Write On!

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, and in honour of National Novel Writing Month, I thought I’d share a couple of silly writing exercises that I came up with for our teen writing event next week. They probably won’t get anyone ready for the Giller Prize, but they will hopefully elicit a few laughs and break the ice a little at our event!

Step 1: Make the cut

  • Cut out pictures of people from discarded magazines – fashion spreads and advertisements are great sources of offbeat images. Cut out enough pictures so that everyone attending your event will have at least one picture (plus a few extras in case of drop-ins). Put all your cut out pictures in an envelope.
  • Try not to cut out images of famous or recognizable people.

Step 2: Pick your picture

  • Each participant draws a random picture from the envelope. If you cut out some pretty weird pictures like I did (thank you high concept fashion spreads!), there should be a few confused looks at this point.

Step 3: Who are you?

  • Working from the picture they selected, participants create a character. Encourage them to name and describe their character, both externally and internally, and create a back story for him or her.  The time spent on this part of the exercise will depend on the length of your event, the size of your group, and the age/writing level of your participants.

Step 4: What the heck is going on??

  • Now that they have created a character, participants build a scene based on what they think is going on in the image. Again, the length and level of detail of this exercise will depend on your program and your audience.

Step 5: Pair, Share and Compare

  • If you would like participants to share their writing after the exercise, be sure to let the group know before you start the exercise – you don’t want your event to feel like a pop quiz! Depending on the size of your group, you might ask for volunteers, or break participants into pairs or smaller groups, to support anyone who might be intimidated speaking in front of a large group.

And there you have it! Nothing ground-breaking, just a fun way to use up some discarded magazines and have some fun while honing our craft.

Baby Story Time – October 24, 2014

Every Friday morning we host a baby time, for little ones from 0-18 months of age and their caregivers. It’s a free, drop-in program, and the group size can really fluctuate. Because I’m pretty new to baby times, I’ve been following a template passed down to me by another VPL children’s librarian. Her template looks like this:

Welcome Song

4 – 5 finger plays / touching rhymes / tickles / wake-up songs

Book 1

4 – 5 lap bounces / songs

Book 2

3 – 4 dancing / movement  / lifting songs

Goodbye Song

As usual, I don’t always stick 100% to the outline, but as a newbie it’s been helpful to have this framework to lean on while I figure out what works for me and for my audience. As someone who loves to sing (even when I forget the tunes..), I include lots and lots of songs in all my story times. Babies love it when their caregivers sing, and they aren’t critics! I also like to make a little hand-out with all the words to the songs – another tip I learned from that librarian (who also happens to be one of the geniuses behind Jbrary). We have a lot of newcomer families in our neighborhood, so it’s nice to be able to give them something they can refer to at home.

Here’s what we sang and read today!

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Songs / Tickles

  • Wake Up, Feet
  • Head and Shoulders
  • Baby Put Your Pants On
  • Roly Poly

Book 1: One Gorgeous Baby / Martine Oborne

baby

Lap bounces

  • You Be the Ice Cream
  • Tick Tock Tick Tock (I’m a Little Cuckoo Clock)
  • Pop Pop Popcorn
  • Toast in the Toaster
  • Bumping Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon

Book 2: Animal Opposites / Petr Horacek

animal

Movement Songs

  • My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean
  • Mama’s Little Baby Loves Dancing
  • Zoom Zoom
  • Elevator Song

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends

Animal Opposites was a major league hit. I skipped over a few pages just to shorten it a bit, but the older babies were mesmerized by the pop up pages. I also like using songs that have the same tune, like Baby Put Your Pants On and Mama’s Little Baby Loves Dancing – it’s reassuring to caregivers to know that they can reuse tunes in different ways and get more mileage out of them!

Family Story Time – October 24, 2014

My family time is a really mixed all-ages group, with everyone from babies to preschoolers! Our groups aren’t as large as some (we typically get between 60-80 people), but our meeting room isn’t huge, so it does make for a very cozy setting sometimes!

I’ve been doing this story time since the beginning of September, and I’m starting to get to know the families in my area. The families are starting to get to know me, too – it’s so sweet when the little ones start shouting my name as soon as they see me. :)

So, here’s what I did in today’s family story time (more or less…) I like to have an outline for my story times, but like I’ve said before, I don’t believe in forcing yourself to follow an outline if it’s just not working. Because I can never be quite sure who will be attending each story time, I have to be flexible enough to change up my plans if they’re just not going to work! If you’re unfamiliar with any of the songs I’ve chosen, I’d recommend checking out www.jbrary.com, an amazing resource for anyone who works (or lives!) with children.

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends!

Book 1: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse / Eric Carle

blue horse

Finger Plays / Hand Rhymes

  • I Wake Up My Hands With a Shake, Shake, Shake
  • Wiggle Your Fingers
  • Roly Poly
  • Open Shut them

Book 2: I ‘Aint Gonna Paint No More / Karen Beaumont

Paint1

Action Songs

  • Bend & Stretch
  • Zoom Zoom
  • Head & Shoulders
  • Tick Tock (I’m a Little Cuckoo Clock)
  • The Elevator Song

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

Lots of movement, lots of action, lots of laughter – an all-around fun story time!

Surprise! It’s story time!

I checked my email this morning to discover that an after school group was coming to visit my branch this afternoon, and that they were hoping for a story time. I said, without hesitation, “of course!” One great thing about being an auxiliary librarian is that last-minute story times don’t phase me in the least.

I don’t often get to work with school-age or “middle years” groups, so it’s great to step outside of my comfort zone every once in a while and interact with different age groups.

The afternoon group really just wanted me to share a few stories with them, so I followed my own tried-and-true advice and pulled out a few old favourites that I knew would be fun to read aloud to the older kids.

Little Owl Lost – Chris Haughton

An enthusiastic but not particularly bright squirrel tries to help a little lost owl find his mother. Kids love rolling their eyes at the squirrel’s hilariously unsuccessful attempts to reunite mother and baby.

owl

Grumpy Bird – Jeremy Tankard

Everybody loves grumpy animals – just think of the internet sensation that is Grumpy Cat. This book is a lot of fun to read – I love making Grumpy Bird get more and more over-the-top exasperated by his increasing band of animal followers. Because as we all know, nothing makes a grumpy person grumpier than a cheerful person who just can’t help being cheerful.

grumpy

Normally I might have considered pulling out Bark, George, as it works with audiences of almost all ages, but having just read it four times over the weekend, I needed a bit of a break from good old George!

Out and About with Outreach

To survive and thrive as valid institutions in the 21st century, libraries need to entrench themselves in their communities, and outreach plays an important role in this. I wouldn’t call myself a library outreach veteran by any means, but I have had the opportunity to get out in the community on a number of occassions. I regularly co-facilitate an adapted story time at a community health center, working with a medical professional to support the early literacy needs of a diverse group of children. I have also participated in a number of different community special events and festivals, including the Surrey Fusion Fest this past July (see that picture above!).

Special events and festivals are a great opportunity for libraries to market themselves and promote their programs and services, but they are certainly a different kettle of fish, and a major departure from the traditional library space! Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the past few months that might help make your festival experiences the best they can be!

Dress for Success

  • Wear comfortable shoes. It may sound obvious, but it’s worth repeating. You will be on your feet. A lot. So wear comfortable shoes.
  • Dress for your audience. Representing the library at a chamber of commerce event? You might want to dress up a bit. Representing the library at Storyville in the park for two full days? Clothes with stretch are where it’s at. When in doubt, try for a look that is both professional and approachable. You want to look professional enough that people take you seriously, but at the same time you want people to feel comfortable enough to approach you.

Fuel and Hydration

Odds are, you will be talking a lot and moving around a lot. Make sure you have a big bottle of water handy, and stuff your pockets with some snacks to keep your energy level up. Again, it sounds obvious, but it’s worth repeating.

Check Your Self-Consciousness at the Door

  • Sometimes connecting with the community means going outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes it means singing in front of large audiences, or wearing unflattering staff t-shirts (lime green? Really?). Other times you might interact with creepy mascots, pass out brochures to endless streams of festival-goers, motivate bored volunteers or give speeches into echoing microphones. If you’re a naturally outgoing, fearless person, none of this will phase you. But a lot of us who went into library work tend to be a bit more on the introverted side. To really get the most out of working a festival, you might just have to fake it ’till you make it, and embrace your inner extrovert (this is definitely a practice-makes-perfect situation!). Take a deep breath, and remember that you could be stuck inside a stuffy office typing away at a cubicle or doing some other boring old job, instead of helping make a difference in your community (even if it means wearing a very, very unflattering staff baseball cap). After all, how many people get paid to tell stories, sing songs, play with puppets, or hang out with a Lego Certified Professional?

I Survived Mall Story Time

On Saturday and Sunday I packed up some of my favourite story time books, grabbed a stamp, set up a folding chair and some floor mats in a shiny, cavernous hallway, and delivered my first ever mall story times – four of them, to be exact – as part of a library fundraising and outreach event.

Following my own advice I initially planned a simple story time that would feature lots of familiar songs and action rhymes and two books I knew like the back of my hand. I brought five books so I’d have a bit of flexibility, but I expected to spend most of each thirty-minute session on my feet moving around.

Well, as Robbie Burns said, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley. Instead of rowdy groups of bouncing preschoolers, I peered into the serious faces of school aged children, who sat criss-cross-apple-sauce in front of me in rapt silence. And what did my little audience want, you ask? Did they cheer when I announced it was time to wake up our hands with a shake, shake, shake, or jump with joy for Zoom Zoom?

No. No they did not. For the first story time, I did try to incorporate some singing, some rhymes, and even the Elevator Song, but the response was lackluster, at best. You know what my audience did keep saying?

“Read us another story! Read us another story!”

They didn’t want to sing. They didn’t want to dance. They didn’t want to jump up and down. They wanted to listen to me read them stories.

At first I read two stories, interspersed with some singing and movement. Then I read three, with fewer interruptions. For the final story time I began with a hello song, finished with a goodbye song, and read four books in between. I’m pretty sure I could have read even more, if I’d had the time!

The small group sizes (usually 10-12 kids) allowed for very intimate, interactive story times. When we read “Bark, George”, for example, we all made delightful animal noises, mimicked George’s mother’s priceless expressions, and reached deep, deep down like the vet. For “Dear Zoo” we debated whether or not we should keep each animal or send it back, and suggested reasons why a camel or a lion might or might not make for a good pet. It was interactive, it was engaging, it was hilarious, and the kids didn’t want it to end.

Side note: The absolute highlight of the whole story time experience was a little boy who experienced “Dear Zoo” for the first time. Every time I dramatically revealed what was behind each flap, his whole body just shook with excitement, and his whole face lit up with joy. I think he could have watched me read that book all day.

As a colleague of mine suggested, as children grow older, they often don’t get read aloud to as much anymore. The children in the audience obviously relished the simple joy of experiencing a story together, and I saw several children twice or even three times over the course of the weekend (they didn’t seem to mind that I read several stories several times!).

Here are the books we shared, to much delight and audience approval:

pete go away big green monster dear zoo bark george

 

 

 

Toddler time!

Speaking of surviving the on-call story time, I delivered a story time to an entirely new group yesterday, and survived! It was all about the toddlers yesterday morning. I hadn’t actually done a toddler time since my student librarian days, but fortunately I learned from some of the best in the business, so I didn’t feel too unprepared!

I followed a template that a children’s librarian shared with me back in the day, and made sure to follow my own advice and include plenty of golden oldies that hopefully everyone would know. Here’s (more or less) how it looked!

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: I Spy on the Farm

i spy

Body rhymes: I Wake Up My Hands / Roly Poly / Open Shut Them

Book 2: Monkey and Me

monkey

Action Songs: Bend and Stretch / Zoom Zoom (multiple times as per audience requests…) / If You’re Happy and You Know it

Felt Board: Slippery Fish

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends

Stamp!

It was a great group, about 36 people in total, so definitely nowhere near as big a group as I’m used to. I hope they had as much fun making animal noises as I did!