December 2018

December 2018

It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian

Dear readers,

We can’t thank you enough for the support and love you’ve sent our way! We have over 1,300 subscribers now and we feel so honored you trust us with your time.  Our Instagram has also gained a nice momentum and we appreciate everyone who has commented and helped us crowd-source answers for this newsletter.  Feel free to keep sharing the link to subscribe with friends and coworkers. 

We wish you a wonder-filled holiday season,



Proprioceptive and Vestibular Development

Deepen your knowledge on a topic related to Children’s Services.  


It wasn’t until I started working in libraries and was able to observe an incredible music teacher that I learned about the proprioceptive and vestibular systems.  In addition to the five senses (touch, sight, smell, hearing, taste) typically taught in school, there are two extra senses that are essential for healthy development.

The proprioceptive system deals with body awareness.  It’s about knowing where your body is and being able to move accordingly.  Close your eyes and try touching your nose.  It’s your sense of proprioception that allows you to “find” your nose in spite of not being able to see it. When the proprioceptive system isn’t working properly, children can be very clumsy, throw a ball too hard or not hard enough, or use excessive force unintentionally. (source)  Proprioceptive input can be both calming and alerting. 

The vestibular system deals with balance and spatial orientation. It allows you to know up from down, left from right. Children vary in their reception to vestibular input.  Some kids crave it (they love spinning, jumping, rocking), while others are extremely sensitive (they get carsick easily and are reluctant to lift their feet off the ground). 

These two systems play an important role in sensory integration and sensory processing (being able to process the sensory input received by your body). Children experiencing Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or who are on the Autism Spectrum may need some extra help from an Occupational Therapist to learn how to better use those systems. 

On several occasions, caregivers have told me their child has an SPD diagnosis and being familiar with vestibulation and proprioception has helped me make some modifications for them.  Sensory Processing Disorder remains a controversial diagnosis. Regardless, the term is more and more popular and knowing the lingo can validate caregivers’ experiences and help librarians be better in tune with their needs. 

Here are some easy ways to support proprioceptive and vestibular needs:

  • Provide objects to fidget with during a program for children needing extra vestibular input (like a scarf or soft block)
  • When doing movement activities, tell caregivers “your child may not want to spin or jump right now and that’s ok!” 
  • Provide access to toys with strong vestibular input for kids who crave it, like rocking horses, mini trampolines, any kind of toy with wheels they can push and pull. 
  • Present a variety of sitting options for programs (chairs, on the floor, on a mat, standing, etc.)
  • Provide “deep pressure” activities during storytime and explain the developmental benefits: “we are doing a deep pressure exercise which is providing proprioceptive input; this helps kids develop body awareness and is also calming.”  Pretzel arms, which we featured in last month’s newsletter, is a great deep pressure exercise!   
  • Provide access to materials or handouts on Sensory Processing Disorder. Check out this one by a group called Understood and this one by the STAR Institute. 


Everyday Sensory: Making Sense of the Vestibular System

Everyday Sensory: Making Sense of Proprioception

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder


Adult (Librarian/Teacher/Parent) Roles in Children’s Play

Play is a right! Learn quick tips to optimize play experiences in libraries. 


Researchers have identified roles in which adults can either enrich or disrupt play time. There are two groups: precarious roles and facilitative roles. Below are some examples and definitions of each. 

  • Precarious roles: Interrupt children’s play time
    • Uninvolved: While it is important to give children space to play, adults should not be uninvolved. When adults are uninvolved, behavior problems are likely to occur. The onlooker role (described below) is much more preferred. 
    • Director/Re-director: This is where the adults take over the play while not being directly involved in the play. They direct children’s play from the sidelines. 
  • Facilitative roles: Encourage and enhance children’s play experiences 
    • Onlooker: While not directly involved in play, adults support children’s play through observation. They observe carefully to see if and when to involve themselves in play. 
    • Stage Manager: Adults encourage play through resource support. Adults are not directly involved in the play, but are available to provide resources to inspire play. 
    • Co-Player: Adults are an active participant in the play experience. 
    • Play Leader: Adults take an active role in the play experience, but the role focuses on enriching and extending the play. 

I encourage you to think about the roles you’re playing when interacting with children’s play and educate your parents on best practices for participating in their child’s play. Below are some practical ways to encourage adults to engage in facilitative roles in play at your library:

  • Encourage a child to learn how a toy works without your input. If an adult instructs a child in how a toy works, the child is less likely to discover other attributes of the toy. (Onlooker role)
  • Make sure to listen and watch when children might need more supplies to enhance their play, like paper for a menu or cardboard to create their castle. (Stage Manager role)
  • The Minnesota Children’s Museum encourages having adult-sized props alongside child-sized props to help facilitate co-play. (Co-player Role)
  • Some adults may feel silly engaging in pretend co-play in public, so model pretend co-play when you have the chance. Put on the fairy wings. Engage the parent. Let them know there is no shame in fully engaging in pretend play with their child in public. (Co-player role)
  • While being an active participant in the play, introduce new vocabulary and ideas that are related to the play that the child has initiated. Make sure NOT to be doing this from the sidelines, otherwise you are taking the role of director/re-director. Children must feel you are an active participant otherwise your input might feel like an interruption. (Play leader role)



Cardboard Challenges

Learn about an interesting program you can easily replicate at your library 


The short film Caine’s arcade has encouraged many educators and kids to participate in a yearly Cardboard Challenge as a way to honor Imagination’s Day of Play. Kids across the world use their creativity and engineering skills to create elaborate games, toys, and gadgets with the simple tool of cardboard. Although the Imagination’s Day of Play’s Cardboard Challenge occurs every fall (typically a Saturday in October), cardboard challenges can happen any time of the year. Below are some reasons I highly recommend you do a cardboard challenge program with your elementary students: 

  1. The supplies are cheap. Put to use those Amazon boxes you know you’re getting every week! Ask your co-workers and friends to save their cereal boxes. Cardboard is easily accessible and won’t cost you an arm and leg to get. I also like to put our leftover supplies from programs out for inspiration and use. The last Cardboard Challenge I did cost the library $0. The only struggle I have found is finding a place to store all the cardboard. 
  2. The project enhances their creativity skills. Although I do like to put out resources about how to create items with cardboard, (Out of the Box, 51 Things to Make with Cardboard Boxes, Cardboard Creations: Open-Ended Exploration with Recycled Materials are few good books to use) I don’t like to give any examples or much direction for how to use the cardboard. I have found that any time I give a ready-made example, kids are likely to copy the object instead of relying on their own creativity. Any challenge that I have done I have made broad enough that they feel a freedom to create. Challenges I have done include: make a toy, build your city/neighborhood, and build a house you would want to live in. You can gain inspiration for cardboard challenges from the books listed above or asking the children themselves what kind of challenges they would like to do. 
  3. The challenges are easily relatable to their grade-level standards. The Next Generation Science Standards for Engineering Design for K-2nd say that this age group should be able to “ask questions based on observations, find more information about the natural and/or designed world(s), and define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.”  Cardboard challenges give this age group an opportunity to exercise these skills and learn about the engineering process. Before letting the kids dive into the materials, have them spend at least five minutes thinking about their challenge. I created this Engineering Design Process sheet for the kids to use to help them thoughtfully approach the challenge and create their design. At the end of the program I like to have a discussion of what we have learned. Remember to focus on the process and not the product. This is where kids are able to really see how they put to use the engineering design process. 

Supplies to enhance cardboard challenges: 

  • Cutting cardboard is not always easy, especially with children’s scissors. We had purchased these cardboard scissors for another program. My rule was that only the adults could use the cardboard scissors and kids should draw on the cardboard what they wanted the adult to cut out. This is another reason I also included flimsy cardboard (like cereal boxes) so that kids would still have an opportunity to cut with their own scissors. 
  • A wish-list buy is this make-do tool set from Demco. Check out this blog about a technology coordinator and makerspace director’s positive experiences using the make-do tool set. 
  • Here is a suggested list of supplies from Caine’s Arcade’s website. 


Food Allergies

Libraries are for everyone! 


1 in 13 kids has a food allergy, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. How are we supporting these kids in library programs? I think about this a lot when there are snacks in programs, or programs that involve food preparation. With so many different kinds of food allergies, it’s hard to account for everyone.  

Here are a few concrete steps we can take to help ensure that all kids are safe, as well as included, at the library:

  • If there will be any kind of food at a program, say so in the program description so that caregivers can make informed decisions about whether or not to bring their child. 
  • Ask if children have food allergies in the registration form. 
  • Ask child and caregiver if it would be alright for you to write “wheat allergy” (or whatever they are allergic to) on their nametag to ensure no one accidentally serves them something they will have a reaction to. 
  • Have a few hypoallergenic snacks on hand in case someone with a food allergy unexpectedly comes to the program.  Applesauce pouches are my go-to for this since I have yet to meet anyone allergic to apples! 
  • Store alternative snacks away from other snacks to avoid cross contamination. 



Discover new people to follow online 


Finding high quality handouts for your resource table can be tough! Here are a few of our favorites that are multilingual and easily printable in a PDF format.

The First Words Project. Funded by Florida State University, this longitudinal research project is looking at early detection of developmental delays.  They’ve developed concise handouts on a variety of topics available in several languages. 

Reach Out and Read. Reach out and Read is a national non-profit dedicated to connecting pediatricians with literacy information to share with patients.  They have four great handouts in Spanish and English on dialogic reading and early literacy skills. The “Milestones of Early Literacy Development” one is particularly well done! 

Talking is Teaching.  Talking is Teaching is a a public awareness campaign putting easily digestible and visually appealing information in the hands of caregivers.  Their handouts can be downloaded in PDF form and printed out. 

The Pyramid Model. The Pyramid Model “is a conceptual framework of evidence-based practices for promoting young children’s healthy social and emotional development.” To support the implementation of their framework, they have prepared handouts on everything from discipline to improving bedtime routines. 


Picture Book Biographies

Some of our favorite books. 


Picture Book Biographies are a wonderful way to introduce children to iconic historical figures and the times in which they lived. They are short, succinct, and have engaging illustrations. I particularly like picture books that showcase the hero as a child as it helps the children identify themselves in the story. Below are six of my current favorite picture book biographies: 


In the Shadow of Pittsburgh: Intellectual Freedom to Defend the Jewish People

Where we reflect on the deeper questions. 


There has been a rise in anti-Semitic acts, the most recent including the mass shooting at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh. While I know all of our hearts ache at this injustice, it is Emily Schneider’s post, In the Shadow of Pittsburgh: Intellectual Freedom to Defend the Jewish People on the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Blog that gave me pause to my own actions as well as our profession’s actions regarding this horrific incident. Emily Schneider writes:

“At least, when I logged on to my computer after the Sabbath was over, and turned on cable news, I saw thorough and even passionate coverage of this latest atrocity, and witnessed the sincere and heartfelt empathy of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, people of color, neighbors of the victims or simply fellow citizens. Yet the response of the community in which I am active, advocates and professionals in children’s literature, has been relatively silent.”

Schneider continues to note that many of our profession’s prominent sources for information, like School Library Journal and the ALSC Blog, were relatively silent about this event and did not offer resources for conversations related to Anti-Semitism. After reading this post, here are the questions I asked myself: 

  • What is the best way or medium for our profession to respond to injustices?
  • What resources are available at my library and beyond that can help start a conversation about the rise in Anti-Semitism? Is there a gap in our collection? 
  • Is my library’s silence about this event speaking loudly to our Jewish patrons? 

If your library did a display or a collection of resources in response to the mass shooting in Pittsburgh, we’d love to hear about it. If you are aware of other great resources related to this topic or have more to comment on this subject, please share with us at or tag our Instagram @thecardigannewsletter and use the hashtag #thecardigannewsletter. 



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.


Each year our system allows us to submit list of requests of conferences we are interested in attending. I am always looking for new ideas to add to my list. What are some of your favorite conferences to attend for continued learning? 

  • Debra from the Frederick County Public Library

Thanks for the question Debra! I feel like ALA, ALSC, and your state library association’s conference are obvious choices so I tried to highlight some alternative conferences that don’t get as much visibility!

  • Check out professional development conferences offered by local iSchools and Library Schools. Amy Commers mentioned the Power Up conference on our Instagram. It’s a new conference specifically for youth services managers through the University of Wisconsin! I’ve seen conferences offered by the iSchools at the University of Maryland and Syracuse University. Let us know if you know of any others!
  • Look into your state’s Department of Education professional development opportunities.  The best conference I ever attended was free and put on for early childhood educators through the Oklahoma Department of Education. 
  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children annual conference. I’ve only ever heard good things!
  • Emily Carlyn praised the Illinois Youth Services Institute on Instagram put on by the Illinois Library Association. 
  • Erin also pointed to the Mazza Museum’s Annual Conference (Ohio) on Instagram. It’s a “a three-day conference where teachers, librarians, and book lovers delight in educational and engaging presentations from some of the top authors and illustrators in the picture book industry.”

I am so excited to begin my new job as the Early Literacy Coordinator this coming January. However, this position is new so it will be up to me to define it. I am both excited and nervous because I do not have much experience with literacy besides learning about it in school and am unsure of where to start in building this position. While I don’t have much experience, I am very passionate about literacy and have been hoping for such a position so I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. I don’t want to mess it up! Do you ladies have any advice for me? 

– Sara Schoenthaler 

We are so excited to have our incredible friend Tara Golden from Midwest City, OK answer this question! 


Congratulations on your new position! It sounds like you are passionate and are already looking for help, which leads me to believe that you’re going to do a great job! I’d love to share some of the things that have helped me the most.

Ask for help! Which you’ve already done, and I want to reiterate how important this is. Asking for help can be so hard but is paramount to success. In my experience, early literacy folks are the most wonderful group of people, always willing to share and help. Have a specific question? Saw a program you’d be interested in trying out? Heard someone is really good at sensory projects? Ask them! They’ll be delighted to share and likely have more tips to give you than you’ve ever imagined.

Shadow other people. When I first started, I spent a lot of time watching other librarians’ programs, particularly storytimes. I went to different libraries and even different systems. It was a great way to see that there are a lot of different styles and that everyone has their own unique voice. I got a lot of great ideas and thought deeply about what felt authentic to me. This has the added bonus of creating a connection with the presenting librarian – building up your support network.

Speaking of which, develop a support network! These people will understand what you’re doing, provide wonderful insights, and are people whom you may later partner with for presentations and projects. You can find them within your own organization, nearby libraries, schools, and at professional conferences. It’s also valuable to find a mentor – ALSC offers a mentorship program that connects you with someone who has been in the field for a while. It’s a great opportunity to challenge yourself and grow as a professional alongside someone who has taken the same path. 

Look to subject experts like Betsy Diamant Cohen and Saroj Ghoting. Books like Supercharged Storytimes and programs like Mother Goose on the Loose have gone a long way in giving me usable, easy to communicate information about early literacy and helped me plan my own programs. Both are incredibly accessible and are treasure troves of information. Keep an eye out for in-person trainings from these two and other early literacy professionals. Something is particularly magical about seeing these concepts in action and will go a long way in helping you.

Don’t forget about blogs and Instagram! They are a never-ending source of good ideas. And I don’t just look at library blogs, I follow art teachers, homeschool moms, preschool teachers, etc. Some of my favorites at the moment are Cassie Stephens, Imagination Tree, Storytime Katie, and TinkerLab. Also, for some reason I used to feel guilty when using someone else’s ideas. But don’t be! Curate good ideas. Give credit where credit is due. And be appreciative that people share their awesome talents with us. It would be more of a travesty to not use a good, properly cited idea.

Have fun! Remember that you are your best when you feel your best. Take care of yourself. Take the time you need to feel refreshed and enthused about your work. One of the fringe benefits to working with kids is that you have the opportunity to witness the wonder of the world through their eyes. Be open to that and enjoy the ride. The rest will fall into place.

Best of luck to you!

Tara Golden
Children’s Librarian
Midwest City, OK

We would love to crowdsource some answers for next month’s “ask,” from Shelby at the Reed Library! E-mail us your answers or comment on this post on our Instagram. 

Please e-mail us how your solutions for making sure programs meet community needs!

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