April 2019

April 2019

It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian

Dear neighbors,

I can’t believe it’s the Cardigan’s six month anniversary! The neighborhood is now comprised of over 2,200 librarians *insert scream emoji* We got to share more about our vision for the Cardigan on the ALSC Blog this month, so a special welcome to our new subscribers reading the newsletter for the first time. 

We got great responses for our crowdsourced list of rhyming storytime books that you’ll be able to see in our “Read” section.  And if you missed our crowdsourced list of Spring storytime books, you can check it out here. We hope to do more crowdsourcing in the future so if there’s any collective knowledge on a specific topic you’d like to tap in to, please let us know! 

Wishing you a happy Spring,



Library Tours 

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


At some point or another, you will likely be expected to give a tour of the library to a group of children. I remember when I was asked to give a tour to a local daycare and really scrambled to assemble an itinerary I was excited about and confident in.  I put a call out on Instagram to see how our followers engage students during tours and got some great answers I’m excited to share with you! 

  • Ask questions

Kids love to talk about the library, ask questions, and learn! Here is a list of questions you can ask the kids as you move through the different parts of the library.  This can of course be modified at will for group size and age range! 

  • Create a game 

Mary shared, “last year I did an activity where I had a powerpoint with different true/false questions about the library, and I had kids run to true and false signs I had posted on opposite sides of the room to see if the majority could guess correctly.  I asked questions like “our booksale made over $200,000 last year, true or false?” and “our mascot is an owl, true or false?” 

Jennifer described her use of a scavenger hunt, “I send them on a scavenger hunt to find things we talked about during the tour.  It includes questions about call numbers and book locations, as well as fun things like what animal is on the cover of the newest Ranger Rick magazine and what is the name of whoever is sitting at the Children’s desk.” 

  • Involve movement

Pippi had the great idea of involving movement, “depending on the group size and where we need to go, I give movement challenges – tiptoe, hop, giant steps, hands on shoulders, etc.” 

  • Give a behind the scenes look

Several of our readers shared the excitement of sharing the backroom with kids during tours.  This can include the workroom, the book sorter, any hidden or semi-spooky closet! It allows kids to feel special but also see all of the logistical work that goes into running a library every day. 


Dress-Up! Fantasy Play for Younger Elementary Students

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


We often offer costumes and materials for fantasy play to our early childhood students in our weekly playtimes at our library, but we often forget to offer the same opportunity to our younger elementary (K-3rd grade) students. While “STEM” challenges and art projects are still integral to our young elementary programming calendar, I believe offering a space for fantasy play for this age group is vital. 

In one of our favorite resource books, Purposeful Play: A Teacher’s Guide to Igniting Deep and Joyful Learning Across the Day, author Kristine Mraz describes a lesson titled: “Transform Yourself” where she gives young children an opportunity to create costumes and tools to become someone else. She frames the activity as one that helps the students develop empathy as they are able to “transform” themselves into someone else. She offers a variety of open-ended materials: fabric, cardboard, paper, markers, etc. and pictures of people/characters in popular play themes for inspiration. After they have created their costumes, it’s playtime! After playtime, they reflect what it was like to literally “step into someone else’s shoes.” She asks questions like, “How did you feel wearing different clothes? Did becoming another person help you understand that person’s feelings? How?” 

Creating costumes is not the only way to offer programs and opportunities for our younger elementary students to experience fantasy play. Below are some other ideas: 

  • Offer easy-to-wash costumes in the children’s area. We have these great superhero capes and masks that the kids just love.
  • In October we did an interactive display with books and materials about costumes and dramatic play and had a photo booth with a variety of costumes for children to take pictures and play with in the library. You can check it out (and other interactive display ideas) in my post on the ALSC Blog
  • Use the STEM challenges you are already doing to encourage fantasy play by using the theory of “Mantle of the Expert.” The teacher or librarian plans a fictional scenario where the students take on the responsibilities of an expert team. The most successful “mantle of the expert” program I have seen was when we invited geologists to come and do a program with our elementary students. The geologists told them that they were all going to be geologists for a day and gave them a scenario about digging for rocks in different places to learn the different types of rocks. This planning is time-consuming, but can be very rewarding! 


Projects that Fly: Rockets, Hovercrafts, and Planes, OH MY!

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


Although our library is not participating in this year’s Collaborative Summer Program theme: A Universe of Stories, I’ve been thinking of some past program projects that I have done that would be a great match to this fun theme. These projects might not be stand-alone programs, but are easy “stations” to be added to space-themed programs.



A couple of years ago I invited my good friend who is a NASA ambassador to do a NASA themed program for our elementary students. She led the kids in some fun projects, but the definite favorite project of the students were the pop-rockets. If you’re interested in doing the project, the link above has a really thorough list of the materials and directions. 


  • Make sure to buy film canisters with an internal snapping lid or the project won’t work. If you order from Amazon, many of the reviews let you know if the canisters are good to use for pop-rockets. 
  • Try to find a place outside to do this project, as the rockets can fly pretty high. 
  • If you have access to children’s safety goggles, I recommend giving them to kids as they launch their rockets. If you don’t, you’re still safe to do the project, but offering these gives a chance to talk about science safety. 
  • Whether or not you have safety goggles, I recommend an adult be present for the launching of the rockets. 


Although this one is tricky for those who have trouble blowing up balloons (ME!), kids really enjoyed making these hovercrafts with recycled CDs, balloons, and glue. The link above has a thorough list of materials and directions.


  • I really like the assessment questions Teach Engineering provides for this project. These questions can be a great springboard for discussion. 
  • While Teach Engineering suggests drilling holes into bottle caps, I recommend using a pop-top lid, as Scientific American suggests. 
  • Make sure to have a smooth space for the hovercrafts to glide. 

Straw Planes

As someone who isn’t the best at making paper airplanes, I found this a great alternative. This is also a great project to talk about air resistance and how airplanes work. 


  • I used this plane as a station for a “paper airplane extravaganza” program. We tested different types of paper airplanes to see which would fly better. It also might work well for a passive program. 
  • It does fly better when you use stiff paper instead of regular paper, so using cardstock or an index card is recommended. 

If you are participating in the Collaborative Summer Program theme, A Universe of Stories, we’d love to hear about some of your awesome summer program ideas so we can share it with our neighborhood. Email us at thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com or message or tag us on Instagram: @thecardigannewsletter


Consent in Storytime

Libraries are for everyone! 


While looking up titles to use for a dinosaur storytime, I came across Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein. I was uncomfortable with the main character walking around kissing each animal so abruptly, and decided not to use it.  Then, I saw Aaron Blabey’s adorable new book called “I Need a Hug.” The contrast was clear: unlike the dinosaur, the porcupine asks each of his friends if he can have a hug.  And yet, at the end, the porcupine concludes that “no one will hug me, that’s not very kind.” The character claims his friends are unkind for not wanting to give him a hug, instead of accepting that he is not entitled to physical affection from another person. 

The amount of picture books about characters needing hugs is surprising: Slug Needs a Hug (2015), Goose Needs a Hug (2012), Hedgehog Needs a Hug (2018), Who Needs a Hug? (2016). Each one of these books addresses the issue of consent differently, but it got me thinking about how to bring up consent in storytime. 

Here are a few of my thoughts. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever tried to teach consent in storytime and what your experience was!

  • If using a picture book in which consent between characters is not clear, point it out. Explain that it was not right for the dinosaur to kiss the animals without asking them first. 
  • Use picture books that clearly illustrate consent. Teach the word “consent” to kids by saying something like “the ladybug asked if she could get a hug. It’s always very important to ask before touching someone. We shouldn’t touch people if they don’t say yes. This is called asking for consent.” I love Will Ladybug Hug? by Hilary Yeung to teach consent! 
  • If using a song or fingerplay that involves tickling or touching another person (like, “Here is the Beehive”) tell the children to ask first if it is ok for them to tickle.  You can have them practice it beforehand, asking “is it ok if I tickle you at the end of the song?” and listening for the response. 


Sensory Play

Discover new people to follow online 


I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for sensory play in the library. Pinterest used to be my go-to source but it can feel overwhelming and scattered. Here are a few other sources to consider while looking for opportunities to get messy with the kids!

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids This is a great book filled with easy sensory activities. It was written by Asia Citro, the creator of the blog Fun at Home with Kids which is another creative and helpful resource

Busy Toddler Susie is a kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who chronicles the learning activities she plans for her kids.  She has a great list of sensory activities that can easily be modified for older or younger kids. 

Learning 4 Kids’ List of Sensory Play Activities Learning 4 Kids has been around a long time and has amassed a great list of unique and creative sensory projects. 

Babble Dabble Do’s Instagram Babble Dabble Do is a popular STEAM website with beautiful graphics and projects for kids. Ana’s instagram is just as beautiful and boasts a lovely collection of sensory projects.

#sensoryplay: check out the sensory play hashtag on Instagram. There are always hundreds of new posts every day. It’s a lot of content to sift through but one of the best ways to get lots of ideas quickly!


Rhyming Storytime Books

Some of our favorite books. 


Thank you to everyone who helped crowdsource this month to make a list of great rhyming books. Check out the full rhyming books document to see all the rhyming books our neighborhood suggested!

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



Summer Reading vs. Learning

Where we reflect on the deeper questions. 


In 2017, Christine Caputo and Christy Estrovitz presented a new way of conceptualizing Summer Reading in an article entitled “More Than Just Summer Reading,” in the ALSC journal Children & Libraries. They argued that the “summer slide” reaches far beyond a slide in reading: it affects other areas of learning too. Rich and diverse learning opportunities over the summer are often limited to families that can afford summer camp, visiting museums, going on vacations to new places, etc. Libraries can step in and provide these interesting learning experiences at no cost, and build them into the existing incentive structure of Summer Reading. 

Here are some concrete ways libraries are expanding their learning opportunities over the summer:

  • Allowing customers to earn incentives for non-reading activities, like attending a library program and visiting local cultural centers using free passes offered through the library. 
  • Using a camp model, by hosting weekly camps with longer programs that foster in-depth learning. Check out this ALSC Blog Post called “Camp: The New Trend in Summer Reading.” 
  • Expanding program offerings for the Elementary crowd. They are the key demographic that is most likely to visit the library more in the summertime, since they are still too young to be at home on their own. 
  • Offering more drop-in, self directed programs. Check out the Chicago Public Library’s Summer Learning Challenge, which earned them the first ever award in Excellence in Summer Learning by the NSLA. 
  • Partnering with schools to identify students that might benefit from Summer Learning activities, and collaboratively designing programs. 
  • Expanding collaborations with community organizations over the summer
  • Increasing parental and family engagement in programs

The Urban Libraries Council developed this beast of a report on Summer Learning where you can read more in-depth research on the shift in language and focus. And the Chicago Public Library wrote a fabulous book on transitioning to a learning model, called Summer Matters: Making All Learning Count

While these resources are top-notch, they can be a bit lengthy to digest and elusive in their implementation. I also wonder why these practices are limited to summertime… they seem like great practices that could positively impact year-round programming! What are your thoughts?  And what are some ways your library has sought to expand its learning opportunities over the summer? Let us know at thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com



“I was wondering if you could address what sort of literacy programming you do for older kids beyond book clubs? At our library, we do amazing storytimes for little ones, but then I feel like our elementary programming starts to steer away from books. Of course we include a display of books related to the programming that we do, and of course we do summer reading, and of course we do  book clubs, but I’m looking for other ideas. Do you know of writing groups for elementary? What sort of activities do they do?” 

Liz, Santa Clarita, CA. 

What a great question! As librarians we are very creative in being able to relate all of our programs to literacy because literacy permeates every subject, but I can understand wanting to offer some more literacy-focused activities. I love the idea of writing activities because this takes our students from being consumers of literature to being creators of literature. 

Last fall I did a program called “Kids Writing Lab” that was geared towards our younger elementary students. The program was designed to help them practice their letter recognition, spelling, and handwriting skills. You can read about this program for Kindergarten through 3rd grade students in our January newsletter in the “Plan” section.

For older elementary students regarding writing programs, the School Library Journal did an article titled, “Strategize: Great Ideas for Library Writing Programs. While the article is tailored towards school librarians, some of the activities would be great to use if starting a writing club. For example, the “round-robin” activity mentioned in the article would be an easy plug-in writing activity to an already established writing club. The programming librarian also has an article titled, “WRITE Stuff Writing Club,” where a librarian from the Skokie Public Library discusses her experiences doing a writing workshop for 4th-8th graders that had so much success that it became a regular writing club. The NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program also has some resources for educators on writing activities. You do have to sign-up with your email, but all the resources are free. 

I think a reoccuring theme in all the resources I have looked at regarding writing programs is that it’s important to have some sort of avenue to publish or share the students’ writings, whether this is a blog that can be shared or a physical copy that can be added to the collection. I’d also look to see if there are any creative writing teachers or professors in your area that have writing prompt tips or are interested in hosting a creative writing workshop for elementary students. 

Neighborhood, we’d love to hear from you! What are some writing activities you have done for elementary students? Any other literacy-specific related programming you would recommend for elementary students? 


It’s giveaway time! We enjoyed Gary Schmidt’s new middle grade novel, Pay Attention Carter Jones, and are giving away one copy to a lucky winner.  To enter, fill out this form. We will pick a winner next week! 

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s