It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian
A couple of small changes have been made to The Cardigan! First, as some of you read in the last issue, we have changed our release date from the 20th of each month to the first Wednesday of each month. I’m also excited about our Connect section this month. While we have enjoyed connecting you all with some great blogs and other social media accounts to follow, we are now excited to connect you with some debut authors in the next coming newsletters! This month we have Jennifer Blecher discussing her new book Out of Place. We’d love your feedback and hope you enjoy this new addition to the Connect section.
Also big thanks to those of you that follow us on @thecardigannewsletter Instagram! You have put us at over 500 followers! Who-hoo! You can check out our blog post at Hack Library School on how to prepare to be a Children’s Librarian and Katherine’s ALSC Blog Post on Big Body Play.
We love engaging with the neighborhood whether on Instagram or email, so please continue to share with us your successes and challenges in children’s librarianship. I truly believe that it takes a neighborhood to nourish a children’s librarian.
Deepen your knowledge on a topic related to Children’s Services.
I first learned about the importance of documenting children’s work while researching the Reggio Emilia Approach, an italian pedagogy of early childhood education. It most commonly takes the form of publicly displayed work, on a bulletin board or in a display case. By “work,” I mean more than a finished product. Documentation reflects all or parts of the creative and learning process. Learning can be documented through photographs, written transcripts, illustrations, or by putting the children’s work directly on the bulletin board. The Reggio Emilia Approach was developed for an educational setting, so some characteristics of documentation won’t be feasible to replicate in a library. However, I do think librarians can modify it and use it to their advantage!
Here are some of the benefits of documentation:
- It makes children’s learning visible to the larger library community. I’ve found that many adults have no idea what really takes place in Children’s programs or what we offer. What better advertisement of our services than by documenting it in the library lobby?
- It communicates to children that their work is valuable and worthy of study.
- It’s low cost with a high return.
- It documents your work! It’s a great, tangible “receipt” of the work you’ve been doing in your programs.
Characteristics of documentation vs. a traditional display:
- Includes the “voice” of the child (such as through an image label, a planning document, or a quote)
- It demonstrates the process as much as the outcome. Allie and I have started to encourage children to think through and plan their project before starting to create it. We make planning sheets using Canva (you can see an example here) and these can also make interesting documentation to study.
Here are two forms of documentation that Allie and I have implemented this summer. Each week in June, we had kids work on a project in teams over the course of two days. Each team created a poster that was then displayed in the library lobby.
Example 1: Each team was tasked with creating a stop motion video. Posters were made with their planning documents, props, pictures, and a link to the video so others could see their finished product.
Example 2: Children worked on a paper mache mask. The first day, they sketched their mask and made their paper mache. They returned two days later once it had dried to paint and embellish it. There were about four kids at each table, and each table formed a team (even though they each worked individually). We glued the planning sheets on poster board with the team names and displayed them in the lobby.
You can view more pictures of our documentation process here.
Here are some other resources to learn more about documentation:
- Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education
- Free Webinar: Why Document in Early Childhood Programs? Exploring the Benefits and Audiences of Pedagogical Documentation, by Susan Stacey
- Webinar Slides
Big Body Play in Programs
Play is a right! Learn quick tips to optimize play experiences in libraries.
We hope you all enjoyed the little introduction to Big Body Play in our last newsletter! If you are a new subscriber, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the newsletter to access our archives and read the June “Play” section.
Big Body Play doesn’t have to be extremely elaborate or necessarily occur in a special program. It can be integrated into the programs you are already offering, specifically Playtime and Storytime.
- Use “whole body” songs like Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, the Hooky Pookie, Ring Around the Rosie, or I’m An Airplane.
- Offer multiple opportunities for movement throughout storytime, such as doing a stretching exercise at the beginning, a high-movement song in the middle, and a parachute song at the end.
- Remember that big body play is likely to get kids’ heart rates up, meaning they will probably need some support calming back down for the next activity. There are two solutions to this: do all of the BBP activities consecutively at the end, or spread them out throughout storytime. If you do the latter, have a few deep breathing exercises ready to help get their heart rates back down so they can focus on the next story.
- If you have the option of having your program in one of multiple rooms, always go for the biggest room. Children will be more likely to move.
- Have toys that encourage BBP, such as: pop up tunnels, hula hoops, cones (so that they can create their own obstacle course), and large inflatable beach balls (I came upon this entirely by happenstance. I had used a beach ball during a parachute song and didn’t put it away, and kids had so much fun rolling and tossing it!)
GoNoodle is a free website and app designed for educators to promote movement, meditation, and relaxation in the classroom. They have hundreds of short videos (anywhere between 1 and 6 minutes) sorted by category. When offering a program for elementary kids, especially if they are coming directly from school, you can start off with a video to help center the group and “get their wiggles out” through large movements. I used the Baby Shark video last month and it was such a hit!
Are there any other toys, resources, or tips you have for promoting Big Body Play? I’d love to hear from you! You can e-mail me at email@example.com.
Stop Motion Videos
Learn about an interesting program you can easily replicate at your library
Lindsay Jones and Allie Barton
As part of our 2-day camp series we did a stop-motion project with our 1st-5th graders. We divided our students into groups of 4-5 with a variety of ages and assigned each team a teen volunteer. The teen volunteers had an opportunity to help guide the students in writing their stories and filming the stop motion. Below is an outline and some of our challenges and successes from this program.
Introducing Stop Motion and the Storyboard Process
The best way to help students think about stop motion was to show some examples! Since our summer reading theme this year was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak we showed this stop motion example (made by our very own teen librarian Lindsay Jones and Katherine Hickey!) Students also looked at flip-books to help illustrate how stop motion progresses by small movements of pictures, and even made their own!
It was also important to discuss what makes a story. Teams discussed how good stories include a beginning, middle, and end and great stories often have a problem and solution. After discussing these important story elements, teams were able to start their planning process using a story element organizer. Once they finished organizing their story, they were able to create their characters and setting boards using a variety of materials that we provided. On Day 2, we let them finish any of their characters and settings and, referring to their previously made storyboard organizer sheet, film their stop motion using Stop Motion Studio on our iPads. After they finished their stop motion, we uploaded their videos to YouTube and watched the stop motion movies together as a group.
Challenges, Successes and Suggestions
While the rest of the materials for this project are very low cost (miscellaneous materials for making characters, setting, etc.), having access to technology is key for this project. We gave each group an iPad to use. The teen volunteers were responsible for making sure the iPad was being used correctly and handled with care.
Working in teams can be hard for anyone. Making sure that everyone had a role and/or felt comfortable in their role in the group was difficult. The teen volunteers were instrumental in helping there be a set leader in the group to help facilitate ideas and make sure the group was moving forward. If possible, training volunteers about how to facilitate can help make these groups run smoothly.
We had such positive feedback from parents and a few of the students have already gone home and downloaded the free app Stop Motion Studio to create their own stop motion movies! We also documented their work by putting their story element organizers, characters, and links to their stop motion videos on posters so we could share their work with other library patrons!
Libraries are for everyone!
Being a caretaker can be a thankless job. You can see it written in the faces and hear it in the conversations at our programs. Inspired by my favorite yoga teacher, I have taken to offering my parents words of encouragement and gratitude. On days I remember, or especially days that seem extra challenging, I like to end my programs by saying something to the effect of:
“I know parenting and taking care of children can be a difficult, thankless job. So let me be the person to thank you for that today. Thank you for all the love you show your littles, the work you put in for their well-being, and for bringing them to share the joy of the library. I know it was probably hard to get here today, but you made that space, you took that time, and you are here now. You are doing a good job and I see and appreciate you”.
Caretakers always seem appreciative in general, but it’s the people who have approached me afterward to specifically express their own gratitude that keeps me doing it. It truly means the world to some people. And I sincerely hope it gives them the encouragement they need to keep going, keep coming to the library, and the grace to give themselves for the times that they can’t.
Discover new people to follow online
Katherine and I love finding new authors to follow! This week we connected with Jennifer Blecher and asked her some questions about her new book, Out of Place. Katherine recently read this great middle-grade novel and we hope you all not only read it, but also start recommending it to your patrons!
Tell us about your new book, Out of Place.
Out of Place is the story of a twelve-year old girl named Cove. Cove lives on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and she’s never left the island, which is absolutely fine until the day that her best friend Nina tells Cove that Nina will be moving to New York City with Nina’s fathers. In that instant, Cove’s entire life gets turned upside down and she has no idea how to make it feel better. It’s a story of friendship, big mistakes, and small acts of kindness that have enormous ripple effects. Most of all, it’s a voice-driven book about what it feels like to be a girl today and the struggles of navigating friendships, social pressures, and family.
I wrote this book because my oldest daughter (I have three girls!) was having trouble finding a book that really spoke to her. I wanted to give her the kind of book that I love to read – one that draws you in, spins you around, and spits you out a few hundred pages later feeling like a better version of yourself. But while I began writing this book for my daughter, in the end I wrote it for myself. When I was in fifth grade a group of girls at my school decided that I looked like a dog. They barked at me in the hallways and called me Rover. I never told a single adult about the experience. But when I started writing Cove’s story, that experience came flooding out. I made Cove endure the same bullying as I did, but she handled it way better. And yes, I know Cove’s a fictional character. But I love her with all my heart and I’m so proud of her.
What are some books that have had a great impact on your life and/or writing?
I read across all genres, so this is a tricky question. In terms of middle grade, I love The Thing About Jellyfish and it inspired a lot of Out of Place. For adults, any book that keeps me obsessively turning pages is a winner. Amor Towles, Elizabeth Gilbert, and J. Courtney Sullivan are a few writers who come to mind. For writing inspiration, I rely on Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing. Dani Shapiro is a teacher of mine, so anything that she writes I tend to devour.
How can our readers connect with you?
I’m an Instagram girl. You can always find me there at Jennifer.blecher.author. My website www.jenniferblecher.com also has all my contact information. I’d love to connect!
Math Picture Books
Some of our favorite books.
Including some math picture books in storytime can be a great way to encourage parents to introduce math concepts at home. Thank you to our wonderful Instagram followers for helping us curate this list! Click on the image to be redirected to the full list.
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out Katherine’s Nature Booklist from last month’s newsletter! My personal favorite was Carl and the Meaning of Life. Were you introduced to any new books from our booklists? Have you made any felt stories from any of the books? Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) how you’ve been using the booklists so we can share with the neighborhood!
Summer Programming: Camps
Where we reflect on the deeper questions.
Having summer camps at libraries has been a trend in summer reading for some time. In 2014 the ALSC blog highlighted the benefits of camp-style programming, citing that camps can give the opportunity to cover more complex subjects and projects and gives librarians the ability to build relationships with families since time is not as limiting as one-off programs.
This summer, our library piloted camp-style programming for elementary students in the month of June instead of weekly 1-hour programs. Each camp week covered an aspect of our summer reading program theme. We divided participants into teams led by one of our teen volunteers, or “camp counselors.” I’ll be honest, I have never been more exhausted after a series of programs than after planning and executing camp-style programming. I think part of it was because it was the first year, but I also think it’s because it takes an exuberant amount of work. In the midst of it, I was wondering if the amount of energy we were inputting was worth it, but now after reflection, I can see the value of camp-style programming. We had full registrations, high engagement during the program, and positive feedback from both parents and kids.
Reflection Questions/Comments about Camp Style Programming:
- Can everyone come? I really enjoyed what Maria Trivisonno shared recently on the ALSC Blog about drop-in programs. She shared that her library system is very successful in providing summer camps, but that because registration fills so quickly, there are many patrons that are not able to participate in this type of programming. They created drop-in programs that had similar projects to the camps, but didn’t require registration. I think although “camp style” programming is trendy, we can’t forget that we want ALL to have an opportunity to participate in our summer programs.
- Are we providing childcare? If so, is that okay? One of the initial questions and concerns when we proposed the idea of camp-style programming was the possibility that longer programs would become a form of (or substitute for) childcare. By having a longer program in the form of camps, are we providing childcare? If so, is that a problem?
- Hire an Expert. I think inviting and hiring presenters who are experts in a topic to lead a week would have relieved a lot of stress on our youth team. I think it’s a good reminder that we are librarians. We are not experts in everything, and we don’t have to be.
- Engage those teens! One of my favorite outcomes of our camp was the high engagement of our teen volunteers. Over the four weeks, it was so neat to see teens grow in their skills of leading and teaching a group of elementary students.
- Does it need to be a camp? I think a main takeaway as well is that the content should decide if it should be a camp or a one-off program. Camp style programming should be about learning a new skill or doing a project that needs multiple days to complete (examples: sewing, coding, paper mache, drama camp, etc.)
I’d love to hear about how you all do summer camps at your library! How long are they? What is the content? Do you find higher engagement in your camp-style programming than your one-off programs? Email us at email@example.com.
Kits for Checkout
Thank you to Jan Harrod from Fairfax County Public Library for sharing with us how they do STEAM kits.
Fairfax County Public Library began circulating STEAM kits last summer, and several more will be added later this year. Each kit is themed and has 4-6 books on that theme, a puppet to use with the books/activities, materials for 2-3 STEAM activities (not one for each letter, one for 2 or 3 letters). Originally, we intended the kits to be “instant program” for preschool classrooms and daycare providers, so each the materials included are enough for 5-10 kids to do an activity at the same time, such as a teacher might use in a center. One kit has “consumable” materials that are replenished occasionally by library staff; the others use materials that are returned each time with the kit.
Also included is a teaching manual that explains exactly how to do the 2-3 STEAM activities, suggestions for how to use the puppet with the books and activities, a list of songs and fingerplays related to the theme, and a resource list for related websites for reference and other ideas. Currently the themes are: All About Me, Roads/Transportation, Music/Movement, My Healthy Body and Nursery Rhymes/Fairy Tales. The kits are VERY popular!
Have you done a cool program you want to share The Cardigan Neighborhood? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to have it featured in an upcoming newsletter!
We love connecting with great authors like Jennifer Blecher and can’t wait to send her book to one of our lucky readers. To enter, fill out this form. We will pick a winner next week!
Congratulations to Millie for winning last month’s giveaway book!
You can access a PDF of this newsletter in our Google Drive. This is where we will be storing all future newsletters.
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