Virtual Thanksgiving Storytime

My coworker Angela and I had a fun Thanksgiving-themed Interactive storytime this morning, with families and two preschools logging in via Zoom. Here’s what we did:

Introduction:

We opened by talking about Thanksgiving, and sharing this funny list of things that kids are thankful for from the Huffington Post, which includes gas, ceiling fans, and “Mommy wiping my poop”: 21 Things Kids Are Thankful For That Will Make You Laugh by Hollis Miller.

OPENING SONG: Do As I’m Doing

As usual, we asked the kids to find a cloth of some kind to wave the first time we sang this song. Then we asked for suggestions to do for the next few times we sang it. We ended up jumping (always a favorite), twirling, saying “I Love You” in sign language, and smiling.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

SONG: The Turkey Jerky

So many Thanksgiving books are about unfortunate turkeys trying to escape ending up on the dinner table. I do enjoy some of them, especially Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes It’s Feathers by Lorna and Lecia Balian, but they are sometimes a bit depressing. This time, we mostly avoided the turkey theme, but I couldn’t resist including this song, because it’s so much fun.

(To the tune of The Hokey Pokey)

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!

Repeat with your left wing, your right drumstick (right foot), left drumstick, waddle (your chin, or a cloth hanging from your chin), and tail feathers!

BOOK: Benjamin Bear Says Thank you by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Steve Smallman

Angela read this cute story about a bear who always forgets to say “thank you.” We showed the kids how to say “Thank you” in American Sign Language. This book is available through both Hoopla and Overdrive.

SONG: If You’re Happy and You Know It

We taught the kids the sign for Happy in American Sign Language. Then we sang the song, but added in different emotions. Angela had several paper plates with faces depicting different emotions on them, so she up a different one for each verse. We sang:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…

If you’re sad and you know it, cry “Boo hoo!”…

If you’re sleepy and you know it, yawn and stretch…

If you’re surprised and you know it, give a big gasp!…

If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad!”…

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

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

Short, sweet story with adorable illustrations, about a baby bear and his mother, sharing the things that make them happy. It made for a great read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers because there were lots of opportunities for them to make the sign for Happy, as well as blowing kisses, giving themselves a hug, and other simple motions.

SONG: I Am Thankful

I couldn’t think of a good song for the theme, so I wrote this one. Feel free to use it however you like, or add in your own verses. We did it as a play-along, encouraging the kids to play whatever instruments or noisemakers they had on hand, or just clap or dance along.

[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!

CLOSING SONG: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

All in all it was a fun program! Some of kids held up favorite toys or books, and we talked about them here and there. One challenge with Zoom is that, while we muted the kids while we were reading or singing (because unfortunately music doesn’t sync well over Zoom), the kids can unmute themselves by hitting the space bar, which of course is the biggest button on the keyboard, so we did have to occasionally mute certain kids (even though they were adorable!). Luckily, we had another coworker, Kelly, managing the tech side of the program. Highly recommended if you have enough staff!

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

Storytime for National Native American Heritage Month

Last week, my coworker Angela and I did an Interactive Musical Storytime featuring books by and about Native Americans in honor of National Native American Heritage Month. While we were planning it, I checked with a friend of mine, Laverne Pilcher-Villalobos, who is a member of the Omaha tribe. As a school librarian, she is also a passionate advocate for accurate representation of Native Americans in children’s books. She has recently compiled this wonderful virtual library of books, curriculum, and web sites for students and teachers: November American Indian Heritage Month Virtual Library

As with all of our programs right now, the storytime was held over Zoom, with families registering in advance. Here is what we did:

OPENING SONG: Do As I’m Doing

This has been our regular opening song for our Interactive Storytimes. It’s great because it allows the kids to suggest actions they would like to do. As usual, we had asked them to find a cloth or blanket to wave around, so for one verse, we waved the cloths. We also did a couple of verses when we jumped up and down (always a favorite!), and one where we danced. Here are the lyrics and chords, and a link to video if you would like the tune:

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

After our opening song, we talked briefly about Native American Heritage Month. I had originally asked Laverne if she had any songs she would recommend, but she was concerned that sharing a song from any one tribe might give the audience the impression that it was representative of all tribes and tribal languages. She emphasized that there are 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States, each with their own distinct language and culture. Instead, she shared this video of representatives from different tribes saying “I Love You” in their language, so I played a short clip for the kids:

I also shared the map of historic tribal lands from Native-Land.ca, which is an excellent visual of the sheer number of different tribes who have lived, and are currently living, in the United States: https://native-land.ca/

SONG: If All the Raindrops Were Lemon drops and Gumdrops

Since our first book was about food, we set the tone with one of my favorite food songs. We had the kids throw their cloths in the air and let them fall like raindrops, and suggest different foods to sing about. We had pizza, and strawberries, and strawberries with ketchup (!). As I mention in this video, it’s one of the easiest songs to play on the ukulele, because you only use two chords (C and G7):

[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!

BOOK: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Maillard; illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

We shared this ebook from Overdrive. Luckily, there were two copies available in library system, allowing both Angela and I to borrow one in case one of us lost our Internet connection (which happened before).

The book is a series of short sensory descriptions of a simple, but delicious food made and enjoyed by a number of different tribes, which also serves as a symbol of their adaptability and resilience. The author, Kevin Maillard, is a registered member of the Seminole Nation. This book was the perfect length for our audience (mostly toddlers and preschoolers), especially because it gives the kids the opportunity to mime the mixing, rolling, and flattening of the dough.

SONG: Five Days Old by Laurie Berkner

This is such a fun and lively song, and was a perfect segway for our next book:

[C] I’m sitting here, I’m [F] one day old, and [C] I’m sitting here I’m [F] two [G7] days [C] old.

[C] I’m sitting here, I’m [F] three days old, and [C] I’m sitting here I’m [F] four [G7] days [C] old.

[F] One [C] day, I’ll [F] be a [C] year, then [F] I’ll be [C] two, then [G7] three, then four.

[C] As for now I’m [F] sitting here, I’m [C] five days old and [F] no [G7] days [C] more!

I’m jumping up, I’m one day old…

I’m clapping my hands, I’m one day old…

I’m kicking my legs, I’m one day old…

Getting really tired, I’m one day old…

I’m jumping up, I’m one day old..

Book: First Laugh, Welcome Baby! By Rose Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood; illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Angela read this sweet book (also available on Overdrive) honoring the First Laugh Celebration practiced by the Navajo (Diné) tribe. The story follows a family and all of their attempts to make their new baby laugh, so that he may be welcomed into the tribe. This is a wonderful book that portrays experiences all kids and families can relate to, while also demonstrating language and cultural elements unique to the Navajo.

SONG: Circle of the Sun by Sally Rogers

This was one of our two “play-along” songs, so we asked the kids to play something from around their house (pot lid and spoon, cereal box, etc.) or simply clap along. We also asked them for suggestions of things that children or babies might do for the first time. We had “Babies laugh their first laugh,” “Children all go dancing” and “Children all go jumping.” Here’s a recording of the original song:

[C] Babies are born in a circle of the sun,

Circle of the sun on their [G7] birthing [C] day.

[C] Babies are born in a circle of the sun,

Circle of the sun on their [G7] birthing [C] day.

CHORUS

[C] Clouds to the North, Clouds to the South,

[F] Wind and [C] rain to the [F] East and the [G7] West,

[C] Babies are born in a circle of the sun,

Circle of the sun on their [G7] birthing [C] day.

ENDING SONG: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

Incidentally, I noticed that Laverne Pilcher-Villalobos uses the term “American Indian” instead of “Native American,” and I asked her which term was preferred. Here’s what she said:

First, not all American Indians think alike and some don’t care how they are addressed or about stereotypes. However, those of us in the education or libraries do care and a lot. If someone mentions their native background to you, the best way to address them is by asking “what tribe or what nation are you from?” There are approximately 600 federally recognized tribes and each one has its own language and culture… To clump everyone together would be equivalent to saying “European” instead of Italian, Irish, Spanish, French, Swedish or what have you. Using Native American or American Indian is appropriate but the better way to use generic terms is using “Indigenous” to America.

Laverne Pilcher-Villalobos

Do you have favorite books by Native American authors? Please share them in the comments.

Click or Treat! Two Virtual Halloween Storytimes

Happy Halloween! Since my last post, my coworker Angela and I have done two more Interactive Musical Storytimes via Zoom. It’s been wonderful to see the kids again, even just on the computer, and we invited them to come in costume, which was adorable.

This time we did sign-ups with a Microsoft Form, instead of using the Zoom registration. This gave us a little more flexibility in the kinds of questions we could include, including a checkbox to acknowledge that the person registering was over 13 years of age, and that any kids under 13 would be accompanied by an adult. This has been our workaround for the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) rules, which would otherwise prevent from doing any interactive programs for kids under 13. (Click here to see the form we used). The downside to this method was that I had to send participants the Zoom link over email, because unlike registering through Zoom, they wouldn’t receive an automated email confirmation when they filled out the form.

Like last time, we had a coworker managing the chat, and muting and unmuting the kids at different times. We mostly muted everyone during the songs and stories, and unmuted them to ask for suggestions at different points. The books we used were all from Open Library. We did have one major technical glitch in the middle of one of the books. Angela’s Internet suddenly went down, and since she was the one who had the book checked out, I had to improvise for a few minutes until she logged back in. After that, the book wouldn’t load for some reason, so she had to quickly return it, and have me check it out instead. Luckily, the crowd was very patient.

Here’s what we did:

STORYTIME 1: PUMPKINS

Intro: As usual, we asked the kids to find a piece of cloth to wave, and something to make noise with (drum, pot and spoon, etc). We took a few minutes to admire everyone’s costumes, and let them talk if they wanted to, and we explained how to switch from Gallery view (where they could see everyone) to Speaker view (where they could see Angela and I in a larger window). Zoom actually now lets you “spotlight” multiple speakers, which is supposed to make those speakers larger for everyone, but it doesn’t always seem to work.

OPENING SONG: Do As I’m Doing

We asked the kids for action ideas: spinning their cloth, throwing it in the air, jumping up and down, etc. Here are the chords and lyrics:

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

RHYME: Five Little Pumpkins

This is a classic Halloween rhyme that most of the kids already new. My daughter made me five paper pumpkins that I stuck on my fingers with tape.

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.

The first one said, “Oh my! It’s getting late!

The second one said, “There are witches in the air!”

The third one said, “But WE don’t care!”

The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run!” (run in place)

The five one said, “This is Halloween fun!”

Then, “OOOH” went the wind, and OUT (clap!) went the light!

And the five little pumpkins rolled (roll your hands) out of sight.

BOOK: The Pumpkin House by Roger Vaughan Carr; illustrated by Julie Davey: https://openlibrary.org/works/OL4794526W/The_Pumpkin_House?edition=pumpkinhouse00carr

An adorable story about a mouse who decides to carve herself out of a pumpkin, only to eat so much of the pumpkin that she soon outgrows it.

RHYME: Pumpkin Patch

I learned this rhyme from an Orth Music teacher years ago, so I don’t know who wrote it, but it’s a fun one to do with a group.

Pumpkin Patch, Pumpkin Patch,

Walking all around in my pumpkin patch.

Here is a pumpkin, nice and fat (spread arms wide),

Turns into a jack-o-lantern, just like that! (make a scary face!)

We did this one a few times, taking a minute or two to comment on all the scary faces on the screen. The kids loved it!

BOOK: This is NOT a Pumpkin by Bob Staake: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL8458611M/This_Is_NOT_a_Pumpkin

Cute, simple book with large illustrations which show something that clearly looks like a pumpkin, but turns out to be a Jack-O-Lantern.

SONG: Jack-O-Lantern

I loved this song as a child, although I have no idea where it came from. We had the kids play their homemade instruments while I sang and played on the ukulele.

[C] Jack-O-Lantern, Jack-O- [G7] Lantern, you are such a spooky [C]sight,

As you sit there in the window looking out [G7] at the [C] night.

You were once a pretty [G7] pumpkin, growing on a pretty [C] vine,

Now you are a Jack-O-Lantern, let your can- [G7] dlelight [C] shine.

ENDING SONG: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

STORYTIME 2: MONSTERS

OPENING SONG: Do As I’m Doing (see above)

RHYME: Five Little Monsters

Angela did this one with an adorable felt board of five little monsters, partially covered by a blanket.

Five little monsters sleeping in my bed,

One crawled out from under my spread.

I called to Mama (call “Mama!”)

And Mama said, “No more monsters sleeping in the bed!”

Four little monsters sleeping in my bed…

BOOK: Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems: https://archive.org/details/yourpalmowillems00will

You can’t go wrong with Mo Willems, so I’m grateful that he has given us a book perfect for Halloween. Leonardo is a terrible monster, who simply can’t scare anyone, until he meets Sam. Angela read the narration and Leonardo, and I got to do Sam’s long tearful rant.

SONG: We Are Scary Ghosts

I learned this song from an Orth Music curriculum, where it was originally called Scary Skeletons. We had the kids put their cloths over their heads to be ghosts, and sang it through a couple of times. Then we asked for other things to be. We were scary witches, monsters, vampires (with the cloth as a cape), bees, and pretty butterflies.

We are scary ghosts floating down the street,

Floating down the street,

Floating down the street.

We are scary ghosts floating down the street,

We’ll scare you…BOO! (pull the scarf off and yell, “BOO!”)

BOOK: Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler and S.D. Schindler: https://openlibrary.org/works/OL166479W/Skeleton_Hiccups?edition=skeletonhiccups00cuyl (There are two editions of this on Open Library)

Simple story about a skeleton with hiccups, and the hilarious way his friend Ghost finds to help him. Angela read the narration and I provided the hiccups all the way through.

SONG: On Halloween

Our first play-along song, where we asked the kids to pull out their drums or other noise-makers. We asked for suggestions of scary things they might find in the house. We had cats in the house saying, “Meow, Meow, Meow!”; spiders in the house going creep, creep, creep; monsters in the house going stomp, stomp, stomp; witches in the house saying “Hee, Hee, Hee!”; and children at the door saying “Trick or Treat!”

To the Tune of The Wheels on the Bus

[C]The ghosts in the house say, “Boo! Boo! Boo!”

[G7]“Boo! Boo! Boo! C] Boo! Boo! Boo!”

The ghosts in the house say “Boo! Boo! Boo!”

[G7]On Hallo- [C]ween!

ENDING SONG: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

Do you have favorite Halloween songs or books (either e-books or print ones)? Please share them in the comments.

The New Frontier: Interactive Virtual Storytimes

Last week, my coworker Angela and I performed our first “live” interactive virtual storytime via Zoom.

For the first time since March, we could actually see the kids and they could see us.

I was surprisingly nervous, even though prior to the shutdown, I used to regularly perform six or more live storytimes a week. But technology adds a whole new level of unpredictability. Now, on top of my recurring nightmare of being faced with a large crowd of toddlers with nothing to read but The Grapes of Wrath, I now had to worry about Zoom bombers, Internet outages, glitches with our ebook databases, and any number of other problems completely out of our control.

But thankfully the Internet gods were kind, and we had a wonderful coworker (Darren) managing all of the nitty gritty techical challenges of muting and unmuting, and monitoring the chat. We had a large and enthusiastic audience of kids, and we all had a blast.

Here’s how we did it:

In order to reduce the risk of Zoom bombers, and also to comply with COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), we required participants to register in advance, and verify that children under the age of 13 would be participating with an adult. Advertising went out over social media (Facebook and Instagram) a week in advance, although it was really the email newsletter that went out to our patrons that brought in the most sign-ups.

On the morning of the program, we logged on to our Zoom meeting about an hour in advance to make sure all of our ebooks were loading properly, run through songs, adjust the lighting, and gather props. We kept everyone in the Zoom waiting room until the program started, although I sent a message to them saying that they could rename themselves if they didn’t want their full name or their child’s full name on the screen.

Once we let the audience in to the meeting, we spent a few minutes explaining to the families how to mute and unmute, and how to set the Zoom meeting to Speaker view, so the kids could see me or Angela when we were talking. Mostly Darren managed muting throughout the storytime, which was a bit of a challenge, since muting everyone meant that Angela and I were temporarily muted too, but only for few seconds.

We also asked the kids to find some kind of cloth (dish towel, small blanket, wash cloth, etc.) and something to make noise with (paper cups, pots and pans, keys, etc.) to use in different parts of the storytime.

We kept the kids muted while we read the books and sang the songs, but we would unmute them in between. For many of the songs, we asked for suggestions of motions we could do, or animals to sing about. These were the books and songs we used:

Opening Song: Do As I’m Doing

This is a really simple action song, which worked well in the virtual setting. We asked the kids to suggest different motions (twirling, jumping, etc.), which they demonstrated on video. Some of the actions involved the cloth that we asked the kids to gather at the beginning (twirling the cloth, throwing it in the air, etc., basically the same kinds of things we used to do with play scarves in our regular storytimes). I played it on the ukulele, while Angela demonstrated the motions. Here are the chords and lyrics.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It

We added verses for different emotions: If you’re sad and you know it, cry boo-hoo!… If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad!”… If you’re sleepy and you know it yawn and stretch… If you’re nervous and you know it, hide your face (we used the cloth, and then did a big “Peek-a-boo!” at the end of each line). Angela had paper plates with different faces (happy, sad, angry) on them that she held up at the beginning of each verse.

eBook: Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang; illustrated by Max Lang

When Jim Panzee, the monkey, wakes up in a bad mood, all of the other animals try to cheer him up. We read this one from Overdrive, using the Share Screen, so the kids could see the illustrations up close. Angela read the narration and the voice of Jim Panzee, and I did all the other animal voices. This is such a great book for 2020, when everyone feels a little grumpy sometimes. One mom emailed me later to say that her toddler retold the story to every member of their family, so I think it was a hit!

Song: Old McDonald Had a Farm

Angela had a bunch of puppets prepared to hold up, so we could sing about the different animals, but we didn’t end up needing them. The kids (adorably) were all eager to hold up their own stuffed animals, or suggest a favorite animal and the sound it made (unicorns apparently say “neigh!”). This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the storytime.

eBook: There is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Williems

Gerald the Elephant is unhappy when two birds build a nest on his head. This book is available for 1 Hour Borrowing from Open Library. Angela and I each read a character, and I held a bird stuffed animal on my head (in retrospect, I wish I had asked the kids to pretend their cloths were birds and had them put them on their heads). The simplicity and humor of these books make them perfect for almost any age group, and sharing the ebook on screen made it really easy for the kids to enjoy the illustrations.

Song: Five Little Ducks

There are LOTS of different versions of this song, but the tune I usually sing is the Raffi one). Angela had a Monkey Mitt with the 5 Little Ducks velcroed on, so she held it up while I sang and played the song on the ukulele.

Closing Song: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

We had unmuted the kids temporarily while we talked about this being our last song, but before we could mute them again, one little boy sang the whole song through all by himself and it was adorable! We asked the kids to play along on the noisemakers (pots and pans, etc.) that they gathered at the beginning of storytime. Angela and I always used to end our regular Musical Storytimes with this song, so it felt almost like old times.

REACTIONS AND TAKE-AWAYS

All in all, Angela and I felt that the storytime went really well. It was wonderful for us to actually see our audience, after months of performing pre-recorded storytimes in an empty room, and wonderful for the kids to see us and each other.

After the storytime, I emailed all of our participants with the registration link for the next Interactive Storytime (which was led by a different librarian). One mom emailed me back to say that in some ways she almost preferred this format to the live storytimes in the library. She said that sharing the ebooks on screen made it easier for her toddler to see the illsutrations and follow the story, and muting the kids during the story meant he wasn’t distracted by the usual noises of the audience. He also bragged to his older brother, who is doing At Home Learning, that he too got to be in a big class with lots of kids on Zoom.

This feedback made me wonder if there might be ways to incorporate some elements of virtual programming into in-person storytimes in the future. For example, I might try displaying the illustrations on a screen while I read from the physical book (so the kids still get the sense of how physical books “work”, but can still see the illustrations clearly. Or I might try to use more “big books,” although I have a hard time turning the pages. In any case, it’s definitely something I will be thinking about when I finally go back to doing in-person storytimes.

Have you performed or attended any virtual storytimes? If so, what worked well, or not so well, for you? Please share any thoughts in the comments.

Virtually Normal: Reinventing Storytime Online

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Photo from one of my favorite storytime families

Well, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are in our seventh week of Sheltering in Place, and my job has changed in ways I never imagined. Last week I did my first Virtual Storytime, goofing around in front of a webcam in the corner of my bedroom, with no way of knowing who was watching or what their reaction might be. I think I was more nervous than I was the first time I did a live storytime, even though I had been practicing with coworkers for several weeks. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

Virtual Storytime is much more tiring than live programs.  Usually when I do programs in the library, I feel energized by seeing the kids and parents singing along or enjoying the books. For this type of program, all of the energy has to come from you. Whenever I finish a virtual storytime, I’m left feeling both jittery and exhausted, and also with an unsettled feeling of not knowing how the program was received.

Anything and everything can go wrong. I think the scariest aspect of virtual programs is that so much is out of your control: your Internet can fail, software can crash, ebooks can refuse to load, the sound can be distorted, cats or kids can run through your programming space.  During my first virtual storytime, I somehow clicked on the cover page of the ebook I was reading in some magical way that opened a new tab with a .jpg of the cover. It took me what felt like hours (but was really only about two minutes) to figure out what had happened, and how to get back to the book.

After watching lots of other virtual programs lately though, I know that everyone is in the same boat, and in some ways it’s these kinds of unexpected, frustrating glitches that are the most humanizing and endearing.  It’s definitely not always easy to remember that in the moment. But I’m trying to make a habit of writing down a few song ideas and having a back-up book in case I run into problems with our ebook databases. For the other problems, I just have to be prepared to laugh them off and keep going.

Doing a trial run with a remote audience is key. Before I was given the green light to do my first virtual storytime, I had to do what felt like dozens of practices over Zoom in front of other library staff. This was hard for me, but it helped so much in terms of getting used to the technology, and identifying problems I never would have known about otherwise.

I learned that if I played my ukulele at my usual volume, Zoom would prioritize the strumming over the sound of my voice, making it hard for people to hear the words to the song. I learned that the lighting was better if I put the laptop next to my bedroom window, and that sounds like jiggling keys or tapping pan lids to demonstrate some homemade instrument options were painfully loud to my online audience.

The practices also taught me that ebooks showed up better on the screen than holding up physical picture books (where the illustrations sometimes looked washed out, or obscured by light glaring off the page), and that using F11 to make the pages full screen was helpful for hiding the tabs at top of my web browser, but sometimes made it harder to turn the pages when I was sharing my screen over Zoom. I’m incredibly grateful for all of the feedback I got from fellow librarians who took the time to watch my practices and give advice.

The needs of our storytime families have changed. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, especially after watching this webinar from Reaching Across Illinois Library System: https://www.railslibraries.info/events/181406.  In it, Ann Santori from Lincolnwood Library talks about the importance of having a purpose behind each of the songs or activities she does. One of the things she has been doing is creating a video series called Give Me a Break, featuring easy free play activities that parents can provide to keep their young children occupied, so that they can have a few minutes to do something for themselves. So now I’m trying to incorporate something similar into my virtual storytimes. In my most recent one, I took two minutes towards the end of the program to demonstrate Flower Painting, one of my favorite process art activities, where kids can squish flowers or leaves on paper to create natural paintings without the mess of using actual paint.  (Here’s a great description from No Time for Flash Cards).

The other thing to consider is that while our storytimes in the library provided parents and caregivers a chance to bond with their kids, I suspect many parents are using the virtual storytimes as a way to occupy their kids for a few minutes while they squeeze in a few uninterrupted minutes of work, or make dinner. So a lot of the cuddly, tickly, lapsit songs and rhymes I love probably won’t work for them right now.

I’m trying to focus instead on songs the kids can learn and sing and adapt for their own families (I talk about how, instead of singing about the people on the bus, they can sing about the people in their house, or the toys in their closet, etc.). I do also try to highlight our ebook collections and other resources families can use while the libraries are closed. And I try to find ways to incorporate things families have at home, to stand in for some of the things we use in storytime (wash cloths for play scarves, a cereal box for a shaker).

There are still ways to connect. The weirdest part of virtual programs is the isolated nature of them. As the weeks drag on, I miss my regular storytime families more and more, and it’s really hard to feel connected to them when I’m all alone with my laptop. But one nice thing about doing programs online is the ability to reach more and different people. Knowing my niece and nephew were watching my first storytime from Ohio, I used my last song, Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten (with revised lyrics by Elizabeth Mitchell) to ride my imaginary train to their house. That gave me the idea of posting on one of our local parent Facebook groups to ask if anyone would like me to do a shout-out to their kids in an upcoming storytime. I’ve already gotten a few responses, both from regular and new families. It will make it much easier to stand in front of the web cam, imagining the kids’ surprise at hearing their own names, and thinking of some of my favorite families watching from home.

Those are just my preliminary thoughts, after a week of virtual storytimes. Please share any ideas, suggestions, experiences or questions you have about virtual programs in the comments.  In the meantime, stay safe (and sane!).

 

 

Shhh! Librarian Secrets

Our jobs are not as quiet as you think…

1719054

Last week, I was asked to represent the library at a local middle school career fair. I was excited to have an opportunity to talk about my job, which people tend to have a lot of misconceptions about. In typical librarian fashion, I even made a handout.

The problem was the kids didn’t even come to my table, except for the few who hoped to score a free pen. It didn’t help that I was right in front of two police officers and a mother-daughter auto mechanic team. Yeah, I wouldn’t have chosen my table either.

Since I didn’t get to answer any questions at the career fair, here are some I wish I had been asked:

Do you read books all day? I wish. Seriously. Other than picture books, which I read constantly to prepare for storytimes, and middle grade books, which I have to read for the three book clubs I run, the only time I get to read for myself is at 3am when I have insomnia. So, while I do sometimes read books all night, I don’t get to sit at a quiet desk and read books by the hour, while shushing anyone who happens to speak above a whisper.

Do you shush people? Never! Actually, that’s not entirely true. When I do storytimes, I sometimes ask the kids to “make the sound of a waterfall.” But technically, they are shushing themselves.

What DO you do all day, since you’re not reading or shushing people? Ever so many things. This week, I have: read to three classes of second and third graders; taught a drop-in ukulele class for adults (in the library!); performed storytimes at three preschools and an infant daycare; led two book club meetings (one for middle schoolers, and one for parents and kids); taught a parenting class on the importance of talking, reading, and singing with your baby; and led two library storytimes (one for babies, and one for all ages). And it’s only Wednesday. When I am at the desk, I am mostly planning storytimes, in between helping patrons find books, or helping them find information on the Internet, print resumes or tax forms, fill out job applications, or download an ebook or audiobook. I should also mention that I am only part time, so some of my coworkers do a whole lot more.

5. What do you like about being a public librarian? The endless variety. Because I work with the public, especially kids, every day is completely new and different. When I’m at the library, I literally never know who is going to walk through the door of the library, or what questions or needs they will have. I get to work with people of all ages, from babies to seniors, and as libraries have evolved into centers of lifelong learning, all of the jobs in the library have evolved too. I have coworkers who lead or organize classes on painting, gardening, and cooking, as well as science workshops for kids, 3D printing classes, mental health programs, and community discussions on important local issues. We all also do a lot of outreach, bringing library services like storytimes, books, Internet instruction, and music, to local daycares, youth detention facilities, schools, senior facilities, and even beaches.

Also, showing up at a preschool and being mobbed by a bunch of four year-olds screaming, “The liberium is here!” is pretty awesome too.

6. What is the most challenging part of your job? Although working with the public does bring all of the variety I mentioned above, some of that variety includes some difficult personalities and behaviors. The vast majority of our patrons are wonderful (some of them even bring us cookies!), but occasionally we work with people who are struggling with mental illness (although most of these are more frightened than frightening), or people who are frustrated and wanting to lash out, or people who are just abusive and mean, or creepy. Very rarely, we even have to call the police.

Oh, and also, there’s the weeding, the real dirty little secret of libraries, especially small ones: we simply don’t have enough room on the shelves for every book, so some of them have to go. Some days, I can channel my inner Marie Kondo and callously pull dozens of books that are out-of-date, disgusting, or haven’t been checked out (much less sparked joy) since the last century. But I’ll admit that in the past, I have secretly checked out a book I liked, just to increase its circulation numbers and save it from execution.

Are libraries dying out? Not at all. They are evolving. Libraries have always been places where the information and media of the day is housed and shared, whether that be in the form of papyrus scrolls, like the lost Library of Alexandria (sigh), or downloadable ebooks and Internet hotspots (yes, we circulate those, as well as laptops).

The traditional idea of libraries as an equalizer, where people of all backgrounds and income levels can access resources for education and advancement, is still true. It’s just that now the resources include computers and high speed Internet. Even though a man once literally scoffed at me for saying that not everyone has Internet access in their home, our library computers are always occupied. And we are in the tech-saturated Bay Area. In rural areas, libraries are often the only place where people have access to high speed Internet. The FCC recently claimed that 24.7 million Americans live where broadband is unavailable. An independent study by Microsoft concluded that number was closer to 163 million. Yet, in a world where most job listings and applications are online (not to mention resources and tools for homework, and applications for affordable housing and federal benefits), not having access to the Internet can have a huge impact on your life.

Luckily, libraries around the country are working hard to bridge the gap between the digital haves and have-nots. They are also giving people the ability to check out more than ever before: tools, and ukuleles, and video games; prom dresses, cooking utensils, toys, and Halloween costumes. Many libraries let you borrow e-books and audiobooks, or print tickets to museums, without even leaving your house.

It’s an exciting time to be a librarian, and I’m thrilled to be along for the ride.

Hungry for Stories: A Food Themed Storytime

It’s been a while since I’ve written up a food-themed storytime, so I thought I’d do an updated one. I’ve actually done three different storytimes this week, with the same theme but for different age groups, so these are some of the highlights:

caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I had to include this classic, of course, especially for my toddler groups. Lately, I’ve been trying to add an interactive element into one or two of the books I read, so, since I read this one after doing a song with play scarves, I asked the kids to pretend that their scarf was a caterpillar while I read. We made munching noises and pretended the scarf caterpillars were eating the foods on each page, and when the caterpillar went into his cocoon, we stuffed the scarves into our fists, then had them emerge as “butterflies.”

food fight

Food Fight Fiesta by Tracey Kyle; illustrated by Ana Gomez

This rhyming book is so much fun, especially since it is based on an actual celebration in Buñol, Spain, where the whole town has a huge tomato fight. Once again, we used the scarves, only this time we pretended they were tomatoes, which we threw into the air whenever the story called for it. The kids loved it!

pea

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Jen Corace

One of my all-time favorites, this hilarious story about a pea who hates to eat candy is always a hit.

peeling

How Are You Peeling by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers

This is another fun book to share. The kids love shouting out the names of the vegetables and fruits in each photo, as well as answering the questions posed by the text about feelings.

sausages

Sausages by Jessica Souhami

This is a wonderful, funny, simple adaptation of the classic Three Wishes folk tale, where a couple are granted three wishes, and accidentally waste them on a string of sausages, which get stuck to the man’s nose.

water

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Adorable and hilarious story about a crocodile who accidentally swallows a watermelon seed, and imagines that a watermelon vine is growing in his stomach. The kids loved repeating the “Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!” lines.

SONGS:

If You’re Happy and You Know ItI sang this one after reading How Are You Peeling? For the past few years I’ve changed it to add in different emotions, and the kids love it. Here’s what we sing (with ukulele or guitar chords):

 

C                                                           G
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, (Clap, Clap)
G                                                           C
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, (Clap, Clap)
F                                                           C
If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it,
G                                                           C
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. (Clap, Clap)

 

If you’re sad and you know it, cry Boo Hoo! (“Boo Hoo!”)…

If you’re angry and you know it, say, “I’m mad!” (Stomp your feet while saying, “I’m Mad!”)…

If you’re sleepy and you know it, yawn and stretch (Yawn! Stretch!)…

If you’re shy and you know it, hide your face (cover your eyes, then uncover them and say “Peek-a-boo!”)…

If you’re happy and you know it, shout hooray! (Hooray!)

 

If All the Raindrops

I use this song all the time, with a wide range of age groups. The lyrics below are the “real” version, but usually when I sing it for storytime, I just do the first verse, then have the kids suggest other foods for the next few verses. Click on the arrow to hear the tune:


C
If all the raindrops
G                             C
Were lemondrops and gumdrops
C                                               G
Oh, what a rain that would be!
C                    G                            C                     G
I’d stand outside, with my mouth open wide
C               G               C                C
Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah!
C                                         G                             C
If all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops,
C                   G                    C
Oh, what a rain it would be!

If all the snowflakes
Were candy bars and milkshakes…

If all the sunbeams
Were bubblegum and ice cream…

Candy Corn for Dinner: I wrote this song several years ago for an Ice Cream Storytime, and it’s a fun one to have the kids play along to with maracas and egg shakers. Click on the arrow to hear a recording:

C                                                                     G7                   C
My mom and dad put me in charge of our dinner tonight.
C                                                                                G7
They said I could make anything as long as we ate right.
C                                                        G7                   C
I had to serve some vegetables, a salad, and a stew.
C                                                                        G7               C
I thought a while and cooked a bit, and here is my menu.

F                                                     C
We’re having candy corn for dinner
G7                             C
With a side of chocolate stew.
F                               C
A three jelly bean salad,
G7                                                C
And an ice cream sandwich too.

I don’t know why Mom and Dad say cooking’s such a chore,
‘Cause I had such a great time going to the grocery store.
My mom said we were out of milk, so I bought a big milkshake,
And since my dad likes cheese so much, I got him a cheesecake.

We’re having candy corn for dinner
With a side of chocolate stew.
A three jelly bean salad,
And an ice cream sandwich too.

CRAFT: SPICE PAINTING

This week, I ended up doing Playdough for craft time, but one of my all-time favorite art activities is spice painting, which I did a few months ago. Basically, you just mix different spices with water (turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, etc.) and give the kids paper and brushes to paint. The kids loved the different colors and smells.  There’s a description with pictures on Mama.Papa.Bubba: https://mamapapabubba.com/2014/02/19/spice-painting/

OTHER BOOKS ABOUT FOOD: 

martha

How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Mark Fearing

I love this story, although it works better for older preschool and early elementary school kids. Martha has always hated eating green beans, but when they kidnap her parents, there is only one way for her to rescue them.

rude

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

This hilariously quirky book describes how cakes who never say please or thank you get their comeuppance when they encounter a cyclops who likes to wear cakes as hats. Delightfully random and very funny.

What are your favorite picture books about food?

Just the Facts: Internet Research Skills for Elementary School

My coworker Jessica Ormonde and I were recently asked to visit two fifth grade classes and a fourth/fifth combo class at a local elementary school to talk about Internet research skills, especially how to determine if a web site was a good source of information or not.

I searched online for any existing presentations or handouts, but most of them seemed to be directed more toward older students. Most of the ones I found used the CRAAP test for evaluating web sites. The CRAAP test was developed by Sarah Blakeslee and other librarians at California State University in Chico, and uses the acronym CRAAP, which stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. I liked the mnemonic, which is certainly memorable and apt, but I didn’t think words like currency and authority would resonate with fifth graders.

I ended up creating my own Powerpoint presentation, framing the challenge of finding good information as being an “Internet detective.” Instead of the terms used by the CRAAP test, I used “Who, What, When, Where, and Why.” I tried to include a lot of examples of both good and bad web pages, as well as a discussion of the pros and cons of Wikipedia, and what to look for and avoid when doing a Google search.

The three class presentations were a lot of fun. I was pleasantly surprised by how much the kids already knew about the risks of using the Internet for research (viruses, misinformation, people collecting their personal information, clickbait, etc.). They actually seemed more informed and cautious than many adult patrons I’ve worked with at the library!

Here is a link to my presentation: Just the Facts.pptx Feel free to use or adapt it. Here is a basic handout as well, which includes a guide to our local library resources on the second page: Just the Facts.docx

If you have ideas for other topics it would be good to cover, or any related resources to share, please let me know in the comments.

Knotty Tales: A Storytime about Knitting

I haven’t done a storytime write-up in a while, but the kids really enjoyed this one. There have been a number of fun picture books about knitting and yarn published over the past few years, and, with my Family Storytime group now including several elementary school-aged kids, I thought I would give them a try. Here’s what we read:

cat knit

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant

This is a simple, but adorable story about a cat whose owner brings home a new “friend,” named Yarn. Cat enjoys playing with Yarn very much, until one day his owner transforms Yarn into an unpleasant new shape, a sweater she expects Cat to wear. The illustrations made the kids laugh out loud.

extra yarn

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen

This is one of my favorite books to read aloud, because the kids are always held spellbound by the story. When Annabelle finds a box of yarn, she knits sweaters for everyone in her family, her class, and her entire town, but mysteriously still has extra yarn, until a devious archduke steals her magic yarn box. The colorful illustrations by Jon Klassen are whimsical and funny, and the text builds suspense until the end.

penguin in love

Penguin in Love by Salina Yoon

Sweet story about two penguins looking for love, until their animal friends hatch a plan to help them find their missing yarn, and each others. The kids got a kick out of the illustrations, especially the whale in a sweater.

farmer brown

Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep by Teri Sloat; illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

A funny, rhyming book about a herd of sheep who go looking for the wool Farmer Brown has taken from them, and are shocked at the various ways it gets transformed. This is a clever way to teach kids the steps involved in turning wool into yarn, with hilarious illustrations. The kids loved the illustration of the sheep in their colorful sweaters.

CRAFT: Pulled String Art/Finger Knitting

I had planned to have the kids do Pulled String Art, based on this post from Artful Parent: https://artfulparent.com/pulled-string-art-is-mesmerizing-and-addictive/ . But since I’ve been having some second and third graders at my Family Storytimes lately, I thought I would also demonstrate some Finger Knitting, a favorite activity of my daughter’s (there are lots of online videos and instructions, but this one simplifies it a bit: https://www.thecrafttrain.com/finger-knitting-for-kids/). To my surprise, all the kids except for one toddler wanted to try their hand (literally) at finger knitting, with varying degrees of success. The all LOVED trying though, even if their finished product looked more like a ball than a scarf. I think I’ll bring the Pulled String Art back another time though, because it is also a lot of fun, if a lot messier than finger knitting.

OTHER BOOKS ABOUT KNITTING:

The Red Wolf by Margaret Shannon

Deliciously wry and beautifully illustrated story of a princess whose father keeps her locked away in a tower to keep her safe. When she is given a mysterious box of yarn for her birthday, she knits herself a red wolf suit and transforms into a red wolf herself, bursting from the castle to have a wide time out in the world. But when the suit unravels, she is captured and returned to her tower, where she knits her father a pair of rather mousy pajamas. Reminiscent of Maurice Sendak, but with a style all its own.

The Mitten by Jan Brett

I couldn’t get by without mentioning this classic picture book by Jan Brett, about a lost mitten that serves as a shelter for an astounding variety of animals of different sizes. Kids love the pictures along the side, revealing which animal will appear on the next page. Jan Brett also has a wonderful web site (http://www.janbrett.com/index.html), full of activities and information for kids.

Do you have any other favorite books about knitting? Please share them in the comments.

My New Favorite Storytime Song

Well, it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, but I wanted to share a song I learned a few months ago that’s been a big hit at all of my storytimes, from babies to preschoolers. It’s called We Bounce and We Bounce and We Stop. The kids love to jump up and down, and they giggle every time we stop.

The lyrics are really simple and adaptable, and it’s super easy to do with ukulele although if you’re going to bounce up and down while you do it, you will definitely want to invest in a ukulele strap (I have a Uku’Lei Sling that has been a lifesaver!). I slap the strings on the word stop to make it more dramatic.

Here are the lyrics and chords (click on the triangle to hear a recording):

 

C

We bounce and we bounce and we stop!

C

We bounce and we bounce and we stop!

C

We bounce and we bounce and we bounce and we bounce,

C                                          G7                       C

And we bounce and we bounce and we stop!

 

I usually repeat this at least twice, and then sing it again with different motions: We clap and we clap and we stop; we wiggle and we wiggle and we stop, etc. With babies I’ve used motions for parents (we tickle and we tickle and we stop; or we lean and we lean and we stop). With older kids I add stomping and turning, or ask them for other motions or even sounds they’d like to do. It’s a great way to give the kids a chance to move around, and re-engage any wandering toddlers. And it can be as long or as short as you like.

I learned the lyrics from a collection of nursery rhymes and songs on a set of signs at the Burlingame Library, and, not knowing how the song went, I used the tune to A Hunting We Will Go.  I’ve since found this other, slower version that sounds more like Skip to My Lou on a YouTube video from Jbrary, which looks great for baby storytime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcKGbUk54ns

What are your go-to songs for storytime? Please leave them in the comments.