Jun 21, 2019

A Wild Rumpus Returns!

I just realized I never posted this great summary video of last summer's Wild Rumpus program here on the blog:

This seems like a great opportunity to also remind you that this year's Wild Rumpus begins next week! Each program will run from 5:00-7:30 p.m., starting June 24 and going through August 15.  The Let's Eat Out food trucks will be at each event, or you can pack a picnic dinner.  Check the library's online calendar for last-minute weather cancellation announcements.

Mondays, Brittingham Park
Wednesdays, Haen Family Park
Thursdays, Reindahl Park

Apr 24, 2019

Book Look (A Whole Book Approach Storytime): Gutters

This week was our final Book Look Storytime and we were examining gutters.  Just in case you don't know already, gutters are the crease at the center of the book, where the binding comes together.  All of the books above make interesting and effective use of the gutters.  Let me show you a few examples:

In Jon Agee's new book, The wall in the middle of the book, a gutter becomes a brick wall that literally divides one side of the book from the other.  There's some question about which side is the "safe" side and in this spread, the ogre manages to reach OVER the wall by escaping the confines of the pages themselves:
 The group pointed out that the cover of the book is a great preview for the story but from a different perspective.  (Note the creeping water in the bottom left corner...)
 The gutter in Chris Raschka's classic Yo! Yes? divides two characters, isolating them, until they realize that they can be friends with each other and then the get together on the same side of the book.  We also talked about the subtle background color changes in this book and how they reflect the mood of the characters.

 Suzy Lee's book, Shadow is an amazing and unique example of gutter use and this mostly wordless text brought lots of emotional responses from listeners.
 In the book Blocks by Irene Dickson, Ruby and Benji are playing separately with their red and blue blocks, safely divided by the gutter.  Until this page:
 Look at all the action happening right across that gutter!  I asked the kids what they noticed and they said, "lots of movement!" one kid thought that the little black lines were hairs flying all over the place, but another child informed us that they were wiggle lines.

When they reconcile their differences and build something together, the apex of their structure is... right over the gutter!
Our fingerplay today was:

Two tall telephone poles, (pointer fingers up!)
Between them a wire is strung. (tips of middle fingers touch each other)
Two little birds hopped onto the wire (thumbs are the birds)
And they swung, swung, swung. (swing it back and forth)

We did the app OLO Game because the action in that game is all about crossing the gutter!

 Today's art invitation was to fold the paper and make use of the gutter in your art.  Here are a few examples:

All in all, this has been a really interesting series, but not well-suited for the three-and-under crowd. While I will likely still pull in some of these techniques for one or maybe two books during my regular preschool storytime programming, doing an entire storytime based on this approach lost a few of the more active younger kiddos and some of the older kids got impatient and begged me to "just read the story!" But I love asking kids what they notice because it's often a revelation to me and I even loved letting them choose which book I read from a selection of titles standing up on a table.  It's as close as I can get to a "self-determined storytime"!

Apr 18, 2019

Book Look: A Whole Book Approach storytime, week 3 (Amazing Endpapers!!)

I could talk about endpapers... endlessly!  It's one of the first book design elements I started noticing and calling kids attention to looooong before I read Megan Dowd Lambert's Reading Picture Books with Children book, so I was excited last week when one of the kiddos said, "I'm tired of talking about the size and shape of the book, can we talk about something else?  Like endpapers or something?"

First, I consulted Lambert's fantastic round-up of book titles with exceptionally interesting endpapers and through that I discovered Ruzzio's This is not a picture book. The difference between the endpapers at the beginning and end of this book is subtle but SO, SOOOO significant! 

The kids also noticed how the background of the pages is utterly blank until the duckling begins to read and then... the world becomes full of color and detail. So many great design details here in the illustrations and endpapers--just check it out for yourself!

The first book we actually read together was Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett. I LOVE how the subtle endpapers tie in to the story (hint, check out the trees).  The kids loved how the endpapers matched my outfit today!

We didn't even READ Britta Teckentrup's book, Neon Leon but the endpapers tell the whole story in just a few simple shapes:

And the kids DID insist that I read Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems but I think that was because they wanted to hear me struggle with all of the tight rhyming, whew!

We also did a little finger play:
And I gave a sneak peek into one of next week's books: Blocks by Irene Dickson by just comparing the beginning and ending endpapers:

And we ended with an exploration of The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Creative Play app (it allows users to cut virtual shapes out of full "sheets" of Eric Carle's great painted textures that he uses for collage in his own books!):

What are your favorite endpapers?

Apr 17, 2019

Book Look: A Whole Book Approach Storytime (week 2, Orientation + a little Gutter talk)

This week, we compared books that were Landscape and books that were Portrait in orientation and talked about why that might be.

We started off with a little action rhyme:
And then I started off with a close comparative reading of I want my hat back and This is not my hat by Jon Klassen. I love reading these two books together and comparing/contrasting them!  The kids all agreed that the bear book was in portrait orientation because the bear stand up and is tall while the fish book is landscape because of the shape of the fish, but we talked about LOTS of other things as well!

Then we moved on to reading Building with Dad by Carol Nevius, illustrated by Bill Thompson which has such great perspectives in the illustrations!  The spine is on the TOP of the book (I'm sure there's an official binding or book design term for that, but I don't know what it is!) so that when you open the book it appears even TALLER than the cover image.  The kids pointed out that although many of the images are from down low, looking up high, there are a few where we are up high, looking down to the ground.  We also talked about the shifting horizon line and how it might help dictate how we should hold the book on each page.  (sorry, I've already sent my copy of the book along to another storytime, so you'll just have to find your own copy of the book to examine, but it is WORTH it.  One of my favorite "construction" books!)

Next, the kids chose to read the book Wave by Suzy Lee.  Although the horizontal pull of the wave and the width of the beach make the portait landscape an easy choice, we ended up talking a lot about the gutters in this book!  How at first, the gutter clearly divides the water from the girl and the birds:
and a few pages later, the girl and the birds cross over the gutter to join the water:

 and then how the mountains fade to nothing because the only thing interesting is playing with water:
 And then when the girl and the birds cross back over the gutter to get away from the water:
 And of course, when the water finally crosses the gutter in this magnificent fashion, getting EVERYTHING wet...

I used, "Oh! The Magic Drawing App" as our app of the day because it does a PERFECT job of demonstrating the difference between portrait and landscape, plus it's a book app (a companion app to the book "That's my hat!") and it's free!

At this halfway point, I feel like this storytime would be EXCELLENT for school-age kids, but is stretching the preschoolers pretty far.  Most of my responses are from a homeschool family that attends and a few of the parents making keen observations as well. But if you've got a regular program that combines books and school age kids... I think this would be a hit!

Next week we'll be looking at endpapers by special request of one of the kiddos!  (I LOVE endpapers...)

Apr 16, 2019

Book Look: A Whole Book Approach storytime (Week 1, Trim Size)

I'm trying a storytime experiment!  I was so inspired by Megan Dowd Lambert's book Reading Picture Books With Children about the Whole Book Approach that I've been trying to weave elements of it into my regular preschool storytime ever since reading it a few years ago.

Recently, I've been thinking about ways to make my storytimes more... child-led (a la Anji Play) and I keep coming back to this Whole Book Approach concept.  Basically, instead of just blasting through a book to figure out the ending as quickly as you can, you instead ask really open-ended questions like, "What do you see?" or "Why do you think the book designer made that choice?" -- questions that (preferably) you DON'T have a specific answer in mind for -- and see what the kids come up with. I'm doing an experiment this year for the month of April and trying to do a whole storytime based on this approach. 

The first week, we looked at "trim size" or really big books and really small books.  The photo above shows some of the books I had on the table for them to choose from.  We actually explored Madeleine, Pierre and Leonardo and then did the Going to Bed book as our app of the week.  We talked about why the authors/illustrators chose to make these books big or tiny and the kids had some good ideas.  But some of the BEST observations were ones they made that had nothing to do with the size of the book.  For instance...

In Madeleine, we noticed that some of the illustrations are only yellow and black while others are more full-color and one of the kids pointed out that the yellow illustrations (at least for the first half of the book) are all interior pictures and the full color ones take place outside the school (this theory doesn't hold strictly true throughout the book but close enough to be very interesting!).

In Leonardo the Terrible Monster, they pointed out the symmetry of two 2-page spreads--one which features a sad Leonardo in the bottom right corner and the other which features a sad Sam in the bottom left corner.  Both pages have almost no words, but the words that ARE there are a simple introduction to the character.

Next week we'll be discussing Orientation (Portrait vs. Landscape) -- can't wait!

Mar 19, 2019

App Survey response or, "Why I don't focus on "educational" apps"

 Thanks to everyone who participated in the my survey about the app recommendation services that we offer at Madison Public Library. I was honored and humbled to see that many of the participants are children's librarians from across the country!

One of the questions that several people asked was why I don't review or recommend many overtly "educational" apps. When I asked Katie Paciga, researcher and head of the ALA "Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award" committee her thoughts on this topic she told me, "Children learn in many ways, including open ended play with things that interest them. Reducing their experiences to those deemed as "learning," narrowly focused on cognitive skills, diminishes their opportunities to experience in ways that are often the most developmentally appropriate for that particular child."

Here is my own response:

I've heard many parents say, "Well if my kids are going to be spending time on a device, at least they can be LEARNING something while they're at it!" and while that sentiment makes some sense, I think we need to think carefully about how kids learn best. Many of the apps that are being marketed as "educational" are focusing on some really specific skills -- letter/color/shape recognition, letter sounds, matching things, adding, subtracting, etc.

Recently, I was testing an app with my daughter and one of the activities started by telling the kids about basic color mixing and then asked her to find things that were a certain color in a picture. I know that my daughter will learn more deeply about color mixing by physically painting with watercolor paints or mixing blobs of play dough together and I would rather she learn in those hands-on ways.

There are other --more subtle, more complex-- ways that my children can benefit from app use, such as innovative problem solving that they get from playing Inventioneers or Gorogoa, impulse control that they can practice while playing games like Shine: Journey of Light, looking for different results when playing games that have cause and effect with no prescribed "correct answer" like Toca Mystery House or Sago Mini Super Juice, or a chance to just lose themselves in an imaginative world such as those in the Toca Life apps.

I realize that there are schools that would like to use apps in the classroom and for those needs, there are a number of app reviewers such as Teachers with Apps, Kindertown (though they aren't writing new reviews anymore their database has some great titles and their app has a really nice interface), Moms with Apps, and Children's Technology Review that review more of the "educational" apps.  However, as one survey respondent noted, "It's great to have reviews of apps coming from a library perspective. A lot of the information I find comes from teachers, and what works well in a classroom often doesn't work well in the library or in storytime. Thank you for taking the time to provide all of this great information!!"

I hope that you find my App Recommendations page to be a useful resource.  High quality apps are becoming increasingly difficult to find, but I refuse to compromise my standards and will only review apps that I think are truly worth your money and your child's time. I know that their time in childhood is limited and there's no reason to waste any of it using poor quality media.

Jan 30, 2019

Why do we do Anji Play at the library?


I recently pulled together some research and reflections about why we do Anji Play at Madison Public Library. This is something I've thought about a lot over the past three years but I'd never put my thoughts and the research I've read all into one spot before. Click the image above or this link if you'd like to read through it!  Many thanks to UW Professor Rebekah Willett for helping me to organize my thoughts and pull together even more supportive research and to Holly Storck-Post, Rebecca Millerjohn and Jess Hankey for their thoughtful feedback.

Jan 29, 2019

AnjiPlayDate update, January 2019

We've had two weeks of AnjiPlayDate so far this session and it has been BUSY!  Attendance has been over 50 people each week and the play has been fascinating.  Here are a few stories that especially warmed my heart during this super cold weather:

During the first week of the session, I met one new mom who was there because I had visited the Play and Learn class that she attends at the Lussier Center on Tuesday mornings and I had mentioned the program to that group.  At first, she was unsure what her role as an adult in this program was (she could tell it was different than Play and Learn), so I talked with her about the importance of carefully observing children in play to see what amazing things they might do.  I checked in with her a little while later and she was delighted to tell me about three situations that her son had figured out on his own, things that she would have stepped in to help him with before trying this approach.

The first was an intellectual risk -- he was building a tower of blocks and couldn't reach the top, and figured out by himself that he could use a circle block as a stepstool to get him high enough to reach the top of the tower.  

The second was a physical risk -- he was balancing with both feet on a three-wheeled scooter and he fell.  When he got back up, he tried standing on the wheels with only one foot and one foot on the ground and was more stable.  

The third was a social risk -- he wanted a four-wheeled scooter that another child also wanted.  She told me that usually she would step in and point out that there was another four-wheeled scooter nearby, but she tried just watching and pretty soon, he gave up arguing with the other child and went and found a three-wheeled scooter to play with instead.

She thanked me for this opportunity to try something new and this chance to be surprised by what her son could do on his own.  I congratulated her on her willingness to try this approach and shared her excitement about what she'd learned about her son.  This is a fantastic experience for a first-time attender and I can't wait to see what unfolds in upcoming weeks!
During week 2, another mom told me that she had shown her daughter the pictures and videos she'd captured during play last week and when her daughter was excited to watch them over and over and talk about them to both parents, she really could see how much her comprehension of what had happened during the play increased through that repetition.  It was so great to see this lightbulb moment for the mom!  She also told me that she decided to try letting all of her kids (two can't attend AnjiPlayDate because they're in school) sort out their own sibling squabbles and she was shocked at how quickly they stepped up their negotiation and conflict resolution skills as soon as they realized mom wasn't going to step in and fix it for them. 
Another mom who homeschools her children shared with me that she liked the play story notebook idea so much that she bought each of her kids a blank notebook to create their own play stories in more frequently!
These stories really drive home for me the impact that Anji Play can have on children beyond the time to play during the program itself.  Thank you to all of these parents for sharing their stories with me!

Jan 12, 2019

Storytime Hack: Small books, big screen

 Today, I wanted to use one of my favorite board books in my Donuts with Dad storytime. This group is usually pretty large (today we ended up with 83), so I knew that I couldn't just hold that tiny book in my hand and expect everyone to see it, so I rigged up a solution that ended up working so well, I thought I'd share it with you. 

I've tried ELMO cameras and overhead projectors, but the lighting is never quite right, but this?  This was simple and worked surprisingly well.

What you need:
--an iPad, iPod or iPhone and just the standard "Camera" app
--an AppleTV (for wireless connection, or cords will work if that's what you usually use to make your iDevice talk to your projector)
--a projector and screen
--some way to prop up your book and iDevice (I used the magnetic bar on the back of my flannel board for the book and a desk organizer I grabbed from my office, but use whatever you have on hand).

Here's a photo of the back side of my set-up:
(The camera is peeking above the top of the desk organizer, aimed at the book)
 And here is what it looks like to my group:
 I just sat beside my flannel board and tucked my hand behind it in order to turn pages as I read.  Everyone was captivated (and everyone could SEE)! 

My only frustration was that with this particular set-up, I spent more time looking back than making eye contact with the group, but maybe that will come with practice?  Has anyone else ever done anything like this?  What other solutions have you come up with?

Jan 11, 2019

My favorite new kids music of 2018

 Here are a few new "kindie" albums that came out in 2018 that I'm pretty excited about.  Maybe you'll like them too?

Got a tween fan of folksy pop music, but maybe you’re not quite yet ready for them to dive into some of the mature themes of many of the songs on the radio today?  Check out Every Voice by Kira Willey.  Full of catchy music and empowering lyrics, this album settles comfortably in that sweet spot between Laurie Berkner (who makes a cameo on this album, actually) and Taylor Swift, with a hint of mindfulness for balance. 

Night Train 57 by Dan Zanes and Friends (subtitle: "a sensory friendly comic folk opera")
Classic Dan Zanes folksy sounds!

Tu eres mi flor by Elizabeth Mitchell and Suni Paz
I love Elizabeth Mitchell so much and this Spanish language album doesn't disappoint.  Folksy, some songs that are translated from her "You are my Flower" album, others are new (maybe traditional Spanish language songs?), all are like honey for your ears (but in the sweet way, not a sticky gross way).

All the Sounds by Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats
A gentle, jazzy mix of Spanish and English.  I love her voice!

Winterland by the Okee Dokee Brothers
If you live in an area that gets snowed in for winter (or maybe if you don't and you wish you did), this album will resonate with you. My favorite on this album is "SlumberJack" (I seriously have to listen to it at least twice in a row and sing along each time), my daughter's favorite is "Howl" because she like to howl along. Love that there's a whole song lamenting how we box snowmen (and snowwomen) into specific genders by the clothes we put on them.

A few albums that I haven't listened to all the way from start to finish yet, but I"m pretty excited about:

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