers can immediately jump right in and participate.  But because it's slightly different every week, the kids get really excited. I often throw it out to my audience and ask them beforehand what we could do as owls or bears or fish or whatever we are that week.  The kids come up with some great suggestions! And for weeks when I just don't think we can make up a theme-specific version, we just sing the regular ol' version, and everyone's happy.