Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What we did in book club this week

My best book club turn out to date, both numbers-wise and fun-wise.

To discuss this week's pick, A. S. King's Please Ignore Vera Dietz, we decided to choose a character from the book and create a Post Secret style card. Since not all of the kids finished the book, I left it open to say they could do any character in any book. The results were, of course, awesome:

I took a pile of magazines for the teens to destroy, along with card stock. It's been told to me more than once that orange is the color du jour with the teens here, so I gave it to them.

Some of my kids were unfamiliar with the Post Secret blog, but I brought the book along to show them. This was a huge hit -- and in fact, it went home with one of the teens after the program. This thrilled me to think about the opportunities that exist for incorporating more activities like this one to discuss the book at hand and to expose the teens to even more cool stuff.

I hung them up in the teen area in one of our nooks to show them off. I love showing off the teen work in the teen space. It really makes it their own.

Of course, after we did this, there was plenty of free building with Legos. These teens cannot get enough of the Legos, and you know, I'm going to keep giving them to them.

If you're curious, Vera Dietz was the second most popular, well-liked, and lauded book we've read so far, just behind Paranoid Park. The teens loved the multiple voices and time periods, and they loved how strange it was. I asked if they thought it was Printz-worthy and there was a resounding yes. I'd do this book again in a heart beat!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reader's Advisory for Teens

While waiting for my exciting news on the grant front, I got to work on reader's advisory for teens like crazy. We haven't had tools in print for the teens to use in helping them find good reads, and it's something I believe is important in getting them to find books that meet their needs, particularly since many teens are reluctant to ask for help. It's been my goal to get some trifolds done before summer reading kicks in, and I'm extremely pleased with how they've turned out. So much so, that I've uploaded a my reader's advisory tools to share with anyone interested.

I've got four up and ready for consumption -- they're all in .pdf forms and lack library branding, so you're welcome to modify for yourselves. If you repost these anywhere, please give me credit, but the lists themselves are yours to borrow from.


They're all created in Publisher, and yes, I print them in color. It makes them pop just a little bit more. Also, since I've been asked and never mentioned it, I get all of my stock images from Stock Exchange. It is a fantastic resource for free stock photography. There are plenty you can pay for, but the free ones are really all you could ever ask for.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The ~big~ news

I found out about this on Wednesday, and I've been riding high on it for a while. But still, there is little more exciting than seeing your name in print!

And with that, voila!

I wrote the grant with three projects in mind; two were already set in motion (the easier ones) and the third I set to work on the second I found out about the grant. I'm so excited to get them going and talk about them further.

In short, there *is* grant money out there to be had. The competition is stiff, and it is a lot of work -- writing this grant took me a good six hour day, on top of a week's worth of an hour here and an hour there to get it set in motion. Then my lovely group of librarian cohorts read over my proposal and gave me valuable input to make it even better. Ten to fifteen hours of work for $1000 is totally worth it, though, especially knowing what value that amount of money will add to the teens' summer reading program this year.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I Rocked the Drop today.

Since it was rainy and gloomy in southern Wisconsin today, I couldn't leave my goods around town like originally planned, and since I was out of the library most of the day in a meeting, I did the next best thing.

First, the haul to be dropped:

I decided plopping them in my library's teen area on the big chair we have would be the perfect plan B.

I can't wait to go back tomorrow and see if any are there still or if they've all disappeared. I put a message up on our teen facebook page, hoping someone'll stop in for a nice little treat.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rock the Drop: Operation Teen Book Drop

I will be participating in this year's Readergirlz Rock the Drop! initiative. I have so many YA books sitting in my house, and what a perfect opportunity to release some of these into the wild. I plan on putting a pile in my teen department at the library, but I also plan on a guerrilla-style drop throughout town. You bet there will be pictures to follow.

If you have a pile of YA books sitting at your home, consider getting involved. It's an easy project to take part in, and what better way to celebrate teen lit during National Library Week than to pass it along? Click on the banner above for more details and to print off the book plates you can slip in your book bombs.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Asked & Answered: Teen Activities

I've hinted at some of the activities we've done for the high school book club, but I've been asked to talk a bit more about my use of unconventional methods for discussion. I'll let you know about two methods that have been huge hits.

First up, this:

For our discussion of Courtney Summers's Fall For Anything, I wanted to try something different. The book covers a heavy topic, and I wanted some way for the kids to talk without feeling put on the spot. Considering the success of our recent youth Lego club, I thought I'd try out a little construction with the teens. Little did I know that dropping down a table cloth and pouring out a couple of buckets of Legos would be like Christmas for teenagers.

The discussion involved having the teens depict a scene from the book in Legos. What they came up with totally delighted me and made me laugh so much. Not all of the kids finished the book -- I tell them if they make it to 50 pages and don't like the book to move on -- so those kids were able to build whatever they wanted. When they finished, I let them take their creations upstairs to our teen department and put them on display. They were incredibly proud of what they made.

I cannot believe how popular the Legos were with the teens. The Legos were so popular, in fact, they begged me to offer a teens-only Lego program and they begged me to do this kind of discussion again.

Fair enough.

A couple of weeks later, we were ready to discuss Blake Nelson's Paranoid Park at the library, and while I knew the kids wanted to do Lego discussion again, I wanted to change it up. So I did what I thought was only a natural progression:

If Legos were like Christmas, then Play-Doh was New Year's. I had a few containers of different colors, as well as a number of little tools for cutting and shaping the dough. Like with the Lego discussion, I asked the teens to depict a scene from the book with the Play-Doh. The results were hilarious and brilliant -- you wouldn't believe the amount of blood a teen boy can create with a little Play-Doh.

Both of these book discussions were successful and a lot of fun for both me as a facilitator (or enabler) and for the teens. I'm not a believer in keeping a book discussion rigid because the truth of the matter is that the kids don't always read the book. Things come up and they get busy, especially on a biweekly basis (that was their scheduling decision because my once-a-month suggestion was not enough meeting for them). Using fun, creative means of discussing means everyone can take part in the club, whether or not they finished or even started the book.

Next up, we're reading A. S. King's Please Ignore Vera Dietz, which they've all already told me they're enjoying greatly. I think we'll be making post cards Post Secret style with a bag of old magazines I have in my office -- an idea I got from Angie -- and I might even have the kids share some of their comments on the books we've read to make shelf/book talkers for those titles.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Superhero Party

Let's talk superheroes. Every kid loves them, and every kid wants to be one. So why not play into their interests with a super hero party?

That's precisely what I did for one of my spring break programs, and I did it station-style. I had very young kids and teenagers come, and everyone had fun. For many attendees, it was the thrill of coming somewhere dressed up.

When families entered the program room, they were given a golf pencil (those are in heavy supply in any library) and a check list of stations. Each one tested a superhero skill, and when all of the stations were completed, the new superheroes were given a certificate of graduation from superhero academy and then were given a superhero treat.

First up, every superhero needs a mask, so station number one was where the kids could make masks. I printed out two templates here, and with standard felt sheets, I could fit three templates on one. I traced the templates with permanent marker, cut them out, then left those, along with string and stick-on jewels and shapes, for the kids to decorate.

After mask-making, the superhero trainees were able to treat themselves at the food station. I purchased pre-packaged fruit snacks -- the local grocery store had superman, spider man, batman, and transformers. I was a little disappointed in the lack of representation of female superheroes, but I don't think the kids thought twice. In addition to the fruit snacks, I also had out m&ms, skittles, and jelly beans (you'll see why in a second).

To really give the kids something cool to see, I made colored ice cubes. In regular ice cube trays, I dropped 3-4 squirts of food coloring in red, yellow, and blue. After they froze, the colors looked really strong, and then I asked the kids whether they wanted squirt to drink or water. When the colored cubes were dropped in, their drink changed colors. In squirt, it was really cool to see what happened when two ice cubes dropped in: the color would split down the middle, so half the drink was blue and half was red. It's worth noting that you will get food dye on your hands, so serve them with a spoon or tongs, and don't worry about ruining an ice cube try. The dye will rinse off easily.

Our next station was one testing target skills.

For this station, I made up buckets and pulled out bean bags for a little bucket game. The kids love this, and they will do it again and again until they get them all. It is not as easy as it looks!

Another station I had set up was for testing brain power. How, you ask? I made up three jars filled with jelly beans (yellow and red), m&ms (blue), and lemon heads. I counted out how many of each I put into the jars, and I had the kids guess how many were in each, writing their guesses on the sheet at the station. The kids with the closest guesses would win the buckets. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of this station for me was that none of the kids were anywhere close to the right answers.

And then, I let them get out some aggression at the battle station.

I cut a pool noodle in half, and I blew up a few balloons with the hopes the kids would play with the balloons. Many chose to hit each other, which was my original intention, but I didn't know how parents would feel about it. Since the parents didn't seem to mind, I let them go at it. I think for most of the kids, this was a favorite station for obvious reasons.

Then it was brute strength training.

I set up a wall of mats from our children's room and let the kids have at knocking them down and building them back up.

I didn't have enough strength training here, so I decided one more strength test was necessary. And this station was, surprisingly, the most pricey to put together:

I spray painted two Styrofoam balls, then painted "500" on the sides of them. Holding them together was a simple rod. When I picked up the Styrofoam at the craft store, I was informed that the prices on these bad boys went up because they're made with petroleum. Thought that was worth passing along to anyone who may use similar materials and wonder why it costs $8 a pop for these.

I had one more station in the programming room for the program, which included these:

Why yes, those are spider webs. Throughout the children's area, I taped cut out cartoon villains and had the kids "capture the bad guys" by finding them, then taping them onto the spider webs.

Because our programming room is small, I moved a couple of stations into the actual children's area. These two were some of my favorites.

First, kids tested their agility by jumping through hoops:

Then they had to practice their balancing skills by walking up and down the aisle with a pair of books (superhero, of course) on their heads. And then, they had their biggest, most important superhero challenge.

It was time to save a life, of course.

This station took me the longest time to think through and plan. I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn't want to make any purchases for it, so I had to scour our building (including those crevices in the storage closets) for the right materials.

Does that not look like the coolest lava pit ever? My coworker covered the sides of a blow up wading pool with black construction paper, then created flames and embers around the sides. I pulled out two milk crates and a wide, thick board, sturdy enough to walk on. I had another coworker test out walking on the set up a few times before we decided to put bricks behind the milk crates for added stability. Voila! That was a heck of a cool lava pit, and while most people would want to save a baby, I thought saving a rabbit would be better (or a suitable substitute given the lack of baby dolls we have). This was another station that the kids loved, and some of them insisted on carrying the bunny over it more than once.

As I mentioned, as soon as the kids finished all of the stations, they came and found me back in the programming room. I awarded them their own superhero academy certificate (complete with their names and my signature as Queen of the Superheroes) and a tootsie roll pop.

The bulk of the cost for this program was my time -- I made fancy signage and certificates. The fruit snacks cost a bit, as did the Styrofoam balls, but otherwise, everything was stuff we owned. You could do this cheaper, too, and you could easily modify the stations. I was going to have kids make capes, having received a nice donation of fabric from our Friends group, but time wasn't on my side in planning.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rainbow Storytime

If you don't know about the fabulous Sarah's Awesome Storytime blog and you do preschool storytimes, become familiar. I get so many of my ideas from her, and the bulk of this week's small story time (small being a relative term for 70 kids, of course) came from one of her posts. The theme? Colors and Rainbows. This was one of my and the kids' favorite story times so far.

Rather than sing a song, I started my story times this week by playing "Simon Says." While the kids didn't want to play fair in any of the classes, it did not matter. The kids absolutely loved getting up and acting silly, and frankly, it was amusing for me to make them walk in circles clucking like chickens. In one of my classes, I let one of the kids be Simon, and he had as much fun as I did making us do things. A nice change up from the routine.

Then we dove into three stories:

Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood. The kids loved telling me what happens when the sun and rain happen at the same time, and the pictures in this book are so fun.

Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier. This story is so colorful and fun. We chose different pages to not only talk colors, but talk shapes and objects, and we even counted. The kids loved counting the dots on the different items, and they loved finding the smaller dots within dots. I've had my eye on this book for a while because it's so pretty, and I'm glad it was easy and fun to use in story time. The kids were even begging to see the end pages, which are nothing but colorful dots. I highly, highly recommend using this book in a story time, and I will work it in again in the future.

Then, I tried out something totally different: a flannel board story. I've never done one before, but thanks to Sarah's inspiration, I knew I could do it for this last story. So the book was this one:

Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd. In this story, the dog on the cover finds himself with not just the black dot he was born with, but with nine additional, non-permanent dots that come about through his daily adventures.

I made up a copy of our dog by tracing the dog on the cover through white felt, then I cut out the 9 colored dots dog earns through the story.

Then I had nine kids be volunteers for the story. As I read it, I told them to come up and put their dot on dog when their color was mentioned in the book. They loved it. The kids had a real blast with the story and by interacting with the flannel. Plus, they secretly got to play with dots (which they loved in the previous story) AND they worked on their color recognition skills and their listening skills.

I should note, since I work with a very young group during this day, as well, I did end up doing the dot placing myself for the day care kids. They really loved this, as it made the story come that much more alive. Even the teachers got a kick out of this method of telling a story.

When we finished this story and flannel, we played two quick games of Little Mouse before making our craft:

I printed up copies of the rainbow template from here, then I cut about three sheets of each rainbow color for the kids to use. The way I did the craft was a little time consuming, but for the group that does the craft, the teachers liked this because it gave them a project they could work on during my time at the school and when they had down time later in the afternoon. Katie has done this craft too, and I love how her rainbow turned out. Lots of possibilities, and the kids had fun making it all their own.