Science Saturday: Candy Science

About every other month, I’ve been doing “Science Saturday,” a program for school-age kids. Each time we do a different theme–the first one was Spooky Science, as we did it in October. We did experiments like blowing up a white balloon with a ghost face using a solution of baking soda and vinegar, making magnetic slime, and a lava lamp. The most recent one I did was shortly after Valentine’s Day, so we did Candy Science using discounted Valentine’s Day candy. Here’s what we did!


Experiment 1: Skittles Rainbow

20160220_112049In this experiment, we explored density using Skittles. We dissolved a different number of each color Skittle into separate jars in the same amount of water, then determined which was the densest (the one with the most Skittles) and which was the least dense (least Skittles). We then used a syringe to carefully pour the liquid from densest to least dense into a new jar, creating layers resulting in a Skittles Rainbow.

What went well: This experiment was nice because it gave each of the kids a chance to help out with at least one aspect. I chose volunteers to help me count the Skittles into each jar, to put the jars in order of least dense to densest, and to squirt each color layer into the jar.

What I’d do different next time: There were a few kids on the younger end (around 7 years old?) who had a tricky time carefully transferring the liquid using a syringe, so our “rainbow” became somewhat murky. When I made the sample one earlier in the week, it turned out pretty cool, with distinct colors. I should have provided a sample so they could see the final result even if there’s didn’t turn out so great.

Experiment 2: Floating M’s

20160220_112057Did you know if you dissolve an M&M in water, the M will eventually float to the top? That’s because it’s made out of edible paper which is more buoyant than the water. Cool, huh?

What went well: Each person got to do their own personal experiment for this one, and since the candy took different amounts of time to dissolve, we could move on to the next experiment while keeping our eye on our M&Ms. When someone’s M floated to the top, we all gathered around to see. It also provided a good opportunity for a little math, as I asked the kids to keep track of how long it took their M to float to the top. In general, it took anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

What I’d do different next time: A few kids had less-than-successful results, due to choosing an M&M that didn’t have a full M on it. Next time, I would let the kids put more than one M&M in their cup so they had more chances of a successful experiment.

Experiment #3: Rock Candy

20160210_155032 (2)Using a base of sugar rolled onto sticks, we grew rock candy in a supersaturated sugar water solution colored with food coloring and flavored with different extracts for good measure. The crystals making up rock candy take several days to form, so I had the kids label their sticks and left the candy on a tray in my office to grow. After about a week, I called everyone to pick up their finished candy.

What went well: Ahead of time, I had made enough rock candy for every kid to have one while they worked. Seeing an example of the final product added to their excitement and enthusiasm.

What I’d do different next time: Not the end of the world, but next time I think I’d send them each home with their own jar to grow the rock candy at home. For one thing, it would be cool for them to be able to observe the subtle changes each day. And as I figured might happen, a few of the kids never came back to pick theirs up and it resulted in a bit of sticky clean-up for me.

20160220_112808Experiment #4: Dancing Hearts

For this experiment, we dropped Alka Seltzer tablets into water filled with conversation hearts, then watched as the hearts bobbed up and down as the gas bubbles pulled them to the surface and burst. It was pretty basic, but the kids marveled over the colored foam the hearts made and enjoyed adding more tablets to keep the reaction going.

Experiment #5: Lifesaver Lights

This experiment is super easy–all you need is some Wintergreen Lifesavers, a mirror, and a dark room! If you chew up the Lifesavers with your mouth open, you can observe little “sparks” of green light as electrons are ripped from the sugar molecules. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a very dark room and I didn’t think it would be appropriate to relocate to the restroom or a dark closet (ha!), but I sent the kids home with a handful of Lifesavers each and told them to try it on their own. A few kids came back after the fact and told me they had done it at home. They got a big kick out of it!

Last minute, I took the opportunity to make a mini book display, with science experiment books and extra instruction sheets for kids to take home. I was pleased that many people checked out books, which isn’t always the case. I put the rest of the instruction sheets out in the children’s area for anyone who wasn’t able to come but wanted to have some sciencey fun at home. Almost all the sheets were gone within the week!

I don’t consider myself to be a very big science person, so for awhile I was pretty hesitant to lead a program with the word “Science” in the title. But after attending a few STEM-themed presentations at library conferences and talking to some librarian friends, I gained the confidence to give it a try. One sentiment that stuck with me is that science is all about asking questions, and since kids are always asking questions they are natural scientists!

Another thing that I like to remind myself of is that putting on a science program doesn’t mean you have to be the expert. Prepare a few facts ahead of time–write yourself a script if you have to (I did!)–and let the kids deduce the rest. BONUS: If there is a question you don’t know the answer to… Boom! You’ve just found yourself in the perfect situation to demonstrate the use of library resources to figure it out. But in my experience, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise, as the kids are too busy being blown away by the awesome experiments and discoveries they are making.

Storytime – You Choose

For the last storytime of the 8-week session, we did something a little extra special. Full disclosure: I totally adapted this idea from something I saw on the Storytime Underground Facebook page (Have I mentioned how much I love librarians for being so willing to share their awesome ideas?)
If you’re feeling not-so-jazzed about doing yet another themed storytime, I highly
recommend trying out a You Choose storytime!

20160224_110114So here’s the basic idea: You have two baskets – one for books and one for songs/fingerplays. In the baskets are a variety of objects that represent different books, songs, and fingerplays. Then you let the kids take turns pulling items from the basket to determine what book, song, or fingerplay you will do next. Super easy and super fun!

20160223_104617We typically start our storytimes with a Letter of the Week, but this week I had a question mark on the board. Verrrrry mysterious…. The question mark added a certain amount of excitement to the storytime before it even started, and it was a great literacy experience too! As the kids and their grown-ups found their seats, I heard several of them talking about the question mark. “What’s that on the board? It’s not a letter today, is it? It’s a punctuation mark! Is it an exclamation mark? No…It’s a question mark!”

For this storytime, instead of having one Letter of the Week, we had lots of letters! In the spirit of “You Choose,” I brought my ABC Exercise cards that I usually bring to my outreach storytimes. You can print your own set of ABC Exercise cards for free on Homeschool Share. Each card has a different action associated with it: B is for Balance on one foot, etc. I let three kids pick letters for us to do the actions to before we started our storytime.


Here is the list of objects and potential books/songs/fingerplays I had.


  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. (mini teddy bear)
  • Get Out of My Bath! by Britta Teckentrup (rubber ducky)
  • First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (egg shaker)
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. (tree from the train table)
  • I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry (fish toy)
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (plastic cookie)
  • Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (ball of yarn)
  • We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems (mini elephant stuffed animal)
  • Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox (sheep toy)


  • The Wheels on the Bus (LEGO wheel)
  • Shake Your Sillies Out by The Wiggles (rattle)
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (star plush toy)
  • Two Little Blackbirds (black Angry Bird toy)
  • Icky Sticky Bubble Gum (pack of Bubble Tape)
  • The Goldfish Song by Laurie Berkner (Goldfish crackers)
  • The Butterfly Song by David Landau (crocheted butterfly)


It was kind of funny how it worked out. Despite the fact that I did this with two different storytime groups on two different days, both sessions ended up being almost identical. We repeated the book Get Out of My Bath! for both sessions and the two songs we did were the same for both sessions–Shake Your Sillies Out and Icky Sticky Bubble Gum. I guess the kids were just drawn to the same objects (Bright pink pack of bubble gum? No surprise).

To end our storytime, we did a super easy and fun craft, torn paper collages. No muss, no fuss. Can you tell that Miss Katrina was ready for a storytime break?😉 My favorite thing about the craft–besides the fact that it required little to no prep–was that it gave me a natural way to share an aside with the grown-ups: “Tearing paper is a great way for children to work on those fine motor skills that they need to someday write with a pencil!” Just make sure if you do this at home to make it clear what paper is okay to tear up (junk mail, old magazines, etc.) and what is not okay (library books, for one).

So how did it go? Overall, it went really well! The grown-ups and kids seemed to get a big kick out of the “You Choose” concept, and it brought another level of excitement to our final storytime of the session. The only negative aspect I felt was the fact that not every kid got a chance to pick something. I made sure to tell the kids at the beginning that I would only pick them if they were sitting criss-cross applesauce with their hand in the air quietly and patiently waiting, and I kept to that rule, but some of the kids following the rule still didn’t get a chance. I know that life isn’t fair and storytime is a good place to learn school-readiness behaviors like compromising and turn-taking all that, but I still felt like a meanie. I kept the baskets out after storytime so those who didn’t get a chance to pick still got to peek inside the baskets and explore the objects, though.

Lastly, I have started to write a literacy message on the board each week. I find that it’s an easy way to drop some knowledge on folks without feeling like I’m, well, dropping knowledge on them. Here’s the one I used for this storytime. Quite fitting for the “You Choose” theme, I thought.




Tween/Teen Writing Group

I wanted to share about a new program I started up this year for teens and tweens. Shortly after I started working at my library, I discovered that there were a handful of kids interested in writing, which got my wheels turning… I was one of those nerdy writer kids and still daydream about maybe one day getting paid to be a nerdy writer adult.

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I have been writing stories ever since I can remember. When I got caught up in a story, I could get lost writing for hours. I would bring my notebook with me everywhere. Rosy, a dog-loving kid with a pageboy haircut, is the first main character I can remember (and yes, it was Rosy not Rosie. I remember getting real upset when a friend of mine went through my notebook and “fixed” Rosy’s name by crossing out the ‘y’ and replacing it with an ‘ie’ everywhere it was mentioned). Once I got to middle school I focused on teeny-bopper dramas in comic form. Mostly I wrote a recurring strip called ‘Yo-Jay’ because the main characters were named Yolanda and Jayme. At one point, several of my friends were reading it and constantly hustling me for the next installment. Scribbling away at Yo-Jay, tucked not-so-subtly beneath my math or science book was one of the highlights of my middle school and early high school years. I took some fiction writing classes in college and wrote a few things I’m pretty proud of (but mostly things I’m embarrassed to read now). I guess what I’m saying is that I would have loved a monthly writing group when I was a kid, and am pretty excited to be able to offer one to the teens and tweens at my library.

Late last year, I partnered with a local author to provide a three week writing workshop for grades 5-12. This was my way of kind of “testing the waters” to see what the level of interest was before I attempted to start a regular writing group. It was a huge success! So I polled the attendees of those workshops to see what the best day/time would be for a monthly writing group and last month we had our first meeting.

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You guys, ELEVEN kids showed up. That’s a pretty big number for our small-medium sized library! Especially for a program that doesn’t have the words “Candy” or “Science” or “LEGO” in it! Here’s what we did:

  • Intros: What’s your  name? What grade are you in? What do you like to read/write?
  • Discuss what we want from the group: More/less structure? Sharing our work and receiving feedback? Writing exercises? Writing-related crafts? (The answer to all of these questions was: YES. I have a pretty enthusiastic crew)
  • Brainstorm names for our group because “Teen/Tween Writing Group” is kind of a mouthful. And kind of lame. So far, the most popular idea has been “The Writing Ninjas” but we’ll vote on a name at our next meeting.
  • 10 minute writing exercise: Three writing prompts were written on the board and I let the kids choose one and write for ten minutes, then share with the group if they wanted to.

Towards the end of the meeting, I shared a state-wide writing competition opportunity with them. I plan to continue keeping them up-to-date with opportunities for submitting their work and will make myself available to give feedback on their submissions if they want. I sent them home with an optional writing exercise from The Write-Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer. Speaking of, here are my favorite books for getting those creative juices flowing:


The Write-Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer

The Young Writer’s Companion by Sarah Ellis

The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspiration for Writing by Monica Wood

The next meeting is this week. I can’t wait to see these kids again and become inspired by their endless creativity and enthusiasm. And who knows? Maybe I’ll still become the famous writer my childhood heart longed to be.

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These are a few of my favorite things…

I think I am on the naughty list this year, because I have been a very bad blogger… I guess I took a break after Summer Reading and just kind of never started back up again. I’m not going to make any grand statement by promising that I’ll post more regularly in the New Year, but I’m hoping to do a better job of working it into my 2016 routine. That being said, I’d like to round out the year 2015 by celebrating a few of my favorite (library and non-library) things.

For the record, I totally jacked this idea from the amazing Miss Meg, who posted about her Top 10 faves earlier this week. It struck me as a great way to reflect back on the year and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I thought I’d make my own. Thanks for the inspiration, Meg!

So without further ado, here are my favorite things of the year.

10 Favorite Library Things

10. Finding my own rhythm

2015 was my first full year as a full-time Youth Services Librarian. I can’t quite put it into adequate words, but I feel like I’m finally starting to “come into my own” as a librarian. Now that I’m settled in, I feel empowered to assess the things I’ve been doing and make changes as needed. And *knock on wood,* but I feel like I’m finally starting to overcome the “imposter syndrome” that so many new (and seasoned) professionals experience. You know, that pesky bugger that whispers in your ear, “They can’t possibly be entrusting this whole department to YOU, can they? Soon enough they’re going to figure out you are not qualified…” Yeah, I think I’m doing a better job of squashing that little guy now.

9. Books!

Too hard to just pick one. Of the books I read this year, my faves were…

Picture books: The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak (surprise, surprise), Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre, Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead, and Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky

Middle grade: Space Case by Stuart Gibbs, Roller Girl
by Victoria Jamieson, and Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

YAI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, and Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

8. ALA-Midwinter Conference in Chicago

I love conferences. Not only did I get lots of new ideas and the chance to surround myself with like-minded people in the library profession, but I got to see Jason Segel and Levar Burton! WHAT?!

7. Science Saturday: Spooky Science

I started a new semi-regular program called Science Saturday (shout out to my super awesome library buddy, Alexandra Collins for this idea!). The first one was in October, so of course the theme was Spooky Science. I’m not a huge science geek, so I was a little intimidated to start this up, but with a little research and a lot of preparation it went off without a hitch! It was a blast and the kids were geeking out and exclaiming all sorts of excited things that made my heart swell. I wish I could share the pictures of their awed expressions, but these pics will have to do.

6. I found my Tween/Teen writing nerds!

Since meeting a couple of young aspiring writers at my very first Tween Book Club meeting last year, I have wanted to offer a writing workshop of some sort. I knew there would be at least two kids interested, but wasn’t really sure how to identify more. This fall, I brought in a local author to teach a three-part writing workshop for 5th-12th graders. It was a huge success! Take-away: the key is local celebs.😉 After seeing how well that went over, I decided to take the plunge and start offering a monthly Tween/Teen writing club. The first meeting is in January, and I am so super stoked! This is something that I would have LOVED to be a part of when I was their age, so I can’t wait to try out all sorts of fun writing exercises with them and just generally give them a space to share what they are working on and get feedback from peers.

5. Cleaning out the Storage Closet

This might sound ridiculous, but tackling the giant mess of a storage closet was a big goal of mine this year and it felt SO GOOD. My library is pretty small, so we  use just about every inch of space we have. Organizing that closet took the majority of my 8-hour shift, but it was so worth it! (Cue my husband asking me why I can’t get this excited about being organized at home…)

4. First Summer Library Program under my belt

Although I experienced a Summer Library Program in my first post-grad school job, this was the first one I completely planned and executed on my own. I did some fun stuff (see slide show below), kept some stuff the same, and made some changes–the most prominent one being moving away from physical incentives to a charitable-giving model. Read more about it in this blog post if you’re interested.

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3. Saying YES to things

Things I’ve said “yes” to this year:

  • Being the Communications Chair for the Friends of the CCBC
  • Presenting at local organization meetings, like Kiwanis and Rotary
  • Pulling a question out of a hat and answering it in front of my peers at a Guerrilla Storytime session (If you haven’t participated in a Guerrilla Storytime yet, I highly recommend it! It’s a great way to pick up new ideas, share your own ideas, and feel supported by fellow children’s librarians)
  • Being interviewed on CWTV about the role libraries play in building Early Literacy and Kindergarten Readiness skills. That’s right, I’m gonna be FAMOUS! Well, local/library-famous at least.😉 I’m so glad my friend Holly of Let the Wild Rumpus Start agreed to do it with me!
  • Being the official “feedback giver” for the local 4H club’s Communication Arts Festival next month
  • Helping start up a Storytime Underground Local Chapter for the Madison, WI area with some library pals–yay, Holly and Mary! If you’re in the area, look for more information about this soon.

OK, so I’m kind of a yes-man. If asked to do something or presented an opportunity, I rarely say no. But that doesn’t mean I’m super comfortable doing All The Things. It can be overwhelming, uncomfortable, and sometimes just plain scary. This year, I’ve tried to be strategic about what I say yes to, but it’s still something I’m working on. Which brings me to #2…

2. Saying NO to things

This is hard for a yes-man to do, but I’m working on it. I recently had a big win in this area, and it felt so good that I’m considering running around and shouting “NO!” at the top of my lungs like a toddler who just learned the word. Alright, I guess I won’t go quite that far. I guess what I’m getting at is that saying no is good sometimes, even if it’s hard.

1. Bringing Tween Book Club back to life

When I started my current job about a year and a half ago, there was already a pretty well-established Tween Book Club in place with 4 or 5 very loyal attendees (which is pretty darn good for a book club that’s not for adults). It quickly became one of my favorite programs to plan and run. However, when the school year came to an end I realized something horrible: Next year, my Tween Book Club kids were all graduating to 7th grade, which meant they were going to be… TEENS. *gasp!* When September came back around and no one showed up to book club, I was a pretty sad librarian. So I reached out to the middle school librarian and asked if I could arrange to visit the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classes to promote book club. The next week, I talked up the program to 10 different groups and suddenly there was a waitlist for the next month’s book! The next book club meeting brought six new members to the table, and the month after that? NINE KIDDOS showed up! I successfully saved the beloved Tween Book Club from fizzling out, and for that I feel very happy indeed.20151119_155123.jpg


10 Favorite Non-Library Things

10. Binge-watching Star Wars *for the first time*

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This was me up until like a month ago. It took me several tries, as I kept falling asleep (not because it was boring. It was like the music and sound effects were a strange lullaby to me), but I did it! AndNoIHaveNotWatchedTheNewOneSoDon’tRuinItForMe.

9. Chicago with my love

Chicago was another first for me. What’s even better is I got to travel by train! As mentioned above, I went there for the ALA-MW conference, but happily my hubby got to join me, so we did the whole tourist thing too. By “tourist thing” I mostly mean we ate deep-dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches, watched the Super Bowl at a bar, and saw ourselves reflected in “The Bean.” We happened to be there when a giant snowstorm hit, so we didn’t get to go to any museums or the aquarium like we had hoped, but now we have something to look forward to next time!

8. Craft brews with good crews

The Midwest is a great place to be if you’re into craft beer. The husband and I have decided that instead of displaying china like real grown-ups, we’re going to collect and display tasting glasses and growlers from brewery tours. This year, we hit up more breweries than I can count–both within and outside the Midwest–and we’ve just barely scratched the surface. Whether we’re with friends and family or just the two of us, tasting amazing beer is always a good time.

7. Discovering the joys of audiobooks and podcasts

For awhile there, I’d kind of gotten into a bit of a reading rut. I didn’t have the attention span to sit down with a book and just dive in like I used to. It worried me. What if I could never get back into it? Isn’t reading kind of a *requirement* to being a librarian? And then I discovered the joys of “reading with my ears,” as the great librarian and audiobook expert Sharon Grover puts it. Now I can read while in the shower, while walking the dog (something I’m happy to say I’ve done a whole lot more of this year!), while driving to and from work, while doing the dishes… I would talk your ear off about reading with your ears, but then you’d… have no… ears to listen with, so…

Favorite podcasts:

Books I read with my ears this year:

6. Crafting and discovering new ways of making

I’ve always enjoyed making stuff. Painting, drawing, writing, crocheting, you name it. But this year, I came to the conclusion that making stuff is one of the things that makes me happiest. Among other things, I attended my first Paint Nite after being invited by the mom of one of my TAB members, made a rustic-chic wall-hanging after being inspired by metal cut-outs of the states I love, and took a needle felting class which may be the beginning of an unhealthy wool obsession.

5. California trip with friends

This summer we visited our friends Jon and Amanda in California (yes, I took a vacation during Summer Library Program. No, the library didn’t explode.). Our friends Gabe and Leann came, too. We crammed as much fun into those couple days as we could: Lots of wineries, breweries, amazing food, sea kayaking, and we were even on The Price is Right! Sadly, none of us were asked to “Come on down,” but it was still a crazy cool experience.

4. We bought a boat!

We are currently renting a house on a lake, and after experiencing one summer on the lake without being able to actually get out on the lake, we decided to “take the plunge” (pun very much intended) and buy a boat. Best decision ever! We spent every chance we could get out on the water–floating, boating, and drinking gin gimlets all summer long with the dog, friends, and family. Also, due to the persistence of my husband and brother-in-law, I finally got up on skis for only the second time in my life. Whoop, whoop! Can’t wait for another fun summer in the sun.

3. My sister Angela is cancer-free

My sister beat her breast cancer and just completed her reconstructive surgery yesterday! She had such an amazing positive attitude throughout the entire process and always maintained her goofy sense of humor. Love you, Angel!

2. Negative Huntington’s diagnosis for my siblings and me

Last November, we learned that both my uncle and my mom have Huntington’s Disease (HD), a genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It affects things like mood, movement, and memory. HD has been called a mix of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS and as of now there is no cure. In short, it sucks. The good news that we received this year, though, is that my siblings and me (who each had a 50/50 chance of having the Huntingtin gene) all received Negative test results, which means we are HD free and cannot pass it on to our children. While navigating this new reality has made it an oftentimes difficult year for our family, knowing that we kids do not have it makes it easier for us to care for and provide support to my mom and other relatives affected by the disease. To learn more about HD, visit

1. Getting more in touch with my Zen side

Speaking of the crazy rollercoaster ride of a year I’ve had, I learned a few tricks for managing stress and anxiety. Right around the time I was dealing with all the “getting tested for HD stuff,” I started a yoga class. It felt so good that I got a yoga mat and started doing it on my own at home, too. Although lately I’m about as good at doing yoga as I am at blogging. I think one of my New Year’s resolutions will be getting back into yoga. :) I have also been dabbling in meditation, which helps me tap into my emotions and clear my mind. If you are interested, I highly recommend the Headspace app (yes, there’s an app for that!). Yoga, deep breathing, meditation, Sleepytime tea, and going for walks with the dog have helped me get through this crazy year. Along with my supportive husband, friends, and family of course.

With that, I’d like to say happy holidays to you and yours. May 2016 bring even bigger, better, and more favorite-y things!

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite library and non-library things of the year? Even if you don’t share it publicly, I challenge you to come up with your own list. It’s a great exercise!

SLP 2015: Incentives

My very first independently planned and executed Summer Library Program is officially inslp1 the books. Phew! It is a relief to be done, but man those six weeks sure flew by! Over the next few weeks I plan to post a series of SLP write-ups, covering everything from incentives (which I’ll be posting about now) to weekly themes (yes, I did themes-within-the-theme), to specific programs that I thought were particularly successful. I’ll talk about the things that went well as well as the things that I’d like to change for next year. After all, this is just one giant learning process, is it not?

This year’s theme was Every Hero Has a Story, so we celebrated heroes of all kinds including–but certainly not limited to–superheroes. Last year, the librarian in my position made a wonderful move to cut down on cheesy prizes, instead offering coupons from local food joints and area attractions. It went over really well, so this year I decided to take it one step further. After hearing about a few other Wisconsin libraries venturing into the brave new prizeless world (like La Crosse Public Library and Portage Public Library) I became inspired by the hero theme and decided that this year we were going to challenge Summer Reading participants to “be a hero for their community.” Instead of getting prizes or coupons for completing each level, the kids and teens received a sticker that allowed them to vote for one of three community organizations to receive a donation at the end of the summer. Ultimately, all three organizations would receive something, but it was up to the kids to decide who the number one winner would be.

After brainstorming with my director and another staff member, we decided that the three groups up for a donation would be the local Food Pantry, the Literacy Council (a dedicated group of mostly retired teachers who tutor adults and English Language Learners in reading), and the Club House (a before and after school program for kids which also recently became a summer day program as well). The director put on her fundraising hat and rounded up $600 to be divvied up between the three groups. A coworker made the display below, with each organization being represented by a cape. We used Avery dot labels for the stickers and voila! We were in business.


The votes are in! Each of the red dots represents a vote from a kid (0-12), yellow is from the teens (12+), and blue is from adults.

I am pleased to report that I did not hear a single complaint from kids or adults about the lack of prizes. I should mention, though, that we didn’t exactly go “cold turkey” with the prizes. Finishers received a free book from the prize cart to take home and keep. This wasteen prize books something that we did last year for the first time and it went over really well (Although I enjoyed giving cheesy prizes the ax, I’m totally okay with giving books as prizes–for obvious reasons). We also gave out coupons for local restaurants and area attractions that we always get from our library system. But instead of doling those out as reading incentives, we stuffed them slp 12into these nifty little envelopes created by yours truly and gave them upon sign-up as a little “registration bonus.” I heard good feedback from many parents about how excited they were to plan a night out with the kids and use their pizza and ice cream coupons, as well as one family who was able to finally visit the Milwaukee museum thanks to the free admission coupons. Handing the coupons out all at once really helped reduce confusion and staff time. Plus since they weren’t technically “prizes” I felt okay having a “first come, first served” attitude–once the coupons were gone, they were gone.

Another extra special thing that we did in lieu of prizes was creating weekly “Activity Packs” based on each week’s theme. But I’ll explain more about those in a later post.

For our final celebration party, I had planned something fairly small. We’d have cake, decorate the sidewalk with chalk, and present the checks to the organizations. However, a Friend of the library suggested we invited some local heroes to thank them as well. A wonderful idea, especially since mid-SLP a huge storm hit the town, resulting in extensive damage and power outages. This was a great opportunity to once again highlight our community helpers. It ended up being quite the turn-out! We had close to 60 attendees pack onto our little library patio to say thanks and celebrate (that’s a pretty big number for our library). What a great ending to a very successful Summer Library Program!

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Storytime – Rainy Days

I’ve always loved the rain. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am an April baby. I was crossing my fingers for rainy weather during this storytime, but alas, it was sunny and warm. I won’t complain one bit about sunny and warm weather, though! This still made for a fun and cozy storytime theme.


Welcome Song: “We Clap and Sing Hello” (Tune: “The Farmer in the Dell”)

We clap and sing hello,
We clap and sing hello,
With our friends at storytime,
We clap and sing hello

Continue with: We stomp… We wave…

Letter of the Week: U

  • Umpire – I showed a picture of an umpire, and asked if they knew who it was and got a lot of blank stares. I gave hints about baseball and how he’s the guy who says “You’re out!” and “Strike one!” Still nothing. So I guess I taught them a new word!
  • Ukulele – Again I showed a picture of this (as I am not–yet–one of the many children’s librarians who’ve gotten on board with the latest trend of playing ukulele in storytime). Most of the guesses were “Guitar!” and “Violin!” but a few kiddos knew right away what it was. This was a fun word to say all together.
  • Umbrella – This was an easy one. I held up my umbrella and all the kids shouted “Umbrella!” Then we talked about what we use umbrellas for, which led in to the theme of rainy days.

Book 1: Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayreraindrops roll

I love this book! Beautiful, up close photographs of nature and raindrops in all different shapes and forms paired with simple, lovely text. I don’t normally read stories like this in storytime, with real photographs and not much of a storyline, but it was a fun way to mix things up and get kids talking about the different animals and insects pictured. It also includes text at the back with more information and facts about rain and the water cycle.

Song: “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring / Itsy-Bitsy Spider Medley” from the CD Music for Little People: 101 Toddler Favorites

I like using this song because it adds an additional layer to songs that are already familiar to most children. We patted on our legs for the parts that go “Drip, drop! Drip, drop!” then did the traditional hand signals for the two songs. I also enjoy that the recording includes somewhat off-key young children’s voices for one verse, which I think helped to encourage some of the more shy singers to join in.

Book 2: Storm Song by Nancy Viaustorm song

I’ve used this book in storytime before and I’ll use it again in the future for sure. I love the sweet rhyming text and vivid Pixar-like illustrations depicting the expressive characters as they wait out a thunderstorm.

Make a Rain Storm

I told the children that I thought it would be fun to make a rainstorm together and asked if they could help me with that. I got some confused but eager head nods.

First we rubbed our hands together to make the wind,
then clicked our tongues to sound like drops of rain,
then clapped our hands (“It’s raining a little harder now”),
then slapped our knees (“It’s really starting to pour now!”),
then stompped our feet (“it’s raining super hard!”)
Then on the count of three we jumped to make a thunderclap. (“Ready? 1, 2, 3!”)
After the giant thunderclap we did all of the actions in reverse to make the rain “stop.”

This was a fun activity that was both physical and imaginative. I like mixing it up when I can, instead of just doing a song or rhyme.

Book 3: The Thingamabob by Il Sung Nathingamabob

I have a soft spot for Il Sung Na’s quirky illustrations. This was the first time I used one of his books in storytime, though. It went over quite well! I think the kids enjoyed being in on the “secret” that the mysterious thingamabob was really an umbrella.

Craft: Umbrellas

Many thanks to Sunflower Storytime for this rainy day craft!

We folded cupcake liners in half and poked pipe cleaners inside them. Here’s where making a sample craft proves to be necessary, as I learned ahead of time that pipe cleaners do NOT glue down to paper (newbie here!). So I provided a piece of tape for everyone to secure their pipe cleaners to the inside of the cupcake liner and we glued the cupcake liners to the paper. Cotton balls served as clouds and the kids drew raindrops and puddles with crayons.

I set up another book display this week, and GOOD NEWS! People actually took books home this time, yay!🙂 My heart was very happy.


Storytime – Trees

We did this one at the library during the week of Arbor Day/ Earth Day and I enjoyed bringing it to the outreach storytimes, too. DSC08541 Welcome Song: “We Clap and Sing Hello” (Tune: “The Farmer in the Dell”)

We clap and sing hello,
We clap and sing hello,
With our friends at storytime,
We clap and sing hello

Continue with: We stomp… We wave…

Letter of the Week: T

  • Teeth, Tongue, Toes, Tonsils – All things on our bodies that start with ‘T’ (a kiddo suggested “Tonsils”–I hadn’t thought of it!).
  • Trampoline
  • Tree frog – I introduced Tyson the Red-Eyed Tree Frog puppet and talked about how in real life he is the size of a teacup and he lives in the rainforest and sleeps clinging to the underside of a leaf with his sticky hands and feet.
  • Tree – I showed a picture of an apple tree and we identified the different parts–Roots, Trunk, Branches, Leaves, and Apples.

Book 1: Maple by Lori Nicholsmaple

I stumbled upon this book while facing out picture books one day and knew that I had to use it in storytime at some point. It is the sweet story of a little girl named Maple who grows up alongside the maple tree her parents planted “when she was still a whisper.” At one point in the story, Maple acts like a tree and is shown doing the yoga pose for tree. This led perfectly in to our next little stretching activity.

Yoga Pose: Treeyoga

I’ve recently gotten into yoga myself which inspired me to incorporate the Tree Pose into storytime. I’ll definitely try doing yoga poses again if it fits with the theme in the future (I’d LOVE to do a whole yoga-themed storytime someday). It was hilarious to see the storytimers try this pose. Some of them nailed it right away and others teetered awkwardly, but it was so cool to see them try! I enjoyed telling the 1st-4th grade class I visited that they were waaaay more coordinated than the 3-year-olds I tried it with that morning!😉

Song: “If You’re a Tree and You Know It” (Tune: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)

If you’re a tree and you know it reach up high (stretch arms above head)
If you’re a tree and you know it reach up high
If you’re a tree and you know it and you really want to show it,
If you’re a tree and you know it reach up high.

Continue with: Touch your roots (touch toes), Sway in the wind (sway back and forth), Shake Your Leaves (shake whole body)

The kids got pretty silly after shaking all their leaves, so I transitioned into the next book by asking them to be like trees and sit very still and silent.

Book 2: Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Mathesontap the magic tree

Definitely a go-to storytime pick. The kids got a big kick out of listening to the instructions and helping me do what the book told us to do. After opening their eyes at the end to see the egg had hatched in the nest, I heard several different kids say “How did you do that?” and “It really is magic!”

Action rhyme: “Two Little Blackbirds”

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill
One named Jack, the other named Jill
Fly away Jack, fly away Jill
Come back Jack, come back Jill

Two little blackbirds sitting on a stick
One named slow, the other named quick
Fly away slow, fly away quick
Come back slow, come back quick

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud
One named soft, the other named loud
Fly away soft, fly away loud
Come back soft, come back loud!

Book 3: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.Chicka Chicka

Obviously this one’s a classic! I loved reading it with my mom and sister when I was little and it still entertains kids today. Many kids and grown-ups alike spoke the words aloud with me as I read. The only problem with this book is that for the rest of the day I have this phrase doing laps in my brain: “Skit skat skoodle doot, Flip flop flee. Everybody running to the coconut tree.” Can’t complain too much about that earworm.🙂

Craft: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom trees

I kept it pretty simple for this craft, and it was a big hit with the kids and caregivers. I gave them coconut tree coloring sheets and dot label stickers with letters pre-Sharpied on them. I made sure there were enough stickers for everyone to put the whole alphabet on their tree if they wanted. DSC08540 - Copy The most labor-intensive part of this craft prep was writing all those letters on the stickers and cutting them out. I cut the sheets so there were 6 of the same letter on each sheet and the kids shared with their tablemates. It was cool watching the older kids do a bit of an alphabet hunt for each letter! Again, I included a display with other books on the theme. 20150421_092504