March 2020

March 2020

It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian

Hello Neighborhood!
I’m so excited for this March issue because we have so many fabulous guest writers sharing their knowledge with us. 

In our Learn section, Dr. Alesha Baker shares with us some insights on collection policies in school libraries. Even if you are not a school librarian, the information shared is so valuable and we would love to hear your feedback. I can’t wait for you to read our Play section, as Tara and Kate share their amazing work with their rotating play centers in the library. It’s amazing what a simple puppet theater can become! We also have guest writer, Teresa Rodriguez, who shares some great tips about food in programs in our Consider section. It’s rewarding to see so many different names contributing to The Cardigan. 

We are also so grateful to Allison for sending us this article in response to our sections on Social and Emotional Learning. This particular study finds a link between the amount of praise received by a student and their behavior in class. We love seeing how valuable positive feedback can be for a child.

As always, we love to hear from you. So please don’t hesitate to reach out via email ( or on our Instagram, @thecardigannewsletter

Thanks neighborhood for all your support, 



The Intersection of Professional Standards, Statements and Policies for the School Library

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

Alesha Baker, PhD-Northeastern State University

With the release of the AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries in 2018, school librarians are tasked with new ways to engage learners. One such way to engage with learners outlined in the standards is to “foster opportunities for learners to demonstrate personal curiosity and creation of knowledge…” (AASL, 2018, School Librarian, V.A.2). Couple this standard with Article II of the Library Bill of Rights which states, “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval,” school librarians can expect to receive challenges on materials found in their collections.

Being prepared for, not being in fear of should be the focus of school librarians when thinking about the possibility of a book challenge. In an attempt to prepare yourself and the school library, a school librarian should:

Be familiar with the AASL Standards. The standards were developed for the purpose of guiding school librarians on how to engage learners for academic and personal growth. Providing students with the opportunities to access materials that satisfy their curiosity is an important responsibility of the school librarian and the school library.

Discuss the standards with school administration. School administrators should have an understanding of the expectations of the school library collection and the school librarian’s position for all stakeholders. As the role of the school librarian expands and standards are modified to reflect the changes, administrators must be kept up-to-date.

Review (and follow) your Selection and Reconsideration Policies. The first step in this process is to make sure you have policies in place. These policies may be established at a site or district level. If your school library does not have School Board approved and adopted policies, you should begin creating policies as soon as possible. You do not want a situation to arrive that puts into question why you chose a certain resource and no guidelines that are in place. Additionally, if someone challenges a resource, you need to be prepared on how to proceed with a formalized Reconsideration process.

Know key ALA and AASL professional statements and where to find them. There is a reason school librarians choose the materials they choose, why censorship is restricted, and why libraries are a place to seek resources for the attainment of knowledge, but also to satisfy curiosity. Therefore, have a copy of the AASL Standards in your collection to refer to or to provide an administrator, teacher, parent, or other stakeholder who asks why you make the decisions you do concerning the school library and its collection.

Questions surround what students should have access to within their school libraries. It is the job of the school librarian to not only make the decisions, but also justify them. Armed with guidelines and standards from professional organizations along with School Board approved policies, school librarians can be confident in their choices.


  • American Association of School Librarians. (2018). National school library standards for learners, school librarians, and school libraries. Chicago: ALA.
  • American Library Association. (2016). Library bill of rights.

Dr. Alesha Baker is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Northeastern State University 


Rotating Play Centers

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

Tara Golden and Kate Brooks-Etzkorn

Tara and Kate have been so creative in their respective libraries, turning their puppet theater and other furniture into different play centers! We hope their creativity inspires you, we know it has inspired us. Check out their amazing photos and supplies below.


After Thanksgiving, I was very inspired by pie, so I created a pie making station and had the idea to make it look like a locally famous pie joint. The front of the puppet stage was designed to look like the front of their store. I shared pictures with the pie shop via Instagram, which they are very active users on, hoping they would cross post. While they seemed to enjoy the pictures, they never shared. However, kids and adults loved having a “real” store in the area.

For the second round, I approached a local coffee shop, showing them pictures of the first setup and asked them if they were interested in partnering by donating some materials. I was mostly asking for empties and a few cups and they were delighted to help. This is how I will handle most of my future setups. It worked out because they provided supplies and posted on their social media accounts about the play space, which helped cross promote us with their own audience. It works for the store because they get free advertising. And the kids have specifically commented about how cool it is to use real things, not just toys. It has been a win, win, win situation and a great opportunity to build partnerships within our community. 


Most of the items are either thrifted, donated, DIY, or from Dollar Tree. I invested in a toy cash register and credit card machine as these items can be used for multiple dramatic play scenarios. The cash wrap pieces are velcroed down in an effort to keep them from being moved to a different location.

Pie Shop Items:

  • Pie tins
  • Felt circles for pie crusts
  • Bowls for mixing
  • Jars filled with pompoms for pie filling
  • DIY Oven made with a box, duct tape, magnets, and a laminated pie picture.
  • Empty spice bottles
  • Mixing spoon, whisk, measuring cup, etc

I also made a few pieces of felt pie. Next time I’ll forego the whipped cream, because it gets ripped off nearly immediately.

Coffee Shop Items

  • Coffee urns
  • Coffee cups
  • Coffee sleeves
  • Empty bottles of coffee flavoring
  • Empty bottles of milk
  • Cash register from IKEA
  • Credit card machine from Le Toy Van (Amazon)
  • Aprons for baristas
  • Felt money


The first interactive play we did with the puppet theater was a tea shop. It has been so popular with multiple generations of visitors. I used the puppet theater, a couple of kids chairs and a small display/side table, and off to the side there is a display of tea themed books and kids cookbooks. I have a lot of materials I was able to use, so the only thing purchased was the cute cups. They are NOT necessary at all.


  • Cups with lids. 
  • Tea bags (I just hot glued white felt over tea bags so that they would still have the tea smell would come through. Like ravioli, but instead of pasta it is felt and instead of cheese, it’s a tea bag)
  • Felt cookies
  • paper envelopes to put the tea bags in.
  • little wooden Melissa and Doug box that I display the tea bags in.
  • Felt tea cups and letters on the front. I’d like to do more of this in the future. As is, the bright felt definitely made people notice it and drew them over.
  • play money (just printed from offline) in a plastic pencil box
  • a menu with prices (just handwritten)
  • a small notebook for taking orders
  • Play kitchen’s pitcher, tea pot, small plates, and cups.
  • some fake flowers in a oui yogurt jar.
  • a few tablecloths I brought from home.

A few times a day I go over and tidy, but customers have been keeping it tidy overall. We’ve seen families playing with it multiple times every single day. I love it.

Before we had the display I did a vegetable stand/farmer’s market, just using a shelf. One of the reasons I picked out this stand is the ability to flip it around and use the cubbies as merchandise shelves and play store and more. We’ve also done a soup restaurant, a little library, and an ice cream shop using other random furniture. I love this thing, but you don’t have to have a stand to do imaginative play.


Responsible Pet Ownership

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


One of our library system’s outcomes is “Civic Engagement,” and I’m always on the lookout for ways to help engage our kids in our community. Since February was “Responsible Pet Ownership Month,” I created a program designed for our Kindergarten-3rd grade crowd on the responsibilities of owning a pet, while also promoting serving and giving back to our local humane society. 

The Program: 

I wanted to highlight all of the resources we have about pet ownership so I had a large table with a selection of items on different types of pets. During the program though, I mainly focused on dogs and cats. We discussed as a group what pets need (food, shelter, lots of love) and then read Can I Be Your Dog? By Troy Cummings. Can I Be Your Dog focuses on a stray dog that writes letters to everyone on his street as he looks for a home. We talked about how lonely he must have felt and how there are many dogs in our city that are looking for homes too! We then read select poems from Cat Talk by Patricia MacLachlan, that also highlights different stray cats that need homes. After we discussed the books and what it means to take care of our animals, I gave the kids time to make t-shirt rope toys and ping-pong ball cat toys. They could either make them for their own pets, or they could leave them with me and I would donate them to our local Humane Society.


I also invited our therapy dogs from our Children Reading to Dogs program to have on hand as special guests for the children and parents to ask them questions about pet ownership. Many of our volunteers have dogs that they rescued from the animal shelter. The children also loved petting and playing with our precious therapy dogs. 


T-shirt Dog Toys

  • All you literally need is T-shirts. I asked co-workers to donate any of their (clean) t-shirts they didn’t want anymore. You can also order shirts in bulk on Amazon! I followed the instructions on this website pretty closely. It was also fun to teach the kids the skill of basic braiding! 

Ping-Pong Ball Cat Toys

  • Ping-pong balls
  • Markers
  • Colorful Duct tape 
  • Rice 
  • Sharp needle

Before the program, I punched a hole in the ping balls with the needle so that the kids could put 15-20 pieces of rice in the ping-pong ball. They then used the duct tape to cover up the hole and then decorated the ping pong ball. 

Future Adaptations 

While this worked for us as a stand-alone program, I am looking forward to adapting it to a passive program. The materials are easy to leave out and our local humane shelter was so grateful for the donations! If I were to do the stand-alone program again, instead of our Children Reading to Dogs volunteers, I might ask a representative from the Humane Society to come to talk about their adoption process as well as explain what they do to help animals in our city. 

Have you all ever done a similar program? We’d love to hear about it! Email us at or tell us about it on our Instagram, @thecardigannewsletter


Food in Programs

Libraries are for everyone! 

Theresa Rodriguez

Recently, our library provided a school-aged children’s program that was titled something like “cooking for tweens.” When the program ended I noticed that what the children cooked was vanilla pudding with vanilla cookies and lots of chocolate chips on top. This reminded me of another program in a library where I worked before titled something like “kids cooking” that was filled with recipes such as this one. Recipes that were filled with a mix of prepared puddings, candies, yogurt, gummies, and cookies. I started thinking about whether or not these programs are the best programs in serving children. Are we providing the children with real cooking skills or are we providing them with sugar, processed snacks that are not very healthy for their bodies? 

As a parent, the intake and bombardment of sugar is prevalent in my child’s life.  I see it at birthday parties and family gatherings. I see it in school classrooms around holiday celebrations. The school will treat students with snow cones for showing up every day each month and will even treat them to donuts for a welcome back treat after a long break. The children we serve as librarians are getting bombarded with sugar without our help.

When I brought up this topic to Katherine, she shared with me that her library went through some changes with foods in programs, but it circled around food allergies. I had not even thought about allergies. Many children live with food allergies to nuts, dairy and eggs. These children cannot fully participate in cooking programs that offer pudding, peanut butter and packaged foods.

Instead of focusing on sugary treats, we can provide programming that teaches them about fruits and vegetables, how to grow their own gardens or create snacks from nutrient dense food. We can provide programming that teaches them about where their food comes from or about the grocery store. I believe the intention behind these food programs is great; however, we need to question whether or not they are in the best interest of the children we are serving. 

Here are some questions to consider when thinking about programming and food. 

  • Can we provide programming with food that serves the children in ways that teach them about choosing nutrient dense foods? 
  • Can we provide programming with food that teaches them about healthy food choices?
  • Are we providing programming that excludes children with allergies? 
  • Can we focus on health and moving our bodies instead of food? 
  • Can we invite speakers to talk with children? A grocer? A farmer? A master gardener?
  • What is the specific goal we are trying to achieve with this food program? 

Theresa Rodriguez, M.L.S. and M.S. Early Childhood Education


Matthew Landis

Discover new authors!


When I read Matthew Landis’s book It’s the End of the World as I Know It, I couldn’t wait to email him to be our featured author. He so expertly captures the voice of an 8th grade boy dealing with some heavy issues. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure to put it on your list, right after reading this interview with Landis, himself. 

1. Tell us about your book, It’s the End of the World as I Know It, and the inspiration for the book.

My book centers on 13-year-old Derrick Waters at the start of his eighth-grade year. For the past six months, he’s been converting his backyard shed into a legit fallout shelter in order to survive the Yellowstone caldera eruption—an event he and his doomsday blog, APOCALYPSE SOON!, believes will happen on September 21st, nineteen days from the book’s opening. He’s prepping for the Big One. The countdown is on.

But Derrick isn’t a true prepper—at least not way down. His anxiety about The End stems from a specific trauma: A year before the book’s opening, Derrick’s mom, a Major in the United States Air Force, was killed in Iraq. This sudden and violent loss, coupled with Derrick’s refusal to confront that grief, forged in him a simple creed: he will survive the next “end.” This obsessive lookout for doomsdays led him to the Wyoming super volcano, which became his simultaneous obsession and avoidance mechanism. 

Two former students in my 8th grade classroom inspired this story, both who survived their own versions of the apocalypse. One made it through a potentially fatal illness, and the other parental death. Heavy stuff. I wanted to tell that story of peeking behind the curtain but not stepping through it—of examining how end-of-world circumstances change us. I also wanted to explore (and maybe share my own) life coping with anxiety, a pervasive issue amongst my 8th grade students. I actually began stockpiling water in my basement while researching for this book, and nearly dropped the project altogether. Then my wife reminded me of all those helpful therapy exercises I learned (and paid for), which helped me ultimately finish the project. Also I needed the money for my giant family (4 kids: a five-year-old, a three-year-old, and eight-month-old twin boys). Yes, I said twins. TWIN-POCALPYSE. It’s a thing.


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

I fall deeply in love with particular books and authors. Deeply. I will reread my favorite books every few years because it reminds me of that rush, that thrill when I first thought I want to make people feel what I’m feeling. 

I’ll give you two books and authors that did this, kidlit and adult. The first is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This book (and the audiobook, specifically), beat in sync with mine in so many ways. It centers on a 12-year-old boy named Conor who knows his mother is about to die, but can’t face the truth about her impending death. It is brilliant and heavy and perhaps the best book for that age on the subject of grief. I sort of want to go read it right now.

But the most significant author and book for me was Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. This book changed how I saw the adult novel and prose in general. It is breathtaking in scope, complexity, and genius retelling of the Harry Potter mold: what if magic is real, but it doesn’t make you happy? What if it sort of makes you miserable? And what if it’s really dangerous? Maybe more than any other book, this one made me want to become a writer. The series is fantastic as well, and perhaps it is fate, but the audiobook is read by Mark Brahmall, the greatest narrator in the business. 

3. How can our readers connect with you?

I’m on most of the obligatory platforms: Twitter (@AuthorLandis) and Instagram (@matthew_landis). I’m not nearly famous enough to ignore emails, so that’s the best way if you want to share thoughts on my books or tell me that you convinced your school district to purchase bulk copies: My website has a contact form as well which goes to that email, and I respond to ALL within a week (or that is the goal). And my website ( has a ton of free writing resources, hilarious videos, and school visit info. Despite being a full-time 8th grade teacher, I do get 8 days a year to travel and speak, and love doing it!


Women’s History Month

Some of our favorite books. 


Note: While researching books for the list, I found that many featuring women in history would likely be too long to read in storytime (specifically, picture book biographies.) I decided to expand the search criteria to books featuring women and girls defying stereotypes, exercising their agency, and embracing their culture, suitable as a read-aloud for children up to 5 years old. Please feel free to e-mail us if you know of any titles that would be good for the list!

Click on the image to be redirected to the list!


ASL in Programs

Where we reflect on the deeper questions.


The Department of Health and Human Services describes ASL as “a complete, natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, with grammar that differs from English.” However, I’ve been learning that ASL has not always been perceived that way. For many years, ASL was viewed as a “broken language,” as a distraction that would prevent deaf children from acquiring the ability to speak (source). In 1880, the Milan Conference of Deaf Educators banned sign language and encouraged teachers to target their efforts on children’s speaking. It has taken years of advocacy for the Deaf community to reclaim their language as their own and defend their right to sign in ASL. 

Using sign language in a library setting such as storytime has wonderful, documented benefits. However, learning about the struggles of the Deaf community has made me want to be more precise in how I use and share it with children. In the past, I’ve presented a sign by saying “and this is the sign for…” I haven’t made a connection between the sign and the Deaf community. In fact, I haven’t even used the acronym ASL. 

Moving forward, I want to provide more information to children so they understand what a sign is and where it comes from. An alternative script might be “this is the sign for ‘turtle.’ Signs are a part of a language called American Sign Language” and then use the verbage from the DHHS website, “it is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing, and is used by many hearing people as well.” A sign is more than a hand motion, it’s a piece of a language that has been censured by the hearing community. Storytime can be a platform to expose children to signs and to a rich and vibrant community that has fought to maintain their culture. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Deaf community, I highly recommend the documentary “Through Deaf Eyes” by PBS. And for a poignant depiction of the hearing community’s restriction of sign language and its impact on Deaf children, I recommend The Silent Child. This 20 minute short film won an Oscar in 2017, and can be streamed for free on Kanopy if your library has a subscription. 

Summer Reading Round Up

Sharing ideas as we prepare for Summer Reading


Below are some Summer Reading ideas that the wonderful neighborhood has shared. Please keep sending us your ideas and we will feature them as we lead up to Summer Reading, along with other ideas we find around the Internet.

  • I wanted to throw out an idea my coworker and I are putting together for our SRP — Career Days. We wanted to do a twist on ‘Imagine Your Story’ to make it more personal for the kids — that they can think about their story and what they might want to be when they grow up. Each week we’ll have a different guest; we’ll read a picture book or chapter book excerpt together, have them talk about their job and take questions, and then do a related activity.  So far we have an author, a pilot, a news sportscaster, a park ranger, and an archaeologist committed! Montana from Bulverde, TX
  • Huge list of program ideas compiled by Beth Yates, in Indiana. Some that I love are: Royal Tea Party, Family Show & Tell, Journaling, Wizard Camp, and Cardboard Castle Building. 
  • As part of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945), I am planning a collaborative and hopefully educational art project on the topic. You may be familiar with the story of Sadako, a young Japanese girl who attempted to fold 1,000 paper cranes with the hope she would heal from the leukemia incurred from the Hiroshima bombing. I plan on setting out lots of origami paper with instructions to fold a paper crane. Customers will drop their cranes in a box, and once we hit 1,000 (an ambitious goal but hopefully we can make it!), I will thread them all together and hang them from the ceiling. Something like this.  The project will be paired with a book display highlighting the voices of Japanese people during the war, and the subsequent impact of the bombing on Japan. Check back in during the month of September to see the final result! Katherine 

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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