Friday, March 30, 2012

Flannel Friday: Five Astronauts at Play

Psst, want to know a secret? Katie from Story Time Secrets and I work at the same system. Last December I got to go to a story time training she did at an all staff day event and I've been cannibalizing her flannel boards ever since. This one was one of my favorites and what'dya know? It fits in with the summer reading "Dream Big. Read." theme.

It's a version of the One Elephant Went Out to Play song, but with astronauts and the moon instead of elephants and spiderwebs:

One astronaut went out to play, 
upon the great big moon one day,
He had such enormous fun,
That he called for another astronaut to come


By the time the last astronaut is playing on the moon, there's no more room to add any any more. So I stop singing and ask the kids if any more can come play, and where would they go? Everybody says "Nooooooo" like I'm a big silly and we sing the last verse:

Five astronauts went out to play,
Upon the great big moon one day.
They had such enormous fun,
But there weren't any more astronauts to come.

I was worried that you couldn't tell he was supposed to be an astronaut, so I added the cuff embellishments and the rocket emblem on his chest. After the first time using it though, I got feedback from a parent that from a distance they look exactly like astronauts even though she couldn't tell what the rocket was supposed to be. I guess I had just been looking at the pieces too closely. 

This is my first year planning summer reading and it appears that I'm a lot behind. In the past week we've gotten the schedule for special guest performers and I've started brainstorming programs ideas, with a specific focus on our kick-off party. I'm sure more night time flannels are forthcoming and I'll keep posting those as they come up.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Theme Thursday: Spring is in the Air

As my horrible, awful, mind crushing allergies can attest, it's SPRING! And since Thursday was our first themed story time of the season, we simply had to celebrate.

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth

Flannel: Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone

Discussion: What season is it? What happens in the spring? What are we excited about?

Book: Mud by Mary Lyn Ray

Flannel: 5 Green and Speckled Frogs

Rhyme: Big, Big, Big

Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider

Book: And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano

Flannel: Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow

Song: Grand Old Duke of York

Fingerplay: 5 Springs Flowers

5 spring flowers, standing in a row
The first one said "We need rain to grow"
The second one said "Oh my, we need water"
The third one said "Yes, it's getting hotter"
The fourth one said "I see dark clouds go by"
And the fifth one said "I wonder why?"
The BOOM went the thunder
And ZAP went the lightening
That springtime storm was very frightening
But the flowers weren't scared
Oh no, no, no
They knew the rain would help them grow, grow, gow

Song: Turn Around from Getting to Know Myself

Make and Take Craft: Flower Collages

I'm getting a lot of mileage out of having story time kids glue pre-cut construction paper pieces to larger pieces of construction paper. This week it was flowers.

-Flowers parts- petals, stems, leaves, center circle (pre-cut)
-glue sticks
-full size construction paper 

After introducing the craft during story time, we met at the large table and I passed out glue sticks and the big piece of paper while spreading out flower parts across the table. I also laid out crayons so extra embellishments could be added as desired.

Time: Prep took about 10 minutes and the craft itself ranged from 5 to 20 minutes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Woman's Work

Last Saturday I held my women's history month program at the library. Entitled "A Woman's Work" my program focused on handicrafts and the domestic arts. While I think it's awesome that women's history month shines a spotlight on women in politics, the sciences and even the arts, these are all public spheres and women have been making critical and often unrecognized contributions in the private sphere since the beginning of time.

I wanted to celebrate the smaller things that aren't being passed down from generation to generation anymore- knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, quilting etc... But I also wanted to celebrate the fact that these activities used to be a communal time for women to come together and share, teach, and learn from one another. So many of the kids I work with on a daily basis have parents in their mid 20s and grandparents in their early 40s. They're missing a connection to the older generation and I truly believe that this is a contributing factor to the behavior problems we deal with in the library; if no one in their life has actually experienced the n-word as a hateful slur, why shouldn't they feel free to use it as a synonym for 'cuz'? There's a lack of context and even if a craft circle isn't going to immediately rectify all wrongs, at least it's a place for inter-generational dialogue to begin.

I advertised a crafting circle, open to all ages and genders, for participants to bring whatever they were currently working on or for them to learn a new skill. I supplied yarn, some needles and some crochet hooks (all of which will now live in the craft cabinet in the staff work room) and my vast skill and talent and zero experience as an instructor. I also brought along my current cross stitch project in case no one showed up (it's been a problem in the past.)

Luckily, I wasn't alone. A mom and her teenage daughter came over when they saw the colorful yarn stacked high on the table, our awesome teen librarian sat down with us every time she wasn't directly helping a patron to muddle her way through learning a cast-on stitch and we even had some interest from a 20 year old male volunteer who looked longingly at us as he shelved the DVDs that were his task for the day.

After a slightly rough start wherein I, as a left-handed person, tried to teach three right-handed people how to cast on, our savior showed up. Ms. Emma is a woman in her late sixties who bustled in with her own giant knit blanket project and kind words for everybody. She quickly took over showing the teenage girl how to knit "the right way" and I started over with the mom and a crochet hook.

Not a whole lot actually got produced in our two hour session but everyone talked and bonded. Ms. Emma told us all about who taught her to knit when she was a little girl and I got the teenager interested in other teen programs that the library runs. Her twin sister showed up at some point and looked interested, and their mother offered to help cater future craft circles. As we were cleaning up, yet another woman came by to add her name to my e-mail list and offer to recruit her sister as well.

After talking to my manager, we're on track to make this a monthly program. Hopefully over time it can grow from the four of us that sat around a low table last Saturday to something that kids and adults a like will look forward to.

The beginning of a hat

Friday, March 23, 2012

Flannel Friday: Chomp Like a Shark

For last week's Under the Sea story time I adapted a Caroline and Danny song Wiggle, Jiggle, Giggle into a flannel board rhyme.

Sharks have rows and rows of teeth
They don't chew gum but they do chew meat!

So let's chomp like a shark,
Chomp, chomp like a shark
Let's chomp like a shark
Chomp, chomp like a shark
Dolphins aren't fish but they play in the sea
They swallow fish whole that they catch with their teeth

So let's dive like a dolphin,
Dive, dive like a dolphin
Let's dive like a dolphin,
Dive, dive like a dolphin
We hold our breath by holding our nose
Whales hold their breath by closing their holes!

So let's blow like a whale,
Blow, blow like a whale
So let's blow like a whale
Blow, blow like a whale
Octopi wave their 8 arms at me
They don't taste with their mouth but with their arms, you see

So let's wave like an octopus,
Wave, wave like an octopus
Let's wave like an octopus
Wave, wave like an octopus
Crabs don't go forward, only side to side
On the beach they may pinch you and hide

So let's pinch like a crab,
Pinch, pinch like a crab
Let's pinch like a crab,
Pinch, pinch like a crab
As I put each animal up we stopped and talked about it for a while. What does it do? Where does it live? Let's count the arms on the octopus, so by the time we got to the rhyme the kids could anticipate what action we would be doing to imitate the animal.
Once they were all up on the board we took them off, one by one, repeating their rhyme as it came off the board.

This photo is a much better representative of the colors, except the pink whale. Figuring out photography of these flannels is an ongoing struggle in my professional life.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Theme Thursday: Under the Sea

Good morning! Last week we visited the ocean and learned about all the animals who live in and near the water.

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth

Song: We Clap and Say Hello

Discussion: As I introduced the theme I opened it up for discussion and asked what could we find under the water? Fish, mermaids and frogs were all suggested and the moment someone said "turtle" we jumped right into...

Poem: I Had a Little Turtle

Book: Fabulous Fishesby Susan Stockdale

Fingerplay: 5 Little Fishies

5 little fishes swimming in the sea
The first one said "Oh what can we see?"
The second one said "I think I see a tail"
The third one said "It must be a whale!"
The fourth fish said "I bet she's looking for her lunch"
And the fifth one said "She could eat us in one munch!"
Five little fishies swimming side by side
said all together "We'd better go hide!"

Rhyme: Big, Big, Big

Flannel: Five Green and Speckled Frogs

Song: Shake the Sillies Out

Book: Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

Flannel: Chomp like a Shark

Song: Turn Around from Getting to know Myself

Make and Take Craft: Jellyfish

Although we didn't read about any jellyfish during story time, the chance to make our own colorful creatures with streaming ribbons was too much to pass up.

-paper plates, cut in half
-tissue paper cut into large squares
-glue sticks
-ribbon or crepe paper cut into 7 inch pieces
-hole punch (optional)

For my example I sharpied on large eyes before proceeding. I don't think it added much and didn't do it for the rest of the plates, but that's something that can always be added after the glue dried.

After story time we gathered around the table where I spread the tissue paper pieces out over the entire table and handed each child/caregiver team one half paper plate per child. If they wanted to decorate the paper plate by coloring they could, or they could glue tissue paper over the front of it. 

My plan had been for the kids to simply glue the colorful ribbons on the back of the plate, but one nanny requested that I lug out the 3 hole punch (we don't have a single hole punch!) and make holes in the plate for them to tie the ribbon through. Although I stand by my original conception that the ribbon would in fact stay with just the gluesticks, I ended up really liking the hole punch idea since it limited the number of ribbons each kid could use and ensured that there were enough to go around.

Time: Prep took about 10 minutes, add a little bit extra to that if you plan on hole punching the plates, and the craft took about 20.

Example craft, close up
Example craft with ribbons a-streaming
This little bugger and his dad got to the ribbons before I could give them exactly 3 hole punches.

This craft went over extremely well and I heard a lot of parents talking about hanging them up near their child's bed. I think the flowing ribbon is something newer and more interesting, and the tissue paper collages are reminiscent of Eric Carle's illustrations so it's perfect that we read Mister Seahorse earlier in the day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Take Two: Gee's Bend

Welcome to Take Two, where I read two books about the same topic, compare them, and tell you which one is better. It's just like a literary cage match.

In today's battle:


Gee's Bend is a small peninsula in south-central Alabama. Surrounded on three sides by the Alabama river, Gee's Bend is an isolated, predominantly African American community that is mostly recognized today for the beautiful quilts the women in the community make.

The Story:
Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt (Picture Book) by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera follows the story of a young girl, living in Gee's Bend, as she makes her very first quilt top and joins in the quilting tradition of her mother, grandmother and all the women of her community who have come before her.

Belle, The Last Mule at Gee's Bend: A Civil Rights Story by Clavin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud and illustrated by John Holyfield introduces us to a young boy who, like the reader, is an outsider to Gee's Bend. While waiting outside a store for his mother, Alex meets an older lady who tells him the story of Belle, an old mule, and her place in Civil Rights History.

Winner: Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend.
I loved Stitchin' and Pullin's focus on tradition and the importance of communal work as used for passing on both crafts and stories to the younger generations. Baby Girl, our protagonist, grew up watching her grandma and the older women make quilts and from them she learned her church hymns, family history, old recipes and general cleaning tips. In the end though I have to go with Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend. While the quilter's at Gee's Bend have been a part of the cultural lexicon for a while now, I never knew about Gee's Bend's role in integrating voting during the civil rights movement or that Martin Luther King had specific plans for his funeral that involved the mules of this small hamlet.

Stitchin' and Pullin' is a series of free verse poems relating Baby Girl's journey as she goes from a small child playing under the quilting frame to a quilter in her own right. Although they all work together to tell a story, they can also be read and appreciated individually. Standouts (and by that I mean my favorites) include "Remembering" and "Stereotypes." Because the book can easily be excerpted, it can be used in programs for very young children with little context.

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend
is more what one would expect from a picture book. Working from a present tense narrative structure with frequent flashbacks to Martin Luther King Jr's visit to Gee's Bend and the subsequent fight for the community's right to vote. The prose is simple and straightforward, the sheer length and subject matter make it more appropriate for school children who have already had some exposure to the civil rights movement.

Winner: Stitchin' and Pullin'
Through use of the poems, Stitchin' and Pullin' is able to fit in a lot more information and "story" into small and manageable bits than Belle does in as many pages.


The pictures in Stitchin' and Pullin' invoke the Gee's Bend quilts; strong colors and impressionistic figures fill the pages and help tell the story of Baby Girl's first quilt and then, nesting doll style, stories of all the fabric that goes into it. Some of Cozbi A. Cabrera's illustrations adapt actual Gee's Bends quilts, adding interest and insider knowledge while complimenting McKissack's text.

John Holyfield's illustrations for Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend fit nicely with the text. Simple and straightforward, the paintings depict exactly what is happening on any given frame. Holyfield makes interesting use of angles throughout to bring the reader into the story and place them in the action instead of on the sidelines.

Winner: Stitchin' and Pullin'
I just can't get over how evocative of the quilts Cabrera's illustrations are. Even when they're not of the actual quilt itself. An honorable mention does go to Belle's face on page 5 of Belle. That is one seriously cute mule. .

In Stitchin' and Pullin' a lengthy introduction from Matt Arnett, the man who helped bring the quilts of Gee's Bend to cultural prominence precedes the story and gives some historical context to the poems found in the later pages. McKissack follows up with an Author's Note all about her exposure to Gee's Bend quilts and her experience researching the book.

There's an author's note at the end of Belle where the lead author recounts the actual story of the mules Belle and Ada and Dr. King's impact on the small community. It does a nice job filling in the facts for geeks like me who are interested in that kind of thing, but isn't necessary to enjoy the preceding story. Bonus: There's also a photograph of the real Belle and Ada pulling Dr. King's casket through the streets of Atlanta.

Winner: Tie
Both books' additional material nicely supplements the story the author is trying to tell without becoming essential to the story. In fitting with each books' theme, the notes in Stitchin' and Pullin' rely more on emotions and impressions while the author's note in Belle sticks to the facts behind the story. 

Overall Winner: Stitchin' and Pullin'
You really can't go wrong with either book, and contrary to my belief when I first read them they're actually about two very different things, just with the same setting. But if you're only going to read one go with Stitchin' and Pullin'.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Flannel Friday: Mary Wore Her Red Dress

I have long been a vocal critic of anthropomorphized animals. I do not like them. I think they are weird, creepy, kinda egotistical, and don't even get me started on the Donald Duck rule of animal's wearing clothes.

Two things as of late have changed my mind about my prejudice against animals acting like people.

The first is that animals have no race. It's hard to find good story time books that read well and are interesting with a diverse racial and ethnic make-up of characters. And it's important for kids to be able to identifywith the characters that they're reading about; if you're a small black child and all you see in books are white kids then you begin to internalize that and think that you're not worth writing books about. Or if the only black children you see are characters in picture books about slavery or going to jail on visiting day, that doesn't lead to awesome things either. Animals don't look like any child I know, black, white, red, yellow, purple, or blue so the kids can begin to look past physical appearance and identify with traits that the animals possesses.

The second reason I'm coming around on the whole anthropomorphism issue is even more simple: People made out of felt are the creepiest things ever.

Which is how I ended up with this teddy bear version of "Mary Wore Her Red Dress."

The song in simple; it goes like this:

Mary wore her red dress, red dress, red dress
Mary wore her red dress all day long.

The second bear is her friend Henry.

When we do this song I first explain to the kids that EVERYONE has to get dressed in the morning and that teddy bears are no exception. I show them the individual clothing items and we talk about what each one is and what color it is.

Clockwise: purple boots, green tie,
yellow bow, blue shirt, red dress
and orange pants

And then we sing, alternating which bear we're dressing with each round.

So Mary wears her red dress and then Henry wears his orange pants. Mary wears and purple boots, Henry wears his blue shirt and so on until both bears are dressed and ready for the day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Theme Thursday: Construction Junction

Most of my little boys are into construction right now in a big way. This was one of the most challenging themed story times I've done, just because I wanted to get everything exactly right and not disappoint any of them.

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth

Song: Clap and Say Hello

Flannel: Little Mouse, Little Mouse

Book: Building a House by Byron Barton

Poem: Big, Big, Big

Fingerplay: 5 Little Nails
5 little nails, standing straight and steady
Here I come with my hammer all ready
Bam! Bam! Bam! One nail goes down
Now there's 4 little nails left to pound

Book:  Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa

Song: Shake Your Sillies Out

Book:Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Song: Turn Around from Getting to know Myself

Make and Take Craft: Build a Building.

-white construction paper
-glue sticks
-construction paper shapes (prepared beforehand)

Before story time I cut a bunch of construction paper shapes in a bunch of different colors. Squares, half-circles, triangles and rectangles. I introduced the craft during story time and then when the kids were sitting around the table distributed the big, white pieces of paper and spread the shapes and glue out on the table.

Prep took about 10 minutes, from conception of the craft to finalizing all the shapes. The kids spent a little bit longer and (as you can see below) some really got into it, while others did not. Some even asked for a second piece of white paper, or turned their first one over to create another skyline!

My example
Jeremy was not as enthused
Izzy got really into it though