Meet Soraya Silverman-Montano, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

It should come as no surprise to anyone in the Storytime Underground community that our colleagues are often engaged in some really awesome projects. One such colleague is this month’s Storytime Guerrilla of the Month, Soraya Silverman-Montano, who recently completed her stint as an Emerging Leader on behalf of ALSC. Ninjas, meet Soraya.


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Like many an awesome youth services librarian, Soraya wears many different types of hats, both metaphorical and literal.

Since being (thankfully) forced to volunteer by her incredible mom at the age of 14 (and, shortly thereafter, that service grew to love), Soraya has been working at the library for ten years and is currently a Youth Services Librarian with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. According to Soraya: “I can honestly say from the bottom of my geeky heart that I love everything about it! I enjoy making explosions and slime, being ridiculously silly every week while sharing my favorite stories, and also coordinating the occasional teen program to express my geekiness to likeminded individuals at this awesome awesome job!” Outside of work, Soraya considers herself a pretty cool wife, friend, daughter, and sister of five girls; a gamer, crafter and unique chef; a mommy of three doggy fur babies; and of course, an avid reader of mostly YA fiction, manga and comics.


Q: What’s your philosophy for choosing books and activities for your storytimes?
Soraya: The #1 rule for me when picking books and activities is that they above all else: Must. Be. Fun! #2 is that I have to be able to get the kids to be engaged and involved in the story or game, and the #3 rule is that I generally should be able to make a fool of myself because if you can’t laugh at yourself then who are the kids gonna laugh at/with? ;)
I pick stories with songs the kids can sing with me, ones with repetition or rhymes that they can read along with. I do flannels and fingerplays with interactive songs or pieces the kids can pull off the board, or hide and go seek, or matching games.
And if a book/activity doesn’t inherently have an interactive portion I make it fun and interactive by asking questions throughout the entire story: Would you be friends with a crocodile? What if it was a nice crocodile? Who here likes apples? I love apples! You guys have good taste, literally! What do you think’s going to be in the box? A banana? A sad clown? A MONSTER IN HIS UNDERPANTS?!


Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?
Soraya: Flannels. I love flannels. They are so great at reeling a fussy crowd back in and at getting chatty parents to participate and focus back on storytime. If you have a small storytime that day and the group isn’t engaging with you, you can get kids excited by having them come up and pull pieces off the board.
And flannels are so diverse! I have ones that tie into fingerplays, some that are alternate ways of reading a well-known story, matching games, and hide and go seek games. I have some that teach ABCs, colors, counting, emotions or shapes; anything is possible!


Q: If you could travel through time, what one piece of storytime advice would you give your new librarian self?
Soraya: Don’t stress so much! You have to find your own groove. You don’t have to do the same outline as Lily or the same songs as Marshall or themes like Robin or books that Ted reads. If a kid is screaming his head off and can’t sit still, it’s probably not because of you and just because they’re having a rough day. If you have a tough crowd who won’t engage, you’ll learn techniques to get them to. Look for new ideas from coworkers, online, from 3rd parties like classrooms, there’s always more to learn. And as you learn, storytime will become easier and easier. You just have to give yourself a break and a chance to grow into that awesome storytime guru you will be.


Q:  When you have a storytime problem, who/what do you turn to for advice or support? It can be a person, a blog, a website, a resource…
Soraya: The resource I use most and that I am extremely grateful for is my coworkers. They are a plethora of knowledge about any aspect of a storytime you can think of, and we’re always bouncing ideas and thoughts off of one another. Plus, it’s equally beneficial to see that skill in practice, to shadow them and see exactly how they incorporate what you’re trying to learn in person. That doesn’t mean you have do exactly as they do, but you’ll at least have some ideas to think about how you want to incorporate it into your storytime.
I also use Storytime Katie (who I had the pleasure of briefly meeting at Annual this year which was awesome) for theme ideas. We have similar tastes in books and it helps me brainstorm other books that go along with whatever theme I have for the week. Plus she posts her crafts ideas, too, which is fabulous.
And I am a member of the Storytime Underground Facebook group where I’m able to post any questions, stories, or even just geeky things I’d like to share with everyone. It’s an excellent resource to use to get a variety of ideas from other Youth Services folk around the country and even the world. Social media rocks the socks!


Q: You recently “emerged” as an ALA Emerging Leader. Can you share some information about your project? How has it made you see your youth services work differently?
Soraya: Our Emerging Leaders group was tasked from ALSC, the Association of Library Service to Children, to do research that would lead to developing a Youth Services Value Calculator, which essentially breaks down each service we provide to children, parents, schools, etc. and assigns a monetary value to that service. We quickly realized, though, that this was a daunting feat; how can you assign a price to something invaluable, such as establishing a love for reading and instilling early literacy skills at an early age so that they have school readiness and will hopefully be more successful and ambitious in their pursuit of education?
We determined that a Value Calculator would be insufficient as a measurement tool because it is only a snapshot of what services are provided for a brief moment in time. Our group felt that a more thorough and all-encompassing tool would need to be developed for Youth Services staff to show their value and how important providing our resources is–so that we can better advocate for ourselves to administration, legislation, the public, whomever. Ultimately, we voiced our conclusion that there should be an ALSC taskforce or some other entity dedicated to researching and finding relative concrete value for our services in order to create such a tool. We were ecstatic to find out that such a taskforce has been created, and we’re eager to see their results and how this project will evolve!
This Emerging Leaders project was eye-opening in that I realized there aren’t a whole lot of tools out there specific to Youth Services that can easily convey to the public just how crucial we are to the children and families we serve and to society as a whole. Now it may be a stretch to say that librarians are responsible for creating a more educated, open minded public, but who’s to say that we don’t have an important role in doing so? If we can reach kids while they’re young, or at any age in between, and help them to love reading and learning, and that in turn leads them to value education, pursue higher degrees, think for themselves and continue to learn, wouldn’t that lead to a more educated society? :) I know now just how necessary advocating for Youth Services is, and that we need to take every opportunity to make sure that everyone else, too, realizes how important libraries, Youth Services, and reading are to help the children and people of our community shine even greater than they already do.

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Perfect Little Library, by Kelsey Cole-Burns

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It is perhaps the hardest question to ask a children’s librarian, next to “Choose your favorite cat video.” Last week, our founder Cory Eckert asked the Storytime Underground group on Facebook to choose 5 picture books that every children’s collection absolutely must own. Choosing five is as hard as it sounds. There were calls of despair and general nail-biting as we were forced to choose just five. Phyllis Davis compared the tortuous exercise to “when you are at the YS Desk and have to watch the parent who tells their child they may only check out one book to take home!” What kind of monster would ask this?


Needless to say, we all survived and created a pretty stellar list, one that I would like to call the Perfect Little Library. Although there were some sneaky sixth additions, this was a great exercise in restraint and deep consideration for choosing your ultimate favorite picture books. As I chose my books, I had to choose five diverse books, weighing age appeal, cultural diversity, popular appeal, and literary merit.


Below are the most chosen books by 38 librarians around the U.S. What 5 picture books would you put in your perfect little library?

And below are books that received 1 vote, organized by author:

  • Alborough, Jez.   It’s the Bear
  • Allard, Harry.   Miss Nelson Is Missing
  • Andreae, Giles.   Giraffes Can’t Dance
  • Aylesworth, Jim.   The Gingerbread Man
  • Barnett, Mac.   Extra Yarn
  • Bottner, Barbara.   Miss Brooks Loves Books
  • Brett, Jan.   Annie and the Wild Animals
  • Brett, Jan.   The Mitten
  • Brown, Peter.   Children Make Terrible Pets
  • Burton, Virginia Lee.   mike mulligan
  • Campbell, Rod.   Dear Zoo
  • Carle, Eric.   Head to Toe
  • Carle, Eric.   The Very Busy Spider
  • Cousins, Lucy.   Peck Peck Peck
  • Cronin, Denise.   Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type
  • Deacon, Alexis.   Beegu
  • Degen, Bruce.   Jamberry
  • DePaola, Tomie.   Strega Nona
  • Dewdney, Anna.   Llama Llama Red Pajama
  • Eastman, P.D.   Are You My Mother?
  • Eastman, P.D.   Go Dog Go
  • Ehlert, Lois.   Eating the Alphabet
  • Falconer, Ian.   Olivia
  • Gag, Wanda.   Millions of Cats
  • Gaiman, Neil.   Chu’s Day
  • Galdone, Paul.   Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Garcia, Emma.   Toot, Toot, Beep, Beep
  • Goble, Paul.   The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
  • Grossman, Bill.   Donna O’neeshuck Was Chased By Some Cows
  • Haynes, Max.   In the Driver’s Seat
  • Henkes, Kevin.   Owen
  • Jenkins, Martin.   Can We Save the Tiger
  • Kasza, Keiko.   The Pig’s Picnic
  • Katz, Karen.   The Colors of Us
  • Keats, Ezra Jack.   Peter’s Chair
  • Leaf, Munro.   The Story of Ferdinand
  • Lee, Suzy.   Shadow
  • Lester, Helen.   Tacky the Penguin
  • Lionni, Leo.   Little Blue and Little Yellow
  • Macaulay, David.   black and white
  • McCloskey, Robert.   One Morning in Maine
  • Mosel, Ariene.   Tikki Tikki Tembo
  • Munsch, Robert.   The Paperbag Princess
  • Muth, Jon.   Three Questions
  • Piper, Watty.   The Little Engine that could
  • Prelutsky, Jack.   Read Aloud Rhymes For The Very Young
  • Rathmann, Peggy.   Officer Buckle and Gloria
  • Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan.   The Secret River
  • Scanlon, Liz.   All the World
  • Scarry, Richard.   What Do People Do All Day
  • Seuss, Dr.   Horton Hatches The Egg
  • Seuss, Dr.   My Many Colored Days
  • Seuss, Dr.   Red fish Blue fish
  • Shea, Bob.   Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great
  • Sierra, Judy.   Tasty Baby Bellybuttons
  • Sierra, Judy.   Wild About Books
  • Simont, Marc.   The Stray Dog
  • So, Meilo   Gobble Gobble Slip Slop
  • Taback, Simms.   There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
  • Tan, Shaun.   The Arrival
  • Thomas, Jan.   Can You Make a Scary Face
  • Thomas, Jan.   Rhyming Dust Bunnies
  • Van Allsburg, Chris.   Polar Express
  • Vorst, Judith.   Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day
  • Wadsworth, Olive.   Over in the Meadow
  • Watt, Melanie.   Scaredy Squirrel
  • Wheeler, Lisa.   Jazz Baby
  • Williams, Vera B.   A Chair for My Mother
  • Wilson, Karma.   The Cow Loves Cookies
  • Wood, Audrey.   The Napping House
  • Wood, Don.   Little Mouse the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear
  • Yolen, Jane.   How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight
  • Zimmerman, Andrea.   Trashy Town

Kelsey Cole-Burns is a Youth Services Librarian at Fremont Public Library in Mundelein, Illinois. You can visit her blog at

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TL;DR Advocacy- Pay it Forward

Today’s Boot on the Ground post comes for Julie Crabb. Julie majored in Theatre Performace and Secondary History/Government Education at the University of Kansas, but ended up falling in love with her first library job. Her main goal is to add a ton of movement, STEAM activities, and maybe even some pop music parodies into her storytimes at her new job!


TL;DR Advocacy













I may have just landed my dream job, but I have been a ninja in training for years.


You should prepare while you pursue…


Devour blogs written by those who have the same attitude as you. Get really into literacy and how you can impact a child’s life. Learn shaker songs and put a ukulele down on your Christmas list this year. Start bookmarking flannel board finds and STEAM station ideas. Read picture books to your loved ones and force them to do silly dances with you.


Let your goals be known. Be enthusiastic at every moment you get a glimpse of that dream job. Navigate the road bumps as they come alone, but don’t get defeated. Make sure that the right people know you are an advocate with some big ideas.


Once you get the job, pay it forward to the blogosphere that helped you get there.



Tell us your advocacy story in 149 word or less an we’ll put it up for the world to see. This is a great opportunity to refine your next elevator pitch, and to inspire others to step up their advocacy game. 

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Best Tech Devices

It’s Tech Tuesday! Ok, that’s not actually a thing for us, but it was fun to say. Have any suggestions for our questioner?


The Question:


What is the best tech to use in order include ebooks and apps in storytime? I’ve heard of librarians using apple TVs (with a projector or wide screen), smart boards, or just ipads, but I haven’t been able to find an in-depth review of all the options out there.

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The Answers:


From Ashley:


I think it’s great that you know what your end goals are: share ebooks and apps with children in a group setting.   I have the same goals! (still working on attaining them…) But before you go hunting for the “best” way to accomplish this, you’ll need to look carefully at your space, budget, size and administrative landscape.  How you define “best” probably depends a lot on these things.  For example, having plenty of iPads to pass out to the group to share may be ideal, but you can’t afford it.  And size matters: do you need to share the ebook with a group of 8 kids or 80?  Perhaps showing something on a big screen is best for you, but you don’t have wall space for a mounted TV.  But maybe your library already has a pull-down screen and overhead projector that you can hook up to?  Or maybe all of this is a moot point because you share one tech person with the entire town government and adding something to the plate is a non-starter.  All of these site-specific limitations are why there is no “best” way to go about sharing ebooks and apps with groups of kids.


But librarians are wonderful at idea sharing, and one great resource is Little eLit (  There are photos and blog posts of librarians around the country using technology in story times.  If you see or read something that you think will work for you and your space, you can reach out directly to that librarian to find out more specifics about how she set up her system.  Check out their “Programming” section for write-ups of different technology-infused storytimes, and see their “Gallery” (lower right hand side of page) for photos.


We’re about to start construction on a brand new library (with a dedicated children’s programming room! Woot!), and I’ve been combing through Little eLit for ideas myself.  Personally, I like the idea of a mounted screen that projects its own light versus a pull-down screen that light is projected onto.  I think the latter solution can lead to issues with having to make the room dark in order for kids to see the screen, making it harder for them to see me.  For now, I tend to share apps with small groups of children, so I just hold up my one lone iPad and let the kids come up to take turns interacting with it.  I tell myself having them wait to take a turn is even better because then we’re practicing executive functioning skills like impulse control. ;)


Whatever solution ends up being “best” for your library, I hope it goes well!


From Anne:


By the time in-depth reviews on technology come out it’s always too late! So we test and guess and hope that whatever we commit our precious budgets to will be the best option. We went with iPads and have found a number of program opportunities.


During storytime, we primarily use the iPads to project rhymes so parents can read along. For more details on this, check out this article my co-worker wrote for Little eLit. We also project eBook versions of books that are too small to share in print form. There’s a couple of apps that have been pretty fun to share like Mother Goose on the Loose, Felt Board, and Peek-a-Zoo.


We have 7 iPads for small group programs. Last month, we hosted a Daisy the Dinosaur program where each child had an iPad to share with his or her parent. The kids explored basic concepts of computer programming. Next month we’re making sock puppets and shooting video of sock puppet sketches with iPads.


I think we’ve just started to see the possibilities of using iPads in youth programming. So, take the risk. Get yourself a fancy new tool and have fun using it.


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Guerrilla Storytime @ 2014 ALSC National Institute

Way back at ALA Midwinter in January, I chatted with some folks at ALSC about Storytime Underground. That conversation led to a great collaborative offering–a Guerrilla Storytime at the 2014 ALSC National Institute this past week in Oakland, CA. Kendra and I were in attendance and facilitated. Here’s the recap, to the best of our abilities. Don’t forget to click through for videos! You can also follow this link to the Guerrilla Storytime at #alsc14 playlist.


Opening Song: Hands Are Clapping, clap, clap, clap / Hands are clapping, clap, clap, clap / Hands are clapping, clap, clap, clap / Clap your hands my darlings / feet are stomping / mouths are kissing


Challenge: How do you include other languages?

  • Sing: “yo te amo / yo te amo / all say long I sing this little song to you / yo te amo / yo te amo / all day long I sing this song to you” You can all yell at Kendra for not getting this on video.
  • Count the number of kids in attendance in different languages with help from parents who speak other languages


Challenge: How do you incorporate letter knowledge into storytimes?

  • With babies, don’t necessarily want to do letters to make parents anxious; instead talk about shapes
  • In preK storytime, have a theme letter, and before storytime kids do a search around the library for ten die cuts of the letter; sing the letter in storytime with prop letters; connect to words that have that letter, does anyone have that letters in their name
  • For 3&4 year olds, celebrate the letter “B” by singing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” and stand up/sit down with b words
  • Include ASL alphabet, promotes a lot of parent interaction, motor skills, takes longer to talk about the letters


Challenge: What’s your favorite use of props?


Challenge: How do you deal with rude parents?


Challenge: A parent won’t respond to their disruptive kid. What do you do?


Challenge: A child has a severe emotional reaction to a book you’re reading; what do you do?


Guerrilla Query: In a K-2 storytime, an older kid, instead of laughing, would yell “Jesus Christ!” very loudly whenever something funny happened in the story. How would you handle that? Video of Q & A

  • As a group, practice ways to laugh so everyone does silly laughs in a similar way
  • Use clapping instead of laughing


More Parachute!

  • Video And if you need more info/ideas on using the parachute, you can go here or here or here.


Challenge: How do you incorporate vocabulary into storytime? Video (even though it’s super hard to hear, sorry!)

  • Use song books like Jan Cabrera to reinforce that different words can mean the same things
  • Change a song lyric, little becomes gigantic, etc
  • Nonfiction! Don’t have to read aloud, but discuss the story or word
  • Have a vocab word that goes with the theme
  • CLICK CLACK MOO and the word “furious”
  • WOLFS CHICKEN STEW and the word “scrumptious”
  • Ask ” who knows what this means?”
  • Share rich vocab stories
  • Rhyme time with rhyming words that relate to theme, also weird words


Closing songs (Video)

  • “Sunny Day” from Little Jean Library: the sun comes up the flowers bloom
  • Jim Gill’s goodbye song is hilarious ” Moving Rhymes for Modern Times” with silly ways to say goodbye
  • “Wave high, wave low, now it’s time we’ve got to go”
  • “We say goodbye like this”


Thank you, ALSC, for being open to the idea of a Guerrilla Storytime at Institute. We had a great time kicking off the first session morning by learning great storytime skills from colleagues!

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TL;DR Advocacy– CLEL 12

Today’s Boot on the Ground post comes from the fabulous Melissa Depper, of Mel’s Desk fame. Melissa has been a children’s librarian in the Denver metro area for a long time, an early literacy advocate for a medium amount of time, and a supervisor for a very, very short time. She wishes she could bake cookies for every storytime provider in the world. 

TLDR Advocacy












Several years ago, Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy  borrowed the 43 Things idea  and developed a year-long initiative we called the CLEL 12. It was at the request of our members who asked for concrete examples of ways to get involved and be better early literacy advocates.


We listed 16 ideas, such as “Introduce yourself as a member of CLEL at your next professional gathering,” and “Contact your county’s Early Childhood Council and introduce yourself,” and “Make a presentation at a staff meeting about early literacy.” CLEL members could choose 12 ofmel the 16 things to complete the challenge– each activity one small to step to becoming a more active member of the Colorado early literacy community. Sound familiar?


Think about your library– what action steps could you put on a customized list to adapt the Storytime University concept to your colleagues and your community advocacy goals?






Tell us your advocacy story in 149 words or less and we’ll put it up for the world to see. This is a great opportunity to refine your next elevator pitch, and to inspire others to step up their advocacy game. 

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The Coolest Things I Saw While Left Behind by Amy & Kendra at ALSC

It’s true. Amy and Kendra are at ALSC Institute facilitating Guerrilla Storytime, presenting, being their bad ass selves. Brooke and I are left behind, me rewatching the new Mindy Project episode over and over, and Brooke probably drowning in a sea of thank you notes. HA! Oh, I mean, sympathy, babe!


This post has like, zero storytime in it. NOT because no one posted anything great about storytime this week, but because I so soooo many cool school-aged things and I got carried away.


As a new-again school librarian, I’ve been catching up on great school and school librarian blogs. I love this meditation on power and empowerment, from Bud the Teacher, and I think it holds true for public librarians as well. We don’t want to be white knights, empowering our customers. That’s condescending and dehumanizing.


I’ve been chewing and chewing on this post from Donalyn Miller. It’s about busy work, and reading logs, and the joy of reading, and assignments that encourage critical thinking and deep engagement. Again, I don’t think it just applies to school librarians. I have some vague ideas about what we can do to help school librarians, or parents, or kids with this, and I’m fairly certain brilliant minds like Julie Jurgens and Buffy Hamilton have far more advanced theories.


Speaking of schools! Lisa at Thrive After Three has a great video about how and why to do successful school/public partnerships!


Since I’m suddenly interacting with a LOT more 3 year olds, and I am interested in building thoughtful relationships with them, I am thinking more than ever about things like praise and discipline. This post on descriptive praise, from Playful Learning, was super helpful to me.


Bryce introduced me to new-to-me blog Hafuboti, and I was going to link to one thing but I can’t decide, so, just go hang out over there. Everything is awesome.


The new MOOSE BOOK is about to come out!!! *Jumps up and down in chair* I get to order picture books again!!!! Everything is beautiful.


Thanks to Ruth (@ruthlibrarian) for making my day with this dinosaur comic <3


Did you know that a bunch of my PLN have cool internet projects? It’s true. Sophie (@sophiebiblio) and Margaret (@MrsFridayNext) have a phenomenal Tumblr where they. . .tell you what’s cool on the internet. That’s like SO up my alley.

Carolyn (@papersquared) and Anna (@helgagrace) have an amazing podcast about pop culture and Julie does the music and you should listen.


Once upon a time I was on this mailing list for this TV show, and it was cancelled, but I never stopped being on the mailing list or in the fandom, and I was on a podcast talking about it! So if you’re like, really into mid-nineties TV shows or how the internet can change people’s lives or fandom in general, you might be into this.



librarian grumpy cat

I just thought today needed Grumpy Cat.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Baby and Toddler Chaos

Personally, I’m really excited about this post, as a presenter who deals with storytimes regularly at or over room capacity (66). I really appreciated the suggestions below and will certainly be acting on much of what was said. If you, or someone you know, has a baby and toddler infestation issue you’ve come to the right place.


Ask a Storytime Ninja badge


The Question:


I need some suggestions for running a very large infant storytime for about 30-40 infants 3-11 months. And, toddler storytime 70-80 toddlers ages 12-35 months. These are weekly programs. Right now I do a lot of music and movement activities and read 1 story using the Ipad for both groups. I also include early literacy tips. After storytime we have free play with 2 ball pits for the infants and 2 parachutes for the toddlers. It is getting too out of hand I really don’t know what to do. Help!


The Answers:


From Anne:


It is a rare and wonderful thing to have so many families interested in attending infant storytime! Kudos to you!


Having 30 – 40 infants and 70 – 80 toddlers seems chaotic and exhausting for you and probably your patrons. It’s time to open up more storytime sessions! These numbers should easily warrant increasing your sessions. That is, of course, assuming that’s even an option.


If you can’t open up more storytime sessions, consider changing the format of your program. You could offer early literacy drop-ins in which you have 3 – 4 stations of early literacy activities including a story nook where you can share books and rhymes. One drop-in could be for babies and the other for toddlers. Each station would have a specific activity described on a notecard so that the stations are self-guided.


Early literacy stations you could try:


• Write: Add paint to Ziploc bags and duct tape the openings. Little ones will have a blast tracing shapes and lines or just smashing the paint – with no mess. You can add one color or allow colors to combine to make new colors.

• Sing: Use a square shaped box to make a song cube by adding images of your favorite kid-friendly songs, like a star for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Families can roll the cube to see what song they can sing.

• Play: Incorporate the parachute or the ball pit. You can also rotate in stacking toys, puzzles or sensory balls.

• Talk: Provide puzzles or puppets to use as props in stories. You could have specific stories in mind like three pigs and a wolf or you could add a variety of pieces for newly imagined stories.


For more early literacy activity ideas, check out my library’s pinterest page:


If neither of the above suggests work for your library, you may need to start registering your storytimes to make the programs more manageable and enjoyable for everyone.



From Tabin:


Isn’t it great to be loved? You probably feel like asking, “Can’t we just cuddle?” so I will not recommend doing more storytimes. Plus it doesn’t always help. I’ve gone from 36 storytimes and 20 performer events a year to about 160 programs on top of hosting around 50 others.


Instead of getting half the crowd at two events you end up with twice as many people, people who are not happy if you limit attendance, and as delicious as it sounds, you don’t want to start putting Kahlua in your coffee.


Obviously you’re doing fantabulous or else a gazillion people wouldn’t show up on a weekly basis. That said, you need to isolate why people attend. So, as much as I dread writing this because I hate paperwork like it owes me money, your best bet is to do a survey for 2-3 weeks before making changes. Let them know you are “improving storytime” (use those exact words) and their input will decide how you go from there. (Candy bribes help.) Ask questions such as:


—What do you like most about this program?

—Do you have suggestions on how to improve this program?

—Are you aware of the resources the library has to offer?

—On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being “this sucks” and 5 being “everybody gets a car!” how would you rate the iPad stories, parachutes, literacy tips, social interaction, etc.


Once you have the surveys you’ll have a better idea of which components to drop, change, or turn into self-directed stations. You will be surprised at the feedback you get. I now play Motown and Van Morrison after storytime, provide preschool tours with database training, and print out literacy asides instead of state them because parents admitted they didn’t retain them during storytime sessions, and now I’m teaching parents how to host mini-storytimes at home.


Let your patrons tell you what they want, decide which wants will lead you away from the Pit of Cra-Cra and to the Land of Zen, and when you make the necessary changes it is a positive experience for all instead of a big shock to the system.


Ashley seconds these emotions!


That voice, those eyes. Sigh.

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Coolest Things!

Friends! I started my new job as a SCHOOL LIBRARIAN this week and I am so excited about it and man have I had amazing conversations with kids this week.


Any time Bryce shares behavioral posts I know I should PAY ATTENTION. This one, on 6 ways you’re telling kids not to listen to you, is no exception.


This week is basically, remember who I linked to last week? Yeah, why aren’t you following them?


Melissa’s wordless picture book post and Cate’s on story dictation both have so much great in depth thought on making what we do more purposeful, deeper, more effective and affecting.


Ted, who we love, guest posted over on the Show Me Librarian, talking about his summer outreach storytimes and it is super impressive and smartypants and full of excellent tips.


Lisa at Thrive After Three has a FELT BOARD TABLE and I want one.


Hey do you want a new movement activity and also more material in Spanish for your Storytime? Of course you do. Miss Mary Liberry is there for you.


I don’t know if you read this article by badass Naomi House (who founded INALJ) about how she doesn’t want a library job anymore, but I thought it was really heartening and wonderful.


What did I miss?? Send me your best stuff!

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Outdoor Storytime

A little later than usual (sorry ’bout that!) but here’s the first Ask a Ninja question answered by our September featured ninjas. Would you storytime in a boat, with a goat? Would you, could you, in a train?! Or near one…


The Question:


Hi, ninjas, I need suggestions for stories, songs, and activities for an all-ages drop-in storytime at our farmers’ market. Outside, so lots of distractions–including a busy train line. Thanks!

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The Answers:


From Anne:

Storytime at the farmer’s markets sounds like such a great opportunity to reach out to all sorts of library users. Any storytime held outside can be a challenge. I’ve hosted similar storytimes at community-wide events in a busy park right across from the train tracks.


Shorter interactive stories tend to maintain the attention of the audience but also allows families to participate in a full story or two while still being able to move on to the next activity. I recommend any of the Jan Thomas books but especially Can You Make a Scary Face? and Are You Ready to Have Some Fun. Mac Barnett’s Guess Again! has just the right balance of absurdity and fun. If you really want to get active, try Bounce or Stretch by Doreen Cronin or You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo.


It’s also helpful to sing or play songs that families are already familiar with like Heads, Shoulder’s, Knees and Toes or The Hokey Pokey. Carole Peterson has a very kid and crowd friendly version of The Hokey Pokey on Sticky Bubble Gum: and Other Tasty Tunes.


If attention is really an issue, try a more passive program or an activity based program. You could pre-package take-and-make science experiments or crafts with instructions and your library’s newsletter.


That way families could stop and take a minute to talk to you about the services your library has to offer.



From Ashley:


Storytime at the Farmer’s Market? Sounds great! For an all-ages group in a busy environment, I would rely on rhythm and music. A good beat or tune can engage all ages from babies up to elementary aged kids. Also books that are a little light on plot would be good so that people can feel free to come and go.


My favorite story in this vein is Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb. It’s great for stomping or clapping along with the rhythm. You could tie it into the market by showing fruits and vegetables and clapping out how many syllables they have. Wa-ter-mel-lon!


Another one I like for stomping to the beat is Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig. Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett appeals to many ages because of its rhythm and repetition, plus older kids love looking at the clues in the picture to guess what animal is coming next. Two of my favorites for audience participation are If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Jump! by Scott Fischer.


A great song to do at the market is Raffi’s “Going on a Picnic.” You ask audience members to say what they will bring, and could suggest they name their favorite market treat. If you can bring it, having a large white board or pad of paper nearby could be good for listing what kids say. As you sing the song, you keep adding to the picnic packing list, so it’s a great memory exercise.


One final suggestion: you might want to consider adding sign language, even just a few simple signs, to one or more of your songs. Parents love the idea of young children learning signs, older kids love the challenge and excitement of learning a new language, and it could help your storytime be more inclusive. Here’s a simple Hello/Goodbye song with signs from Jbrary.

Have fun!



From Tabin:


I’m jealous that you’re at the market while my view is of a tire shop, but I digress. When I get out I like to play popcorn with the parachute and bean bags. I Went Walking by Sue Williams is a good big book to march to. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin is a crowd pleaser. Honey, Honey Lion by Jan Brett gets the crowd moving, as does an interactive version of Mabela the Clever by Margaret Read McDonald. Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens is a good market story (though the name made me pause), and I always bring If You’re Happy and You Know It by David A Carter. Since you’re by a train you might consider bringing Freight Train by Donald Crews and play Little Red Caboose on the Wiggleworms Love You album. (I also love If I Was a Bird). However, if you’re there all day try Motown for Kids to save your sanity.


I especially promote databases during outreach. Parents typically know about kids’ programs, but they don’t know we have Zinio, and once they know, they’re more likely to go. If it’s slow you can post a sign that says, “Have you been around the world but don’t speak the language? The library has a database for that!”


For crafts, the kids can make farm scenes. I pasted clip art into tables, printed them on cardstock, cut them out and used school glue to glue on the popsicle sticks. I glued green paper “grass” onto blue cardstock, but in future projects I skipped that, along with rounding edges (Martha Stewart left the building around cow 19). Fold the paper over to cut slits with scissors. The kids decorate the scenes using scraps, die cut shapes, pens and crayons. The parents really like them because they keep the kids entertained on the car ride so they can save the napping for home.


farm scene2 farm scene

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