Friday, March 29, 2013

Shoe Box Cities: An Adventure in STEAM Crafting

Can you spot the Arch?
I'm always looking for ways in which to engage kids with various learning modalities in my school-age programs. We all know the kids who are all over the Lego Club but would never attend a Valentine craft program; and, on the flip side, there are the kids who get excited about anything involving paint, glitter, and/or feathers but who shy away from anything with "science" in the description. I like to brainstorm ways to engage all types of kids with all types of interests all at once, to incorporate elements of crafty with engineering/problem-solving. I think I found a way.

Shoe Box Cities was a program I offered for the school-age crowd on an evening during our local spring break. The premise: come to the library to think about what goes into planning a city or town, then make one to take home.

I also set out Smarties.
Supplies were simple and free: staff members donated the lids of old shoe boxes, and I was given the go-ahead by our local hardware store to nab stacks of paint samples. The only additional building tools were scissors, tape, and markers.

I opened the program by asking the children what they like about the place they live--in our neck of the woods, that can include St. Louis. From there, we made a list of all the things we would include in a city if we were in charge of planning it. They covered transportation, sporting arenas, stores, restaurants, the library... I was very impressed at the depth of thought these kids gave to what they would want in a city.

Then, for the majority of the program, we built. We had a smaller group--14 people total--and we were all seated in a large square. I joined in the building, but every five minutes or so I would circulate to see the cities-in-progress, asking questions and requisitioning specific colors of paint samples as needed. I loved seeing how willing the kids were to help one another, too; when one figured out a way to make a miniature baseball field, he shared the knowledge with other eager sports fans. We also spent our work time talking about the books we'd been reading; I always love these informal book conversations as a means of quietly championing the joys of reading.

By the time the program ended, we had a myriad of interesting, intricate cities. Several children made their dream cities; one made a replica of the street with her school and the nearby grocery store; and one decided to think outside the box and make a shoe box house, complete with bathroom and attached garage.

What I think works about programs like this: there are no limits, but there is structure. The open-ended, creative possibility appeals to the artsy crafters, and the "how would you accomplish this task?" aspect appeals to the kids who identify themselves as builders and science folks. Everyone enjoys the program content, and, best of all, everyone leaves with a feeling of personal accomplishment. That's a big success, if you ask me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Star Wars Day: Spring Break 2013

A great Ahsoka costume.
My library just hosted our second annual Star Wars Day during our local school district's spring break. I worked with co-workers and teen volunteers to offer a variation on the Jedi Academy program we had last year, and after small bursts of program prep over the last two weeks, I can say that our program was just as much of a hit this time around. Our final count was 216 attendees, plus 5 teen volunteers and 4 staff helping in shifts. Here's what we did:

1. Costume Crafts -- Kids were encouraged to show up in costume, but I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to dress festively regardless of what they have at home. I drew templates for two costume headbands: Leia buns and Yoda ears. I printed the templates onto construction paper, and kids could cut and staple to create the costume they wanted.

The craft stations

2. Droid Toss -- This game was a repeat from last year--so many kids don't know what Bozo Buckets was, so they're intrigued by this "new" game. Kids tossed soft balls (meant for pool play) into a series of small trash cans decorated like droids; their reward for their effort was a piece of candy.

3. Star Destroyer Navigation -- I put up instructions for a simple paper airplane, which does already resemble a Star Destroyer in shape. Once they had constructed their Star Destroyers, kids tried to navigate their ships through warp speed--hula hoops suspended from the ceiling. Lots of fun, plus kids could take home their Star Destroyers.

4. Lightsaber Station -- I expanded on last year's Lightsaber Practice station, wherein young Jedis tried to keep balloons afloat as long as possible using a lightsaber. This time they made their own lightsabers, using a cut out hilt template on white cardstock and a piece of rolled-up neon cardstock for the blade. After creating their own lightsabers, which they could take home, kids tried to balance the balloons.

5. Destroy the Death Star! -- It takes precision with a laser gun to shoot down the Death Star, as we all learned in Episode IV. I made a posterboard Death Star, affixed it to a cardboard box, and cut a 4"x4" hole in the setup; kids then stood behind a masking tape line with a "laser blaster" (Nerf gun) and attempted to make the Death Star-destroying shot. The reward, aside from blowing-up noises from me, was a piece of candy.

6. Jedi Library -- I put out Star Wars books we had on the premises as well as several copies of everything from the Origami Yoda universe. The Jedi Library also boasted instructions for folding Origami Yoda, a template for making a Fortune Wookiee, a life-size cut-out of Darth Vader, and some great Star Wars READ posters from ALA. Lots of books checked out.

7. Jedi Archives Trivia -- I recycled the trivia questions a volunteer made for us last year. This time our trivia station was located at the reference desk--an attempt to keep people circulating throughout the library during the event. The very accommodating adult reference staff asked the young Jedi questions (easy, medium, or hard), for which they were rewarded with their choice of Star Wars sticker.

Three of the 501st posed with kids in their Yoda ears.
8. Imperial Photo Ops -- I feel lucky to have local members of the 501st Legion who are available to attend my Star Wars programs. Their in-universe costumes are meticulous, and there's nothing quite like a young Star Wars fan getting to see a full-size, "real" Storm Trooper. Any library (or other group, for that matter) can submit a request for an appearance on their website; the more notice you give them, the better the chance they can attend. We had 4 costumed members of the 501st at our program this year, and they spent their time posing for photos with the kids, walking the library, and trying some of the activities. (We had cookies and lemonade for them in a staff area for when they wanted a break.)

We made a few substantial modifications to the program itinerary this time around. First, we spread the program over 3 hours instead of scrunching it all into one; we advertised the program as come-anytime-during-the-event in the hopes that our large number of attendees would be spread out (as opposed to the 170 people in our relatively small room in one hour last year). This switch was definitely successful--we had a bunch of people in the first hour, then a slower period in the middle, followed by a second influx of families in the after-work 5-6 p.m. hour.

Second, to provide kids more bang for their buck, we added more multi-step craft components--to engage kids longer and more meaningfully. We still offered a number of carnival-style games, but the juxtaposition with longer hands-on activities expanded everyone's Star Wars Day experience while providing them with cool take-homes.

I highly encourage any and all libraries to offer some sort of Star Wars-themed event/craft station/etc. The kids love it, the parents and caregivers get really into it, and there are plenty of opportunities to be part of a larger library celebration throughout the year. There's May the 4th Be With You coming up, then Star Wars Reads Day in October. Make plans--these are the library programs you've been looking for.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Vote for the Conversations You Want to Have at ALA Annual

One of my favorite things about going to conferences is the opportunity to have lots of conversations with my colleagues about topics that are relevant to librarianship as I know it. That's one reason why I am glad that ALA Annual offers Conversation Starters and Ignite Sessions--less formal sessions than the conference programs, but still great content that packs a punch. Better yet, regular ALA members like you and me get to have a say in which of these sessions that will take place at the conference.

Through March 31, ALA members can view the Conversation Starters and Ignite Session proposals, then vote for the ones they'd most like to see take place in Chicago this summer. I've voted for the sessions that speak to me, and I hope you'll consider doing the same. I also hope you'll consider voting for the two Conversation Starters I'm a part of. I'll share the details below, and if the topic sounds interesting to you, I sure hope you'll give our sessions the thumbs up.

Thinking Outside the Storytime Box: Building Your Preschool Programming Repertoire
Panel: 2013 Mover & Shaker Melissa Depper, Marge Loch-Wouters, Amy Commers, and Amy Koester
Description: STEM for preschoolers! Dance parties for toddlers! When we stretch beyond storytime, our youngest patrons benefit from richer learning experiences, their parents and caregivers engage with the library in fresh ways, and staff become motivated by new, creative challenges. Jump out of the storytime box and explore active and passive early-childhood programs that are easy to plan and repeat, maximize your staff resources, and enable you to reach more young families. Our panel will share program ideas, planning resources, and early literacy connections to help you leave prepared to build on the core storytime experience.
*Check out our Preschool Plus Programming board on Pinterest!

Unprogramming: Recipes for School-Age Program Success
Panel: Marge Loch-Wouters and Amy Koester
Description: Do you find yourself spending tons of time planning school-age programs that are over in the blink of an eye? Are you ready to challenge yourself to be more efficient with your staff time and department's resources? Discover how to streamline planning and preparation while offering worthwhile literacy-centered programs--where kids help shape the direction of the program! Panelists will share tips for "unprogramming" at your library as well as ideas for helping staff adapt to this new style. Prepare to leave with a myriad of program ideas and resources for unprogramming on your own.
*Check out our Unprogramming at the Library board on Pinterest!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Animals Misbehavin': March Outreach Story Time

This month's outreach visits have featured some fun, giggle-inducing books, songs, and rhymes that have really engaged my outreach audiences. Here's what my staff and I have been doing:

Animals Misbehavin'

Opening Song: "Open, Shut Them"

Story: Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin
     This story, about a farmer who goes on vacation and leaves his brother in charge of some mischievous animals, affords great opportunities for paying close attention to the pictures. I ask the children to pay attention to Duck--he's trouble!--and the object that he picks up. By the end of the story, the whole room feels in on the secret that Duck has been playing jokes on the farmer and his brother.

Fingerplay: "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed"
     I encourage the kiddos to use their five "monkeys" to help me with this rhyme while I use my finger puppets. Throughout each chorus, children make their fingers jump up and down on the bed; they get really into saying the rhyme. What a great way to work on fine motor skills with finger movement while also engaging in rhyming, counting, and cause and effect.

Story: Horseplay! by Karma Wilson
     Does anyone rhyme quite as well as Karma Wilson these days? My children always seem captivated by the lyrical nature of the text, and this amusing story of some horses intent on playing all the time was no exception. The fanciful pictures are a hoot, too.

Rhyme: "I Went to the Zoo Today"

I Went to the Zoo Today
I went to the zoo today!
And what did I see?
I saw a great big elephant*
Looking at me!
[make elephant* noises]

     We repeated this rhyme multiple times, inserting a new zoo animal each time. My favorite unexpected moment was when a child suggested "zebra"--the whole room immediately making a buzzing "Z" sound. Not quite the sound a zebra makes, but definitely a sound we make when we say "zebra!"

Story: Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
     Kitten doesn't really misbehave in this story, although she does get into some messy situations while in pursuit of the full moon, which she mistakes to be a bowl of milk. This Caldecott winner boasts a lovely, quiet story along with the beautiful illustrations, making the book a great closer for a story time.

Song: "If You're Happy and You Know It"

Other materials on hand: Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas; Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Jane Cabrera; "Apples and Bananas" on the ukulele
     Spring outreach often means visiting preschools where the classrooms span a number of ages. This main "Animals Misbehavin'" story time might not be appropriate for all ages and audience attention spans, so my outreach bag also included a few shorter stories and some additional lyrical elements. I'm lucky in that my staff, who occasionally go out on these outreach visits, feel confident about choosing books and interactives that fit the crowd; I just make sure the Story Time bag has plenty of great options.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What's New in the Children's Area

I feel like I'm always doing something or other to change things up in the children's area of my library, and I consider myself lucky that my branch manager also values keeping things fresh and engaging for kids. We recently had two new features installed.

Early Literacy Stations in Picture Book City

First are the AWE Early Literacy computers. I interned at a library with three of these computer stations, and a few other branches of my current library district had the stations when I was hired. I immediately put Early Literacy Stations on my branch wish list. The machines were budgeted for this fiscal year and installed in Picture Book City last week, and they are already a hit with our young customers and their families. Within five minutes of the computers being set up, a three-year-old was exploring an Elmo game with her father sitting next to her. They were having great conversations about letters, talking about how to click with a mouse, and exploring all the stations have to offer. It's only been a few days since these computers were installed, and already I've seen other great child-caregiver interactions happening at our Early Literacy Stations on multiple occasions.

Child-height endcap OPAC in the children's area

Next are endcap OPACs that are situated in the chilren's area--one inside Picture Book City, and the other on the end of our range of J Bios and award-winners. These OPACs are mounted at a great height for children to use them, and use them they do. I was slightly surprised at the uptick in children doing their own catalog searches before asking for help at the reference desk; it appears having the OPACs in the midst of the library spaces kids already use really does make a difference. Since these endcap OPACs were installed last week, I have seen more school-age children using them; more caregivers narrating their search processes for their onlooking children; and more caregivers feeling less stressed about doing several searches at a time because they can now access the catalog while still within sight of their children playing in Picture Book City. Talk about making things easier for customers!

That's what's new in the children's area of my library these days. What new or interesting things might your customers find in your spaces?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Show Me Librarian is 1!

One year ago today, I published my first blog post here on The Show Me Librarian. My goal in starting a youth services blog was to share the reading, programming, and library advocacy that are key components of my job as a children's librarian.

My blog birthday cupcake!

Now here I am, one year and 168 posts later, and I cannot believe that there are readers with whom I can celebrate this milestone. For real--readership of my previous blogging endeavors consisted almost entirely of my mother (Hi, Mom! Thanks for always supporting me!). I am blown away by the terrific connections I've made and conversations I've had as a result of taking my librarianship presence online. More than that, I feel privileged to be a part of the online YS community. I hope I'll be able to celebrate being a part of that community for many more years to come.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

School Literacy Nights: The Public Library's Role

Two things happened recently: Marge at Tiny Tips for Library Fun wrote a fantastic series on school/public library partnerships, and I was asked if my library would staff a table at a local elementary school's Title I night.

Perhaps I should clarify. My branch library has longstanding relationships with several of our local schools; we make regular appearances at the beginning of the school year on back-to-school nights, during the winter at literacy events, and before school gets out in May for summer reading rallies. We definitely have an existing partnership with our school district, at least on a basic level. Basically: they ask us to attend an event, and we do.

Marge's posts got me thinking about these events a bit more deeply, though. Why was I/the library attending? What did I/the library hope to accomplish by having a presence at the event? Those were the questions I asked myself as I set up my library table (note my I Spy Board--completely Abby the Librarian's idea--it adds color and interest to the table and gets kids to stop instead of just walking past). Here are a couple of the answers I came up with:

I have a presence in local schools in order to...
  • share library homework resources with current library cardholders who don't know they can access them from home
  • explain how to get a library card for non-cardholders
  • inform families new to the area about the library district
  • engage kids in conversations about reading
  • give some examples of the variety of great books available for kids
  • demonstrate that reading isn't just an in-school activity
  • promote library programs and resources

Feeling pretty happy with that least of motivations and intentions, I settled into my "library booth" personality for the evening.

But then.

The event was 90 minutes long, but I only really saw students and their families for around 40 minutes in the middle of that block of time. During the event, I primarily saw and talked to teachers, the school librarian, and the principal. And yet I had forgotten to include them when considering why I was at the event in the first place.

A lightbulb went off in my head during the last half hour of the event. That's when I started engaging teachers and the principal in conversations about what books their students were reading. A fourth-grade teacher mentioned sharing The One and Only Ivan with his class in January, and we got to talking about the Newbery Award and what previous winners he has shared with his students. I chatted with the principal about his goals for reading across the student body. These conversations got the wheels spinning in my head regarding how I might partner with specific teachers, classrooms, and schools.

Now I've got plans for how to pursue more meaningful partnerships with interested area schools, from getting kids more involved in the lead-up to summer reading to visiting classrooms to talk about the history of the Newbery Award, which committee members are encouraged to do. I've got ideas about working with principals to create school-wide--perhaps even district-wide--reading initiatives that don't place all of the burden of providing resources on school libraries and school budgets.

I am, in short, excited about the prospect of partnering more meaningfully with local schools. Sure, I'll still show up when they request a library presence at a school event. But in the future, I hope our work together will be so much more than that.

Monday, March 11, 2013

App Review: Presentation Apps

One of my goals for 2013 is to share apps that I'll be incorporating in my library, whether as part of programs, in-library displays, or app advisory. Today I want to focus on three of the presentation apps that I regularly use to supplement my programming. I use them all different and in different programming scenarios. They are all available for free for the iPad.


How it works: The SlideShark app accesses slideshows that the user has uploaded to his or her online SlideShark account. An account is free, although it does come with a storage limit of 100 MB (plan upgrades run from $49-$95 per year). Users are able to upload presentations (Powerpoint, Keynote) to their accounts; sync desired presentations to an iPad; and share presentations publicly if desired. When connected to a projector and in presentation mode, SlideShark allows users to time their presentations and see their presentation notes. Users can also set presentations to autoplay with options of slide length and looping.
When I use it: So far I have used SlideShark for two types of programs. The first is for presentations for library staff and workshops for caregivers. When I offered early literacy workshops for our local Parents as Teachers group last autumn, I modified the official ECRR2 slideshow to reflect my specific content. During the event, I managed the entire presentation as I went, choosing when I moved from slide to slide. I loved having my notes visible to me on the iPad while caregivers only saw the slides.
     The second type of program for which I've used SlideShark is a school-age program in which I wanted a slideshow to be on in the background. A perfect example is my recent potato chip history and tasting program. I shared information on the history of the potato chip at the beginning of the program, but I wanted that information to be on a screen while kids were going about their activities in the room. I uploaded a Powerpoint I'd made, set the presentation to loop and autoplay with slide changes every 15 seconds, and let the app do its thing. Children and caregivers both liked having something interesting and informative to look at between activities.


How it works: The Prezi app makes mobile all the great visual elements of the original online Prezi presentation. A free personal Prezi account comes with 100 MB of storage space (upgrades run from $59-$159 a year) as well as the service's core features, which include beautiful templates, great editing abilities, and useful help services. Prezi presentations can be created and edited both online and in-app, which means last-minute changes to presentations don't require re-syncing the device.
When I use it: My favorite use for Prezi presentations so far is in my school-age science programs. Each program opens with a brief introduction to our topic of the day; our brief intros would require a slideshow presentation of just one or two slides, limiting the options for great visual engagement. With Prezi, however, a small amount of information can be presented in a beautiful and visually-exciting way that holds attention much better than static slideshows. I frequently add images, video, bursts of color, and interesting pathways to my Prezis to keep kids' attention.
     I've also used Prezi for "Meet the Artist" school-age programs, during which lots of artwork by the featured artist is shown for the audience. Prezi makes that artwork pop much more than a slideshow can, and the creative possibilities for setting up the presentation fit better with the mood of an art program.

Haiku Deck

How it works: The Haiku Deck app is an all-in-one slideshow creation and presentation app that doesn't require a link to an online account. The app is meant to facilitate creation of simple, beautiful slideshows. Users can manipulate a finite number of aspects of slideshows, which I think really streamlines the creation of great presentations. Users can give a presentation a title and a theme, and each individual slide can contain a title, some additional text (either one line or bulleted/numbered lists), and a full-screen image; there are fourteen slide layout options, and users can add images of their own or search for high-res images in-app.
When I use it: I have used Haiku Deck, to great success, for my Stuffed Animal Sleepovers. These story time programs necessitate creating an image-heavy slideshow of photos of kids' stuffed animals doing sleepover activities at the library, then showing that slideshow at a program the next day. Before I had Haiku Deck, that process meant five distinct, and sometimes time-consuming, steps: 1) take photos on the digital camera or library tablet; 2) upload photos to a computer; 3) create the slideshow in Powerpoint; 4) upload the Powerpoint to a slideshow app; 5) show the slideshow. With Haiku Deck, however, the whole process happens on the iPad. I take pictures with the iPad's camera, immediately add them to slides in my slideshow on Haiku Deck, add a bit of text, and I'm ready to present. What was originally a 90-minute or more process was down to about 20 minutes. The slideshows are beautiful, image-focused, and shareable with a link, which caregivers who want a copy of the slideshow really appreciate.


Those are the three presentation apps you'll be most likely to find me using in the course of my library work. Do you have any apps you rely on for presentations? I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reading it Forward: World Read Aloud Day 2013

Sharing stories with children is one of my favorite parts of my job. That's why I loved being able to participate in World Read Aloud Day yesterday. I previewed my WRAD format last month; I called it "guerrilla story time" on Twitter, emphasizing that my goal was to engage children who happened to be in the library on March 6 with an unexpected story time. That's exactly what happened, too.

My coworkers and I read 12 books and poetry selections for World Read Aloud Day--one for every hour the library was open. We announced the events over the PA system, and as we walked back to Picture Book City to do the readings, we encouraged any interested kids to come listen for a few minutes. Many kids did, and they all had smiles on their faces. Ah, the simple joys of being treated to a story read aloud.

We had over 100 people enjoy our WRAD read alouds, and almost all of the children and grownups opted to add their names to our reading wall afterward. I would call this program a definite success, especially when one considers that we didn't have any formal programs (story time, Lego Club) going on during the day to draw people to the library in the first place. Our participants were people who are happy to set aside what they are doing for a few minutes to enjoy reading. When all is said and done, the names on our reading wall show that we are a community who values literacy. I encouraged everyone to share the books they love with people they love, and they assured me they would read it forward.

In case you're curious, here's the breakdown of what books we read when:
9:30 a.m. - Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin
10:30 a.m. - It's a Tiger! by David LaRochelle
11:30 a.m. - Under Ground by Denise Fleming
12:30 p.m. - Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman
1:30 p.m. - Eggs 1 2 3: Who Will the Babies Be? by Janet Halfmann
2:30 p.m. - If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen
3:30 p.m. - Miss Nelson is Missing by Henry Allard
4:30 p.m. - Eleanor, Quiet No More: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport
5:30 p.m. - exerpts from A Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
6:30 p.m. - Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas
7:30 p.m. - How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
8:30 p.m. - exerpts from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein


Did you celebrate World Read Aloud Day? What did you do? How did you read it forward?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why We Offer an Early Literacy Calendar

When I got my job here in Missouri back in the summer of 2011, I had just attended the 2011 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans; I was bubbling over with enthusiasm, especially for early literacy. That energy, my now-boss says, came across in my interview. I was so gung-ho in my interview, in fact, I even used the phrase, "Even if you don't hire me, you have to do this."

I was referring to creating an early literacy calendar.

It's now over a year and a half later, and my library district does indeed have an early literacy calendar. Each month, we create and make available a calendar full of simple suggestions for early literacy activities that caregivers and their children can do almost anywhere--non-intimidating activities that build pre-reading skills. The activities are based around the ECRR five practices with some math thrown in. The children's staff across the library district take turns filling in the monthly templates I've created; each branch is tasked with populating a calendar with activities every 9 months. For that relatively small amount of work on the part of our children's staff, the benefit to our communities is significant.

We hand out early literacy calendars at our baby, twos, and preschool programs. We have copies of the calendar available at the check-out desk. We share the calendars with local preschools and day cares, encouraging them to make photocopies for the parents of their charges. We post a link to the current calendar on our website, and I have started sharing the pdf on our Library Foundation's new blog. We pass it out when we register pre-readers for summer reading. When workloads and budgets allow, I want our graphic design guy to rework the look so we can make the calendars available at grocery stores and doctors' offices.

If dreams came true, our early literacy calendars would end up in the hands of every caregiver in our county who spends time with a pre-reader. We librarians know how seemingly simple activities can have a great impact--and we often have thousands of potential activities bouncing around our brains, ready to meet the needs of our communities. Now those activities and tips can reach a wider audience. That's why we offer an early literacy calendar.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bet You Can't Eat Just One!: A Savory Black History Month Program

Back in December of 2011, Lisa Taylor of the Ocean County (NJ) Library shared her library's successful Black History Month program on ALSConnect (you'll need to log in to ALSC to view the original write-up). By pairing the story of the invention of the potato chip with a potato chip tasting, Taylor and her colleagues had hit on a formula for a successful history-centered program. I immediately bookmarked it.

I was able to offer my take on Taylor's program last week, and I would definitely count it a success. I kept Taylor's original name--excitement rings through a great program name!--and tweaked the program content so I could offer it to school-age kids as well as any preschoolers who wanted to attend. I ended up with a good balance between the two. Here's what I did:

Bet You Can't Eat Just One!

1. As children and their caregivers entered the program room, they took seats facing the wall where I would project images. I engaged the attendees in some chit-chat about potato chips while waiting for everyone to arrive.

2. I told the story of George Crum and the invention of the potato chip. I love non-fiction storytelling, and I drew information from a few sources for my telling of the potato chip's creation. My four sources were the picture book George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's great non-fiction title What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors; the Wonderopolis page on "Who Invented Potato Chips?"; and the entry on Crum in our Biography in Context database.

3. I showed a video of how potato chips are made in a potato chip factory. I narrated the steps of the process during this video, which has no voiceover.

4. We had our potato chip tasting. Six different types of chips were available in bowls around the room. Each chip type was assigned a number, and the names of the chips were not visible; I did, however, make the ingredients available by the chips in case of food allergies. Each child picked up a coffee filter to serve as a plate, a tasting ballot, and a marker. Because I wanted the program to work for a wide age range of children, the ballot operated on a smily face system; if a child liked Chip #1, for instance, he or she could circle the smiling face. If a child did not like Chip #4, he or she could circle the frowning face. The symbol system was easy for the kids to understand. After everyone had tasted all of the chips, I handed out juice boxes to cleanse our palates.

5. While the tasters were letting their palates get back to neutral between rounds of tasting, I projected a short slideshow onto the program room wall. The slides highlighted the history of the potato chip, from information on Crum and the snack's invention up to its mass marketing and the huge consumption of chips by Americans.

6. Children got to go around and taste each chip again, this time with a mind toward choosing their favorite. Each child and adult in the tasting told me what number chip was their favorite, and I tallied the votes.

7. While announcing our winners of the potato chip tasting, I also announced what the different chips were. Our overall favorite was Ruffles, followed closely by Lays Classic. The remaining four flavors--sea salt and vinegar, Maui onion, cracked pepper and sea salt, and parmesan garlic--all tied for third place.

8. Children then chowed down on their favorite chips while we all talked about what we've been reading lately. I love these informal moments at the end of programs to chat about books! My source material all checked out after the program, too.

I would definitely classify this program as a success, something that I'll look at revisiting every few years. The kids were all very interested in hearing the history of one of their favorite snack foods, and they thrived on being asked for their opinions on what chips tasted good. Any day a fourth grader engages me in a conversation about the mouthfeel of a food is sure to be a good day.


How did you celebrate Black History Month in programs at your library?

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Snapshot of My Reading Life

I could offer you several different snapshots of my reading life. I could provide an actual snapshot of where I do a lot of my reading:

(Please note the sticky notes on my side table--to mark interesting passages in books and magazines--as well as the almost-dying plant.)

I could provide you a list of the types of things I read during the average week:
  • Blogs (At last count, my RSS feed contained 93 blogs)
  • Trade journals such as School Library Journal, Booklist, Children & Libraries, YALS, American Libraries, and Public Libraries
  • The Week and The New Yorker--what planet was I on when I decided this would be a good year to start subscribing to The New Yorker?!?
  • A cookbook or two
  • About a dozen different picture books
  • Some combination of children's fiction and non-fiction books
  • A young adult or adult book, as my book club chooses

I could provide you with examples of some of the things I eat and/or drink while I'm reading: fruit, cheese and crackers, some sort of sweet thing (currently Marshmallow Peeps); water, diet soda, hot or iced tea.

I could also direct you to this graphic representation of what I read in an average year--although I won't be publicly sharing that same breakdown of my reading for 2013 because of my committee work.

All of those snapshots provide you with a view of my reading life. What does your reading life look like?


This post is part of the World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge, which features weekly blog prompts leading up to World Read Aloud Day on March 6. Make sure to come back next week for the details on the implementation of my library's WRAD program!