November 2018

November 2018

It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian

Welcome to the neighborhood, new friends!

Katherine and I are so excited to share The Cardigan with you. The Cardigan is not only a space for sharing current professional development resources for librarians serving youth, but also a space for community, or a neighborhood as we like to call it. A neighborhood contains a group of people who are connected by the literal common ground they share. When joining this neighborhood, our common ground is our field and our desire to give excellent service to our important client group: children. Katherine and I are Children’s Librarians passionate about learning and sharing information that improves our skills. While both of us are still relatively new to the profession, we have a desire to connect with other children’s librarians and to create a space to store ideas and easily accessible professional development resources.  Our tagline is “It takes a neighborhood to nourish a Children’s Librarian,” because we recognize that to be truly excellent in this field we need each other. We need to share information. We need access to high-quality, bite-sized information related to the profession with real-world implications. Every month you can expect content that is current and applicable. This is not a one-sided conversation, however. We are excited to hear from you whether through email or on our Instagram.

Please think of this newsletter as your friendly neighbors just dropping in with some delectable refreshments and interesting conversation for nourishment and comfort.

See you all around the neighborhood,


Learn: Inquiry-based Learning in Library Programs


What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

Inquiry-based learning is a teaching and learning method that prioritizes questions, ideas, and analysis. The history of this teaching method is rooted in the field of science instruction and is often used for learning in the STEM disciplines. Key differences between inquiry-based learning and traditional formal instruction is the presence of a facilitator rather than a teacher and participants are encouraged to investigate an open-ended question or problem.

Examples of Inquiry-Based Learning Library Programs

“Inquiry-based learning” has been a buzzword in school settings for some time now, but can also be adapted to library programs. In inquiry-based learning programs, a librarian does not have to feel as if they are the expert on a topic, but instead can act as facilitators, providing a resource-rich environment for their participants to become the experts.

Makerspaces are designed with the inquiry-based learning method in mind, but it can also be utilized in the 1-2 hour program format. The Public Library Association (PLA) Conference 2018 had a session, “Inquiry-based STEM Learning,” where they explored the benefits of inquiry-based instruction in STEM programs at the library. The presenters encouraged a “Wonder” then “Explore” then “Reflect/Discuss” sequence. They gave the example of an “Icee Challenge” program where the participants tried to find a solution to preventing brain freezes. They followed the below format:

  • Wonder: Participants were given some background knowledge on what causes brain freezes and brainstormed solutions. 
  • Explore: Participants could use the materials provided to experiment on how to construct a better icee cup to prevent an icee from melting.
  • Reflect/Discuss: At the end of the program, they gathered together to share their creations and reflect on the outcomes.

Knowing the language and theory of inquiry-based learning can help when conversing with schools about possible outreach programs as well. Librarians can offer to do an inquiry-based activity at their school or invite them to come to the library for a special inquiry-based program. 


Time is the most prominent barrier for using inquiry-based learning in libraries. Participants might feel rushed in the “explore” stage or not finish their creation during the allotted program time. It’s important to communicate to participants that they might not finish their creation, but they can continue the investigation at home. The goal of inquiry-based programs at the library is to spark curiosity, exploration, and experimentation that can be carried outside of the building.

Links to Resources

Play: Teaching Social and Emotional Learning Skills


Mildred Parten identifies six developmental stages of free play for children 2 to 5 years old, arguing that as their social and emotional skills grow more complex, so does their form of play. The last three stages of play (parallel play, associative play, and cooperative play) all rely on the ability to effectively communicate and play with others.  To do so, children must be able to healthily resolve conflict and regulate their emotions. Caregivers and educators can teach social and emotional learning (SEL) which will allow children to resolve the conflict themselves instead of always relying on an adult to do it for them.  

Teaching self-regulation falls within the same category as providing developmental tips to caregivers during storytime: we are equipping them with knowledge and strategies to enhance their child’s well-being within the program, but also at home. SEL can also be framed as a school readiness skill, as SEL is a key dimension of the Common Core. 

Before each play program, you can teach children one short strategy for them to try out.  Here are some of my favorite strategies to teach and to encourage children to use during playtime:

  • The Glitch-Bummer-Disaster model, which teaches children to assess the gravity of a problem and respond accordingly. 
  • Using “I” messages, which teaches children to name feelings and communicate needs. You can have children practice filling in the blanks of the sentence “I feel (blank) when you (blank) and I want you to (blank).”  (From the book Purposeful Play, p. 77).
  • Crowdsource an “I need chart” so that children can verbalize their needs when they are upset. 
  • Demonstrate a breathing technique from Go Noodle, a great free website filled with videos to encourage movement and mindfulness in children.  I’ve demonstrated the Bee Breath and Rainbow Breath before and the kids love it!
  • The four breathing techniques from Dr. Bailey’s book Conscious Discipline
  • Role play to demonstrate what a strategy looks like in action.  Pretend you are instigating a problem (e.g. taking a toy from a friend) and have the group brainstorm appropriate responses.
  • Use a feelings chart to help kids practice recognizing emotions, and whether or not they are an encouragement to play, or to give another kid space. 

More Resources and Handouts on Social and Emotional Learning:

Plan: Crazy 8s Math Club


We can often get excited about doing science, technology, and engineering programs at the library, and forget that math is the foundation for understanding these subjects. The need for fun, exploratory math programs at the library is high. In fact, many children’s anxiety about math begins as early as 5 years old (The Laboratory of Child Development Johns Hopkins University). A couple of years ago, I discovered the Bedtime Math Foundation, a non-profit organization passionate about helping kids learn to love math.  One way they encourage kids to love math is an after-school program called “Crazy 8s Math Club” which can be hosted at a public library. For 8 weeks, kids are immersed into fun activities that all relate to math. From programs titled “ The Toilet Paper Olympics” to “Glow-in-the-dark Geometry,” kids are introduced to math concepts while playing games and building a community. The best part? Nearly all the materials needed are included in the free kit the organization sends. The website advises putting aside $80 for supplies over the 8 weeks, but this is generous since many of the supplies they don’t provide are items libraries are likely to have on-hand. Not only do they provide most of the materials, but they also provide step-by-step instructions for every activity each week. I would never have considered myself a “math teacher,” but Bedtime Math gives me all the resources and materials so I feel confident in hosting the club.  

I have hosted the K-2nd grade club as well as the 3rd-5th grade club and both have been received with enthusiasm. If you’re interested in hosting a club, visit their Crazy 8s Math Club website to sign up. Not interested in hosting club? That’s okay! Share the Bedtime Math website with families as they have great resources on how to improve children’s math competencies. 

Consider : Inclusive Seasonal Programming


The holiday season is upon us and so are the conversations about what kind of programming is best suited for our patrons. The Storytime Underground community has a great article interrogating motives for offering holiday-themed library programs. One of our goals as librarians is to “advocate for eliminating barriers to library service for children based on socioeconomic circumstances, culture, privilege, language, gender, ability, and other diversities, and for overcoming systems of discrimination, exclusion, and ethnocentrism” (ALSC Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries). So as we get ready to plan December and January programs, let’s be sure to ask ourselves:

  • Will anyone not be able to attend a program because of their religious beliefs?
  • Does a program give unequal representation to one religious group over another?
  • Are we sufficiently experts on a holiday and its meaning to lead a program about it? 
  • Is there a way to rebrand a program to make it more inclusive, while still having seasonal activities and content?

Connect: Art Educators


Connect with some amazing art educators! I love scouring these blogs and instagram accounts for ideas of open-ended and unique art projects. 

Art Bar – Barbara Rucci owns a children’s art studio, and regularly features the projects she makes with her students on her blog, along with simple instructions.  I love her projects because they are often cheap and incredibly beautiful.  I also highly recommend her book, Art Workshops for Children and her instagram account @artbarblog 

Art Camp LA – The city of Los Angeles is #blessed with its own mobile art studio called Art Camp LA. The owners make most of their projects available for free on their website, and on their instagram @artcampla 

Hatch Art Studio – Shannon Merenstein’s instagram is so lovely – she regularly posts pictures of children’s classes she leads in her studio in Pittsburgh.  While she doesn’t post instructions, they are fairly easy to figure out. I can’t wait to check out the book she wrote in partnership with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art called Collage Workshop.

Michelle Mullins Means – Michelle is an art educator with a keen eye for beautiful things.  Her projects are vivid and colorful and great for an elementary school crowd. 

Play Free Create – I’m a little biased because Heather White is a friend and she has led library programs for me before, but her blog is a trove of early childhood art projects.  I’ve found that this age group is the hardest to find interesting projects for, so Play Free Create fills an important gap. 

Purple Twig – Another art studio in Los Angeles doing incredible things! Check out Samara’s blog with art projects for kids of all ages, and her instagram @purpletwig 

Here are a few projects that have caught my eye this month: 

Read: Non Fiction Books for Babies and Toddlers


Does anyone else struggle to find interesting non-fiction books to use with babies and toddlers? I find that I’m often compromising on the quality of the book just for the sake of using a non-fiction title.  Here are five of my favorite non-fiction books to use with the itty-bitty ones. 

Reflect: The New Digital Divide


The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected from the New York Times 

“The digital divide was about access to technology, and now that everyone has access, the new digital divide is limiting access to technology,” said Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired magazine.”

In this article, Nellie Bowles sheds light on the growing divide in screen use between lower and middle/upper class children.  While an increasing amount of lower-class children rely on technology for instruction, entertainment, and connection, their upper class counterparts can afford to find it in “the real world” through extracurricular activities and travel.  Google and Microsoft continue to fund iPads and computers in schools reducing the technology gap among children.  This quote in particular stood out to me:

“People in this region of the world [Silicon Valley] understand that the real thing is everything that’s happening around big data, AI, and that is not something that you’re going to be particularly good at because you have a cellphone in fourth grade,” Mr. Laurent said.

I imagine that anyone working in a library isn’t sold on the idea of the death of the digital divide, but I do find it intriguing to consider what kinds of technology skills are valuable, and at what age they can or should be taught. I know that parents in my service area aren’t fans of using digital resources in storytime, and they claim to come to storytime to get away from screens. So how does this impact librarians’ role as media mentors and decisions about programming? I don’t have an answer for this but if you have any insight or have witnessed this in your library, I’d love to hear from you! 

There were some interesting resources shared about this article on the ALSC listserv.  Tess Prendergast, PhD shared a rebuttal by NPR reporter Anya Kamenetz at the Columbia Journalism Review and another person shared a report by a non-profit called Defending the Early Years on early exposure to technology. 


Email us at with “Ask” in the subject line with any library-related question.  We will do our best to answer, but if we can’t, we will bring in an expert

How do you handle problematic behavior in elementary age programs?

The best way to handle problematic behavior is to prevent problematic behavior. At the beginning of every elementary program, I make sure we go over our expectations of behavior with the kids. These expectations should be in children’s language and be positive statements. When rules are a list of “don’ts,” kids are less likely to feel free to try new things.  When going over these expectations, be specific. For example if one of my expectations is “Be respectful to one another,” I make sure to ask them what this means to them. I could also give an example like, “If your friend says ‘please stop yelling in my ear,’ then we would stop yelling in their ear because we want to be respectful of them.” Being specific is not just important at the beginning of the program, but also during the program as problems arise. So if a child is running around the room, instead of saying, “Don’t run,” make sure to say, “Walk, please.” They are able to process the direction more quickly when we are specific and direct in our expectations. 

The LEGO Librarian not only goes over the specific rules at the beginning of LEGO club, but also has any new participants sign their rules poster. This can give the kids ownership of the club and keep them accountable for following the rules. The way a room is set-up can have a great impact on the program. Make sure to have the room set-up with minimal distractions and depending on the activities, limited room to run. 

Overall, we want the library and library programs to be enjoyable. Communicating to parents and children that the best way for us to have fun is by following rules and respecting each other is an important part of preventing and dealing with problematic behavior in elementary programming. 

On December 12, 2018, ALSC is hosting a free webinar,  Early Childhood Expertise Beyond Libraryland: Spaces & Behavior Management. Only the first 100 people are able to attend the live webinar, but all registrants will receive a direct link to the archived webinar. This webinar is sure to have great resources to handle problematic behavior in library programs. 


At the Cardigan, we like to practice #ShineTheory, a term coined by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman.  It’s the belief that “we don’t shine if you don’t shine.”  We want to hear all about your awards, promotions, and hard work so that we can celebrate you! E-mail us at, with “Celebrate” in the subject line, along with a brief description (2-3 sentences) of your successes. Celebrating coworkers is also welcomed; please ‘cc them in the submission e-mail so that we can get their permission to be featured.  We will highlight as many as we can each month in the newsletter. 


The Cardigan drops in your inbox every 20th of the month, but we want to keep the conversation

going all of the other days too.  Tag your library-related Instagram and Facebook posts with #thecardigannewsletter so that we can see what you are up to!  We are also going to use our Instagram (@thecardigannewsletter) to feature creative and innovative library programs for children.  E-mail us your cool program ideas at, with “Share” in the subject line. Please include at least one photo, along with a short (100-150 word) description. 

Logo by Thomas Freeman

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