Happy Birthday Amy!

Today, we want to celebrate Amy Koester, the Donatello of the Storytime Underground joint chiefs. She’s amazing at her job, passionate about youth services, and one of the hardest working people on the planet.

Wikipedia Definition- "depicted as the smartest of the four turtles. Donnie often speaks in technobabble with a natural aptitude for science and technology"

Wikipedia Definition- “depicted as the smartest of the four turtles. Donnie often speaks in technobabble with a natural aptitude for science and technology”


Amy is one of the top youth librarians in the game and she’s earned it. We call her a cyborg at times, but only because we’re jealous of how much she can accomplish in a single day. She’s someone all of the joint chiefs admire and we have no doubt that she will one day rule the world.


We hope she will let us walk next to her when it happens... preferably while linking arms.

We hope she will let us walk next to her when it happens… preferably while linking arms.

Happy Birthday Amy!



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Photo Diary: Your Storytime Face

Our final Photo Diary entry (for now) is the idea that started it all: to share your storytime face. We only got two submissions, but I hope the camaraderie of sharing your at-work visage will inspire YOU to share a photo in the comments or on our Facebook group page.


From Erin Davison:

Miss Erin Scary Face
I thought I’d submit this little picture from our SRP2014 Kickoff Party that made it into the local paper. I am reading “Can You Make A Scary Face” and..well..making a scary face.

The photographer should get an award for capturing that one.

I didn’t even know about it until a coworker from another department brought a copy to my desk. Her comment? “It’s not a very flattering picture.” My response: “You’ve never seen one of my storytimes and it captures the essence of a Miss Erin storytime perfectly! I LOVE IT!”

From Kendra Jones:

My “get them excited to start the book” storytime face at a Fancy Nancy party.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Projecting Without Straining

The second Ask a Ninja question is all about techniques for projecting your voice in storytime.  Are you a singer or know a lot about public speaking? Add your ideas in the comments section.


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Hi Ninjas! I have a question for the singers among you. Is there any way to teach storytime providers to improve their voice projection? I’m thinking particularly about the difference between your “head voice” and your “chest voice” (but I don’t have vocal instruction so maybe I have my terms wrong) and wondering if there are exercises to help people hear and feel the difference, but I’ll take any advice, especially if it comes with activities we can actually try together. Thanks!

And after a follow up by Michelle, for more clarification:

I’m thinking of staff…and speaking, not singing. When I hear someone straining to raise their voice and I know they could project better. As a kid In church choir I learned about “head” voice and “chest” voice but I don’t know how to teach this. But any techniques for breath support or projecting would be helpful!


Answers from July’s Featured Ninjas:


From Ingrid:
I don’t mean to brag or nothing, but I was a theatre major (Oh yes, I spelled it “re” instead of “er”. Deal with that!) in college. I’m also a classically trained musician. Or at least I was until I became a librarian. What I’m trying to say is, I have a majorly loud voice that can project. All it takes it some practice. You should check out the bajillion YouTube videos on how to project your voice without damaging your throat or losing your voice for the rest of the day.


Some tips from an ex-theatre dork:
1) Stand up straight. Good posture helps.
2) Drink lots of water, not sugary drinks or things with too much dairy or caffeine. Dairy makes lots of mucus, which is cool only if you’re into mucus.
3) Deep breaths. Don’t speak from your throat.
4) Don’t smoke. Just never smoke again.
5) Protect your throat during cold weather.
6) Rest your voice after lots of talking.
7) Know when you need a microphone. No shame in that. Better to use one than to screw up your voice.


The best tip I can give you is being aware of crowd control. I can make my voice pretty loud. I’m good at it. But if I have an overly excited storytime or a squirrelly group of uncooperative adults (the latter of which is more likely. Parents who talk during storytime are impossible to talk over), even my loud mouth voice will fall short. I have zero problem letting overly-chatty Cathies know when my voice is at maximum volume. I don’t try and talk over people who refuse to be quiet. Don’t try and shout over people who don’t want to listen. Public and Children’s Librarians do a lot of talking! We need to take good care of our voices.


From Michelle:

While voice projection is important for anyone doing public speaking, I do want to talk a little bit about styles. Some leaders have a louder presence, others have a softer one – both work. For example, my coworker and I have different styles, she has a bigger presence in the room, mine is a little bit more subtle. But we are both effective and engaging leaders. When you are a bit quieter of a presenter, you need to know effective crowd control. I have been known to stop reading a book and just wait for the room to get quiet. I know it seems old school, but it works (on the adults, I don’t worry about the kids noise level too much). Additionally, I often find parents like to park in the back of the room. I will always ask them to move closer. If you are quieter, you need to focus on creating a more intimate environment. Change the arrangement of the room if you need it, get creative, see what works, and use a microphone if you need it! Voice projection is important, but I think it is equally important to embrace your unique storytime style!


From Natasha:
The only thing I could add to any of this (and it might be piggy-backing on something already said) is if you are going for projection as a way to protect the voice, the two things I’ve been told and try to use myself
-warm up a little” by doing a little bit of humming the “mmmmm” sound (got that from an actor friend who also does the lip…wiggle?  The one that involves making a sound like a raspberry or Bronx cheer?  That one); and
-practice breathing from the diaphragm (breath in through the mouth, expand the belly instead of the chest, and then expel through the mouth, sucking the belly in as much as possible), not just in storytime, but as a regular relaxation technique.  I actually use it as a relaxation techniquie in storytime sometimes, having the kids and adults do it with me.



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Liberte. Egalite. Storytime.

For sure DO NOT let them eat cake, if “them” is a large group of toddlers and the cake is just before storytime.


Happy Bastille Day!


Erin (@erinisinire) started a new blog, which is exciting in and of itself, but it’s even more exciting because her first post was about using failure to move forward. I really think her management has the best possible idea, in supporting her finding out WHY things failed rather than ever taking her to task or making HER feel like a failure. Great management allows for great librarianship!! Also Erin is v. v. smarty pants.


Sandusky Library just launched a toy library, and it is really exciting. And the press materials look amazing! I deeply believe that the job of the public library is to provide access to literacy skills, especially to the least privileged, and we have as a profession agreed that play is an important piece of pre-literacy. If our patrons cannot afford toys, and we can lend them, why wouldn’t we?! Amazing. Congrats to EVERYONE involved in moving this project forward.


Speaking of play! Thanks to Gretchen Caserotti for passing on this article on why adults suck at playing with their kids. I think it’s really important. PS: Gretchen, congrats on IDAHO PUBLIC LIBRARY OF THE YEAR!


Katie Salo wrote about making connections with caregivers and has really smart tips, and scripts! She’s like the Captain Awkward of Librarian/Parent Interaction basically.


PBS ran a piece on closing the word gap that you can watch, and feel smug about all you’re already doing to make this happen/get fired up about all the work left to do.


Felt board table: You want one.


Beachfront Libraries: I want one.



Today is Ginger Rogers' birthday. She could do storytime backward, and in heels.

Today is Ginger Rogers’ birthday. She could do storytime backward, and in heels.

Also apparently play the ukulele.

Also apparently play the ukulele.


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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Adults with No Babies in Storytime

Welcome to the first Ask a Storytime Ninja for our Featured July Ninjas! They did a fabulous job, but if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments!

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I recently had a baby storytime that two grandparents attended without bringing a baby along with them. Never having had this happen, I wasn’t sure what to do. They pulled up chairs and sat in. However, because I tried to make sure they got something out of it, and was a bit flustered, the only actual baby got pretty restless, and the other caregiver seemed a bit puzzled.

Has this ever happened to you? How did/would you handle it? I hesitate to just ask them to leave, since they were genuinely interested, and since baby storytimes are largely for caregivers.




From Natasha: Although it doesn’t happen often, I have had random people come in to storytime without a child before, just sitting to watch and enjoy being around the little ones.​  Provided they aren’t disruptive, my usual strategy is to just do storytime as usual, focusing on the families and including the watcher with any comments directed at the adults.  I figure the observer will either continue watching/participating or will leave if they realize it’s not what they thought.

I also usually try to chat with them if I can catch them, just to give them a quick spiel about what storytimes “do”, and to find out more about their interest so I can guide them towards times they can attend with a child or direct them towards volunteer opportunities if that’s appropriate.


From Michelle: I have had guests arrive in storytime unannounced as well. It can feel a little awkward when it happens. Ideally people would ask if they can observe and state their intentions before the storytime, but that usually doesn’t happen. During these times, I just continue with the storytime as planned. In this particular situation, I can see how it would feel even more awkward since it is a smaller crowd in the baby storytime. I think what I would have done in that situation, I would have maybe done some introductions. That way the guests could maybe establish why they are observing, and then the regular attendees wouldn’t feel as awkward. However, sometimes guests show up later. If that is the case, I always try and catch them at the end and talk to them a little bit about what the storytime is all about.


From Ingrid: I work for a juggernaut of a library system, and to deal with the largeness of our institution, the powers that be have created a lot of policies. Sometimes the policies feel overreaching and unnecessary, but, other times, they come in handy. The majority of our childless storytime attendees are library school students who need to observe a program in order to satisfy a component of their studies. According to our current policy (and I couldn’t tell you if anyone follows it or not), when these students want to attend a class, they need to make an appointment. This way, in the “If You See Something, Say Something” capital of the country, where many of us tend to skew on the side of suspicious, if a childless person is going to attend class, we know who they are before-hand. Their intentions are obvious and there are no surprises. I can’t say that I’ve seen a childless person attend a storytime who wasn’t a student, but I think a policy like this could cover people like the aforementioned grandparents. It could prevent any sort of awkward situation for you and the other storytime participants. As Youth Services librarians, we tend to be awfully protective of “our children” and I think this is a good thing. I think it’s great that we remain aware of who is in our classes and for what reasons. Policies like this are there to support us and to protect our patrons. As long as we’re all consistent, they can be a great help to us.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: July’s Featured Ninjas

This month’s ninjas have their work cut out for them as we already have a month’s worth of questions lined up for them to tackle. They are definitely up for the challenge!

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Introducing July’s Featured Ninjas



Ingrid Abrams: I have been a public children’s librarian in NYC since 2008. Currently, I am a Children’s and YA Librarian for Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Youth Wing. Before I was a librarian, I did serious time as a nanny, daycare worker, and a children’s theatre director. My life as an urban librarian has made me pretty skilled with dealing with very large crowds! Of course, I love each child as the special snowflakes that they are, but I have to say that toddlers are my absolute favorites.

Twitter: @magpielibrarian

Website: http://magpielibrarian.wordpress.com/



michellekMichelle Kilty has been working in libraries since 2007 and has experience in storytimes with kids from 6 months old – preschool. Currently she is the Digital Literacy Librarian in Youth Services at Helen Plum Library in Lombard, IL. She works as part of a team presenting all types of youth oriented programs. She is passionate about exploring new technologies and ideas for children in libraries. You can find her on twitter @michelleannlib and on the blog Robot Test Kitchen: http://robottestkitchen.com/.



darth vaderNatasha Forrester: I’ve been a Youth Librarian for…wow, seriously, has it been 12 years already?  My first 3 years were at a small, rural, stand-alone library in Kansas, and the last many years have been with a large, multi-branch county library in Oregon, and there are things I like and appreciate about both types.  While I was surprised at how much I like working with teens, early childhood is really my passion,and my two favorite library things are storytimes and doing programming for elementary-aged kids.  I’m also the in-house pop-culture and superhero geek, and rabid graphic novel consumer (as possibly obvious from my photo).

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TL;DR Advocacy

Today’s Boots on the Ground post comes from Amy Diegelman. Amy has an MLS with a specialization in Children’s and Youth Services, and works as a Young Adult Librarian at a small library on a popular island. Amy can be found almost constantly on twitter @amydieg, often wishes she was a werewolf, and used to write academic papers on the political philosophy of Batman.


TLDR Advocacy


I’m going to tell you a secret: I’m a YA Librarian! Okay, it isn’t a secret, but it IS unknown to many of our patrons. There is no desk in our YA area and I am often elsewhere in the library so, for me, every interaction is a chance for the most basic advocacy: showing I exist!


Patrons, young and old, are often in the YA area looking for particular books, guidance, etcAmy. with no idea there’s someone specifically meant to help them. This is when I get to advocate our services. I tell (and show) patrons that I’m literally a YA pro! Its not uncommon for adult patrons, particularly, to have no idea such a job even exists. Once they DO know, patrons usually ask new/more questions than they had of another librarian. And next time they visit, they know who to find!




Tell us your advocacy story in 149 words or less and we’ll put it up for the world to see. This is a great opportunity to refine your next elevator pitch, and to inspire others to step up their advocacy game.

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The Coolest Thing I Saw On the Internet This Week

As evidenced by our wrap up posts, Guerrilla Storytime at ALA 2014 was AMAZING. I am once again blown away by the incredible power of the GS model. Also the brilliance of our colleagues. We even got some good press! We were in Cognotes on page 6 (those of you from Britain will appreciate this), were mentioned in SLJ’s mega trends piece, and got a great write up in GalleyCat.


We were not the only great things happening on the Internet, though! Did you guys see that Angie FINALLLLLLY posted about her Epic and Legendary Baby Dance, and it was indeed both epic and legendary?


Are you having a hard time with this day/week/month/SRP? Here is A.A. Milne reading Winnie the Pooh aloud, so, now everything is all better and beautiful forever. Seriously. This is the best and most important thing that has ever happened in my life.


I’m not sure I’m with the American Academy of Pediatrics about screen time (I’m also a Doctor, didn’t you know? Not that kind, though. The kind that wears a Fez now because Fezes are cool) HOWEVER I love this post from Storytime Secrets about all kinds of other great stuff from around the house that babies can play with. Anything that encourages parents to PLAY, I say.


LOOK AT THIS AMAZING TODDLER EXPLORER SERIES over at Getting Giggles!! Don’t you want to do this RIGHT NOW? Yes. We all do.


Speaking of stuff you want to run back to work and do RIGHT NOW, may I present your new favorite website, Art Projects for Kids?


You know what I love about this Pete the Cat Party at Library Bonanza? EVERYTHING. BUT. What I love MOST is the painting with food and mud. Bestill my messy heart.


I hope you are all surviving SRP and doing kind things for yourself. You’re almost there, my beautiful Guerrillas! Take heart. Soon you’ll be doing back to school visits and planning Guerrilla Storytimes at your state conferences (see what I did there?). In the meantime, there are new Harry Potter stories in the world, and there are always more and more and more amazing picture books to be read and reread and loved into old friends.


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July Photo Diary Prompt: or, the last photo diary (for now)

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We’ve been doing Photo Diary for the better part of the time Storytime Underground has existed. And while we still love the idea behind it, we’ve got some other ideas up our sleeves that we’re itching to try.


And so this July Photo Diary will be the final photo diary, at least for now. The prompt is the one that initially launched the Photo Diary concept, and I do hope lots of you will participate.


July Photo Diary Theme:

Show us your silliest storytime face. It could be a face that you make on purpose to elicit laughs and participation. It could be a face that you make inadvertently as you’re in the midst of a really killer storytime. Whatever its cause, we want to see it.

How to participate:

Email your photo to us in either jpg or png format by July 19. We’ll let you know if we have questions.

The photo share:

Check back later in July for the photo roundup to see your fellow guerrillas’ most ridiculous storytime faces.



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Guerrilla Storytime @ #alaac14: The Monday Recap

Monday’s Guerrilla Storytime in the Uncommons at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference included about 35 participants. It was surprisingly raucous for the last full day of conference!


Opening Songs: 

  • To the tune of “Mary had a Little Lamb”: “If you’re wearing red today, red today, red today / If you’re wearing red today stand up and shout hooray!” Repeat with other colors.
  • To the tune of “London Bridge”: “Hi, hello, and how are you, how are you, how are you? / Hi, hello, and how are you? / How are you today? / Do you know what day it is, day it is, day it is / Do you know what day it is? Today is Tuesday! / Gather ’round it’s storytime, storytime, storytime / Gather ’round it’s storytime, it’s storytime today / Have a seat on the floor, on the floor, on the floor / Have a seat on the floor, it’s time to listen now.”
  • After welcome, announcements and a weather check sing to the tune of Happy Birthday: “Good morning to you / Good morning to you / The sun is shining / Good morning to you”


Challenge: Storytime has turned into total chaos. What do you do?

  • “I have shakers for everybody! Let’s do a shaker song!”
  • Attempt to distract them with a prop or say “Let’s stand up!” and do a wiggle rhyme. “Jump like a frog / Fly like a bird / Walk like a dinosaur / Sit back down and be quiet as a mouse”
  • Depends on why it’s chaotic. Maybe get quiet during a crazy moment and stay quiet until they calm down. If it’s just a crazy day, just do lots of movement activities.
  • Use a more commanding voice do everyone can hear you and get them all involved
  • Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear rhyme
  • “Get in your boats!” and let’s row. Then sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
  • With babies, just stop storytime and go to playtime
  • “1, 2, 3, eyes on me!” Kids say back “1, 2, 3, eyes on you.” Train them to do this.
  • You say “Hola, Hola” they say “Coca Cola”
  • Put bubbles in your mouth. Or can you hold your breath for 5 seconds? Let’s try. How about 10 seconds?

Challenge: The audience has the wiggles. Share a rhyme or song to help get the wiggles out.

  • Fruit Salad / Watermelon song
  • Sometimes they have the wiggles because things are too familiar and they might be getting bored. So put a new twist on an old rhyme. Do “Open, Shut Them” hip-hop style, opening your arms out to the side and then tucking them under your armpits.
  • “A sailor went to sea, sea, sea / To see what he could sea, sea, sea / But all that he could see, see, see / Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea / A sailor went to chop, chop, chop / To see what he could chop, chop, chop / But all that he could chop, chop, chop / Was the bottom of the deep blue chop, chop, chop” Continue with knee, knee, knee and wishy, washy.

Challenge: All the moms are talking in the back. What do you do?

  •  Lower your voice to a whisper
  • Don’t put them on the spot because you don’t know what’s going on-could be an emergency
  • “If you need to make a call, please feel free to step out and come back.”
  • Alison uses a talking Piggy app to give storytime expectations (turn off phones, etc.) and Piggy tells the audience “It’s so much more fun if we all participate.”

Challenge: What is your favorite way to add WRITING to storytime?

  • let them play in shaving cream after storytime
  • have them write their own nametags
  • make a homemade light table using a clear bin and battery operated lights (idea from Pinterest board created by Rebecca)
  • do an alphabet theme with alphabet worksheets that have the letter and images that match the letter

Challenge: Share your favorite parachute activity

  • Put bags or balls on the chute and do a Popcorn Rhyme
  • Turn on contemporary music like “Happy” by Pharell and throw balls on
  • Sing “Ring Around the Rosie” while parents rotate the parachute (they stand still and just move the parachute by slipping it through their hands)
  • Let the kids just run around under the chute and have free play
  • Use the chute with lullabies
  • Row boat, row boat go so fast / Row boat, row boat, go so slow / Row boat, row boat the waves are getting worse / Row boat, row boat, put it in reverse!”
  • Come Under My Umbrella
  • Beehive rhyme (didn’t quite catch this one-anyone know it?)-It might be this one (Thanks, Jbrary)!

Challenge: How do you incorporate Letter Knowledge?

  • Alphabet storytime with a letter of the day. Have flannel pieces that start with the letter of the day.
  • Have flannel pieces with vocabulary for the kids but also a vocabulary word for grown-ups in order to incorporate them into the parent message. Put pieces in a box and say “What’s in the green box?” before pulling out the vocabulary.
  • Imbed letter knowledge into play and everything you do.  Jump on opportunities to talk about letters. If you see something shaped like an A, say so.
  • Use sign language in storytime
  • Flannel board with the word WELCOME on it. Point out each individual letter of the word.

Challenge: A child is having an emotional reaction to a book. What do you do?

  • When a child’s dog was hit by a car and he shared that, Rachel said “I’m really sorry.” and then moved on.
  • A child was afraid of being turned into a goon during Little Bunny Foo Foo and started crying. The easiest thing was to just stop the book and move to another activity, saying “I’m sorry that upset you, but don’t worry, no one is going to turn into a goon. Why don’t we do something else?” The other kids can always check out the book and take it home.
  • Use fairy tales to relieve fears. Say, “What are the first words of a fairy tale? Once upon a time…” and then “How do fairy tales all end? With Happily Ever After! So, don’t worry, this will have a happy ending.”

Challenge: How do you incorporate Print Awareness?

  • Have a stuffed animal storytime and have kids write down the animal’s story-they will put marks on the page, which is print.
  • Point to the words on a page when you are reading a book. Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler is great for this.
  • Put words to rhymes and songs up on the wall behind you for parents to read, reinforcing the idea of print.
  • Use Mo Willems books. They have big words and are easy to point out.
  • Put up the words to songs in both English and Spanish

Challenge: How do you address the cultural needs of your community and make sure everyone feels welcome?

  • Listen to your parents. Print out that month’s songs so they can learn them at home if that is what would help them.
  • In Navajo culture and religion some things are taboo. Know your community and avoid things that may be taboo or offensive during storytime.
  • Pay attention to days people can’t attend and be as accommodating as possible
  • Talk to your school librarian about cultural issues in the community. They will know all about it.
  • Make community members part of the program planning process.
  • Diversify when you offer programs. Don’t have them on the same days at the same times. Include evening and weekend programs as well.
  • Ask your audience if there are things you can do differently. Invite them to make suggestions, bring up issues, and talk about things for them personally. Bring in books for parents and invite patrons to take tours of the library when storytime is on break.

Challenge: Choose a prop, any prop and show us how you would use it

  • Bells: “Ring your bells up high / Ring your bells down low / Ring them in the middle / Ring them fast / Ring them slow” Talk about the different sounds they make at different speeds.
  • Bean Bags: play Balance Beam by Laurie Berkner and put bean bags on your head
  • Bells or sticks: Stick Tune from Music Together
  • Bells: We’re Going to Kentucky Variation- “We’re Going Down to Portland (or your city) / We’re going to the zoo / To look at all the animal sand every thing they do / Shake it, baby, shake it / Shake it if you can / Shake it like a milkshake / And pour it in a can / Shake it to the bottom / Shake it to the top / Shake it round and round and round / Until I tell you STOP!”
  • Rhythm Sticks: Put on a kids and grown ups know and tap to the rhythm with sticks. The Beatles are great for this.
  • Shaky Eggs: I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner

Challenge: How to incorporate books and rhymes from other cultures?

  • Take advantage of bilingual patrons. Let them lead parts of storytime or ask them to translate words or sections of songs, words, and books.
  • Hello and How are You? from Wiggleworms in English, French, and Spanish
  • Use your bilingual staff! Let them teach a song to the group. This will make staff feel involved and more part of the whole library and will help make patrons more comfortable.
  • Teach a sign that relates the theme at the start of storytime. Ask “Does anyone know how to say sunshine in any other languages?”


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