Pie in the Sky: A Storytime About Pizza

I had planned to do this storytime right after New Year’s, in honor of National Pizza Week (January 8 through 14). But our area got hit by a series of atmospheric rivers, which turned our outdoor storytime area into a marsh for several weeks. Today was beautiful though, and we had a great time with this theme. I based it heavily on Storytime Kate’s Pizza storytime, with a few tweaks.

Here’s what we did:


Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig

This is one of my all-time favorite storytime books. When Pete’s plans to play ball with his friends are cancelled by the rain, his father decides to cheer him up by turning him into a pizza: kneading the dough, tossing it in the air, applying toppings (which are really checkers and pieces of paper), and cooking him in the oven (the couch). It’s a sweet story about a shared family game. The kids always laugh when the pizza gets tickled.

Hi, Pizza Man! by Virginia Walter; illustrated by Ponder Goembel

This was a favorite of both of my kids’ when they were little, and the storytime crowd absolutely loved it! When a little girl is hungry and impatient for their pizza to be delivered, her mother asks her what she would say depending on who the delivery person is: a pizza snake, a pizza cow, a pizza cat, etc. The illustrations are hilarious and got lots of laughs from the grown-ups. The kids loved making the different animal noises.

Pizza at Sally’s by Monica Wellington

Simple, sweet story describing the different steps involved in making a pizza. We had passed out play scarves for our Pat-a-Cake rhyme before hand, and I had the kids pretend they were pizza dough as we read: stretching out the scarves, and twirling them in the air.

Songs & Rhymes:

Silly Pizza Song

This song by Rachel de Azevedo Coleman from her Signing Time series is one of my absolute favorites. Here’s a YouTube video with the tune and the signs.

I usually just teach the kids the sign for pizza (there are a lot of different variations in ASL, but I use the one she demonstrates in the video with the double Z) and the sign for cheese, and then I ask them for topping suggestions. Today we had pepperoni, sausage, olives, and mushrooms.

Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake, Pizza Man

I got this one from Storytime Katie. We handed out play scarves, and had the kids pretend the scarves were the dough.

Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Pizza Man!

Bake me a pizza as fast as you can!

Roll it,

And toss it,

And sprinkle it with cheese.

Then put it in the oven and bake it fast, please!

Since we had just read Hi, Pizza Man!, I asked the kids for other types of pizza creators and we made up new verses for them, including:

Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Pizza Cow,

Make me a pizza if you know how!…

Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Pizza Dinosaur,

Make me a pizza as fast as you can roar! R-O-A-R!…

Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Pizza Elephant,

Make me the kind of pizza I want!…

I Am a Pizza by Charlotte Diamond

This is a classic children’s song by Charlotte Diamond (there were some grandparents visiting from Winnepeg today, who were excited because Charlotte Diamond is from Canada too). We did it as our instrument play-along at the end. It’s also an echo song, which makes it perfect for storytime.

Here’s a video of the original song:

Oh, [C] I am a pizza (I am a pizza),
[G] With extra cheese (with extra cheese).
[G] From tomatoes (from tomatoes),
[C] Sauce is squeezed (sauce is squeezed).
[F] Onions and mushrooms (onions and mushrooms),
[G] Oregano (oregano).
[F] I am a [C] pizza,
[G] Ready to [C] go!

Oh, [C] I am a pizza (I am a pizza),
[G] Pepperoni (pepperoni),
[G] No anchovies (no anchovies),
[C] Or phony baloney (or phony baloney)!
[F] I am a pizza (I am a pizza),
[G] Order by phone (order by phone).
[F] I am a C] pizza,
[G] Please take me [C] home!

Oh, [C] I am a pizza (I am a pizza),
[G] Peppers on top (peppers on top),
[G] Out of the oven (out of the oven),
[C] Into the box (into the box).
[F] Into the car and (into the car and)
[G] Upside down (upside down)…
[F] I am a [C] pizza,
[G] Dropped on the [C] ground!

Oh, [C] I was a pizza (I was a pizza).
[G] I was the best (I was the best).
[F] I was a [C] pizza,
[G] Now I’m a [C] mess!

Stay & Play: Playdough Pizza

Before the storytime, I made playdough using this simple recipe from Jinxy kids, which just requires flour, salt, water, and oil.

For the storytime, I put out golf-ball sized balls of dough on small paper plates, along with playdough toys like plastic rollers and pizza cutters. I had also cut out some clip-art pizza toppings from My Cute Graphics. The kids had a great time rolling and slicing their dough, and adding toppings. Some of them even added extras, like their storytime stickers, and some of the gum nuts they found on the ground at the park.

What are your favorite pizza books or songs? Please share them in the comments below.

Making a Mark: Kindness Bookmarks

Well, the craziness of our California weather has literally put a damper on my Outdoor Musical Storytimes for the past few weeks, but I wanted to share this sweet project from my daughter’s elementary school.

One of the unique things about the school has always been that every student (Kindergarten through Eighth Grade) is assigned to a school “Family,” with one student from each grade. They stay in the same family until they graduate from eighth grade, and once a month, on “Family Day,” they do an activity together. The activities are usually simple games, like Bingo, or a craft project, like decorating paper plates to become the scales of a Lunar New Year dragon in the hallway. But last month, for the first time, they decorated bookmarks.

The theme of the bookmarks was Kindness, so the kids were told to write and draw things to encourage other students, like “Keep Smiling,” or “You Can Do It!” The school’s Library/Media Specialist, Sue, who sent me the picture above, told me that her favorite bookmark said, “You are not annoying!”

After the kids decorated the bookmarks on Family Day, the middle schoolers added the premade tassels, and Sue sorted them into piles for each class. I happened to be in the library reading to second graders today when she was handing out the bookmarks. The kids were so excited to get them, and also to wonder which student might have gotten the one that they made.

I thought it was such a sweet idea, and I would love to find a way to incorporate it into the public libraries where I work. Coincidentally, a library patron had just brought in some handmade bookmarks over the weekend, and asked if we would be interested in putting them out for people to take. These were made of leftover fabric from her sewing projects, and they were a huge hit! All that day people, both kids and adults, exclaimed over the different patterns, and were happy to take some home for their friends and family.

Fabric bookmarks made by a library patron.

Coincidentally too, today my coworker, Claire, happened to be leading a bookmark-making program at the library after school. She was having the kids make woven Chevron Bookmarks, like the ones shown in this YouTube video from Crafter Rani. But she also put out some plain cardstock for the kids to decorate with markers and stamps, and different types of pinking shears to cut the edges. One patron even made a bookmark just for us!

What is your favorite bookmark, or bookmark project? Please share it in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Time for Bed: A Storytime About Sleep

Today (January 3) is the Festival of Sleep, which I gather was created to encourage people to relax and recover after the hectic festivities of the holidays. Here in the Bay Area, we’re in a temporary lull between huge rain storms, and I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to brave our Outdoor Musical Storytime, but we did end up with a nice small group.

Here’s what we did:


Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by LeUyem Pham

I hadn’t planned on reading this one, because the illustrations are a bit too small for my usual group, but with the smaller turnout, it worked perfectly. I love all of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s books, and this is one of my favorites. A little girl patiently puts her mother to bed, guiding her through the nightly routine of toothbrushing, bath, picking out an outfit for the next day, and reading together. When she finally gets Mommy tucked in for the night, it’s time to put Daddy to bed too. Claire read the part of the mother, and I read the little girl. The kids and grown-ups all loved the role reversal.

Tuck Me In by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt

Very simple but adorable book about baby animals asking to be “tucked in” by having the half page “blanket” flipped over to cover them. Our group was small enough that each child could take a turn tucking in an animal.

What! Cried Granny by Kate Lum; illustrated by Adrian Johnson

This is one of my favorite read-alouds, about a boy going to his first sleep-over at his grandmother’s house. But when Granny tells him it’s time to get into bed, he complains that he doesn’t have a bed at her house. “What!” she cries, before chopping down a tree and building him a bed. But then he complains he doesn’t have a pillow. The kids love chiming in on the repeated “What’s?!” and the punchline at the end always gets a laugh.


Brush Your Teeth by Raffi

I did this one as a follow-up to Bedtime for Mommy. Here’s a link to the Raffi video:

When you wake up in the morning,
It’s a quarter to one,
And you want to have a little fun,
You brush your teeth,
You brush your teeth,

When you wake up in the morning,
It’s a quarter to two,
And you just can’t think of something to do,
You brush your teeth…

When you wake up in the morning,
It’s a quarter to three,
And your mind starts humming,

When you wake up in the morning,
It’s a quarter to four,
And you think you hear a knock on the door,
You get a little scared,
And then you brush your teeth…

When you wake up in the morning,
It’s a quarter to five,
And you just can’t wait to come alive!…

Hop, Little Bunnies

I learned this one from a local daycare provider, who used it every day with her kids. The motions are pretty self-explanatory, but you can either have the kids physically pretend to sleep and then hop around, or you can have them make bunny ears with their fingers. There are different versions of the song, but the tune I used is the same as in this video by Little Baby Bums Nursery Rhymes for Babies:

See the little bunnies sleeping

‘Till it’s nearly noon.

Shall we wake them with a merry tune?

They’re so still.

Are they ill?

NO! Wake up little bunnies!

Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!

Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!

Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!

Hop little bunnies, hop and stop!

Five in the Bed

There were five in the bed (hold up five fingers)
And the little one said,
“I’m crowded! Roll over!” (roll hands around each other)
So they all rolled over,
And one fell out,
There were four in the bed
And the little one said…
(Repeat, counting down until one.)…

There was one in the bed,
And that little one said,
“I’ve got the whole bed to myself!
I’ve got the whole bed to myself!
I’ve got the whole bed to myself!
I’ve got the whole bed to myself!”

Grandma’s Feather Bed by John Denver

I loved this song when I was little, so it was fun to do it for our instrument play-along. Here’s a video of John Denver singing it:

[C] When I was a [F] little bitty boy
[C] Just up off the [G] floor,
We [C] used to go down to [F] Grandma’s house
[C] Every month [G] end or [C] so.
We’d have [C] chicken pie, [F] country ham,
[C] And homemade butter [G] on the bread.
But the [C] best darn thing about [F] Grandma’s house
Was the [G] great big feather [C] bed

It was [C] nine feet high, [F] six feet wide,
[C] Soft as a downy chick.
It was made from the feathers of [F] four-eleven geese,
[C] Took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick.
It’d [C] hold eight kids, [F] four hound dogs,
And the [C] piggy we stole from the shed.
Didn’t get much sleep, but we [F] had a lot of fun
On [G] Grandma’s feather [C] bed!

After supper we’d sit around the fire,
The old folks’d spit and chew.
Pa would talk about the farm in the war,
And granny’d sing a ballad or two.
I’d sit and listen and watch the fire,
Till the cobwebs filled my head.
Next thing I’d know I’d wake up in the morn’
In the middle of the old feather bed.


Well, I love my ma, I love my pa,
I love granny and granpa too.
Been fishing with my uncle, wrestled with my cousin,
And I even kissed Aunt Lou, eww!
But if I ever had to make a choice,
I guess it oughta be said,
That I’d trade ’em all plus the gal down the road,
For Grandma’s feather bed!


Stay & Play: Bedtime Paper Dolls

I based this cute craft on one I found on Fun With Friends at Storytime. Before the storytime, I folded pieces of colored printer paper in half, and cut the top half off of the left side of each sheet. Then I printed out some blank paper dolls (like these from Printablee.com).

For the storytime, I put out the blank paper dolls, some markers and crayons, and glue sticks. The kids enjoyed decorating their paper dolls, then gluing them onto the right side of the paper, and “tucking them in” by folding the left side of the paper on top.

Happy Festival of Sleep! If you have any favorite books or songs about Sleep or Bedtime, please share them in the comments below.

‘Tis the Season: A Holiday Storytime

We’ve often cancelled storytime the last two weeks of December, but this year, we decided to keep it going. I’m always a little conflicted about how to approach the holidays. My storytime audiences include families from all different backgrounds, and while I want to acknowledge Christmas and Hanukkah for those who celebrate, I also want to be mindful of those who don’t, so those kids don’t end up feeling excluded. Also, it’s not always easy to find good holiday books (for any major holiday) that work well for very young kids. In the end, I decided to focus on the shared experiences of the holidays (decorations, food, gifts, and families), while sharing a Hanukkah song and a Christmas story.

Here’s what we did:


The Joyful Book by Todd Parr

I was so happy to discover this book, which does a wonderful job of describing all of the things people enjoying doing during the holidays, no matter which holiday they celebrate: storytelling, being with family, etc. Every page describes something that is “joyful,” like “Lighting candles is joyful,” “Playing outside is joyful,” etc. It includes imagery from Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, as well as the Lunar New Year, and we talked a little bit about those traditions as we read. I told the kids to cheer and clap whenever I said the word “Joyful,” and they got really into it. Plus, I always love Todd Parr’s bright, colorful, whimsical illustrations.

Llama Llama, Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

Part of the adorable, rhyming Llama Llama series, this book captures the frustration of waiting for the holidays to come, while everyone is busy shopping, baking, and decorating. It describes Christmas and Hanukkah traditions like gingerbread cookies, latkes, dreidels, and Christmas lights. Plus, it’s a sweet reminder for families to slow down and enjoy being together. The ending got lots of “Awwww’s.”

Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood

In this sequel to the Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, & the Big Hungry Bear, the little mouse is happily preparing for Christmas, when the narrator reminds him about the Big Hungry Bear, who loves Christmas presents more than anything, but never gets any. The mouse goes from being scared of the bear taking his presents, to feeling sorry for the bear, and trekking through the snow to leave a present outside the bear’s cave. Much to his surprise, the bear has left a present for him too. This book got lots of “Awww’s” at the end too.


If You’re Joyful and You Know It

We did this version of If You’re Happy and You Know It as a follow-up to The Joyful Book:

[C] If you’re joyful and you know it, clap your [G7] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re joyful and you know it, clap your [C] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re [F] joyful and you know it, and you [C] really want to show it,

If you’re [G7] joyful and you know it, clap your [C] hands! (clap, clap)

If you’re joyful and you know it, do a dance…

If you’re joyful and you know it, spin around…

If you’re joyful and you know it, shout “Hooray!”…

I Have a Little Dreidel

For my preschool visits this month, I’ve been reading (or singing) the book I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum, which does a wonderful job of describing the celebration of Hanukkah using the classic Dreidel song. But someone asked to check out my copy of the book after Toddler Storytime yesterday, so I reluctantly let it go. Instead, I held up a paper dreidel and explained a little about how the game is played. Then we sang the song, and spun around like dreidels during the Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel part. We also fell down on the word “drop,” which the kids liked a lot. Here’s a Kiboomers video of the song, in case you don’t know the tune.

I have a little dreidel,

I made it out of clay.

And when it’s dry and ready,

Then dreidel I shall play.

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, (spin around)

I made it out of clay,

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,

With dreidel I shall play!

It has a lovely body,

With leg so short and thin.

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,

It DROPS and then I win! (drop to the ground)

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, (spin around)

With leg so short and thin,

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,

It DROPS and then I win! (drop to the ground)

In the Holidays

A holiday version of The Wheels on the Bus:

The lights on the house go blink, blink, blink, (open and close your hands)

Blink, blink, blink,

Blink, blink, blink,

The lights on the house, go blink, blink, blink,

In the holidays!

The candles in the house go flicker, flicker, flicker… (wiggle your fingers)

The presents in the house go rattle, rattle, rattle… (shake an imaginary present)…

The children in the house say, “Yay! Yay! Yay!”…

Jingle Bells by James Lord Pierpont

We sang this as our instrument play-along at the end:

[C] Dashing through the snow,
In a one-horse open [F] sleigh,
[Dm] O’er the fields we [G7] go,
Laughing all the [C] way.
[C] Bells on bobtails ring,
Making spirits[F] bright,
What [Dm] fun it is to [G] ride and sing
A [G7] sleighing song [C] tonight!

Oh! [C] Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle [F] all the [C] way.
[F] Oh! What fun it [C] is to ride
In a [D7] one-horse open [G7] sleigh, hey!
[C] Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle [F] all the [C] way.
Oh! [F] What fun it [C] is to ride
In a [G7] one-horse open [C] sleigh!

Stay & Play: Jingle Bell Bracelets

I had originally planned to do a paper box craft, where the kids could decorate a paper box template and then assemble the box with gluesticks. I was going to give them each a jingle bell to put inside the box. But I was afraid that the box assembly might be too complicated, so I decided to just have them make jingle bell bracelets instead.

I put out pipe cleaners, jingle bells, and also some red string with scissors, so they had a choice of what to string their bells on. I was worried that this might not give them much of an opportunity to be creative, but they all made different things: necklaces, bracelets, and even crowns. They were all different, and they were soon making jingle bell jewelry for other family members, and taking materials home to make more.

Happy Holidays! If you have favorite holiday books, please share them in the comments below.

Monkeying Around: A Storytime About Monkeys

Among the little known celebrations I’ve discovered while trying to come up with themes for storytime is World Monkey Day, a celebration of all things monkey on December 14. So today we did stories and songs about monkeys. Here’s what we did:


Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

This is a longer story than I typically read for my toddler-heavy storytime crowd, but it worked because of all of the motions. It’s a classic story about a peddler, who takes a nap under a tree, and wakes to find that all of his caps have been stolen by monkeys. At this point I asked the kids if they were ready to be monkeys, and had them act out all of the monkey motions: shaking one fist, shaking both hands, stamping one foot, etc., all while saying “tsz tsz tsz!” They loved it! Sometimes I’ve done this one with play scarves, and had the kids pretend the scarves were caps.

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett and Kevin Cornell

Another fun, interactive book, with large colorful illustrations. In this one, the narrator is ready to count the monkeys, but they keep getting scared away by different animals: one king cobra, two mongooses, etc. The kids are asked to help out by yelling, “scram!”, moving their hands in a zig-zag, and other silly motions. The asides (like wondering about the plural of mongoose) are hilarious. Always a hit!

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett

This simple rhyming book was one of my daughter’s absolute favorites as a toddler. The repeated chant goes “Monkey and me, Monkey and me, Monkey and me, we went to see, we went to see some…” and then reveals a different animal (penguins, kangaroos, bats, elephants, etc.). The kids loved shouting out the different animals each time.


Monkey See and Monkey Do

I don’t remember where I learned this song, but it’s one I’ve been doing for years.

When you clap, clap, clap your hands,

The monkey clap, clap, claps his hands,

Monkey see, and monkey do,

The monkey does the same as you!

Repeat with other motions: when you jump up and down; make a funny face; turn yourself around; and sit back on the ground.

No More Monkeys by Asheba

Claire held up the Monkey Mitt, while I sang this joyful adaptation of the traditional Five Little Monkeys rhyme by Caribbean singer-songwriter Asheba.

Here’s a video of Asheba’s version:

[C] Five monkeys were playing on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his [G7] head.
Mama called the doctor, and [F] the doctor said,
[C] “No more monkeys [G7] jumping on the [C] bed!”

[C] “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!
No more monkeys [G7] jumping on the bed!
[C] No more monkeys [F] jumping on the bed!”
[C] That is what the [G7] doctor [C] said.

Four monkeys were jumping on the bed…

(Repeat, counting down to one…)

One monkey was playing on the bed,
She fell off and bumped her head.
Mama called the children, and the children said,
“YES! More monkeys jumping on the bed!”

“Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!
Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!
Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!”
That is what the children said.

Going to the Zoo by Tom Paxton

We did this song as our instrument play-along at the end. Here’s the tune:

Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow (C)
Zoo tomorrow, Zoo tomorrow. (G7)
Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, (C)
And we can stay all day. (C  G7)

We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo!  (F)
How about you, you, you? (C)
You can come too, too, too! (G7)
We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo! (C G7 C)

See the elephants with the long trunk swinging,
Great big ears and a long trunk swinging.
Snuffing up peanuts with the long trunk swinging,
And we can stay all day!


See all the monkeys, they’re scritch, scritch, scratchin’.
Jumping all around and scritch, scritch, scratchin’.
Hanging by the long tails scritch, scritch, scratchin’,
And we can stay all day!


Well, we stayed all day, and I’m getting sleepy,
Sitting in the car getting sleep, sleep, sleepy.
Home already and I’m sleep, sleep, sleepy,
‘Cause we have stayed all day!

We’ve been to the zoo, zoo, zoo!
So have you, you, you!
You came too, too, too!
We’ve been to the zoo, zoo, zoo!

But Mommy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow
Zoo tomorrow, Zoo tomorrow.
Mommy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow,
And we can stay all day!


Stay & Play: Jungle Collage

This was a really simple activity, but the kids got really into it. I printed and cut out pictures of two different types of monkeys: an emperor tamarin and a macaque. For the Stay & Play, I put out green card stock, glue sticks, the monkey pictures, markers, and some leaves and small plants (mostly oxalis) from my yard.

The kids enjoyed gluing the monkey pictures to the paper, and then sticking the plants around and on top of them to make a kind of jungle scene, and decorating with markers. As a funny aside, I mentioned that the emperor tamarin is one of my very favorite animals, and I used to love watching them at the San Francisco Zoo. And then one of the Moms said that she used to work with the emperor tamarins there, before they got rid of that exhibit a few years ago. I was so excited to talk to her about them, especially since she said they were a lot of fun to work with.

What are your favorite books and songs about monkeys? Please share them in the comments below.

By the Book: What Are Libraries For?

On Wednesday afternoon, I arrived at work to see a rare sight: actual high school students hanging out in the library. Lately, we’ve been getting a regular group of middle school boys, who like to play Roblox games on our laptops, but sometimes settle in for a game of Monopoly from our board game collection.  They were at the library too that day, along with several elementary school kids, who had come to do a painting project we were hosting in our Community Room. There were families with toddlers and preschoolers browsing for books in the picture book area, and our regular older adults using the Internet on our computers. There were even several adults in their twenties or thirties who came in to check out books and use the copier.

After the pandemic had left our building mostly empty for several months after we reopened, I was thrilled to see the whole place full of people of all different ages, all coming to the library for different reasons. So, when a man came up to the desk to complain about the library becoming “a hangout for kids,” it was like being doused with a bucket of ice water.

Not that this complaint was anything new. My coworkers and I have often been confronted by people who have a very specific idea of what libraries should be: silent mausoleums of books overseen by somber, shushing librarians.

I get it. For someone who looks to the library as a quiet place to study and read, it can be upsetting to be distracted by middle schoolers joking around at a nearby table. But the reality is that very few of the people we serve have the time to sit and read during the day. And some of the people who hold this unchanged vision of libraries are the ones who don’t value them at all, like the man who posted on our local NextDoor years ago, arguing that our town didn’t need a new library because “you can buy all of your books on Amazon.”

Adapt or Die

Although the two library branches I work in are older one-room buildings designed largely around shelving for books, most of the newer libraries in our system have been designed to provide separate spaces for different needs: computer rooms, study rooms, teen areas, maker spaces, children’s rooms, etc. But it can be hard to convince people why these changes are necessary.

In spite of the fixed view of libraries and librarians that still appear in TV shows and movies, libraries have always had to adapt to the times. In all of my years working in different libraries, I’ve never once been asked for a scroll or a cuneiform tablet. I can’t help but wonder if there was an uproar when the first newfangled paper books appeared on library shelves.

Over the past few decades, libraries have had to cope with an astounding number of changes in media, going from vinyl records to cassette tapes to CDs, and from VHS tapes to DVDs, and all of it giving way to digital music, videos, and books, most of which can now be accessed from anywhere on a computer or smartphone with your library card. This digital revolution sometimes raises the question of why we need the actual library buildings at all, but it has come at the cost of leaving a lot of people behind.

Bridging the Digital Divide

Even though my main focus has always been on youth services, a lot of my time at work is spent helping people who don’t have the training or resources to deal with a world that is moving more and more online by the day. Recently, one of my regular patrons, a woman in her eighties, asked for my help setting up a Venmo account. The craft fair that she has always participated in as a vendor was suddenly telling everyone they needed to offer mobile payment options. When she told the organizer that she wasn’t familiar with those, she was told, “Maybe you should stay home.”

To people who use a smartphone everyday, learning to use Venmo may seem easy, but for this patron, it was a huge ordeal. In order to be able to access the money she hoped to get from the sale, she had to connect her bank account to her new Venmo account. But she had never used online banking, so she didn’t have a login to easily make the connection. I helped her set up her bank login, but it still wouldn’t connect to Venmo, because the bank used multifactor authentication (that annoying business with the one-time codes sent to your phone). Instead she had to enter her account info into Venmo and then wait a day or two to watch for two small deposits, (so actually the online banking login came in handy after all). After we finally got through all of that, I helped her learn to send and receive payments, and print out her QR code for people to scan at the sale. She was persistent and eager to learn, but the whole process was just another reminder of how wide the digital divide has become, and how each new innovation assumes that everyone has already adapted to the ones that came before.

Providing computer help and training takes a lot of time and patience, but I consider it one of the most important parts of my job, and so do my coworkers. To me it’s no different from helping someone find a book or article on a particular topic. They need information to help them with a problem, and we have the training and resources to help them. And unless you have tech-savvy friends or family, there are very few options for people who are faced with a task that requires a daunting online process they’ve never dealt with before.

Aside from tech help, our libraries also provide free access to computers, printers, copiers, scanners and the Internet, all of which are in constant use throughout the day. We also offer 3D Printing, which has become hugely popular. Some of our newer libraries have makerspaces with laser cutters, recording equipment, and sewing machines. Again, some people would argue that this is getting away from their idyllic book-focused vision of the library, but these spaces are offering free access to the media tools of the day, which has always been the main purpose of libraries.

Books Are Still Important

With all of this focus on new technologies, it may sound like I’m saying that books no longer matter, which is absolutely not the case. I became a librarian because I loved helping people find books, and encouraging kids to love reading is still my favorite part of the job. It’s also tremendously important. Numerous studies have shown that kids who are read to regularly in early childhood are more likely to develop language and cognitive skills that will help them be successful in school later on. But books, especially picture books, are expensive. So providing free access to books for kids of all ages and reading levels is still, and hopefully will always be, an essential part of the library.

And, in spite of all the doom and gloom about Americans not reading books, I still see a lot of adults enthusiastically checking out books every day. We also offer book clubs, which have always been popular, and a great way to bring people with different viewpoints together for a friendly discussion (something that’s increasingly rare in our polarized society).

Community Spaces

The other need that libraries serve is providing a space that’s free and welcoming to everyone, and helps build a sense of belonging to a community. Libraries have always offered events and programs to bring people together, whether it’s for a musical performance, a painting workshop, or an author talk, and spaces for local groups to get together. After the pandemic, which left many people even more isolated than before, this has become even more essential.

Balancing the Needs of our Communities

One of the biggest challenges libraries face is providing space and resources for everyone, no matter what their personal beliefs, age, or background. There have always been people who have tried to dictate what types of books their libraries should or should not offer, something that has recently come to a head in a lot of communities. We also run into people, like the man I mentioned above, who feel that certain types of people, like kids, or people experiencing homelessness, should not be allowed in the library. Some of the hardest situations are when library patrons get into disputes with each other (we once had an actual fist fight in the nonfiction section). With all of the different types of people and needs that we serve, it’s also hard to know what to prioritize in terms of staff time and resources.

Being a shared space for everyone can make working in the library unpredictable in ways that can be stressful and contentious. But it’s that same unpredictability that also makes the job so refreshing and rewarding. It’s a constantly shifting landscape of people and services, and that’s one of the reasons that I love it.

As for the grumpy man complaining about the kids, I told him that usually the library is very quiet before 3pm and after 5pm, and that seemed to appease him. Another unspoken function of the library: helping people learn to share.

Rockin’ Robin: A Storytime About Birds

It was a wet and chilly day today, and I wasn’t sure anyone would come to Outdoor Musical Storytime, but a few brave families ventured out (some of them said the kids were getting stir crazy indoors). I had just learned about the Christmas Bird Count, which the Audubon Society runs from December 14 to January 5, so I did a storytime about birds.

Most of my storytime participants are too young to take part in the Bird Count itself, but I found out that the Golden Gate Audubon Society allows people to register as Feeder Watchers (by registering for one of their Bird Count events, and putting Feeder Watcher in the comments field). I handed out information about how to participate, along with a list of the Most Common Birds of San Francisco from iNaturalist. We also demonstrated the American Sign Language sign for Bird, and how to say “Bird” in other languages (grown-ups in my group told us how to say it in Spanish, French, Russian, and Cantonese). One of my favorite things about the Bay Area is the diversity of languages and cultures, and I love to give people a chance to share words in their native language whenever I can.

Here are the books and songs that we did:


The Baby BeeBee Bird by Debbie Redfield Massie; illustrated by Stephen Kellogg

This is one of my all-time favorite books, about a little bird who arrives at the zoo, and keeps all of the other animals awake all night with her singing. I read the part of the little bird, and Claire read the narration and the other animals. The kids loved joining in on the animal noises and the “BeeBee Bobbi’s.” The large illustrations make it perfect for storytime too.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell; illustrated by Patrick Benson

Another of my all-time favorites, this one about three baby owls who wake up to find that their mother is gone. They grow increasingly worried, but when they close their eyes and wish for their mother to come back, she comes swooping back. Such a sweet relatable story with adorable owl pictures. The kids loved the repeated “I want my Mommy!” line.

Birds by Kevin Henkes; illustrated by Laura Dronzek

This book provided a great way to talk about the different types of birds: owls, flamingos, black birds, robins, etc., and I love the whimsical ideas and illustrations. The kids especially liked the description of how when a flock of birds flies out of a tree all of a sudden, it’s like the tree yelled, “Surprise!”

Songs & Rhymes:

Baby Bumblebee

We did this as a follow-up to The Baby BeeBee Bird (mostly because they sound so similar). I asked the kids what animals they would like to bring home, and then tried to come up with rhymes. We had snake, turtle, kitty, duck, and dinosaur. Here’s a video of the Raffi version, which is the one I usually use. (Full disclosure: I once had a woman complain that she didn’t like that all of the animals in the song bit or scratched, but I was puzzled because I think it’s meant to be a cautionary tale about why you shouldn’t bring home wild animals!).

I’m [C] bringing home a [F] baby [C]bumblebee.
[G7] Won’t my mommy be so proud of me?
‘Cause I’m [C] bringing home a [F] baby [C] bumblebee.
[G7] Ouch! It stung me!

I’m a Wide-Eyed Owl

I actually have a little tune for this one that I learned from a friend, but I don’t have a recording of it. You can make up your own, or just chant it as a rhyme:

I’m a wide-eyed owl (make circles with your fingers to look like eyes)

With a pointed nose (make a V with your index fingers and hold it up to your nose),

I have pointed ears (hold your index fingers up on either side of your head),

And claws for toes (wiggle your fingers like claws).

I live in a tree,

And I’m looking at you (point your finger).

When I flap my wings (flap arms),

I say, “Whoooo! Whooo!”

Two Little Black Birds

We handed out play scarves before we sang this one, and had the kids pretend the scarves were birds. We changed the color of the bird each time:

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, (Hold up both thumbs)
One named Jack, and the other named Jill.
Fly away, Jack! (Put one thumb behind your back)
Fly away, Jill! (Put the other thumb behind your back)
Come back, Jack! (Bring the first thumb out in front).
Come back, Jill! (Bring the second thumb out in the front).

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud,
One was quiet, and the other was loud (I make my voice as loud and obnoxious as possible each time I sing the word “Loud!”)
Fly away, Quiet!
Fly away, Loud!
Come back, Quiet!
Come back, Loud!

Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow.
One flew high!
And the other flew low!…

Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate.
One was early,
And the other was…late!…  (I like to drag the pauses out as long as possible before saying “Late!” until the kids are all yelling it out.)

Little Bird

We did this one with the play scarves as well, and “flew” them around like birds.

Little Bird, Little Bird,
Fly through my window.
Little Bird, Little Bird,
Fly through my window.
Little Bird, Little Bird,
Fly through my window.
G7                       C
Find molasses candy.

Fly through my window, my sugar lump!
C                            G7            C
Fly through my window, my sugar lump!
G7                        C
Find molasses candy!

Black Bird, Black Bird, Fly through my window…

Rockin’ Robin by Jimmie Thomas

We did this as our instrument play-along. The original version by Bobby Day has a LOT of verses, but I just did the ones below.

Here’s a link to the original song:

Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
[G] Tweet, tweet, tweet tweet.

[G7] He rocks in the [G] treetops all day long,
[G7] Hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and [G] a-singin’ his song.
[G7] All the little birds on [G] J-Bird Street,
Love to hear the robin go [G7] tweet, tweet, tweet.

Rockin’ [C] robin (tweet, tweet, tweet);
Rockin’ [G] robin (tweet, tweedle-dee);
[D] Blow rockin’ robin, cause we’re [C] really gonna [G] rock tonight. (Tweet, tweedle-dee!)

[G7] Every little swallow, [G] every chickadee,
[G7] Every little bird in the [G] tall oak tree,
The [G7] wise old owl, the [G] big black crow,
[G] Flappin’ their wings [G7] singin’ go bird, go.

Rockin’ [C] robin (tweet, tweet, tweet).
Rockin’ [G] robin (tweet, tweedle-dee);
[D] Blow rockin’ robin, cause we’re [C] really gonna [G] rock tonight. (Tweet, tweedle-dee!)

Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
[G] Tweet, tweet, tweet tweet.

Stay & Play: Feather Painted Owls

I found this adorable craft on The Pinterested Parent. I precut circles out of yellow and black paper for the eyes, and little triangles for the nose. For the Stay & Play today, I put out white cardstock, colored feathers, paper plates with a squirt of three different colors of tempura paint, the precut paper shapes, and gluesticks.

To be honest, I think the feather painting itself would have been enough of a craft, and made some really cool designs. But the owls turned out to be really cute too!

What are your favorite books or songs about birds? Please share them in the comments below.

Rolling in Dough: A Storytime About Cookies

To kick off the holiday season, I thought we’d do a storytime about cookies, which was a lot of fun.

I started by asking the kids what their favorite kinds of cookies were. They mentioned chocolate, peanut butter, and chocolate chip.

I also taught the kids the ASL sign for Cookie, so that they could do it along with me throughout the storytime:

Here are the books and songs that we did:


The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson; illustrated by Marcellus Hall

I had never done this book before, but it was absolutely perfect. The farmer brings each animal their favorite food: the horse gets hay, the chickens feed, the geese corn, etc. But the cow loves cookies! Why? Because every day she gives the farmer milk and they enjoy a nice treat together. The kids loved naming the animals, making the sound for each, and chiming in on the repeated line, “The cow loves cookies!” The rhyming text is charming, and the illustrations are large and colorful.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

Several of the kids had read this one already, and were very excited to see it again. Claire read the part of the Duckling, and I read the Pigeon. When the Duckling asks for and is quickly given a cookie (with nuts!), the Pigeon is outraged. No one ever gives him anything he asks for. But then the Duckling gives the cookie to him. Featuring lots of callbacks to the other Pigeon books, and a funny twist at the end.

Who Ate All the Cookie Dough? by Karen Beaumont and Eugene Yelchin

A twist on the classic “Who Took the Cookie?” rhyme, this book features a mother Kangaroo asking all of the other animals who ate all of the cookie dough. The answer is hiding in her pouch! Claire read the part of the mother Kangaroo, and I read all of the other animals.


Old MacDonald Had a Farm

We sang this to go along with The Cow Loves Cookies. Claire held up different animal puppets for each verse: a chicken, a dog, a horse, and a cow. Always a hit:

C] Old MacDonald [F] had a [C] farm,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

And on that farm he [F] had a [C] pig,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

With an oink-oink here, and an oink-oink there,

Here an oink, there an oink,

Everywhere an oink-oink.

[C] Old MacDonald [F] had a [C] farm,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

Six Little Ducks

We sang this as a follow-up to The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?

[C] Six little ducks that I [G7] once knew,
[C] Fat ones, skinny ones, fair ones too.
[G7] But the one little duck with the feather on his back.
[C] He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

[G7] “Quack! Quack! Quack! [C] Quack! Quack! Quack!”                                             
[G7] He led the others with his [C]“Quack! Quack! Quack!”

Down to the river they would go,
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble, to and fro.
But the one little duck with the feather on his back,
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”


Home from the river they would come,
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble, ho hum hum.
But the one little duck with the feather on his back,
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”


If All the Raindrops

I love to throw this song in whenever we read a book about food. For the second and third times we sang it, I asked the kids to suggest food they would like to fall from the sky. The mentioned chocolate and cookies, and blueberries and cake.

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a rain it would [G7] be.

[C] I’d stand out- [G7] side with my [C] mouth open [G7] wide,

[C] “Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah, Ah, Ah, [C] Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah!”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a [G7] rain it would [C] be!

If all the raindrops were blueberries and cake, etc…

C Is For Cookie by Joe Raposo

We had to do this tribute to my favorite Sesame Street monster as our instrument play-along. I just sang the chorus through four times. On the last time, I had the kids sing it in their best Cookie Monster voice. I also help up a paper with the word “Cookie” written in large letters as a visual.

[C] C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me.

[F] C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me.

[G] C is for Cookie, that’s [F] good enough for me,

[G] Oh, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie, starts with [C] C.

Stay & Play: Paper Gingerbread People

The kids always love decorating pictures with googly eyes, and other items, and this easy craft was no exception. I printed out this template from 4freeprintable.com and gave the kids markers, glue sticks, googly eyes, buttons, and pom-poms. All of their creations were unique and colorful!

What are your favorite books or songs about cookies? Or your favorite cookie recipes? Please share them in the comments below.

Fish Out of Water: a Song for the Little Mermaid

When I was a kid, I had a mild obsession with Hans Christian Andersen. I’m not sure why: most of his stories were sad and bleak, like The Little Matchgirl, and some were downright weird and disturbing, like The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf. But the one that fascinated and troubled me the most was The Little Mermaid.

I don’t know how many times I read the story, imagining different outcomes. It frustrated me that the mermaid couldn’t figure out some way to communicate who she was to the prince. Sign language? Charades? The ending was equally frustrating: the mermaid’s sisters buy her a chance to return to the sea if she kills the prince with a dagger. Unable to bring herself to stab the prince, she dives into the sea, and turns into seafoam. Because of her sacrifice though, she is turned into a daughter of the air. Better than seafoam, I suppose, but hardly a dream come true.

Of course, when the Disney movie came out, it completely ignored the whole murder/suicide-by-seafoam business, and put the sacrifice mostly in the hands of the mermaid’s father. And while I loved the movie (especially the music!), I realized that Andersen’s story did do a better job of conveying the moral that you shouldn’t try to change yourself to fit into someone else’s world.

Regardless of the ending though, I think I was drawn to the story because of the way it captures a longing to connect with someone who seems out of reach, which as an awkward teenager, I related to deeply. This song is for that awkward teenager.


I’m a fish out of water whenever you’re near.
Tongue-tied and awkward when you appear.
I wish I could show you the things I can do.
But I’m a fish out of water with you.

I was a mermaid, a queen of the sea,
Agile and graceful, contented and free.
But I’ve been breathless and floundering, since we met,
I never intended to get caught in your net.
I may be a princess in the wild ocean blue.
But I’m a fish out of water with you.


We may be as different as people can be,
You are steady and grounded, while I’m all at sea.
I just wish I could show you who I really am,
But whenever I’m with you I close up like a clam.
And I feel like I’ve landed in a world that’s brand new.
I’m just a fish out of water with you.

I lure sailors to me with my songs by choice,
But when I’m with you I lose my voice.
I may have saved you from drowning, but you never knew.
I’m just a fish out of water with you.

I wish I could show you my world in the sea,
But I know in my heart that we’re not meant to be.
For it’s only in movies that our love can prevail,
My original story’s a morality tale.
In life happy endings are random and few,
And I’m a fish out of water with you


What stories and books were you most drawn to when you were younger? Please share them in the comments below.

Thank You Very Much! A Thanksgiving Storytime

It was a beautiful day at the park today for our Outdoor Musical Storytime. After our opening song (Put Your Finger in the Air), I asked the families what they were thankful for. They said sunshine, ice cream, and librarians (Awww!).

Here’s what we did for the storytime:


Firefighter’s Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts; illustrated by Terry Widener

To be honest, I don’t like a lot of Thanksgiving picture books,because they often only focus on turkeys who are in danger of being eaten. This book is a rare exception, and I never get tired of reading it. It’s Thanksgiving Day at Fire Station 1, and firefighter Lou volunteers to cook the Thanksgiving meal. But the cooking keeps getting interrupted by calls to put out fires, and Lou gets injured in a big fire that afternoon. The firefighters are relieved to hear that he’ll be okay, but they still have no Thanksgiving dinner, and the calls keep coming. But while they are out fighting yet another fire, people from the town bring them a meal and a note to say thank you. Told in simple, rhymed verse, this is one of the most poignant Thanksgiving books I’ve ever read. The kids loved making bell sounds with me every time I said, “A call comes in…”

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

Another rhyming book, this time about Bear, who would love to share a special meal with his friends, but discovers that his cupboards are bare. He is surprised when all of his animal friends show up bringing special dishes of their own to share, but is sad that he has nothing to contribute to the feast. His friends tell him that he can share stories instead, and they all say thanks to each other. I love the large, warm illustrations in the Bear books, and the story does a nice job of illustrating the idea of sharing a meal with friends and loved ones. I taught the kids the sign for Thanks, and we all used it on the repeated line, “And the Bear said, “Thanks!”

You Are My Happy by Hoda Kotb; illustrated by Suzie Mason

Sweet story about a baby bear and his mother sharing simple things throughout the day that made them happy. I like this book because thinking about things that make you happy is probably easier for younger kids to understand than the concept of feeling “Thankful.” Some of the parents were intrigued to learn that the book was written by Today Show co-host Hoda Kotb, and the book got lots of “Awww’s” at the end when the mother bear says, “You are my happy!” The illustrations are lovely too.


Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck!

We sang this one as a follow-up to Firefighter’s Thanksgiving. I had the kids pretend to put on their fire fighter gear, and then we slid down the pole before climbing into the truck. We sang the whole thing through three times, getting faster each time (the kids loved it!). There are lots of different versions, but these are the words I use. Here’s a video from Kiboomers with the tune.

Hurry, Hurry, Drive the fire truck!
Hurry, Hurry, Drive the fire truck!
Hurry, Hurry, Drive the fire truck!
Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding!

Hurry, Hurry, Spray the water…

Hurry, Hurry, Climb the ladder…

Hurry, Hurry, Save the kitty cat…

Hurry, Hurry, Back to the station…

If You’re Thankful and You Know It

To the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It:

[C] If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your [G7] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your [C] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re [F] thankful and you know it, and you [C] really want to show it,

If you’re [G7] thankful and you know it, clap your [C] hands! (clap, clap)

If you’re thankful and you know it, give a hug… (hug yourself, or a caregiver)…

If you’re thankful and you know it, say “Thank you!” Thank you!

The Turkey Jerky

To the tune of The Hokey Pokey. Although I don’t like focusing on the eating turkeys part of Thanksgiving, I do love doing this song at storytime!

You put your right wing in,

You put your right wing out,

You put your right wing in,

And you shake it all about.

You do the turkey jerky and you turn yourself around.

That’s what it’s all about! Gobble! Gobble!

Repeat with your left wing, your right drumstick (right foot), left drumstick, waddle (your chin), and tail feathers!

I Am Thankful

I wrote this one a while ago. Feel free to use it or adapt it however you like. We did it as our instrument play-along at the end:

[C] I am thankful for
The [F] colors that I see,
For [C] friends who play with me,
And for my [G7] loving family.

[C] I am thankful for [F] rainbows in the sky,
For the [C] taste of pumpkin pie,
And for a [G7] warm hug when I cry.

I’m thankful [F] for the sky above
I’m thankful [C] for the ones I love,
[D] My cozy bed at night,
And for [G] the summer sun so bright.
[C] I am thankful for the [F] monkeys at the zoo
But [C] most of all I’m [G7] thankful for [C] YOU!

[C] I am thankful for [F] bubbles in the air,
For a [C] cool breeze in my hair,
And for my [G7] snuggly teddy bear.
[C] I am thankful for [F] yummy things to eat,
For [C] ice cream cones so sweet,
And for a [G7] special birthday treat.

I’m thankful [F] for the sky above
I’m thankful [C] for the ones I love,
[D] My cozy bed at night,
And for [G] the summer sun so bright.
[C] I am thankful for the [F] monkeys at the zoo
But [C] most of all I’m [G7] thankful,

[C] I am so very [F] thankful!
[C] Most of all I’m [G7] thankful for [C] YOU!

Stay & Play: Watercolor Turkeys

I don’t often do watercolor as a Stay & Play Activity because the set-up can be a little involved. But the kids always LOVE it! In fact, the biggest problem is that many of them don’t want to stop painting, and cry when it’s time to stop.

For today, I printed out turkey pictures (I used this one from printablee.com) on card stock, and put them out on the tables along with watercolor sets, small paintbrushes, and cups of water. I told the kids they could either paint the turkey or turn the paper over and paint whatever they liked. Most of the kids opted to paint the turkey, but we did have some nice original paintings as well.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful for all of you, and especially love hearing about your favorite books, songs, and ideas. Please share them in the comments below!