March 2019

March 2019

It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian

Dear neighbors,

We hit a big milestone this month: We have over 2,000 subscribers! Thank you so much for your support. The best part of The Cardigan has been hearing from you all. For example, our neighbors Bryce and Mary sent us emails commenting on our “Consider” section last month where we talked about including kids with physical disabilities in storytime, specifically when doing fingerplays. Check out their great ideas about making all families feel welcome in storytime.

We’re so appreciative of Bryce’s and Mary’s feedback. Learning from you all truly is a gift. So please keep sending us your feedback, programs, and any other pertinent information about children’s librarianship! We want to share it with our neighborhood. 



Citizen Science 

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


Research has shown that the most meaningful learning happens when students are engaged in activities that expect them to think and behave like professionals in the field. Creating activities where students are able to engage in activities that mirror the real life tasks of chemists, computer programmers, mathematicians, engineers or archeologists can help students not only begin to think like these professionals, but gives them real-world application to the science they are learning. This positions Citizen Science as a great tool to engage elementary students in powerful learning, whether at the library or at home. 

Citizen science is the process by which the public is actively engaged in the scientific process in pursuit of new scientific knowledge. Citizen Science is a government initiative that emerged to enable people from all walks of life — of varying ages, experiences, skill sets, and interests — to partner with professional scientists to advance real scientific research (source). In January, Science News for Students, posted an article titled, “Kids Make Great Citizen Scientists.” The article describes a simple citizen science project that elementary students can participate in to help NASA scientists, while also helping them meet national science standards. NASA collects data from citizen scientists through a project called S’COOL, or Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line. It recruits people from all around the world to observe clouds at lots of different times. It’s so simple, because all students have to do is report their observations. These large numbers of observations help NASA scientists to make sure their satellites are working correctly. This also gives students a chance to talk about different kinds of clouds and the best way to describe clouds. 

Currently, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, SciStarter, Arizona State University, and NISE Net are working together with six public libraries in Arizona to create Citizen Science Toolkits in hopes of supporting Libraries as Community Hubs for Citizen Science. The toolkits are in the last phase of testing and you learn more about their project in their libguide. Citizen science in the library is a trend that has great benefits, not just for adults, but also for our youth. 

Below are some ideas to introduce citizen science to your library and students:

  • Citizen Science Day is April 13, 2019. Do a book display and resource table about Citizen Science that week to start a conversation and gauge interest. 
  • Browse for some age-appropriate citizen science projects to either incorporate in a program or to promote at another related program. 
  • For those of you all doing the Collaborative Summer Program, A Universe of Stories, NASA has some Citizen Science projects too! 
  • There are some children’s books about this topic. Check out Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story and Moon Crab Count: A Citizen Science Story to share with your kids. 

Have you personally participated in or led a library program using a Citizen Science project? We’d love to hear about it and share it with our subscribers! Email as at or message us on Instagram (@thecardigannewsletter). 


To Share or Not to Share….

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


As children’s librarians I think we have seen our fair share of some intense toddler fights over toys. Often the solution is, “Let’s share with our friend,” but in recent years there has been a rise in parents exclaiming, “My child is not required to share with yours.” When I first heard of the “not being required to share” philosophy, my initial thought was that this seemed counterproductive in helping our kids develop healthy socio-emotional skills. As I dug deeper into research, I have found that it’s important that we look at what is developmentally appropriate for the age of the child. 

The CDC and the Very Well Mind website both cite that it is socially developmentally appropriate for toddlers (ages 2-3) to feel defensive over their possessions. They are also more likely to be playing “side by side” and not with other children so sharing is a foreign concept. It isn’t until they are ages 3-4 that they begin to become more aware of other people’s feelings. If this is the case, we shouldn’t be surprised when two toddlers are having trouble sharing library toys. So what can we do to help parents (and the playtime) go smoothly when “share fights” break out? 


  • In her book Secret of Toddler Sharing : Why Sharing Is Hard and How to Make It Easier, Elizabeth Crary writes, “If toddlers cannot use a strategy in pretend, then it is unreasonable to expect them to do it under the stress of real life” (p. 24). Crary encourages parents to practice the concept of sharing at home using puppets or stories about sharing. 
  • ZERO-THREE suggests to narrate or “sportscast” the conflict. Putting names to how each child is feeling helps grow their socio-emotional skills.
  • Offering turns that involve a timer can help kids develop their self-regulation skills.
  • After the “sharing meltdown,” and everyone is calm, share with the child expectations for next time. 


Stuffed Animal Sleepovers

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


Stuffed animal sleepovers are a popular and cheap program you can offer for a wide range of kids! Kids drop off a stuffed animal, and a librarian takes pictures of the animal doing various tasks around the library.  The child can then return a few days or a week later to pick up their stuffed animal and a photo album of their adventures.  

While being extremely cute, it can be a logistical puzzle to pull off.  Here are some of my tips for helping the program run smoothly:

  • Set a limit on how many animals you will accept (I usually say that it is on a first come, first serve basis and that I will cut off at 20).
  • Encourage kids to not bring their favorite stuffed animal.  I’ve had kids come back the first night to get their animal back because they couldn’t sleep without it… 
  • Devise a system to match the child with the right stuffed animal in case you get doubles of anything. I put a name tag sticker on the animal with its name, and underneath, the name of its owner. 
  • Have the child or caregiver fill out a slip with their contact information, the name of the animal, and any hobbies the animal may have (this gives me ideas for photo ops)
  • Decide beforehand how many pictures you will take of each animal and how you want to print them off.  I’ve heard of libraries printing them on photo paper; I use a photo album template on Word, insert the pictures, and print them off on regular paper. 
  • If you are taking more than 1 or 2 pictures of each animal, think of a few group shots to include.  This will cut back on the amount of time spent on each animal. 
  • Consider giving each child some kind of giveaway when they come to pick up their animal, such as a free book to take home.  
  • I love Claudia Haines idea from the blog “Never Shushed” to have the kids return to pick up their animal at the same time and to host a storytime for all participants. You could also do this on drop off day! 

Here are a few my favorite photo set ups:

  • Animals making copies at the photocopier
  • Animals photocopying their bums 
  • Animals reading books about themselves (like Tigger reading a tiger book)
  • Animals answering the phone
  • Animals enjoying the bubble machine 
  • Animals listening to a storytime 
  • Animals working the circulation desk 

For more information on logistics and ideas for photo ops, check out these websites:


Large Print for Children

Libraries are for everyone! 


Recently I found a Gale Publishing blog post and Booklist Webinar about the benefits of large print books in aiding struggling readers. I was intrigued, but also a little skeptical as most of the relevant information I could find was from the publishers themselves who were seeking to sell their children’s large print collection. Nevertheless, the information provided led to me think about our own youth collection and if we were missing an opportunity to meet a need. 

Large print for struggling readers can: 

  • Aid in decoding, improving letter recognition 
  • Help eye tracking
  • Reduce eye strain because of the increased line spacing 
  • Reduce the number of reading miscues that hinder fluency 

A study done in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s found that children ages 5-11 made more errors when reading passages in a smaller print. The researchers recommended that children have access to large print to increase comprehension (source). School Library Journal also had a great article about the benefits of large print for reluctant readers, while also discussing the publisher’s role. It’s clear that large print is not just for seniors or the visually impaired, but can have a great impact on readers who have fallen behind on a grade level, experience eye fatigue, have ADD, or struggle with dyslexia. 

Some questions to consider: 

  • Do you offer large print books for children and young adults? 
  • Large print is defined as 16-18 pt font type. Consider using these font sizes if making your own material for children to practice their reading.
  • If you do have a large print collection, consider highlighting it as a resource for struggling readers in a book display or handout. 


Science and Engineering Activities 

Discover new people to follow online 


I’m always on the lookout for some great science and engineering activities to complement the books and subjects we do in our early elementary programs. Below are some of my favorite websites and blogs to turn to for science and engineering activities. 

  • Curiosity Machine: This website has some great challenges for kids of all ages. The website is easy to navigate with a menu to the left with types of challenges. The challenges themselves include a supply list and recommended grade-level. 
  • Wonderopolis: I love this website because it’s all about answering a question that kids have “wondered” and submitted to the website. The website was created by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) in 2010 and posts a daily “wonder of the day,” on a wide range of topics. While not every “wonder” has an activity with it, I like to use the website for inspiration. 
  • Steve Spangler Science: Although the blog has not been updated in a few years, the information stored there is phenomenal! You can also search things by using the tab “experiments” to look at experiments based on topic. My favorite experiments have been Patriotic Layered Density drinks and Strawberry DNA. 
  • TinkerLab: Rachelle Doorley has done a great job of collecting and creating some fun age-appropriate science projects. Also check out her book
  • STEM in Libraries: The “Heathers” have created a great blog full of activities. They have divided the website into “SCIENCE,” “TECHNOLOGY,” and “ENGINEERING,” and “MATH” activities. I love how they give a comprehensive list of supplies, outline of the program, and links to the resources they used.


Spring Storytime Books

Some of the neighborhood’s favorite books 


Here is a URL if you’d like to share the list with others:

Next month, we will be compiling our favorite rhyming storytime books! 

You can submit your favorite titles on our Instagram or through this link

In other bookish news, check out this new report by Scholastic on trends in parent-child reading! 


What is STEM?

Where we reflect on the deeper questions. 


I used to assume that any activity or program that incorporated a science, technology, engineering, or math component could quality as “STEM.” I was surprised to find out that according to my state’s education standards, an activity has to meet the following criteria to be considered “true” STEM:

  • Science, technology, engineering, and math have to all be present in the activity, not just one or two of the letters.
  • The students have to know which “letter” they are working on at any point in the activity.  For example, a student should be able to say “right now, I am engineering X” or “I’m doing the math to understand Y.” 
  • The science, technology, engineering, and math components have to be at grade level.  
  • Engineering component must include knowledge and design. 
  • Technology component must include creation and operation of a tool. 

Needless to say I was quickly humbled by the realization that according to the state of Oklahoma’s Department of Education, handing kids a robot to play with did not quality as STEM.  

Since libraries aren’t expected to follow the guidelines of state curriculum, I don’t think this means we have to abandon the word STEM all together until we meet the state standards.  However, I have started following these steps to ensure I am being accurate in my language and not misnaming something:

  • If an activity only uses math, call it a math activity. Same for science. This doesn’t take away from the value of an activity, it’s simply a more accurate description. 
  • Ask myself how I can make an activity more interdisciplinary.  When putting together a science activity, I can ask myself “can I include a design component? What tools can I provide?” In December, Allie shared a great template she made to encourage kids to think through a design and engineering process. This could be modified for all kinds of programs and elevate the complexity of an activity. 
  • Try to connect an activity to a real-world problem or experience. 

What does STEM mean to you? E-mail us at and let us know!


Slime Time

Chelsee Bumann 

Kids love making slime. It’s also a great way to incorporate STEM themes in a fun, messy activity. There are countless ways to create slime at many different price points. All of these reasons make slime a great library program.

I led my first Slime Time last year during Spring Break. It was a huge success. I used Canva to make cute posters to advertise the program and had the registration set for 30 people. The program filled up quickly, so I knew the program would be a hit.

The day of the program, I set up 4 stations for the kids to create 4 different kinds of slime. They could create fluffy slime, magnetic slime, heat sensitive slime, and regular/clear slime. I knew this program would be messy, so I offered smocks for kids to wear and had the kids mix the ingredients in ziplock bags. I also put instructions at each station and created a slime guide for attendees to take home to recreate the program. Everyone seemed to enjoy the slime options. The kids had fun experimenting with recipe variations to see how using different ingredient amounts would alter their slime.

Around 45 people attended the program. Thankfully, a few wonderful Librarians at my location volunteered to help supervise some of the stations. It was great being able to interact with the families who attended. The kids were super excited that they would get to take their slime home.

I will once again be leading this program during Spring Break. This time around, kids will be creating 3 slimes: fluffy slime, regular slime, and clear slime with an additive like foam beads, glitter, or metallic paint. I decided to scale down the program because of cost restrictions. (Although, I’m currently contemplating adding oobleck as a 4th option!) The scale of ingredients needed to create the 4 slimes from my first Slime Time for 30 people was a little more expensive than I intended. This year, I’m also planning on spending more time exploring the properties of slime by having the kids test how far they can stretch their slime before it breaks, how sticky it is, and observing their slime up close with a magnifying glass.

I am a big advocate of making a mess in the library. Many kids don’t have the opportunity to create things like this at home because of the time, ingredients, and mess it requires. The library is a great place for families to go to make a mess, learn something from it, and not have to worry about the clean up. So, I guess, what I’m trying to say is… Don’t be afraid to make slime at your library!

See Chelsee’s Slime Recipes here

Chelsee Bumann is a Children’s Librarian in Oklahoma City.

We are always looking to feature other librarians’ programs – so feel free to e-mail us with what you are up to!


Happy Birthday, Fred Rogers!

It’s Fred Rogers’ birthday, and we are giving away a copy of the wonderful documentary about his life, “Won’t You be my Neighbor?” 

Mr. Rogers is well known for encouraging children to “look for the helpers,” so to be entered into the giveaway, tell us about someone who has been a helper in your life.  You can submit your answer here.  We will pick a winner on March 27th. 

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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