2019 was a pretty big year for me. In January, I interviewed for, and was offered, a job at the Nashville Public Library. I packed up my little life in Indiana, and my cat and I moved to Tennessee to start a new one with my long-distance partner in the Big City (bigger than Greenwood, IN, anyway).
By the end of 2019, I had settled into life at the busy downtown children’s department, made friends with my coworkers, and gotten engaged. I also interviewed for, and was offered, a job at a small, very busy branch of NPL. So, in more ways that one, 2019 ended the same way it began- with lots and lots of change.
I went from being one children’s librarian on a team of three in a very rural library, to one children’s associate on a team of ten in an urban library, to one children’s librarian on a team of Me in a very busy, but very different, urban library in a span of twelve months.
Now I’m back to settling into another position, meeting new groups of daycare providers and school librarians, and just trying to get a feel for things and resist the urge to do all of the things all at once.
I’m hoping to keep blogging regularly in 2020 (I have so many felt boards waiting to be shared!) but right now… I think I need a nap first.
Individual colors make fantastic themes, but there are so many wonderful books about the whole spectrum of colors. I love books with vivid, bold photographs for babies- April Pulley Sayre is the best for this. Her books are completely enchanting for our tiny peanuts and their grown-ups too.
Does talking to your toddler ever feel like shouting into a void? Babies and toddlers can be so busy exploring it seems like they don’t hear a word you say- but they really hear everything! They’re listening even when it seems like they aren’t. That’s why we encourage you to let your kids wander if they need to during storytime!
Our felt board this week was Sammy the Seal from Felt Board Magic. My coworker made two sets- one with the smaller sized balls for preschool storytime and one set with fewer colored balls that were much larger for our babies. She said the rhyme and I put the balls on the felt board as she called out the colors.
Sammy Seal, Sammy Seal Balances Balls, Ballances Balls Who has a red one, who has a red one? Add it now, Add it now.
I could do a whole Lucy Cousins Writes About Birds storytime. Her books are fantastic and often get overlooked by librarians who are a little tired of the Maisy books (I love those too, though!), which is really a shame! Her beautiful, bold illustrations and interactive texts make them perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Dancing with your baby isn’t just a fun way to pass the time. Swaying, turning, and lifting are all helping your baby’s inner ear develop, which will improve their balance and coordination as they’re learning to walk and run.
I love kids’ books. Middle grade fiction can be so good and so underrated. Everything adults love can also be found in books for kids- from true crime to gritty real life novels to coming of age in an isolated, yet beautiful area. Here’s some I read and loved this fall.
Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918, Albert Marrin: Alright, let’s start with the odd one out. I love to learn new things and I love nonfiction. I learned a lot about virology and epidemiology from this one- and so did my lucky, lucky coworkers who got to hear many of new “fun” facts about influenza. Very, Very, Very Dreadful doesn’t just cover the history of the 1918 pandemic, but carefully works through a history of our understanding of disease, how we treat tricky illnesses, and a modern look at how we approach the flu today. I finished and immediately got my flu vaccine.
Guts, Raina Telgmeier: I have a feeling this one is going to show up on a lot of lists. Raina’s books are incredibly popular and for good reason. She talks to kids so frankly, never speaking down to them, never oversimplifying things that are hard. Raina understands what kids are ready to hear and, more importantly, what they need to hear. Guts is a godsend for any kid experiencing anxiety personally or who knows someone who is. A masterclass in empathy, Guts has some of the best visual and written descriptions of what anxiety really feels like.
No Fixed Address, Susin Nielsen: About halfway through the book I flipped to the author page to see what kind of person had envisioned this story. I was not at all surprised to learn Susin Nielson got her start writing for Degrassi. No Fixed Address is equal parts funny, shocking, and devastating. All Felix needs is for one of the grown-ups in his lfie
Caterpillar Summer, Gillian McDunn: There’s so much to love that I don’t know where to start! Cat and Chicken are a biracial brother-sister duo unexpectedly spending the summer with their mother’s estranged parents. Cat is desperate to learn more about her mother and her grandparents- and why they no longer speak- while simultaneously learning how to fish and trying to single-handedly care for her younger brother, who is on the autism spectrum. Cat gets answers to her questions as she learns to trust her grandparents to care for her brother in the same loving, patient way she does. This is the kind of book that makes your heart fill up before it breaks it, only to fill it up again before the end.
That’s it for my fall favorites! Can’t wait to see what the winter holds for my bookshelves!
When I left my last job, I left my Little Fox felt board with a good friend and coworker who loved it as much as I did.
It was finally time to make a new one for my new library home!
Little Fox is a variation of a Little Mouse rhyme. It’s really easy:
Little fox, little fox Are you under the (blue) box?
It’s a great game for color identification as well as a tool to create space for play and conversation in storytime.
I had a lot of fun creating different shapes and gifts for Little Fox to take a nap under.
When making these finding kind of games, it’s a good idea to keep the hidden thing’s profile as low as possible. While toddlers will be pretty easily fooled even with a piece sticking out, preschoolers and older siblings tagging along will notice if one of the shapes is sticking up at all.
Baby storytime is such an interesting transition for me. Before moving to Nashville, I worked in a very rural library in central Indiana. We just didn’t have the population to sustain storytimes for separate ages. Sometimes we hardly had the population to sustain storytime at all! Moving from a town of 1200 to a city of almost 700,00 has been bananas, but so fun!
One of the biggest storytime changes has been getting used to doing storytime with a partner. Our storytimes are large and some have multiple sessions, so having a buddy really helps (especially when you are out of breath following Run, Baby, Run). We alternate doing all of our activities.
Eating = reading? That’s true! Babies learn about the world by exploring new objects with their mouths. When they nibble on board books, they’re not just having a delicious snack, they’re showing a curiosity about books and trying to learn more!
One elephant in the bathtub Going for a swim Knock, knock Splash, splash Come on in! (repeat up to four elephants) Five elephants in the bathtub Going for a swim Knock, knock Splash, splash They all fell in!
I’ve had these ready to post for MONTHS but I refrained. I try to respect that not everyone is ready to celebrate Christmas on October 1st (Halloween, who?).
I’m not actually a huge fan of holidays in the library. During December, Christmas is EVERYWHERE and the library should be an oasis for patrons and staff who don’t celebrate the holiday. I don’t mind well-titled holiday programming, so patrons who do want to meet Santa at a place that doesn’t have any pressure to spend money, or make ornaments, or whatever, can do so- and patrons who don’t want to can keep going to their regularly scheduled storytimes and puppet shows without worry.
But my desk is for me. And my space is for Christmas.
When I made these, I was in the Christmas spirit and didn’t think to document the process, but they’re both super easy. The first is a cardboard cone I rolled up and cut myself covered in felt circles and hot glue. Using glitter felt would make this tree so fun!
The second is a DIY courtesy of Think. Make. Share. It took just a few minutes and looks like something you might buy in the Hearth and Hand section of Target.
Thanksgiving is fraught, y’all. It is absolutely worth it to get into why Thanksgiving is not such a great tradition with kids- even at the library! Kids are smart and they are not harmed when adults tell them the truth. The truth of our country’s history can be scaled up or scaled down, depending on age and background knowledge.
For the pre-school crowd, I take a different tactic. I just… don’t.
Mayflower? Native Americans? Hard pass, my guys.
A general feeling of thankfulness? That’s the one.
Thankfulness is a great thing to celebrate year round. Being thankful you have a warm place to sleep, being thankful you have people who love you, being thankful you have enough to eat- it is never too soon to start practicing gratitude. When we talk about the things we’re lucky to have, we’re actually talking about our privileges. Thanksgiving is a great time to talk about how lucky you may be to have certain blessings in your life and how difficult life can be to not have those same blessings.
It is also a great time to talk about- and model- how we share our gifts with others- not just through deed, but through words, too! If you were born with privileges, you were also born with a voice. Using it to stand up for others and speak out for what’s right is an age-appropriate lesson for pre-schoolers.
So how do you start a conversation like that? How do we move away from hand turkeys and move towards social justice at Thanksgiving?
My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith: Written by an author of Cree and Lakota descent, My Heart Fills With Happiness is a sweet board book (perfect for baby storytime) that lists things that fill a young girl with joy.
Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre: One of my all-time favorite storytime authors, Thank You, Earth is full of gorgeous photographs for different landscapes, bugs, and animals for which we should all be grateful.
May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp: It’s not just about what we have, but what we can share with others! This board book features photographs taken by and of indigenous women and their families. Babies love photos of real faces and I love diversity in storytime, so I will be sharing this one in storytime in a few weeks.
A Different Pond by Bao Phi: A quiet, beautiful story about a boy and a father fishing for food. As they fish, Bao’s father tells him about fishing in his home country of Vietnam. A story about family and shared culture.
One Family by George Shannon: My absolute favorite family book! The illustrations are sweet and fun and it features a wonderful assortment of different kinds of families, from single parent households to grandparents raising grandkids to living with aunts, uncles, and cousins. As a bonus, it’s a counting book too!
Hooray for Hat by Brian Won: A modern storytime classic, right? It’s also a great book to illustrate how sharing what we have can multiply the happiness of ourselves and others many times over.
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld: When Taylor’s block tower is knocked over, every animal has an opinion about how he should deal with his feelings. None of them are quite right. except for the rabbit. The rabbit just listens. The Rabbit Listened is perfectly illustrative of empathy and understanding not just how to respond to your own feelings of frustration, fear, or anger, but how to help others through the same things too.
Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee: We’ve all heard the story about Mr. Rogers asking us to look for the helpers when scary things happen- here’s a story that shows young kids how to BE the helpers. Encouraging young ones in your storytimes to see kindness and empathy as brave is a powerful message in any community.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold: Libraries are not neutral. By accepting patrons of all backgrounds, faiths, races, sexual orientations, and gender identifications, by welcoming immigrants, refugees, and people all all nationalities, libraries take a political stance everyday. It’s important to own the intentionality of truly welcoming everyone. We do see color and outward markers of faith and nationality. We see you and we welcome you. We respect you! We value your culture and your story. All Are Welcome emphasizes the importance of inclusion rather than diversity or tolerance.
The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña: Oh, this book. Last Stop touches on so many lovely things. Appreciating the world around you, even the grit, even what’s broken, the beautiful and familiar intergenerational relationship of a grandparent and grandchild, and how beauty always has a way of sneaking up on you, whether its in a rainbow over the city skyline, or in a family finding joy in serving others. Last Stop and Come With Me both offer concrete ways kids and families can examine the gifts they have and how they can share them with others.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and it’s one I’m constantly expanding, revising, and adding to. I’d love to hear which books you share with your families around the holidays!
One little baby rocking in a tree, Two little babies splashing in the sea, Three little babies crawling on the floor, Four little babies banging on the door, Five little babies playing hide-and-seek, Keep your eyes closed now… Until I say… PEEK!