Ask a Storytime Ninja: Storytime Mascot

Welcome to another installment of Ask a Storytime Ninja. Just a reminder that if you would like to be a Featured Ninja, helping out your colleagues by answering their questions and offering advice, you can! We have openings! Go here and sign up now.  If you don’t want to answer questions but instead have a question to ask, submit it here. You can even earn badges for asking and answering questions!

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The Question:


I am brand new to working in libraries, and I started as the lone children’s specialist at my branch about a month and a half ago. I am considering introducing a storytime mascot, and I was wondering if the Storytime Ninjas have any advice on how to go about introducing the mascot, incorporating it into storytimes, and generating excitement. I have been reading about libraries with established and beloved mascots, but I haven’t seen too much about introducing a new mascot.


The Answers:


From Polly: 


It really depends on you and your mascot: how much fanfare do you want to have? I have introduced a storytime mascot with not much (he had a regular part in storytime—helped make Alphabet Soup and then danced with everyone at the end, but that was about it. I just introduced him every week for the new people, and on we went), but I am hopefully soon going to be introducing a Children’s Department mascot in my current library, so here’s what I’m planning:


He will of course appear at storytime, and introduce himself and help with whatever the programmer wants him to help with. I’m hoping he’ll become a regular at least at the age two+ storytimes, maybe not the babies and toddlers, since he is a monster puppet (from Folkmanis; Pi Monster).


We’ll have a naming contest, with a small prize (but mostly the glory of having named the mascot).


He will have a photo and invented bio posted to social media and our website on his official intro day. I’m hoping he can also make an appearance every day for the first week of his appointment, recommending books and things! He will also make regular appearances in photos on social media and the website, in various locations around the library, and kids will be invited to guess where each one is (and get a sticker if they come into the library and tell us the correct answer).


He’ll come to schools in June when we do outreach for summer reading, and exhort everyone to register (or he’ll eat them). Finishers of the SRP will get to pose with him and have their picture posted to our social media sites if their parents are okay with it.


Hopefully he’ll have a nice juicy role to play in our winter Family Literacy program, but details are unavailable as yet.


Really, I think however you want to play it is fine. It depends a lot on you and your program style and your library! My previous library had drop-in storytimes with endless people, here we have mostly registered programs with no more than 15 kids. Here we’re always trying to find good social media stuff for our one library ‘system’, so I’m going to use it a lot for our departmental mascot, but I wouldn’t have in my last job—it just wasn’t big news in a 20+ branch system!


I suspect the reason you don’t see a lot about introducing mascots is that they mostly don’t need much introduction: if it’s a cuddly fun thing that starts coming to storytime regularly, does it need much introduction? I think you’ll find storytime kids accept it pretty easily. The fanfare I’m planning for Pi Monster is mostly for the sake of the adults and the older kids, who don’t take so easily to such things. However, if you want resources, the Magpie Librarian has a fine blog post introducing a storytime mascot:


From Inma:


Like Polly, I think it depends on your own style, your comfort zone, and what is your goal/s for having a storytime mascot.  I have tried several times but haven’t found my rhythm with my puppet~ sometimes I am not sure if it was the correct puppet or my age groups. In the other hand, one of my coworkers has consistent success with her mascot. She used to have a little puppy that would greet the kids, go over storytime rules, and say goodbye to the kids.  Currently she is using “Mr. MacDonald” a funny looking Irish or maybe Scottish puppet with her welcoming song, following her storytime rules, etc.  My suggestion is that you find a puppet you are comfortable with, create a nice little home for it to live, this will help the kids connect with it. And introduce it at the beginning of a new season of storytime, and consistently use him each and every storytime. Maybe held a contest to name it since he/she/it will be a new member of your “staff”.


Now, if you are thinking of a real mascot for your area, we have an African frog named Henry. Kids love to come over and say “hi” to Henry. Another library has a guinea pig near their desk area and even held a birthday party for her.

Hope this helps.

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Storytime University: Scarf Love

It’s time for another Storytime University recap! This time I’m sharing the submissions from those who completed the Scarf Love task (part of the Storytime ABCs badge). As more submissions come in I will add scarf activities to this post, so check back! And, if you have a fabulous scarf song, register for Storytime University and complete the Scarf Love task found here.



Scarf Love

Use scarves in storytime. Tell us what you used to complete this task.


There are 14 of you who have completed the Scarf Love task, sharing a scarf song in your storytimes. Here are the activities you used.


Use with “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (can be found on Kimbo Musical Scarves & Activities) to help kids settle in to starting storytime or as a scarf activity during storytime.


“We Are Waving Up and Down” to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down.”


A weather song made up on the spur of the moment where our scarves were the rain falling, the wind blowing, and and sun rising, and a sort of scarf obstacle course where we waved the different coloured scarves in different hands or put them on our heads, or ran around the room screaming and waving them!


Jbrary’s scarf songs. Little Bo Peep: sing or chant the lyrics and when you come to part that she can’t find her sheep, the kids must hide the scarf. The 2-3 year olds loved it so much, that I know do this scarf song on a weekly basis. Thanks Jbrary for the new fun activity! Also use “Popcorn Kernels” and “We Wave Our Scarves Together” from Jbrary.


It’s easy to dance along with recorded music, but the Mix a Pancake rhyme is my favorite.


With a bugs storytime theme use scarves as butterflys to Marah Carey’s “Butterfly.”


We used scarves with R week. We sang a song about colors, and then waved the scarves to make our own rainbow.


Use with the story Freight Train by Donald Crews.


Our favorite song with scarves is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. We also have multiple CD’s that have voice followed directions for scarves and/or beanie babies.


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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round!

Some of the questions asked by all of you are either stumpers for our featured ninjas, or could just benefit from a wider broadcast. Thus, the Ask a Storytime Ninja Lighting Round is born. You will see these posts occasionally on Thursdays and they will always (hopefully) be brief.




The Question:


Good stories about Sideshows (aka Coney Island type) for primary school (1-3 grades), and also for older readers (grades 4-8). (maybe circus sideshows, too).


The Answers:


From Natalie:


Older reader: Thrills, Chills, and Cosmic Spills by Dan Greenburg. It combines aliens and sideshows.

Younger: Who Put the B in Ballyhoo? by Carlyn Beccia


From Ingrid:


All I can think of, and as a Brooklynite, I’m always looking for Coney Island-related books, is Mermaids on Parade by Melanie Hope Greenberg. It doesn’t totally fit the bill, but is one of the few picture books that takes place in Coney Island.


From Natasha:


Not sure if this completely fits the bill, but there is some good nonfiction/informational text about women who were in sideshows – the one that sprang to mind is Women Daredevils, for grades 1-5 (depending on whether or not it’s read to them or they are reading it themselves).


From Anita:


There’s a 1970 easy reader by Leydenfrost “The Snake that Sneezed”, about Harold the snake who found his fortune by swallowing a kangaroo(who went hop, hop), a camel (who went wiggle,wiggle) and an elephant (who went swish, swish) and then sneezed them out when an ant hopped on his nose, thus creating the first circus.  Our book was discarded long ago, due to wear and tear, but I use the story in an interactive version similar to the Old Woman who wasn’t afraid of anything.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Increasing SRP Completion

Ah, yes, Summer Reading statistics.  The numbers we all love to hate that are necessary for funding and other support for many of us. I’m just glad this question is about completion rate, rather than sign up (insert personal rant about those stats here). Do you have any more ideas for our asker? Please share!!


The Question: 

I have been asked to increase our SRP completion rate from 35% to 60% (and somehow sign up 50% of the population, but that’s a whole nother problem). Do you have any suggestions on how to motivate people to finish SRP? We aren’t allowed to do a party/activity where only finishers are invited b/c admin policy.


The Answers:


From Polly:


Since I don’t have details about how you currently run your SRP, nor do I know the circumstances that have led to these requests, I can only give general type suggestions from my own experience, but here goes:


Basically, you can make your prizes better, make finishing easier, and/or get a lot more buy-in from the adults who look after the kids in the summer.


If you have lots of money (which is unlikely) or really good business community partnerships, making the prizes better is probably the most straightforward thing to do. Depending on the general economic state of your municipality, something like entry in a draw for a piece of technology (ipad or whatever) for kids who finish the program could be a huge incentive. Or something like a new bike. Another thing you can do is involve schools, and try and make it a competition between schools; I know several libraries where that has worked well, especially if the winning school gets a decent prize (will your admin policy allow you to give a finishing party to/in a school? Or you can give something concrete to the school as a whole, like a donation of books for their library, a nice picture for their walls or a tree for their yard—you’ll know best what will work with your schools). I know a lot of libraries find that having some visual, in-library way of tracking reading helps too—have them add a sticker to a paper-covered wall in the library when they finish, or something along those lines, add a piece to a crazy monster or something like that, so the monster gets crazier for every kid that finishes; I know I saw tons of great ideas for that kind of thing last summer on various blogs.


If you want to make finishing easier, it’s key that you change how you define finishing, not just say “read fewer books” (unless you require a very high number to finish already, in which case that could be what you need!). Some options could be: making things other than reading count (coming to programs, visiting the library, learning-type activities completed at home, visits to museums or whatever you have where you are), tracking time spent reading instead of number of books (or vice versa). Personally I have found # of books is the most straightforward in the places I’ve worked, but I know many other libraries prefer time spent reading, and if you have the time and staff to allow everyone to set their own goal, that can certainly increase finishing, because it means not only the good readers can finish.


As far as adults, we’ve had a lot of success when we can get teachers involved. At one of the schools we visited to promote summer reading last year, a teacher volunteered to give any child from the school who finished the SRP an extra prize when they went back to school in September, and that really helped completion rates for that school! Parent buy-in is of course huge, we usually try to talk to parents about summer slide and things, and we try to have a draw for finishers for something parents approve of, usually a bookstore gift card. I’ve also worked with day camps and preschools who would sign up all their kids and makes sure all the group or independent reading done at camp/school went into that log, which was a guaranteed finisher for all of those kids. And if you can swing it so your story time regulars can count all of what you read to them in story time, that’s another easy one. If you require reporting on the books they’ve read in order to make them count, just introduce a little discussion after each story in story time (remember that discussion if you’re a preschooler is saying anything about what you just had read to you), and ask the preschool teachers to do the same if they want to sign their classes up. The key if you do reporting can be to get more flexible about it. Allow parents and nannies and so on to vouch that their kids have talked about a book. Yes, you’ll get the odd cheater, but it means even really shy kids can take part and finish. We allow early talkers to report if they can look at a book they’ve had read to them, point to a red truck and say “red” or “truck”—that’s reporting, if you’re two!


For older kids, getting an online SRP can help, they mostly enjoy watching the number of books they’ve read grow online, and if you can give online badges, they tend to like that a lot.


I hope that helps some, you’ll probably find you have to do several different things to really make a difference; good luck!



From Karen:


Wow! That’s a huge increase being asked for in one summer! This year will only be my third year that I’ve actually helped plan our SRP, but I have two questions for you:


1: How complicated is your program? We totally revamped our program for last summer with the help of our new Youth Services supervisor. We created fewer handouts and made the process to sign up, track time, etc. a million times easier, for both the patrons and for us as well. This summer was the most relaxed of any summer reading program that I’ve been through! Of course, we had pushback from some of our families who liked the old system, but most families found the changes to work much better for them. We talked with patrons in the months leading up to summer reading about how much more simple the program was going to be, which I think created a lot of excitement, or at least more interest than in previous years. We held an all-day registration event on the first day, complete with refreshments and a chance to win tickets to either a theme park or a baseball game, which were generously donated to us, just for signing up on the first day. We had more than 700 children and teens sign up throughout the summer (we had been holding steady at about 400 for several years previously), and we also had record completions.


2: Do you visit schools in May to advertise your program & to get kids excited about signing up? When I visit, I usually either read a story or do an activity that relates to the SRP theme, talk about the prizes the kids would/could possibly get, and give them some sort of reminder of my visit (last year we gave a Fizz! Boom! Read! bookmark with our summer programs/times printed on the back.


Best of luck to you as you plan for this summer, and keep us posted on your progress!



From Inma:

The joys of SRP…I am new to this whole process, this will be my third year participating from start to end in our SRP. I guess I have some questions and/or thoughts to ponder as I attempt to answer this question.


How do you measure completion?  What determines completion for your SRP? Do you look at kids who read and logged minutes/books whatever your measurement is throughout the entire program?  Do you give them a goal? This will be one way you can determine the success of your SRP. Last year we moved from logging books read to minutes read and gave the kids a goal of 800 minutes for the entire duration of the SRP.  We figured 100 minutes a week was a good amount ( 20 minutes x 5 days a week). Our program lasted 8 weeks.  We used an online system that allowed us to easily report totals by age groups/ patrons, so it was easy to determine which kids had completed 800 minutes.


We  held weekly raffles, in order to participate kids had had to log minutes that week to get a raffle ticket. This was our attempt at making sure kids were reading every week.  We were fortunate to receive quite a nice assortment of donations to create weekly raffle baskets.


I guess it is all relative to how you determine completion. Do you go by how many kids registered and how many actually logged books/minutes? We found out that since we moved to an online system for registration & logging our registration numbers went down.   However, we were able to report that more kids participated overall (logged books/minutes throughout the summer) when compared with the previous year. We had kids that registered, got freebee stuff, and never came back. We felt that even though our registration numbers were lower, the overall participation was higher and that was better. We have only been using the online system for a couple of years.   Is it better to have less kids total but more kids participating than high registration but little follow thru?


Hope this helps.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Books about Death

This question was posed to all the storytime ninjas, rather than our March featured ninjas, in order to find the best responses possible. Please add your thoughts in the comments.



The Question:


Hi, Ninjas! I have a really sad question. We got a call today from a preschool teacher who had a student pass away from terminal illness. She wanted a book to help the kids understand what happened to their classmate. I had to make do with what we had in house at the moment, so I gave her Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories and hoped for the best. It has me wondering, though, do you have any go-to books for terminal illness and/or death? Given the age of the children, the subject matter, and the school setting, I wasn’t even sure that reading a book to them would be the best thing to do–seems more like parent territory to me. What are your thoughts?


The Answers: 


From Jacquelyn:


I have found this website to be helpful in dealing with the question on helping children cope.


From Lisa (a.k.a. The Library Lady):


I think that the teacher is asking for a really bad situation in reading ANY book to these kids about the loss of their classmate. No matter how adroitly the books handle it, you have a variety of kids coming to this with different experiences, be they religious training, family experience, etc.



So this is something for parents to talk about at home with their kids, and for the teacher to be ready to help handle at school as needed, hopefully with the help of some sort of counselor experienced in this sort of thing. Helping the kids express their grief and answering their questions is important, but handling it badly would be far worse.



The book I’d have handed her, and have handed a lot of parents and teachers is “The Grieving Child,” by Helen Fitzgerald, herself the sort of counselor needed here. It has wonderful chapters on how to talk to kids, but more importantly, on how kids perceive death at different ages and stages, and how to answer the questions bound to come up.


From Natasha: 


Always and Forever by Gliori is one of my go-to grief books for preschoolers, and it might work well with a group – but there are other books that are good for one-on-one.  So maybe recommending a booklist to share with parents would be good, too.


From Natalie:


I love the book The Next Place by Warren Hansen. It explains death is a gently and not scary way. I bought it for myself as an adult after my father passed away. Personally, I am not sure doing it in a school setting may be the best place for it. I usually have parents asking for these types of books. I would suggest to the teacher that she reach out to the parents and ask them if they want her  to discuss it in class or not.


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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Baby Storytime

The Question:


Hi everyone! I am getting ready to start my very first Baby Story Time/Lapsit and I am clueless as to where to begin. I know the format should include short stories, lots of fingerplays, movement songs, etc., but I would also like to include a simple craft at the end to illustrate how parents can incorporate stories and art at any age.

What are some good stories and rhymes?
What are some must have art supplies?
What is a good “schedule” of activities?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Today’s question is a big one, which has been discussed on many blogs in the past. Some that were not mentioned in the responses below, but that I thought might still be helpful to the asker and others developing baby storytime for the first time.


Baby Storytime: A Beginner’s Guide by Jbrary

Read Sing Play’s posts about Baby Storytime  and the Rhymes page (this is me, full disclosure)

My Baby Storytime at Reading with Red


And here are the responses from our featured ninjas. Very thorough! Please feel free to add comments yourself.



From Inma:
You are right to plan for short stories, fingerplays, and any action rhyme or song for this age group. I am not sure what is your age range, when I first started my baby group was 0 to 23 months and I found that it was difficult to plan for such a wide range of ages.  I have created two groups since then one for true babies (0-12 months) and one I called “Crawlers” even though almost everyone can walk for kids between 1-2 yeas old.


I usually try to read three books- short stories, lots of big pictures, white space, black bold letters or outlined illustrations. Books that you can incorporate movement, noise, action as you read them or even just engage the kids with the illustrations.   Some of my favorite authors are:
Leslie Patricelli,

Helen Oxenbury

Emma Garcia * just used one of her books Tip Tip Dig Dig perfect for this group. Big pictures, lots of colors, minimal text. You can motion the actions,you make the noise, you can talk about the colors.

Patricia Hubbell

Liesbet Slegers

Karen Katz

Rebecca O’Connell

Sandra Boynton

Mary Murphy

Mem Fox

Dawn Sirett


Again depending on your age range some of the fingerplays and movement will be easier for the older kids.  I repeat several of my rhymes every week- opening song, wiggles rhyme,  closing song.  I usually will repeat the same nursery rhyme, rhymes for 2-3 weeks, and then rotate new ones.  With babies it is fun to use rhymes or songs that lend themselves to touching body parts, to playing peek-a-boo.  Here are a few of my favorite songs:



Toddlers on Parade- Baby Grows

Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It! Vol. 3- Baby 1,2,3

Baby Face- It’s a Small World; Baby Face Peek-a-boo; Baby’s Hokey Pokey

Songs for Wiggleworms- Walking *excellent song for older babies/tots lots of action

More Singable Songs- Shake it

Stinky Cake



I bought some scarves (just remnant pieces) that we use for Shake It or playing Peek-a-Boo. I also created these wands for the moms/caregivers to play with the kids. The older kids, when I have a small group, love to shake them up as we dance.

I also made these little felt books with lots of tactile materials that babies could use during play time.

Whenever possible I use our musical instruments too- shakers, bells- babies like them, with older kids it can get a bit noisy but that is okay. Finger puppets are great with the babies, and flannels are perfect for the older kids especially if you can make extra pieces or repeat your rhyme to give everyone a chance to participate. They love putting the pieces up on the board.


My “schedule” looks something like this:


A few minutes of play time
Opening song
Nursery rhyme/song
Closing Song
Play time


I started using a bubble machine a year ago and it is the greatest thing ever, but you run the risk of becoming “the bubble lady”~ I think some of my kids see me and visualize bubbles :)


I tried doing a small craft with the toddler group (2-3 years old), it has worked out okay, however, it takes time away from the regular story time and play time. I suggest anything with a glue stick, tissue paper, cotton balls, paint can be tricky depending on your space, markers/ crayons are better.


I would also suggest to find your own style, when I first started I was intimidated and nervous, but soon I realized that the kids love anything you are doing. They love to listen to the stories, they don’t care if you can sing or not ( I can’t) as long as you are willing to do it with them. I dance around the room, I get down on my knees and play with them.  There are days when everything works beautifully~ the stories flow nicely,  the kids are engaged with the songs and rhymes, and then there are days when nothing works, the stories that you thought were great don’t seem to connect with the kids, kids are restless, bouncing around, no one is listening, and that is okay too. It is okay to stop reading a book and play a song and switch activities or try a different book.


I recommend checking amazing blogs like
Storytime Katie
Mel’s Desk
Abby the Librarian
Story Time Secrets
I have been trying to post my story times themes, rhymes, songs on my blog. Check them out at inspiredlibrarian.


From Karen:


I just started a Baby Storytime this winter at my library, so while I’m starting to find my footing, I’m still always on the lookout for new ideas of how to improve my storytime, too! I’ve already learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t. The best advice I have is to lay out your program how you feel comfortable, using books, songs, and rhymes that you like. If you’re not excited about what you’re doing, those attending won’t be excited either.


As I was planning, I found lots of great ideas at Mel’s Desk: She talks about how she lays out her program and why, and provides lots of examples of her programs, including lyrics to rhymes and songs. JBrary ( is an excellent resource for songs and rhymes!

Here’s a sample of one of my programs, which is modeled after Mel’s baby storytimes from Mel’s Desk:


Baby Storytime: February 2, 2015

OPENING SONG: Say Hello to Your Toes (Tune: London Bridge)

Say hello to your toes.

Hello, toes. Hello, toes.

Say hello to your toes.

Hello, toes!


Say hello to your knees…

Say hello to your tummy…

Say hello to your hands…

Say hello to your head…

Say hello to your friends…


BOOK: Say Hello like This by Mary Murphy

This is the way the baby goes clappity clap! Clappity clap! (Clap hands)

This is the way the baby goes peek-a-boo! I see you! (Cover eyes with hands, then take them away)

This is the way the baby goes creep, creep, creep, creep. (Creep fingers along floor — or baby’s tummy!)

This is the way the baby goes sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep. (Rest head on hands, pretending to sleep)


BOOK: Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee


SONG: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star



Cheek, chin, cheek, chin

Cheek, chin, nose.

Cheek, chin, cheek, chin

Cheek, chin, toes

Cheek, chin, cheek, chin,

Up baby goes!



This is big, big, big

And this is small, small, small

This is short, short, short

And this is tall, tall, tall


This is fast, fast, fast

And this is slow, slow, slow

This is yes, yes, yes

And this is no, no, no

You see with your eyes, touch your eyes.

You sneeze with your nose, touch your nose (achoo!).

You hear with your ears, touch your ears.

You kiss with your lips, kiss me here.


I welcome the families and invite them to get comfortable—take off shoes, sit on the blanket, etc. Let them know that it is okay to leave if the baby is crying and that they are welcome to come back if they’re able to. I keep the formal storytime to 15-20 minutes, but it’s flexible according to how the babies are doing that morning. Don’t be afraid to end early if the attention is just not there. I might add more songs or rhymes during the program if the babies are attentive.


I have to admit, I haven’t done crafts during baby storytime. I don’t know if you’ve considered bringing out toys after the formal program, but I am a firm believer in having playtime so that babies and parents can socialize. Of course, it comes down to budget or if you already have age-appropriate toys—I was lucky that we already had toys. They love bubbles, too! That’s also not to say that I will never do a craft or art activity. At some point, I would like to try letting babies play with paint in a Ziploc bag and I also found an idea for sticking paper/fabric/other lightweight items onto contact paper.


I hope this helps, and best of luck as you begin your storytime! I always have so much fun interacting with the babies and their caregivers!


From Polly:


Good for you! Baby Story Time/Lap Sit is so much fun!


The main thing you have to remember about story time for anyone under 2 years is that it’s almost all about the parents. Yes, the babies/toddlers should enjoy themselves, but most of what you’re doing is modeling for the parents. As such, to start, keep it really simple, repeat things all the time, have words available to take home if people want them, and don’t encourage them to go too far out of their comfort zone to start, especially not if baby activities are not so common in your community (if everyone’s taking baby yoga already however, you need not worry about that!).


Good stories: Moo, Baa, La La La (Boynton), Hello, Day (Lobel), Please Baby, Please (Lee), Todd Parr books, anything with photographs of babies, animal sounds, simple word-and-picture books, anything that makes the parents go “awww” (Bear of my Heart, by Ryder, is great for this)!


Good rhymes: Anything you can bounce or tickle to, I love “Jack be Nimble”, “I am Bouncing Everywhere”, “Trot-Trot to Boston”, and “This is the way the ladies ride” (if those are not all familiar to you, you can Google them or watch my current library’s videos for some of those and more I also love to do finger plays and finger songs, but you need to be sure the parents understand that you are not expecting baby to be able to act out “Where is Thumbkin”, that it’s the parent who is supposed to be doing this so baby can see! I do love Where is Thumbkin and Tommy Thumb, Five Fat Peas, Five Little anythings, and that sort of thing for babies; they like watching adults do cool things with their fingers!


I am somewhat wary of arts and crafts at baby story times, but I have occasionally used stickers and crayons just for a casual craft activity afterwards. Must-haves are lots of paper (newsprint is great, if you can get it in rolls you can just paper the floor with it and let everyone go crazy), chunky crayons, and great big stickers that little hands can grab and not lose! I have found that hands-on arts and crafts for the very young is usually best as its own program, when everyone can get really messy for as long as they want; story time arts and crafts often tend to be a bit rushed in my experience, and that doesn’t work so well for babies. On the other hand, if you can just let them play with finger paint or glue or something for 45 minutes, everyone has a (messy) blast and no one worries about the end result! You can get messy at a story time, but if you’re going to be handing out finger paint freely, it’s best to warn everyone in advance so they can dress for it, and that’s hard unless you’re story time is small and registered, whereas you can advertise a regular baby art program as an entire “come-in-your-old-clothes’ program!


Baby Story Time can be a terrific social occasion for parents who are stuck at home with babies, so if you can, providing social time afterwards is great; you don’t have to do anything, just make sure there’s a safe environment, maybe a few toys, and some time for babies to crawl around while their parents chat! Giant stuffed animals or pillows are always great for this!


Good luck and have fun!

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Hey, why don’t you… explore some new blogs?

Hey why don't youYou know who has some of the absolute best ideas and practices for library programs and services for young people? YOU GUYS! And we’ve just updated our Resources page, which is a big old blog roll of excellent sites dedicated to all aspects of youth librarianship. I personally find it incredibly invigorating to read through colleagues’ blogs. It’s where I stumble upon new ideas, where I’m prompted to think about my own practice, and where I can support a larger community of sharing within this profession. The sharing is what makes youth services librarianship great, y’all.


So hey, why don’t you check out our updated Resources page and explore a few new blogs? The time investment of checking some new blogs every now in again has huge payoff in terms of fostering ideas and new members of your PLN. Peer learning at its best!

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Things I Saw on the Internet This Week

They’re not all cool, per se, but. . . interesting? Important?


This first one IS super cool. Boston just remodeled the Children’s area in their central library, a facility managed by the extraordinary Laura Koenig. It looks, truly, incredibly inspiring. Laura’s hiring an early literacy librarian right now! You could work in this amazing space!


Jason Griffey wrote about poor libraries in poor communities paying low wages. I have so many thoughts! Full disclosure: Lisa (@byshieldmaiden), who originally posted about the low wage of the position, is a good friend, and I really get that she’s seeing the broad perspective of librarians being paid below what they’re worth, and/or administrative jobs that can’t attract MLISs because the candidate wouldn’t be able to afford their loan payments. I also think all the things Jason said are valuable. My fervent hope is that this sparks a dialogue about how we can help those communities have the best services possible — and help that director, probably non-degreed and possible totally untrained — feel as supported as possible. There’s a lot going on in the comments, not all of which I agree with.  Interestingly, the person currently holding the position commented, and says the library has supported her professional membership dues and more, which I think is awesome. I have thoughts! I bet you have thoughts! Let’s talk.


Kirkus interviewed Pam Munoz Ryan and she is a FASCINATING GENIUS and wow.


Do you want to help fund a kickstarter for more diverse stock photos? I feel like you might.


The world is a sad and dangerous place, friends. Parks and Rec is gone forever, and Kansas wants to CRIMINALIZE distributing controversial books.



In good news, it seems like we’re keeping net neutrality, so, we don’t need to burn the week to the ground yet, I guess?


If you need some cheering up/keeping warm, listen to actual rock star/ librarian Julie Jurgens sing amazing songs that she wrote.


Be careful out there!

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Featured Ninjas for March

February is over already! Our February ninjas did a fabulous job but now it’s time for a few others to March into their places (see what I did there? heh heh). Let’s meet them!



Meet Inma:


I have been a children’s librarian for a couple of years. I worked part time at our library while finishing my MLIS and was fortunate to transition into the children’s department when I graduated.  I was given Baby and Toddler story time and….it was terrifying at first but now I love it!  Over the last year I have doubled my story times and created new programs~ Bagels with Buddies, Bedtime Stories, and Los Cuentos (Bilingual Story Time). I handle collection development for board books & picture books.  When it comes to summer reading I have been managing our online system and transitioned us from paper forms to an totally online environment.


Outside of my library world, I have two sons who have told me “reading is not a sport” but truly, I love to read, gardening, and I’m learning to knit~ blankets or scarves are my only accomplishments.  I am a native of Spain and love traveling and discovering the history behind new places.


Meet Karen:


I’m Karen Mills and I’m a Youth Services Librarian at Wright Memorial Public Library in Dayton, OH, where I’ve worked for almost 3 years. However, I started my library career as a shelver in high school, so I’ve worked in libraries on and off for almost 13 years (whoa, now I feel old!)! My library passions are Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers and Outreach visits, though I’ve also done programming for School-Agers and Tweens. I can’t do a storytime without using a song by Jim Gill, and I totally geeked out when I got to meet him at a concert last November! I may have had more fun at the concert than a lot of the kids! Find me at my blog:


Meet Polly:


Polly recently kicked off her seventh year as a children’s librarian, a career which started at two and a half branches of DC Public Library, and is now happening at Aurora Public Library in Aurora, Ontario, Canada. Chaotic programs for ages 4-8 and outreach are her favourite things about Children’s Services, but other than collecting stats, she thinks the whole job is kind of a dream come true! Her current primary story time responsibility is Tales for Twos (and filling in for everyone else when necessary), but she’s done lots of story times, huge (400 people) and tiny (4) for all ages. She currently supervises (but does not manage) a staff of three children’s library assistants, selects most of the children’s collection, oversees all the programming, and does a great deal of the children’s outreach. She loves puppets, and does puppet programs as Polly and her Puppet Friends at the library. She blogs when she can at



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Ask a Storytime Ninja: The Show Stealer

This question really stumped our ninjas! Do you have a solution? Let us know what you do in the comments!




The Question:

What do you do with the show-stealing kid? When you’re in the middle of reading a book or leading a song or whatever and one of your storytime angels gets up and decides to interrupt/stand in front of you/make random comments about how much s/he likes or hates the book/etc.? What’s the best way to keep everyone else engaged while redirecting the interrupting angel?


The Answer


Ellen says: 

Aah, the show stealer! There’s one in every storytime, isn’t there? I usually try not to indulge. As long as they are not harming themselves or others, I try to ignore the behavior and usually they stop. Sometimes, if they are being extremely disruptive, I try to quickly and quietly say something along the lines of “Let’s share after our story, okay?” Mostly I have found that if I generally ignore the commentary from the peanut gallery, it stops after a minute or so because I’m bigger and louder and holding an interesting book/flannel/etc.


I have also found that if things are getting out of hand with the whole group, I start reading very very quietly, the kids often stop and focus on me. My theory is that they think they are missing something important (and they are, the story!) and it might be really great but they won’t know what happens if they’re talking over me. I have had this work with varying success, and sometimes I have to try it and then abandon it because it’s not working, but it’s worth a try.



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