January 2019

January 2019

It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian


Happy 2019! It’s the first Cardigan Newsletter of the new year! We hope 2019 has been treating you well. We’re excited about the New Year and all that we have planned. We can’t thank you all enough for your support. Please continue to share the link to subscribe (http://bit.ly/thecardigannewsletter) with friends and colleagues that you think would enjoy The Cardigan. We enjoy learning from you all as well so please don’t hesitate to drop in our inbox (thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com) or tag us on Instagram (@thecardigannewsletter) with all your amazing programs and work. 

Thank you again for trusting us with your time. We hope 2019 is fulfilling and joyous for you.



Dialogic Reading

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


As children’s librarians we all naturally practice dialogic reading without much instruction, but how do we communicate to families the importance, the how, and the benefits of dialogic reading? Developed by the Stony Brook Reading and Language Project at the State University at Stony Brook and based on the strategy developed by Dr. Grover J. Whitehurst, the technique focuses on using a conversational style to improve children’s literacy skills. Prompting the child to say something about the book, Evaluating the child’s response, Expanding the child’s response by rephrasing and adding information to it, and Repeating the prompt to make sure the child has learned from the expansion. For example, if a parent and child are looking at the page of a book that has a picture of a dump truck on it, the parent can ask, “What is this?” (the prompt) while pointing to the dump truck. The child might say, “Truck!” and the parent follows with “That’s right (the evaluation); It’s a big dump truck (the expansion); can you say dump truck?” (the repetition). 

There are five types of prompts that are used in dialogic reading: 

  1. Completion prompts: Where adults leave a blank at the end of a sentence for the child to fill in. For example, “And then something went bump. How that bump made us _______!” (jump)
  2. Recall prompts: Where adults ask the children about something that has already happened in the story. “Can you remind me what happened to the big dump truck?”
  3. Open-ended prompts: Where adults and the children focus on the illustrations. “What is going on in this picture?
  4. Wh- prompts: These are the “What? Where? When? Why? and How?” questions. 
  5. Distancing prompts: Where adults ask children to relate what they are reading to their real-life experiences. “They are at the park. Do you remember going to the park last week?”

While it might seem simple, it’s a strategy that can have lasting impact when caregivers do this at home with their children. Below are some ideas on how to promote dialogic reading with your families: 

  • Demonstrate it during storytime. Be the example. Whether they know it or not, parents imitate your storytelling/reading skills!
  • Early Literacy Tips. If you give early literacy tips during storytime (which I hope you do!), take time to explain dialogic reading to parents in a couple of short sentences. For example, “Experts say that the early literacy technique dialogic reading can help your child’s early literacy skills. “Dialogic reading” is just a big word for prompting conversations with your child while reading. I’m going to demonstrate some of the questions you can ask while practicing dialogic reading with your child during our next book.”
  • Handouts. Have handouts at your programs and/or in your children’s area that explain the concept and give helpful tips on what books are good to use for dialogic reading. 
  • Host a Dialogic Reading Workshop. You demonstrate the technique, discuss the benefits and research behind Dialogic Reading, and give families an opportunity to practice dialogic reading.



Loose Parts

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


Loose Parts is a term used to refer to everyday objects used for play. These objects can be synthetic or natural (think buttons, shells, rocks, sticks, feathers.) Developed by architect Simon Nicholson in the 1970s, the concept of “loose parts” is intended to promote open-ended and creative play. They are presented without rules or instructions, thereby encouraging children to choose how to play with them. Children can build, line them up, stack them, create patterns, etc. 

Loose parts are a great play tool because: 

  • They’re cheap
  • They teach children to play with everyday objects as opposed to using a toy designed to entertain them
  • They can be reused 
  • They can be easily stored 
  • They support sensory exploration and learning 

Loose parts are fairly simple to integrate into a play program. You can begin by collecting a few materials and then set them out in a tub during a program. They are also great for sensory play programs.  Check out the book Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children for lots of loose parts ideas! 

The obvious drawback is the risk for a choking hazard.  Thankfully, the Penn State Extension Office is here to help us keep everyone safe: “all items used for children under three years of age and any children who put toys in their mouths should be at least 1¼ inch in diameter and between 1 inch and 2¼ inches in length. Oval balls and toys should be at least 1¾ inch in diameter.” 


Kids Writing Lab

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


Letter recognition, writing letters, and practicing spelling words are all important literacy skills that while the library touches on in some programs, isn’t always a whole program event. Recently, I hosted a program geared toward Pre-K-2rd graders centered around letters. I investigated the expectations of letter recognition, handwriting, and spelling skills for each grade level in my state and designed different stations to help kids develop these skills. We started the program with a game as a group and then the children and parents were able to go to any station they liked. Below are the different stations, age group likely to find it helpful (although all the kids enjoyed all the stations), and the supplies needed. 

Group Game: Find the word!

Grade Level: K-2

Directions: Using large print-out letters on the floor, find the letters in the correct order to the sight word called out by the librarian. Can be done in teams or as one large group. 

Supplies: Letters printed out and list of sight words for kids to spell 

Station 1: Bottle Cap Names 

Grade Level: Pre K-K

Directions: Find letters matching their name or other sight words provided with bottle caps that have letters on them and arrange letters correctly.

Supplies: Bottle caps with letters, basket or tub for bottle caps, sight words available for use

Station 2: Letter Hunt (Sensory Bin)

Grade Level: Pre K-K

Directions: Find and recognize letters. 

Supplies: Rice bins, rice, and plastic Letters

Station 3: Cotton Swab Letter Tracing

Grade Level: K-2nd

Directions: Trace or free-write letters with paint and cotton swabs on paper.

Supplies:Cotton Swabs, paint, paper, pre-written names for tracing (from registration or written as they come in) and/or pre-written sight words for tracing.

Station 4: Rainbow Roll & Write

Grade-Level: 1nd-2nd grade

Directions: Roll the dice and use the color corresponding with the number on the dice to write/trace name. Continue for 6 rolls.

Supplies: Handouts from This Reading Mama, crayons/colored pencils, and dice.

Station 5: Alphabet Egg Matching Game

Grade-Level: Pre-K-K

Directions: Match the uppercase letters with their lowercase letters. 

Supplies: At least 26 Plastic Eggs with letters written on them (I recommend not putting the corresponding uppercase and lowercase on the same color plastic egg so they are not matching colors, but matching letters)

Station 6: Salt/Sugar Trays or Shaving Cream

Grade Level: Pre-K-2nd

Directions: Write your name or sight words in the salt/sugar trays or shaving cream

Supplies: Trays for salt/sugar/shaving cream and salt/sugar/shaving cream

Station 7: Letter Bead Jewelry 

Grade Level: Pre-K-2

Directions: Use letter beads to make a necklace or bracelet. Spell your name or other words. 

Supplies: Letter beads and string 

Whether you do a “Kids Writing Lab” or just incorporate a few of these stations in other programs, I highly recommend these fun activities to help kids grow their skills in letter recognition, handwriting, and spelling. 


Book Displays

Libraries are for everyone! 


As children’s librarians we are to “maintain a diverse collection that is inclusive of the needs of all children and their caregivers in the community, and recognize children’s need to see and learn about people like and unlike themselves in the materials they access (ALSC Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries).” Directly tied to this is also creating displays that reflect your diverse collection. As Cory Eckert wrote in his article “Libraries are Not Neutral,” We can’t say we need diverse books and then hide them where no one can see them.” 

Recently while creating an interactive book display for the library, a coworker pointed out that I hadn’t included a single person of color. We were generating famous “book besties” for a Friends of the Library Display and my “book besties” were either very white or very male. My co-workers and I were able to brainstorm a few gender/race neutral besties (like Elephant & Piggie!) as well as some that included people of color (like Nettie and Celie!). The display included a voting component where patrons of all ages had the opportunity to vote for their favorite book besties. While shelving, I overheard an interaction between a mother and daughter of color at the book bestie display. The daughter asked who Nettie and Celie were. I listened as her mother spoke of the powerful friendship that Nettie and Celie had and that one day her young daughter could read the book and watch the movie. Her daughter didn’t need much convincing. She voted for Nettie and Celie. It’s vital that our patrons can see themselves and learn about those who are different from them through our book displays. Below are some questions and thoughts to consider when doing a book display: 

  • Does your book display include a wide range of characters and authors of different races and cultures? 
  • If not, do you have a gap in your collection that needs to be filled? 
  • Don’t be afraid to be corrected if a co-worker or patron approaches you to ask about the absence of their culture or race in a display or in your collection. Take it as a learning experience and investigate your own biases. 
  • At the same time, don’t be afraid to have hard conversations with your co-workers about making sure that your collection and displays represent your diverse community. 
  • Check out WebJunction’s article Racial Equity in the Library, Part Two: Diverse Collections, Programming, Resources for more resources on creating a diverse collection and a library that promotes racial equity. 



Discover new people to follow online 


The Cardigan isn’t the only newsletter out there! Here are few other newsletters I subscribe to:

  • ALSC Blog 
  • Edutopia “Edutopia is a trusted source shining a spotlight on what works in education. We show people how they can adopt or adapt best practices, and we tell stories of innovation and continuous learning in the real world.”
  • Lee and Low (shoutout to Amy Commers who recommended this on our Instagram!) “Lee & Low Books is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States.”
  • NPR Education “Get shareable insights, innovative ideas and the latest education news, sent weekly.”
  • Shelf Awareness “Shelf Awareness for Readers appears Tuesdays and Fridays and helps readers discover the 25 best books of the week, as chosen by booksellers, librarians and other industry experts. We also have news about books and authors, author interviews and more.”


Interactive Books

Some of our favorite books. 



Children’s Librarians as Experts

Where we reflect on the deeper questions. 


I can’t stop thinking about this Twitter thread by Chicago-based librarian Julie Jurgens. My takeaway questions are:

  • What are children’s librarians actually experts in?
  • Are we misrepresenting ourselves and our work by claiming to be experts in child development and school readiness?
  • How can we collaborate with real experts instead of appropriating credentials?

Be sure to check out the rest of her tweets on this topic; her twitter handle is @himissjulie and be sure to check out her blog https://himissjulie.com/ 

Shared with permission from Julie Jurgens 


Email us at thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com 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 libraries find out what children’s programs their community is interested in, especially community members who are not already frequent library users? Is anyone doing this systematically? 

  • Alison, from the Reed Library

Alison, this is such a great question and one that I think we all would like more information about. There are a lot of great sources and I’ve tried to highlight a few below. We also had some great responses from our Instagram post for this question!

Instagram Responses:

  • @crooksinbooks: Surveys, Analytics on Demand, program attendance 
  • @leah_weyand: Look at what organizations around you are offering, and see if you can find a gap in service. If five organizations in your neighborhood offer after-school art programs, maybe you can host a science program series. —-Be observant of highly circulating titles – if your LEGO or superhero books are checking out a lot, maybe there’s a related program you could host. —-Ask children and parents/caregivers who visit your library what interests them lately. (Do not ask “what kind of programs would you like?” because everyone will say “book club”; they think that’s what you want to hear, bless them.) [If these ideas are helpful, feel free to use them in the newsletter.]
  • @lisabintrim: I’m on a couple of Facebook groups for families in my community. That and the informal playtime we have before/after storytimes have been the best sources of information for me. I hear/read what families are talking about and looking for. I’m not a fan of surveys because there is a wide gulf between what people say on a survey and how they actually behave.


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 thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com, 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. 


Gotta Catch ‘Em All Pokemon Club

Shana Lancaster

A few months before the arrival of Pokémon Go in 2016, I was approached by a handful of kids who asked me if I could create a safe place for them to trade Pokémon cards. How could I resist? Pokémon was an explosive trend when I was younger, and it’s still pretty popular, right? Surely…SURELY there would be interest, even in the rural library setting like the one I work in. I had no idea what I was getting into or that Pokémon Club would be one of the biggest programs that I’ve ever offered.

It started off with a bang with a large but stable group, but it kept growing and growing – children and teens alike, from different cities, and with varying interests outside of Pokémon all started becoming regular faces. I found that some of the kids considered themselves Pokémon masters and liked to spark complicated debates that I couldn’t follow. Other children were very new to Pokémon and wanted to participate with the other kids but were too self-conscious. Others still were not fans at all, but either kids looking for something to do or siblings tagging along. To bridge the divide, I started branching out from just trading. I still had my old N64 with Pokémon Stadium. I enjoyed it when I was a kid and I thought they would like it too. Once they learned how to manipulate the controller, Pokémon Stadium quickly surged to be one of their favorite activities! It might be because they are battling Pokémon… and it might be because they can shout “Why is that Charizard using a water attack?!”. Fun fact: The kids didn’t care for Pokken Tournament on the Switch and repeatedly asked for the N64. Along the way, I’ve also added crafts, activities, trivia, and most recently “Who’s that Pokémon?” (to which the kids say, “that’s way too easy!”) to the program. Because the demand was so high, we eventually expanded to a larger location and I have the pleasure of adding Mary Cordova, my coworker, to the Pokémon Club team. Everything I’ve put into the program has been met with enthusiasm.

I have found through the years that Pokémon Club is a special place for kids of all ages to come and be themselves. They can be knowledgeable about a fandom that they are passionate about and explore it with others. It’s okay if they aren’t good at one specific activity because there is more than one way to be a fan. They feel safe coming to the library and attending a program and, for me, that’s really what it’s all about.

Have a Pokémon Club and in need of a craft or activity idea?

* Pokémon glitter attack art

* Train the trainer obstacle course/activities

* Perler beads

* Pokémon hacky sacks/ stress ball

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 thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com, with “Share” in the subject line. Please include at least one photo, along with a short (100-150 word) description. 

You can access a PDF of this newsletter in our Google Drive. This is where we will be storing all future newsletters. 

Logo by Thomas Freeman

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