In the Night Kitchen: A Storytime in Honor of Maurice Sendak

Today, Friday, June 10, would have been Maurice Sendak’s 88th birthday.  So this week I did an all-Sendak storytime.

Here is what we read:

wild

Where the Wild Things Are

Of course, I had to include the story of Max and his adventures as King of All Wild Things. I was surprised by how many of the kids hadn’t read this book yet, but they were mesmerized.  They especially enjoyed roaring and gnashing their teeth like wild things, and the silly chant I threw in for the “wild rumpus” pages (something like, “Ung-ga-da, ding-ga-da, ding-ga-da.”  I made it up as I went along).  My copy was immediately snatched up.

pierre

Pierre

I remember the day my son’s teacher read this to the class in Kindergarten (unbeknownst to me), and how he came home saying, “I don’t care!” in reply to everything I said, until I could totally understand why Pierre’s parents left him alone in a neighborhood where hungry lions occasionally wander through.  For a long time this was my son’s favorite book.  The kids at storytime loved it too, eagerly chiming in on all the “I don’t cares!”  A couple of them looked shocked when Pierre (still insisting he doesn’t care) got eaten by the lion, then relieved when he emerged again intact.  But they were all clamoring to check it out in the end.

outside

Outside Over There

This story has always reminded me of the movie Labyrinth, although I’ve never actually checked to see if there’s a connection.  It’s the story of Ida, who is left in charge of her baby sister, but fails to see the goblins sneaking in through the window to steal the baby away, and leaving a baby made of ice in her place.  Ida has to use her wits and her wonderhorn to rescue her sister from becoming a goblin bride Outside Over There.  There is something so wonderfully bizarre and otherworldly about this book.  It makes me think of the old collection of Andersen’s fairy tales I used to read over and over, feeling equally disturbed and fascinated.  My storytime group was equally entranced, and there were quite a few hands reaching for it when it was over.

night kitchen

In the Night Kitchen

This was one of my favorite books as a kid: the story of Mickey, who falls out of bed into the night kitchen, and is nearly baked in a cake by the enormous bakers who cook there.  Instead he builds a plane out of bread dough and flies into the Milky Way to find the missing ingredient: milk!  I was wondering if anyone would comment on Mickey’s nudity, but no one did (I don’t remember noticing it when I was a kid either).  A couple of kids were arguing over who would get to check this one out too.

SONGS:

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

I have an old lady puppet that the kids love to “feed.”  I do have her “die” at the end, but then we take her to the hospital and revive and pump her stomach, which always gets a laugh.

Home Again

I wrote this song a few months ago.  It’s based on several Sendak books, including Where the Wild Things Are, Outside Over There, and We are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy.

Home Again
Darling, when you feel afraid,
For you can plainly see,
The world is full of monsters
Who look just like you and me.

Just jump aboard your tiny boat
Follow the falling star.
And sail away through night and day,
To where the wild things are.

And you will dance and then
Let the wild rumpus begin.
But I will love you best of all
When you come home again.

And darling, when the goblins come,
And no one seems to care,
Climb out your bedroom window
Into outside over there.

Bring your horn, and play a jig,
And charm them with a song.
They’ll set you free, and you will soon be
Home where you belong.

And you will dance and then,
Let the wild rumpus begin.
But I will love you best of all,
When you come home again.

When the moon is in a fit,
And you are in the dumps,
Lost in the rye with one black eye,
And diamonds are all trumps.

I will come and buy you bread,
One loaf or maybe two.
And I will bring you up
Cause happy endings can come true.

And we will dance and then,
Let the wild rumpus begin.
And I will love you best of all
Until the very end.

CRAFT: Wild Thing Feet

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Wild Thing Feet by Evie

I stole this craft idea from AlphaMom.com: http://alphamom.com/family-fun/activities/where-the-wild-things-are-monster-activities-for-kids/

I precut the feet (in a variety of sizes to accommodate different kids), then gave them supplies to decorate them.

What are your favorite Maurice Sendak books?

 

 

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Picture Books about Big Machines

It’s been a while since I’ve done a write-up about a storytime, but I just did two with a construction equipment theme that were both a lot of fun.  The first was a family storytime, for a wide variety of ages. The second was a preschool storytime, although most of the kids were actually under the age of 3.

Here are the books I read for both:

gogo.jpg

Go! Go! Go! STOP by Charise Mericle Harper

I liked this one so much, I actually read it for Musical Storytime as well.  Little Green knows only one word, “GO!”  When he shouts it out to the busy machines working on the new bridge, it motivates them to work faster and faster.  But then things get out of control.  Luckily, just then, Little Red rolls into town and shouts the only word he knows, “STOP!”  It takes a while for Little Green and Little Red to figure out how to work together, but when they do, they help the machines get the bridge built.  There are lots of opportunities for the kids to shout (and whisper), “GO!” and “STOP!” throughout the book, which they loved.  It also provides a great way to model to parents how to use prominent repeated words in the text to help kids make the connection between print and spoken words.  This would work really well for a color theme as well.

bulldozer

Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming; illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Bulldozer is so excited about inviting his friends to his party.  But each time he rolls up to a big machine he knows and ask them what day it is, they answer that it is a scooping day, a mixing day, a scraping day, or whatever kind of day it usually is when they are working.  Bulldozer is sad, until the crane announces that it’s a “lifting day,” and lifts up an enormous birthday cake.  Fun book for kids to try to name each type of big machine, and demonstrate what each one does.  This would also work for a birthday theme.

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Build, Dogs, Build by James Horvath

A crew of dogs tear down an old building and construct a new one from beginning to end.  LOTS of different types of construction equipment in this one, and funny details hidden in the colorful illustrations.  The kids especially enjoyed looking for Jinx the cat on each page.  Great for both dog fans and construction lovers.

construction

The Construction Crew by Lynn Meltzer by Carrie Eko-Burgess

Another picture book that follows the construction of a house from beginning to end, with rhyming text that asks kids, “What do we need?” for each step of the process, starting with the wrecking ball to tear down the old building and ending with the moving truck to help the new family move in.  Even the adults loved this one.

crane

What Can a Crane Pick Up? by Rececca Kai Dotlich; illustrated by Mike Lowery

I did this one for Musical Storytime as well.  It’s a rhyming book that describes all of the many things a crane can lift, including multiple trucks, a submarine, library books, another crane, boxes of underwear, and even you!  Quirky and fun.

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I’m Dirty  by Kate and Jim McMullan

Another book by the team behind I Stink, this book introduces a mud-loving backhoe who cleans up a lot full of garbage and abandoned junk, counting what he picks up as he goes: including four cat-clawed couches, and two tossed-out toilet seats.  The kids enjoyed “eww”-ing at the pictures of trash and mud.

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20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street by Mike Lee; illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

Cute counting book about an ice cream truck that breaks down in the middle of the street, causing a traffic jam of big trucks.  No one knows what to do, until the boy narrating the story suggests that the crane truck can save the day.  The kids liked the big truck illustrations, and of course, any book with ice cream is always a hit.

SONGS:

Twinkle, Twinkle, Traffic Light

I did this one to go along with Go! Go! Go! Stop! to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star:

Twinkle, Twinkle, Traffic Light,
Twinkle, Twinkle, Traffic Light,
Shining on the corner bright.
Red means STOP! (hold out hands in “STOP” motion)
Green means GO! (run in place fast)
Yellow means YOU’D BETTER GO SLOW! (run in place slowly)
Twinkle, Twinkle, Traffic Light,
Shining on the corner bright.

Bouncing Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon

This is a great song for babies on up.  Older kids like coming up with silly “tools” to fix the wagon, like a pickle or a rhinoceros.  The ukulele chords alternate between C and G7, so it is very easy to play too:

Bouncing up and down in my little red wagon.
Bouncing up and down in my little red wagon.
Bouncing up and down in my little red wagon.
Won’t you be my darlin’.

One wheel’s off and the axle’s broken… (lean to one side)

Joey’s going to fix it with his hammer…

Bouncing up and down in my little red wagon…

Repeat, asking kids who would like to fix the wagon, and what tool they would use.

CRAFT:

07-22-Crane-Craft

Sadly, it was too crazy on Wednesday night for me to get a picture of the kids’ finished crafts, but I did my own version of this Crane Craft I found from the DeKalb Public Library. Instead of popsicle sticks, I cut up drinking straws, and had the kids thread a piece of yarn through them to attach to the arm of their crane.  It was a bit tricky for the toddlers, who needed their parents’ help, but they all seemed to enjoy it.

 

HANDOUT

Our library system encourages librarians to create a handout for storytimes, listing all of the books and songs, as well as literacy tips for parents.  I don’t usually do one for my Family Storytimes, since I often have to adjust my book selections on the fly depending on what age kids show up.  But here is the handout I used this week for Preschool Storytime: May 25 Pre K Storytime (Larsen, Ashley)

 

Kid Picks

Since I’m always trying to find new books for storytime, I often test out new titles on my own kids.  My son, at 11, mostly wants to read books on his own now, although my husband and I still read aloud to him at bedtime when he’s not caught up in a novel (right now, my husband is reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with him. I am anxious for them to finish, because then I will get to share The Restaurant at the End of the Universe).

My six year-old daughter has a love/hate relationship with having a librarian mom.  On the one hand, she loves books, so she likes when I bring them home.  On the other hand, she’s always been dismayed that she can’t keep them all.  With both of my kids, I have been guilty of returning books to the library before they were ready to part with them, so I understand why she gets upset.  Occasionally she’ll become so attached to a particular book that  I’ll buy her a copy of her own.  That was the case with her latest favorite, Gaston, by Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson.

gaston

My daughter loves everything about this book: the illustrations (which she talks about at length), the story, the whole package.  She asks for it at bedtime every night.  She brings it in the car to read for herself.  She lies on her bed and pores over every page.  Rarely has she fallen so hard for a book.

And I get it.  It’s a great book.  I think I picked it up originally because it was on a list of the best picture books of 2014.   It’s about a family of puppies: Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston.  They are all adorable, except Gaston does not look like his poodle siblings.  He also struggles to sip (never slobber!), and yip (never yap!), and all the other proper things their mother encourages them to do, although he always tries the hardest.

Then one day the poodles meet a family of bulldog pups at the park.  Or at least three of the pups (Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno) look like bulldogs (and a lot like Gaston).  The fourth, Antoinette, looks like a little white poodle.   Gaston and Antoinette realize there’s been a mix-up.  The two families reluctantly arrange a swap.  Now everyone looks alike, but no one is happy.  Gaston finds the bulldog family too “brutish and brawny.”  Antoinette can’t stand being proper.  The next morning they all race back to the park, where the two mothers announce that they have made a terrible mistake.  Antoinette and Gaston return to the families they love, and later, when they grow up and have puppies of their own, they teach them be whatever they want to be.

All in all, it’s a wonderful story about the true meaning of family.  The illustrations are adorable (there’s a reason my daughter loves them), and the writing is perfect for reading aloud. I always wonder which of the current picture books will become classics, like Corduroy or Harry, the Dirty Dog–books that my kids will remember fondly enough to want to read to their own kids.  I’m sure this one will be on my daughter’s list.

As for my son, his current book obsession is the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children books by Ransom Riggs.  He tore through them in less than a week, pleading with me to check them all out because he didn’t want to wait even a day between books.  I haven’t read them yet myself, although he’s told me enough of the plot that I know it’s a fantasy/sci-fi series about a group of kids with bizarre talents and attributes.  The author based the book and the characters on creepy antique photographs of children (I love that idea).  I’ve promised my son that I will read them soon.

peregrine

So those are my kids’ current book recommendations.  What current books do you think will stand the test of time?

You Be the Judge: the Irma Black Award and the Cook Prize

My friend Sue Beckmeyer, who is the instructional media specialist at the K-8 school my kids attend, recently told me about two children’s book awards that are voted on by elementary school students: the Irma Black Award and the Cook Prize.  Both of these awards were created by the Center for Children’s Literature at the Bank Street College of Education in New York.

I was excited to learn about the awards because I read to two classes of second graders every other week, and they LOVE to vote for their favorites.  Sue was especially excited about the Cook Prize because it focuses on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) related picture books, which are a big part of the new Common Core curriculum.  She asked me to share the books with the third and fourth grade classes, and collect their votes.  Here are the books:

ada

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by April Chu

This is a fascinating story about a brilliant mathematician who was a century ahead of her time.  Ada Byron Lovelace was the daughter of the notorious poet, Lord Byron, although she barely knew her father.  Her childhood was devoted to math and invention, especially after a bout of measles left her crippled for several years.  As a teenager, she met the famous inventor, Charles Babbage, who showed her his plans to build a “Thinking Machine,” essentially the first computer.  Lovelace recognized that the thinking machine would need detailed instructions to run, and so she set out to write them.  Even though Babbage never built the actual machine, Lovelace’s code is still considered the world’s first computer program.  The two third grade classes I shared this with so far were intrigued by the idea of a computer program that predated computers, and this one got a large number of votes, mostly from girls.

horseshoe

High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs by Lisa Kahn Schnell; illustrated by Alan Marks

This was the favorite by far of both classes I have read to.  It describes the annual event in Delaware Bay, when millions of horseshoe crabs crawl ashore to lay their eggs in the sand, followed by millions of hungry sea birds.  The kids loved the diagram of the very alien-looking crabs on the inside cover, and seemed really intrigued by the radio tags, and the goopy green eggs.  Nature writing at its best.

mesmerized

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France by Mara Rockliff; illustrated by Iocapo Bruno

This was the most challenging of the three books in terms of the concepts it was trying to convey, but it’s a great story.  It describes Benjamin Franklin’s trip to Paris to garner the support of the French aristocracy during the American Revolution.  While in Paris, he found that everyone was abuzz with news of a man named Dr. Mesmer.  Dr. Mesmer claimed to possess a mysterious force that could make people experience strange sensations, or even cure them of various ailments.  But when Dr. Mesmer tried his powers on Franklin, nothing happened.  Franklin suspected that the force was in the patient’s mind.  In order to test his theory, he enlisted the help of Mesmer’s assistant, asking him to use his powers on people who were blindfolded.  As he suspected, when the patient could no longer see Mesmer’s assistant, they would experience sensations even when he was no longer in the room, or feel heat in a different part of the body than he was targeting.  Mesmer was disgraced, but Franklin’s experiments led to the discovery of the placebo effect, which has been an important tool in modern medicine.  The book design and illustrations are eye-catching, and the text includes side bars outlining the different parts of the scientific method Franklin employed.  This book got a number of votes as well.

The Irma Black Award

On Wednesday, I got to share the finalists for the Irma Black Award with two classes of second graders.  This award is chosen by first and second graders, and is for the best read-aloud picture books.  Here are the four finalists:

bert

You Can Do It, Bert by Ole Konnecke

This is the shortest of the four finalists: a cute book about a bird bracing himself to try something new.  He walks out to the edge of his branch, then back again, then has a snack, then finally jumps…down into the water.  The kids liked the surprise that instead of learning to fly, Bert is taking his first plunge from the high dive.  This one got several votes.

stanley

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee

I love Jon Agee, especially because he did an excellent author visit to the school when my son was in second grade.  My favorite books of his are My Rhinoceros and Milo’s Hat Trick.  In this rhyming story, the Wimbledon family keeps getting woken up by the antics of their dog, Stanley, who howls at the moon, makes catfish stew, fixes their old TV, and finally launches their whole house to the moon.  The kids loved that the space poodle Stanley meets up with showed up on the TV earlier in the book.  This one got several votes as well.

red

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

I was happy to see this one on the list, because it is one of my daughter’s favorites.  The kids were intrigued from the moment they noticed the discrepancy between the book’s title (Red) and the clearly blue crayon on the cover.  The story is about a crayon who is labelled “Red,” but somehow can’t figure out how to draw anything red.  Everyone has a theory: he needs to try harder, his label’s too tight, he’s not warm enough.  But nothing helps.  Until one day, a new crayon asks him to draw a blue ocean for her boat, and he discovers he is really good…at being blue.  This was the second most popular book in both classes.

ragweed

Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy

This was the clear favorite for both classes (and my favorite as well).  Ragweed the dog explains how to be a farm dog by taking you on a tour of the farm.  Along the way, he explains the jobs of the other animals: the rooster wakes the farmer.  That’s his job.  That’s not your job.  You will really, really want to wake the farmer, but don’t wake the farmer.  If you do wake the farmer, you can get a biscuit just to go away.  Every animal has a different job that Ragweed finds appealing, but Ragweed’s job is still the best.  His job is: to get biscuits!  The kids especially love the part where Ragweed says if you eat grass, you won’t get a biscuit.  “But you will throw up a biscuit, and you can eat that one again.”  This one is a blast to read aloud, and a hit for all ages.

I really enjoyed reading both the Irma Black and the Cook Prize finalists to the different classes, and am looking forward to trying out the Cook Prize voting with fourth graders this week to see if they make different choices.  Voting for both awards ends on April 17.  There’s a convenient form for online voting on the Bank Street web site.

UPDATE: I finished reading the Cook Prize finalists to the third and fourth grade classes yesterday.  Although all three books got votes, the fourth graders seemed to prefer Mesmerized.  The third graders tended to prefer High Tide for Horseshoe CrabsAda Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine was a close second for both grades.  The teachers were impressed with all three books, and so was I.  Even though I read them to five classes, I enjoyed reading them each time.  They are a nice mix of science, history, and nature, and all three are very well written.  Kudos to Bank Street for their selections!

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: The results are in!  The winner of the Cook Prize was Mesmerized, the book that the fourth graders preferred.  And It’s Only Stanley won the Irma Black Award. This wasn’t the favorite of the second grade, but it did get several votes, and I’m happy to see Jon Agee receive a prestigious award.

 

 

Where the Wild Things Are: A Song for Maurice Sendak

 

wild

I’ve been thinking a lot about Maurice Sendak lately.

Years ago, I read a book by Alison Lurie called Don’t Tell the Grown-ups: the Subversive Power of Children’s Literature.  Lurie’s central point was that the best and most memorable children’s books are the unconventional ones, usually featuring mischievous characters who don’t follow the rules.  While the book focused more on older authors, like Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, and Mark Twain, I think Maurice Sendak fits the bill.

As I kid, one of my favorite books was In the Night Kitchen, which I think was the only Sendak book I actually owned.  I couldn’t tell you exactly why I was so drawn to it.  (Oddly, I don’t even think I noticed or cared that Mickey was naked. I remember being surprised years later, when a coworker in my first library job mentioned that someone had drawn pants on him in one of our copies.)  The book was deliciously creepy (literally), with the three giant smiling cooks threatening to cook Mickey in the batter.  The text and illustrations had a surreal quality that both troubled and appealed to me, and so I read it over and over again.

Later on, I stumbled upon Where the Wild Things Are in our local library. I loved the idea of sailing away to that island of the wild things, which I found both frightening and fascinating.  I stared at those illustrations for hours.  And, of course, the idea that you could enjoy your time being “King of the Wild Things” and still come home for a hot supper was deeply reassuring.  (I love the story of how Sendak had to fight his editor to use the word “hot” instead of “warm,” because the editor thought “hot” sounded too dangerous).

From Sendak, I developed an appetite for Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, and Hans Christian Andersen (whose stories were often grimmer than the Brothers Grimm).  While the message from the adult world at large was “There’s no such thing as monsters,” these authors delighted in saying, “Oh, monsters definitely do exist, and aren’t they awesome?” or even “Monsters definitely do exist, and the scariest ones are people.”  They provided a safe, often even funny way to confront the nightmares, which was far more reassuring than being told that there was nothing to be afraid of.

So, in honor of Maurice Sendak, and all of his weird, wonderful, terrifying, mesmerizing books, I wrote this song, which I’m calling Home Again.  I hope you enjoy it (click on the triangle to hear the song):

Home Again
Darling, when you feel afraid,
For you can plainly see,
The world is full of monsters
Who look just like you and me.

Just jump aboard your tiny boat
Follow the falling star.
And sail away through night and day,
To where the wild things are.

And you will dance and then
Let the wild rumpus begin.
But I will love you best of all
When you come home again.

And darling, when the goblins come,
And no one seems to care,
Climb out your bedroom window
Into outside over there.

Bring your horn, and play a jig,
And charm them with a song.
They’ll set you free, and you will soon be
Home where you belong.

And you will dance and then,
Let the wild rumpus begin.
But I will love you best of all,
When you come home again.

When the moon is in a fit,
And you are in the dumps,
Lost in the rye with one black eye,
And diamonds are all trumps.

I will come and buy you bread,
One loaf or maybe two.
And I will bring you up
Cause happy endings can come true.

And we will dance and then,
Let the wild rumpus begin.
And I will love you best of all
Until the very end.

Tuning Up: Sensory Awareness to Help Kids Learn

Last week, I got to attend a workshop at Parents Place in Palo Alto called Getting Ready to Learn: a Sensorimotor Approach, led by Lisa Kaplan Shaanan.  The class was intended primarily for preschool teachers and parents, but several children’s librarians from our library system also attended in the hopes of learning how to make our storytimes and children’s events more inclusive for kids with special needs.

I’m still thinking through the different ways I might incorporate what I learned from the class into my library programs, but as a parent, I found it fascinating.  The instructor began by talking about Sensory Processing Disorders, which are estimated to affect anywhere from 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children.  The disorders affect each child in different ways, but all of them can inhibit their ability to concentrate and learn.

Some kids are overly sensitive to touch, and can be distracted by tags in clothing, dislike being touched, or frequently walk on their tiptoes.  Others can be bothered by bright lights or strong smells, have trouble processing sounds, be picky eaters, or seem clumsy or careless.  The sensory processing disorder can affect any of eight basic senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, proprioceptive input (your internal map of your body), interoception (the sense of what’s happening inside your body: hunger, thirst, etc.), and vestibular input (the sense of balance).  And any of these senses can be overly responsive, or not responsive enough (leading to kids who are unaware of being dirty, or touching other children too roughly).

Although I know kids who have been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, it was good to realize that it can take a lot of different forms.  For example, the boy who is holding his ears during circle time is not doing it to be rude, and the girl who is sprawled across the floor instead of sitting “criss-cross applesauce” may not have the muscle tone she needs to sit up straight (kids with sensory processing disorders often have low muscle tone and underdeveloped motor skills).

But the part of the workshop I found most interesting was about how to help kids recognize when they are feeling too alert (in fight or flight mode) or not alert enough to learn.  This is useful for adults too.  The instructor passed out a checklist of sensory activities, like chewing gum, chewing on a pencil, stretching, rocking, twisting your hair, listening to classical music, etc., and asked us to mark whether each one made us calmer or more alert.  The list even included my favorite alertness regulator, coffee, although not my favorite calmness one: red wine.  She talked about how there is an ideal state of alertness, and how we all instinctively do things throughout the day to regulate our nervous system.  After the class, I found myself more aware of small triggers that made me temporarily stressed, like when both my kids were talking to me at once, or when my husband turned on the fan over the kitchen stove (a sound that for some reason makes me feel like I have bees in my brain).

For kids, Shaanan offered an analogy of an engine to help them understand the idea of finding the right level of alertness (this is based on The Alert Program by Therapy Works).  She asked what happens when an engine runs too fast: it gets out of control, it crashes, you get a speeding ticket.  But if the engine is running too slow, other people around you can get frustrated, and you might still get a ticket.  The idea is to help kids get their engines running just right.  They may need to move around to wake themselves up, or do some activities to calm down.  One easy technique Shaanan demonstrated was having us all stand up and hum together, while bouncing lightly on our feet.  She also had us pair up and try matching our breath with our partner.  This was a calming exercise that reminded me of a game I sometimes play with my kids, where we try to sing the same note.  The kids love to change the pitch up and down, but something magical happens when we all find the same pitch again.

A lot of the class focused on visual cues, and Shaanan had us make this cute speedometer to help kids indicate how calm or alert they were feeling:

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Another useful visual cue tool she provided was this handy noise indicator, which I can imagine using at storytime (mostly for the chatty adults in the audience!).  The arrow is attached to a clothespin to make it easy to move:

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I’ve gone to a lot of trainings over the course of my career, but this was one of the best, partly because the instructor and the Parents Place staff had taken pains to equip us each with everything we needed to keep ourselves at the right level of alertness.  There was a range of snacks at both a main table in the back, and on each of the tables where we were sitting.  There were “fidgets” (small toys like wind-ups and things that were fun to touch or move) in baskets at each table too.  She also made of point of telling us to feel free to stand up, move around, or go to the bathroom whenever we needed to.

I realized midway through the class that I was actually very hungry, something I would ordinarily just have lived with, but it really did make it easier to concentrate when I dove into the snacks.  Shaanan also cited the statistic that 26% of California children live in food-insecure households, pointing out that hunger and thirst are fundamental needs that have to be met before kids have any hope of learning.

As a librarian, the class was mostly validating. As a parent whose own two kids often preferred to roam the library like wildebeests during storytime, I tend to give other people’s kids a lot of flexibility to move around, as long as they don’t interfere with the other kids’ ability to hear the story or see the pictures.  I like to incorporate a range of activities, including movement activities and songs in between stories, instrument play with a variety of shakers and maracas after all the stories, and a craft at the very end that gives them a chance to work with a range of art tools, and make something in their own way.

What I could definitely use more of are visual cues: flannel boards, puppets, and props.  I may also explore the possibility of getting small cushions or mats (the instructor showed us several types of “wiggle” cushions designed to give kids the sense of moving, even when they were sitting still.  These are pretty pricey, but she said you could improvise with an inflatable beach ball that is only very slightly inflated).  And I definitely plan to raid my friend Ashley Waring’s wonderful blog, Libraries Serving Children with Autism, for other ideas to make my story times better for kids with a range of special needs.

My biggest takeaway from the class was that I’d like to be more aware in general, both as a librarian and a parent, of how every one has their own unique stressors and challenges, and maybe the next time my daughter and I are having a huge argument about something mundane like homework, we may just need to stop and have a snack, play some ’80s music on Pandora, or just take a moment to breathe.

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Some other fun activities, tools, and ideas Lisa Shaanen presented were:

1.Controlled Wrestling: two people sit on the floor (or stand, if they are older and more coordinated) facing each other.  Each person asks the other, “Are you ready?” They both agree to stop as soon as the other person says “STOP!”  Then they try to push each others’ hands to knock them over.  I’ve tried this with both of my kids, and they loved it.

2. This fun “fidget” for kids who struggle with waiting.  You hand it to them, and say, “We’re waiting,” and they can play with the little koosh ball until it’s their turn:20160208_171752 (1).jpg

3. A bubble blower made out of a cup with a straw stuck through a hole punched in the side.  You put a small amount of dish detergent and water in the cup, and blow into the straw to make a mountain of bubbles.  Shaanen said for younger kids you can poke a small hole in the straw to keep them from accidentally drinking the soap.  Activities that involve blowing air can be calming and help built breath control.

4. Another simple game with a straw and a pompom, where you make a croquet wicket (hoop) out of masking tape that you attach to the table.  Then you try to blow the pompom through the hoop.

5. A collection of small pictures showing different ways kids might use to calm down when they are feeling angry out of control: going to the bathroom, reading, sitting in a comfy chair, having a drink of water, etc.  Shaanen suggested that for kids who struggle with self control, you can ask them to identify three ideas they might try during the day if they need to calm down.  The pictures have Velcro on the back, allowing the child to move them onto a chart which shows a picture of an angry child at the top and a happy one at the bottom: a visual cue you can use to remind them of their choices later.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Lisa Shaanen gave us an extensive list of recommended resources.  Here are a few that she highlighted:

No Longer a Secret: Unique Common Sense Strategies for Children with Sensory or Motor Challenges by Doreit Bialer and Lucy Jane Miller.

Sensory Parenting: From Newborns to Toddlers by Britt Collins and Jackie Linder Olson.

The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz.

Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals by Angie Voss.

Take Five: Staying Alert at Home and School by Mary Sue Williams and Sherry Shellenberger.

FOR KIDS:

Ellie Bean the Drama Queen: A Children’s Book about Sensory Processing Disorder by Jennie Harding; illustrated by Dave Padgett.

You are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano Love; illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa.

Calm Down Time by Elizabeth Verdick; illustrated by Marieka Heinlen.

For parents and teachers in the Bay Area who are interested in learning more about working with kids with sensory processing disorders, or just about any other child-related topic, I highly recommend the workshops and programs offered by Parents Place.

Also, if anyone has any suggestions of ideas and strategies for working with special needs kids in a library setting, please write them in the comments.  I would love to learn more!

 

Get Wet! Water Science at the Library

I’ve been continuing to do monthly science programs for grades 4-6 at the Burlingame Library.  It’s a challenge finding activities that are interesting enough for that age group, but easy and inexpensive enough to coordinate with a class of 25 kids.  I’m always a little bit nervous to see how the projects will work, but I am loving the interactions with the kids, who are always enthusiastic and full of ideas.  This month’s topic was Water.  I had three projects planned: a paper clip challenge, to introduce surface tension; a clay boat challenge, to introduce buoyancy; and an electrolysis project, to demonstrate the composition of water.

I started out with a conversation about what the kids already knew about water: that it’s made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen; that it makes up most of our bodies and the earth’s surface; and all of the different ways we use it, from growing food to generating energy.

Then I had the kids go to the tables, and gave them each a paper clip and a paper bowl half full of water.  I told them that their challenge was to get the paper clip to float on the surface.  The tools they could use were a tissue or another paper clip.  Some of the kids were able to get the paper clip to float by very carefully setting it on the surface of the water with their fingertips.  Others lowered the paper clip onto the water with a tissue, which would sink, leaving the paper clip floating.  A few kids actually took pieces of cardboard from the tissue box and made little rafts for the paper clip.  None of them used the second paper clip idea (you can partially straighten the second paper clip and use it to lower the first one onto the surface), but they all found a solution.  I gave a brief explanation about how this was another demonstration of surface tension: the water molecules clinging together create a kind of a “skin” on the top of the water.

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Paper clip floating on the water due to surface tension

 

Their second challenge was to get a ball of Sculpey clay to float on the water.  This was by far the thing that excited them the most.  It took them a minute or two to come up with the idea of shaping the clay into boats.  After that they were all eagerly making Sculpey boats and asking if they could add different components, like paper clip sails.  They could have happily spent the whole rest of the class doing that.  We discussed the idea of buoyancy, the upward force that the water exerts on objects.  I demonstrated buoyancy by pushing a ping pong ball to the bottom of a cup of water, and showing how it shot up to the surface when I let it go.  I didn’t get to go into the details of Archimedes’ principle, so I’d like to come back to that in a future class.

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Boat made out of Sculpey clay to demonstrate buoyancy

The last part of the class was the electrolysis activity.  First, I had to show them the acid/base indicator we were going to use: the juice of a red cabbage (I used a juicer, but you can also just boil the leaves).   I demonstrated that when you add vinegar (an acid) to the red cabbage juice, it turns pink, and when you add baking soda (a base) to the juice, it turns green.  I explained that we were going to use electricity to split water into hydrogen gas (H+) and hydroxide (OH-).

I gave each student a 9 volt battery, two short pencils that had been sharpened at both ends, and some poster tack.  They still had their bowls of water from the previous activities, and I added a small amount of red cabbage juice to each bowl (we found the experiment worked better if the water was only slightly bluish).  I also added a spoonful of Epson salt to each bowl, and explained that it make the electrolysis work more effectively.

The biggest challenge the kids found was getting the pencils to adhere to the battery terminals with the poster tack without breaking the pencil tip or preventing the tip from touching the metal of the battery.  In some cases, I had the kids remove the poster tack altogether, and just hold the pencils in place while they lowered the other ends into the bowls of water.  Once they did that, the water would bubble around the pencil tips.  Hydrogen ions (H+) collect at the positive terminal of the battery, making the water more acidic, and turning the cabbage juice pink.  Hydroxide (OH-) ions collect at the negative terminal, forming a base, and turning the cabbage juice green.

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Electrolysis of water with a red cabbage juice pH indicator.  The pink color indicates the formation of Hydrogen (H+) ions, while the greenish color indicates Hydroxide (OH-).

It was a fun class overall, although I think it has inspired to do more construction based challenges in the future, since they had so much fun making the boats.  I would love any ideas for future classes, so please share them in the comments.