September 2019

September 2019

It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian

Dear Neighborhood,

We reached over 2,500 subscribers this month! We are so thankful to everyone who has kept reading with us from the beginning and to our new subscribers that have just joined the neighborhood. We want to deliver interesting and timely information as well as have relevant discussions with you all. If we aren’t writing about something you think we should be, email us! We want to find experts to answer your questions and also crowdsource the 2,500 neighbors to discuss all things children’s librarianship. 

Speaking of discussions, I’m excited for you all to read our “Consider” section this month. One of our followers on Instagram sent us a message that had us reconsider one of our sensory activities we did this month in playtime. Katherine and I also had some deep discussions about the middle-grade book Orange for the Sunsets by Tina Athaide and I can’t wait for you all to read about this book and author in our “Connect” section! 

Also thank you to Literacious for the awesome shoutout on their blog! We were so humbled to be mentioned by this amazing website that has so many great resources for children’s librarians! 

Thanks again for being a part of the neighborhood, 



Teaching Optimism  

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


Resilience, mindfulness, growth mindset, and grit have been buzzwords in early childhood education for years now. Another related buzzword that is gaining attention is “optimism.” All of these practices are byproducts of positive psychology and all can be learned. I have enjoyed reading Laura J. Colker, EdD and Derry Koralek’s book Making Lemonade: Teaching Young Children to Think Optimistically. It has some great resources and ideas on how to instill optimism in young children.

Optimistic children are more likely to identify and regulate their emotions, have better chances to succeed in school, and even have healthier immune systems than their pessimistic counterparts. Thinking optimistically comes down to our explanatory style, or the stories we use to explain the cause of any event–good or bad. I shouldn’t have been shocked to learn that our explanatory style begins in the first few years of life. Colker and Koralek write, “The concepts of optimism and pessimism emerge at around ten months of age, following the development of object permanence…” Exposure to the following influences will have a great impact on a child’s explanatory style: 

  • The explanatory style of the trusted adults in their lives (parents, teachers, grandparents, etc.)
  • The feedback or criticism they receive from these trusted adults
  • The experience of life-altering events. 

According to Colker and Koralek, by the time children are eight, their explanatory style is set and it will remain unchanged throughout the course of their lives until there is an intentional intervention. While we know there are so many factors in helping children to think optimiscially, there are some things we can do in the library to help children develop an explanatory style that will encourage them to be resilient and optimistic. 

  1. Read and share stories that encourage optimism, mindfulness, and a growth mindset. Whether this is in storytime, a book display, or doing personal reader’s advisory with parents and children, it’s important to share stories that have characters exhibiting optimism. If you are reading with the children, discuss how optimism helped the character stay resilient and how we can do that in our daily lives too! Here are a few of my favorites: 
    1. Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by James Dean
    2. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
    3. Swimmy by Leo Lionni
    4. The Digger and the Flower  by Joseph Kuefler
  2. Use an explanatory style that is optimistic. Now this might be hard if we ourselves don’t have an optimistic explanatory style. Optimists see bad events as passing, while pessimists see them as ongoing. Be aware in programs and interactions with children of the language you use when something goes wrong. For example, if it rains during a planned program that was supposed to be outside say something like, “That’s okay! Sometimes this happens. I bet we can have fun indoors!” Modeling explanatory style for children is important. 
  3. Ask questions that help children identify their explanatory style. If a child is visibly struggling with something, ask them questions like “What are you saying to yourself?” “What are you thinking inside your head?” “What is your head telling you?” Research has shown that when asked to reflect on their explanatory style, children can grasp what they are believing about themselves.
  4. Encourage children to express optimism through the visual arts. Colker and Koralek suggest challenging children to create art that expresses what it’s like when they feel good about themselves, when they have solved a problem, had fun, or accomplished something that they didn’t think they could do through art. Processing what it feels like to be optimistic through art helps children develop a positive explanatory style. It doesn’t just have to be through drawing or painting, but you can also ask children to think about what happiness sounds like with instruments or what it looks like in dance. 
  5. Create and/or change endings to stories that present a problem or challenge to have an optimistic twist. Just this week I watched Katherine do this in her baby storytime. When they sang, “Humpty-dumpty,” she encouraged the parents and children to change it from, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again,” to “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men COULD put Humpty Dumpty together again.” These simple changes can help children see an optimistic outcome in their own problems that they face. 

I highly recommend Making Lemonade: Teaching Young Children to Think Optimistically by Laura J. Colker and Derry Koralek if you are looking for information and activities about optimism. We’d love to hear from you all! What are some ways you incorporate optimism in programs? Send us your favorite stories and books that encourage optimism to the


Crossing the Midline

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


Imagine your body is divided in half from your head to your toes by a vertical line: this is called the midline. 

Being able to “cross the midline” (for example, using your left hand to reach for something on the right side of your body) is a form of coordination developed through multiple stages. In the first few years of life, children won’t be able to cross the midline on their own. It isn’t until the ages of 3 or 4 that they can do so independently. A lack of opportunity to grow those skills may result in difficulties with fine and gross motor activities, and specifically reading. We read from left to right; a child who hasn’t had sufficient opportunities to practice crossing the midline may not be able to track a text from one direction to another. It can also impair daily activities such as writing, positioning an object, or using two hands to complete a task. (Source)

Play and storytime are perfect opportunities to introduce bilateral activities. I’ve tried to use the term “midline” or “crossing the midline” in each of my early childhood programs, to expose parents to the concept and give them language to talk to their health care providers if they ever feel like their child is struggling in this area. 

Here are some of the activities I’ve used:

  • Movement with Nursery Rhymes. Tell caregivers, “grab your child’s hand and raise it above their body, now bring it down at a diagonal and repeat. We are going to recite a nursery rhyme in rhythm with the motion. This is called crossing the midline and is great for their coordination!” “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” is one of my favorite rhythms to pair with this motion. We recite it once, then change hands, and repeat. Be sure to follow us on Instagram at @thecardigannewsletter – I’ll try to post a demo video!
  • Repeat Fingerplays. Have children recite a fingerplay, such as “Two Little Blackbirds” on the left side of their body then on the right side. You can transition by saying, “oh I think they are two birds on this hill over here!” 
  • Toy Cars. Provide a play carpet with roads and toy cars, and have children take their cars across the city. Challenge a kid to move their car using only one hand for the whole trip.
  • Tracing. Encourage children to trace letters or shapes with a finger. These playdough mats work great. 
  • Props. Use storytime props (such as scarves, bells, or shakers) in every direction! This is probably the easiest scenario in which to educate parents. You could say “let’s shake on our left, then on our right, to cross the midline!” 
  • Figure 8. The figure 8 is a wonderful shape for kids to practice crossing the midline visually and through coordination. Check out this train set

Please e-mail us at for any more ideas you have to promote midline-crossing activities!


Kindness Cards 

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


Two months ago, I wrote about the importance of displaying and documenting children’s work. This is a spin on the same concept: having children and teens create artwork that is distributed to adult customers in order to educate them about the learning that occurs in the library

In honor of National Day of Encouragement (September 12th), Allie, myself, and our colleague Lindsay asked children and teens that attended our programs throughout the month of August to paint 5×7 index cards. They could embellish them any way they wanted: with markers, paint, watercolor, gel pens. This served as a “warm-up” activity in my early childhood art program. I explained the purpose of the activity and had children take 5-7 minutes to paint a few cards.  During our library’s Children’s Reading to Dogs program, Allie had kids waiting in line paint cards. And Lindsay had her teens paint cards when they came over to the library after school. We ended up with 100 individually painted cards that customers checking out at the circulation desk will be able to choose from on September 12th. 

The kids loved the idea of being able to gift a piece of art to a stranger, and we hope the adults will find it to be a heartwarming and memorable token of their visit to the library. This could easily be replicated for any holiday or event! 

Here is a little collage showing the variety of artwork created:


Playing with Food

Libraries are for everyone! 


Last week, Allie and I posted a picture on Instagram of a sensory activity involving colored noodles for children to play with. One of our subscribers, Katherine, pointed out the need to be reflective when using food for play. She remarked, “we have customers experiencing food insecurity as well as customers for whom it is against cultural values to waste food.” This is such a great comment and a question to reflect on while planning activities: how will customers in my community respond to this? Could it be construed as insensitive? Are there non-food alternatives that can be used to provide a similar experience? 


Tina Athaide 

Discover new people to follow online 


Orange For the Sunsets is a new middle grade novel by debut author Tina Athaide. I was both intrigued and heartbroken reading this historical fiction story. It was a pleasure getting to know Tina and her inspirations for the book. Katherine and I both discussed this book at length and we hope you’ll purchase this book for your collection. 

1. Tell us about your new book and your inspiration.

Orange For the Sunsets is set in Uganda, where I was born,  and tells the story of Asha and Yesofu. Two friends who have never cared about their differences. Indian. African. Short. Tall.  It’s never mattered But when Idi Amin announces that Indians have ninety days to leave the country, suddenly those differences are the only things people can see.  

Determined for her life to stay the same, Asha clings to her world tighter than ever before. But Yesofu is torn, pulled between his friends, his family, and a promise of a better future. As neighbors leave and soldiers line the streets, the two friends find that nothing seems sure—not even their friendship.

Though my family’s departure from Uganda was not as traumatic as the experiences depicted in the novel, I remember relatives arriving at our London home with one suitcase and fifty shillings, which is all they were allowed to take when they left. Later, I attended a Ugandan reunion in Vancouver and was moved by how the community’s joy, hope, and resilience empowered them to rebuild their lives in new countries and I worried that the story might get lost and I knew it needed to be told. The real push to start writing came during the early years of my teaching career when I realized that there were few books that dealt with cultures outside of the white European experiences. So, I started writing. 

I cannot describe the amazement that captures my heart when I see Orange For The Sunsets in a book shop or library am thankful this story is being shared with readers, young and old. I believe that books have the power to open readers to new awareness and appreciation of differences in culture and experience and am honored to be a part of that journey for someone.

2. What are some books that have had an impact on your life and writing?

Growing up I loved the Narnia series, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, and anything written by Lois Lowery (Anastasia Krupnik series, Number The Stars) There wasn’t a lot of diversity in children’s books. As an adult I love learning about history from books, especially connecting to the experiences of the characters. Some of my favorite books include:

-Countdown by Deborah Wiles

-The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

-Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga

-The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 

3. How can our readers connect with you?

Readers can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram:


Instagram: tinaathaide

Facebook: tinaathaide 

Readers can email me at:



Some of our favorite books. 


Click on the image to be redirected to a list of great train-themed storytime books!


Prizes for Reading

Where we reflect on the deeper questions.


If you’re like me, you might be tired of reflecting on summer reading, so consider this entry not just about prizes for summer reading, but for any type of reading program you do, whether this is a reading tutoring program, a winter reading program, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, etc. When I arrived at my library, I was asked to take over a program staple that has been going on in our library system for years: Children Reading to Dogs. Children sign up to practice their reading to therapy dogs. I was given a variety of trinkets to give to children as rewards for reading to the dogs. While some of the kids couldn’t wait to receive their paw-print sticker or tiny toy, some parents had no interest in collecting more “things.” 

To be honest, there’s a little part of me that doesn’t love providing “prizes” for reading. I often wonder if it conveys to children a message that reading is not, in and of itself, interesting and valuable. Reading becomes the means to an end (the reward) rather than its own reward. 

In 2017, Children & Libraries posted a study where they investigated rewards as motivators in public library summer reading programs and it addressed my concerns listed above. They discussed extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. I was encouraged they found that relevant rewards given to students with low intrinsic motivation can have long-term positive impact. The authors write, “If rewards are based on quality (e.g., challenging her reading level or selecting a genre he never read before) and are not controlling and the rewards are gradually removed, shifting the emphasis to the individual student’s progress and accomplishment, students can begin to move from an extrinsic to more of an intrinsic orientation.” 

In their recommendations for best practice, they recommended that if rewards must be given, librarians should provide rewards related to reading. The authors write, When rewards are not related to the task, students do not connect the two and therefore the rewards have little to no long-term impact on reading attitudes and behaviors. They also can have a negative impact on students’ intrinsic motivation for reading.” 

I am not anti-prizes for reading, but I do think this study can help us reflect on how and why we provide rewards for reading. I have since been able to implement a reward system that involves books for the Children Reading to Dogs program. I know books can get expensive to provide for prizes. While at a smaller library I applied for the Dollar General Summer Reading Grant. 

Tell us how your library uses prizes for reading! Share with us any grants that have helped you provide literacy-related prizes for reading programs. You can email us at


Getting Creative with Storytime Props

We were asked by a reader about some creative and out-of-the-box uses for storytime props. The neighborhood didn’t disappoint with these great suggestions! 

  • Dot stickers: give each child a dot sticker while reading “Don’t Push the Button.” The dot becomes each child’s button (@fortbethany)
  • Egg shakers: pair egg shakers with books relating to shaking things. Have kids shake along with the words in the book (@fortbethany)
  • Humpty Dumpty: each kid holds an egg shaker and pretends it’s Humpty Dumpty, while reciting Humpty Dumpty (@fortbethany)
  • Pipe cleaner for Hermie the Worm Song (@fortbethany)
  • Balloon: before singing “Sticky Sticky Bubble Gum,” demonstrate blowing a bubble gum with a balloon. Release the air slowly so the balloon makes a whistling sound. 
  • Drum: before reading Kevin Henkes’ “Birds,” put a drum in the middle of the storytime circle. Explain that when you give them the cue, they can come hit the drum. When a loud sound scares the birds away, give the cue. 
  • Old Mama Squirrel: Read the book and have kids shake their shakers when she goes “chook! Chook chook!” (@ashleysnelgrove_)
  • Scarves: have kids “paint” themselves with a scarf while reading the book “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More” (@bohemiancardigan)
  • Scarves: kids wave scarves in the air while reading “Walter’s Wonderful Web.” (@teacher2library)
  • Tambourines: Have everyone shake their tambourines whenever Kat sings in “Kat Writes a Song” (@megslibrarycrafts)
  • Sorting: pass bean bags, scarves, and shakers around and have kids sort them into piles (by color, noisy/quiet) (@mzspell)


We love connecting with great authors like Tina Athaide 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 Ann 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. 

Logo by Thomas Freeman

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