Ask a Storytime Ninja: Same Theme, Different Ages

It’s a theme-y Tuesday! Great advice from our featured ninjas this week about using the same topics with different age groups. Not always easy to do! Have any more ideas for our asker? Leave ‘em in the comments.

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The Question:


How do you deliver the same subject – example Weather to two different age groups?

Our library is starting to develop a toddler (18 mos. to 2 years) and a preschool (3 to 5 years) story time. Ideally I would use the same theme for each story time but I’m not sure how to separate that out.


The Answers:


From Lisa: 


Congratulations on expanding your storytimes to multiple age groups! I completely understand you wanting to present the same theme to both age groups.  Why reinvent the wheel?  The best way I have found to do this is to pull lots of books for your theme and find as many activities and songs as possible.  Obviously, you won’t use all the materials, but it’s good to have lots ideas to choose from so you can find what will work for each age group.  With the toddlers, use shorter books and lots of songs, fingerplays and movement.  With the preschoolers, you can use longer books and get a little more in depth in the topic, but still make sure you have lots other activities besides reading books.  You will probably find that the songs, fingerplays and other activities overlap between the two groups.  Also, remember DON’T FORCE THE THEME!  Some themes just don’t work for all age groups because of maturity and often times because there just aren’t good books on the topic. That’s when you throw the theme out the window and just do activities that are fun.  I always have a couple of go to songs that I can use for any age group at any moment because things just aren’t working.  Good Luck figuring it all out!


From Katya:


This is a great question, because a good theme is not only fun for everyone but can help guide your age appropriate choices for each age group. When I plan my storytimes, I pick a weekly theme and then apply it as loosely or broadly as makes sense to the baby, toddler, and preschool groups that I see each week. At my branch, we’re not overly strict about the age of attendees, and many children have siblings, so there will invariably be some kids who come to three ‘bear’ or ‘apple’ storytimes a week, but the variations and the slow accumulation of skills allows that to be as much fun as only attending one of three. For babies, the theme application can be very loose indeed, as it’s mostly for your benefit and the benefit of some caregivers. For toddlers, pick simple books on the theme, don’t push it too hard, and include lots of songs and fingerplays. For the preschoolers, bring in more complex books but keep all the songs that you picked and practiced, maybe adding a verse or a few more numbers to count down (with toddlers, most countdown songs start at only three or so). Our preschool storytime is also slightly longer than our toddler time, allowing more time for in-depth readings. I think of the theme as an ‘organizing principle,’ a general point around which all aspects of storytime can converge–sometimes it’s for my benefit only, and sometimes the kids get into it, but either way it seems to make transitions more smooth and planning more fun. I second the advice to pull more materials than you’ll need, and to be ready to throw it all out of the window. Also, pick themes that you enjoy–there’s no need to force enthusiasm on topics where you have none! Best of luck! Doing stories for differentiated age groups is the best crash course in child development out there, just take a breath, watch, and learn.


From Monica:


How fortunate you are to be able to expand your storytimes to individual sessions for toddlers and preschoolers! So many of us need to provide a well-rounded storytime for children of *all* ages (which presents its own problems and issues) so first off, lucky for you to be able to provide for a more focused group of attendees.


In terms of lessening your work load and not creating two independent storytime plans around the same subject matter for two age groups, I think you’d be surprised at how much you can overlap. Ideally, a preschool storytime will have longer, more involved stories and more complicated fingerplays and songs. BUT — many preschoolers still find much delight in fingerplays, songs and stories with a toddler-focused audience in mind. To that end, I would do most of my duplication around bringing toddler ideas to the latter half of your preschool storytime.


For instance, start by planning a full-fledged toddler storytime. This age requires a bit more care in terms of extending attention span and mixing up books with other activities because of the age. Then, take a few choice (or favorite) ideas from your toddler storytime and insert them into your preschool storytime. For your preschool storytime, put the heavy lifting (complicated, longer books and/or stories and fingerplays) on the front end of your storytime. Then, towards the latter half of storytime when even the most dedicated 4 or 5 year old can have trouble paying attention, insert the fun and silly toddler-focused activities and books.


You can ALWAYS repeat songs. Any age will enjoy silly songs, no matter what the theme (and you don’t have to stick religiously to a theme — mix in a few generic songs to keep it lively, and pick your favorites). Fingerplays can be “dumbed down” a bit for the toddler age, but again, preschoolers delight in even the youngest fingerplays (I still have many almost-kindergarteners who like doing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” even at age 6 because they feel like they are part of the “in” club and know exactly what to do). In terms of books, what I always try to remind myself is that it is *ok to abridge* a book if you really feel that the concept and illustrations would work with a toddler … but that there’s just too much darn text. I do this frequently and liberally. Then, that same book can be shared with preschoolers without the abridgement.


Hope this all helps — and again, lucky for you to be able to provide age-focused storytimes for toddlers AND preschoolers!

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The Coolest Thing I Saw On The Internet: HOCKEY IS BACK

I’m as excited as this kid, even if he is ROOTING FOR THE DEVIL:

We are a profession full of people who astonish me with their brilliance.


Anna Haase Krueger is one of the smartest librarians I know, and she is making some huge things happen for the One Book initiative in Minnesota. Watch her narrate Moo! Wish in vain that you could be as cool as she is!


Librarians you might want to be when you grow up: K. C. Boyd, my new hero.


Lisa “Amazing Star of All Things Library” Mulvenna wrote out a storytime emergency plan, a thing we should probably all have.


I just discovered the blog Pink Me and I’m into both this list of recent picture books and the rant about female illustrators and why they aren’t making waves in picture books.


I’m also into Sunflower Storytime including song videos and flannel templates in storytime plans! Also, I love the fox theme idea because there are so many fun ways you could go with it, and it would be so easy to incorporate non-fiction.


This post from Alyson Feldman-Piltch at the ALSC Blog about the difference between multiculturalism and diversity is important, smart, and a conversation we need to be having. While you’re there, check out Renee Grassi’s post about teaching life skills in the library.


Big props to Abby for making this list of diverse books to read in storytime! Do you have any to add?


Hey, Mel! Thanks for being such a huge supporter of Guerrilla Storytime from instant one, and such an enthusiastic participant in Storytime University! We <3 you most!



This week, I just needed some GIFs that made me giggle, so, here are some:




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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Earnest but Clueless Parent

Our first question this month is a great one! What happens when a parent is doing everything right but a child still doesn’t behave in storytime? Check out our fabulous ninja answers below for some tips to try if you have parents who are feeling frustrated during storytime.


The Question:

I have a 2.5 year old child who won’t sit still when I take her to story time at my local library. I am bewildered as to how to get her to sit on her carpet square and listen, not wiggle or run about, etc. I do my best to role model and gently and quietly redirect her to sit & listen, to little or no avail. She loves being read to at home and has a great vocabulary but is an only child and perhaps behind the curve a bit socially. I’m torn between continuing to come to storytime and leaving when she can’t handle it or not attending at all. Any advice for an earnest but apparently clueless parent at storytime?


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The Answers:


From Lisa:


Those two year olds can be a wiggly bunch!  I totally understand your dilemma and frustration.  The best part of kids is that they grow and mature.  Your child may be super wiggly and not wanting to stay on her carpet square for quite some time, but she is learning the routine of storytime and will slowly learn about how everything works.  Give her time and patience.  Continue to redirect her and model behavior by participating in all the activities yourself.  Yes, that does include acting like a monkey, roaring like a lion and generally being silly.  Of course, there will be days when it is just not working and you need to leave storytime, but I am guessing those days will become fewer and fewer as she matures.  I do want to know, how much movement is occurring during the storytime?  Movement is SO important for toddlers to help them regulate their bodies and be able to sit and listen to books.  If this particular storytime does not have a lot of movement, you may want to try to find a different one that does incorporate more movement.  This will help your toddler have the freedom to wiggle and move as well as allow her the ability to sit and listen to the stories.  Good luck!  It will get better!


From Monica:


Congratulations on bringing your wiggly toddler to storytime! Many parents don’t even make that first step if they are unsure of how their child will behave – but bringing her to storytime, even if she finds it difficult to sit still, is the beginning of extending her attention span to the point where she *will* be able to sit still for longer periods of time.


Here are a few additional suggestions :


Many young children actually learn better when they move around. I would quote you an official scientific study, but rest assured that many “experts” have determined that a moving body often corresponds with a developing brain. She’s making connections even if she’s moving like a busy bee!


Every day will be different so determine your actions based on your child’s behavior. If she is having a super wiggly day? Sit towards the back of the room (if this is possible) and let her move around a bit, even during the quiet stories. If you feel the need to leave storytime for a bit, you can always come back at the end for the goodbye song and/or stamper. This will give her confidence that she’s not being “bad” and will let her experience the storytime from start to finish – in other words, don’t punish her for wiggly behavior by keeping her from the fun stuff at the end. :-)


You mention that you are concerned that she might be behind socially. If this is the case, bringing her to storytime is pretty much the best thing you can do – over time, she will observe how her peers act in social settings like storytime and should begin to model their behavior.


Hope this helps – welcome to storytime!


From Katya:


Dear Earnest but Apparently Clueless Parent,


I often (half) joke that my primary responsibility as an early literacy educator is to reassure parents that they’re already doing everything right. In your case, that’s easy–it sounds like between reading at home and helping your child experience new social settings at the library, you’re doing a great job of helping her get ready to read (and to enjoy reading). I’m not sure what the specific behavioral expectations are at your library storytime, but I’m willing to bet that no one expects a 2.5 year old child to sit perfectly still and focus completely. There are many adults who can’t do this comfortably, and some of them are the greatest actors, thinkers, and athletes among us. In my toddler storytimes, some kids sit and others roam the room, examining other books on the shelves and generally wandering. At the beginning of the session, I make sure that the caregivers know that sitting still and facing forward isn’t a big deal for me–all I ask is that ‘wanderers’ are not allowed to interfere with other children’s personal space. Every child learns differently, and the kid lying on the rug and staring in the other direction or the kid stacking books in the corner may be getting as much or more out of the experience as the kid who sits perfectly still. This philosophy can make for a pretty chaotic storytime room, but I keep everyone on the same page with lots of group songs and movement. Definitely keep attending, and you and your daughter will find your storytime rhythm!


A few additional thoughts and tips:


As Monica mentioned, young children NEED to move to learn. A great resource on the subject is A Moving Child Is a Learning Child: How the Body Teaches the Brain to Think by Gill Connell and Cheryl McCarthy.


There are different kinds of disruption. If your daughter is just wanting to move around, no problem. If she’s dashing about screeching at the top of her lungs grabbing other kids’ hair, or having a total meltdown, it’s probably a good idea to take a break and come back later in the session, or another time. If she’s not having fun, don’t force her to stay. A busy storytime can be seriously overwhelming to a kid who hasn’t had much socialization. Does the session include a less structured playtime? Maybe she can start there and join the read-aloud when she’s ready. Talk to the person leading the storytime about their preferred way to handle coming and going, and take the opportunity to introduce your daughter privately to the leader while you’re asking.


Don’t stress about peer pressure. No one is judging you or your daughter–kids scream and kids run around. Just do what’s right for you two and take your time.


THANK YOU for modelling storytime behavior. One adult paying attention and participating is worth twenty shush-ers and admonishers yelling ‘listen to the teacher!’ while poking at their phones. If a kid hears you talking, they think they should be talking, regardless of what you say! You can take this one step farther by ‘playing library’ at home, inviting your daughter to remember and re-create the experience in a safe, familiar environment.


Finally, remember to have fun! Be silly and enjoy this time of exploring the world with your child. Hopefully she’ll love the library all her life.


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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Featured Ninjas for October

Huge thanks to our September Ninjas for their stellar responses last month. Now we welcome a new batch of Ninjas for October.

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Meet Lisa:


Lisa Dengerink


Lisa Dengerink currently works at Denver Public Library as a early literacy librarian.  She oversees the training and observation of over 60 storytime providers at the 25 branches in Denver.  She also provides storytime in early childhood classrooms.  She is the current communications chair of Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) where most of her social networking is funneled. Her expertise spans all manners of storytime from the nitty gritty of “the kids keep petting my legs” to dealing with a supervisor who does not approve of storytime.


Social stuff that is actually for CLEL:
Twitter: @clelorg
Facebook: ColoradoLibrariesforEarlyLiteracy


Meet Monica: 


in the small small pond 009


Hi – I’m Monica Stratton, the children’s facilitator at  Ramsey County Library (suburban St. Paul). I’ve been an active children’s librarian for over 16 years (wow …) and serve kids from infancy through Jr. High. Things I am especially passionate about are music and theater, arts, and engaging with tweens.


I am the “facilitator” at my library which is a fancy way of saying that I have upper level duties (budget, decision making, program planning) without the pay. I also do not directly supervise any staff. My job consists of programs, selection, budgeting, outreach, program planning and overseeing service to children across my library system.


I keep up a storytime blog at :
My twitter handle is @moni_lou


Meet Katya:



Katya Schapiro is a children’s librarian at the Bay Ridge branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. She has been wrangling books and stories and puppets and kids for many years as a teaching artist, book club curator, and playwright/performer. She offers a minimum of five storytimes a week for children under five and their caregivers, as well as outreach storytimes. She also plans her branch’s programming for kids of all ages. While not above lobbing the occasional Vonnegut joke over the babies’ heads, she’s devoted to early literacy as a fun, free, delightful, loud, messy, whole-body experience delivered in age-appropriate doses.


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Results of our September Community Survey

Last month, we asked you find folk to take a minute to fill out our brief Storytime Underground Community Survey. Our goal was to see who is engaging in Storytime Underground, and how. 426 of you took the survey, and I thought I’d share the results here in case you’re as interested as we are. No worries; there is zero private info attached to the survey.


Our big data points:

59% of respondents hold a position that requires an MLS; 27% of respondents hold positions without an MLS requirement.

Sept14 Survey Q1

96% of respondents work directly with children and their families.

Sept14 Survey Q2

Of the folks who responded to the survey, there’s a relatively even split between those who supervise other staff (42%) and those who do not supervise (49%).

Sept14 Survey Q3

Respondents’ two main methods of engaging with this community are through our Facebook Group (74%) and this very website (65%). At this point, only 16% of respondents are involved in Storytime University.

Sept14 Survey Q4


Why did we even want to capture this snapshot of the community? Good question. Our hope is that, by knowing some of this data, we can make sure our existing and future content will be relevant to the folks who are part of the Storytime Underground community. As an example, these data suggest that we don’t want to have all content related to supervisory responsibilities, since half of you aren’t supervisors. On the flip side, though, the data also suggest we shouldn’t ignore that topic all together. Essentially, this survey can help us frame our thinking about content. I will say, also, that we recognize these data don’t reflect the entire community; we’re happy with the 426 respondents, but that’s nowhere near our 2000+ Facebook Group participation. These data are a snapshot, a guide. They also help us see how people seem to prefer to engage in the community; that’s great info so we know where to focus our energies and content.


Thanks to everyone who participated in this survey. And as always, if you have feedback or suggestions related to the content shared in the Storytime University community, please
let us know in an email.

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The Internet Is Full of Cool

First I want to say that I am publicly, unapologetically 1000% #teamharpy.


Other, wildly unrelated, hashtag you should be following: #njysf14, the official hashtag of the NJLA Youth Services Forum. The phenomenal Linda Meuse presented, and her presentation notes are on her blog because she’s, you know, amazing.


Friends in the Midwest! Michigan KidLit Uncon is happening again, and judging by tales of last year (and the people putting it on) it’s going to be bananas. You should go.


Having weeded a few very old collections, I am constantly on the lookout for books that are casually racist. Betsy Bird at Fuse8 wrote about realizing that a beloved book — or one you’re in the middle of reading out loud — is surprisingly racist.


Also over at SLJ is a write up of the keynote speech from Fostering Lifelong Learners 2014, which I really wish I could have attended.


Pop Goes The Page posted about Metaphorical Magic and it IS magic, and also I wish I WERE magic because now I have the Little Arabella Miller rhyme stuck in my head and can’t get it out. But seriously, this project is science, art, and rhyming/literacy in one, plus it’s adorable.


I’m new (I think?) to Practice Makes Perfect, and always SUPER EXCITED to welcome new storytime bloggers to the scene. HI, KELLY!!! Kelly is blogging about her marathon week of storytimes, and from the sound of it she’s rocking it all!


Did y’all have kind of A Week? Me too. Here’s a baby armadillo:


baby armadillo

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Unruly Daycare Visitors

Oh, how we love care providers who use library visits as their break time. SIGH. Our featured ninjas have some suggestions for dealing with this situation. Maybe you have some ideas, too? Please share in the comments (and hey, if you’re signed up for Storytime University, there’s a badge for that! If you’re not signed up, what are you waiting for?!).


The Question:


I have a preschool storytime on both Wednesdays and Fridays. During summer reading I had a daycare provider start bringing about 6 kids or so to the program. They are some of the worst behaved children. It’s mostly the one child that I have trouble with. He constantly talks and when I say something to him, I can just see in his eyes that it’s going in one ear and out the other. He does nothing but look at me and say “hey, hey, hey, hey” until I say something. And if I don’t let him say what he wants he will continue to do so. His provider says nothing helpful AT ALL. She always has her phone out. This past Friday was the worst. I did nothing but stop and tell them to be quiet and sit still. They refuse to listen to anything I say about it. After our craft, they proceeded to get in the toys for the babies, (that were hidden I might add), take stuff off the walls, and even got into my craft cupboard! She said NOTHING. I’m strung out with them already because everyone else in all the other age groups are so good! What should I do? I’ve already clarified the rules several times.


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The Answers:


From Tabin:


I’m sorry to hear about your situation. I guess we all get patrons that have us repeating, “Don’t be in an orange jumpsuit,” silently in our heads when we want to strangle them. In my answer I’m assuming you’re not the supervisor and that care providers are required to stay with charges during programs.


Your supervisor needs to take the lead.


Anything you say or do will be used against you to your supervisor anyway, so meet with them. Don’t state, “This woman is making me want jury duty!” Properly frame it: “This patron is disrupting others’ library experience, her charges destroyed tax payer provided resources, and though I’ve taken proper measures to remedy the situation, the patron has shown zero respect to me and those around her.” Then suggest you speak with the patron together and state she has one more chance to straighten up her act or she—not the children—will receive a 3 month program ban. She can visit the library, check out materials, but cannot attend programs, meaning she cannot bring her charges by default. (They can attend programs with capable caregivers.) I picked 3 months because bosses negotiate bans downward, so it will probably be closer to 3 weeks. After the ban is lifted she can return provided she and her charges obey the rules.


Whether they agree with a ban or not (and if not, have the supervisor observe matters), you both still need to explain the situation to the patron. She might get upset that there’s not a sign explicitly stating it’s not the McDonald’s playground. Don’t worry about this because a) you told her this was not acceptable, and b) people who treat you in such a manner are not deterred by signs. (The latter was explained by ALA Transformer presenters when I asked, “What about signs for crazy people? You know, the ones who would leave a four year old alone at the library?”) She might try to blame you when this is about her. Or she might blame the children. That would be pretty low, but I’ve seen it. Should she pull this, in the words of a colleague, ask her, “Do you hold yourself to the same accountability level as a child?”


No one wants to answer yes to that one…


From Anne: 


Start by addressing the issue directly with the caregiver. Explain that storytimes are participatory for everyone attending. Behavioral issues during storytimes are to be addressed by parents and caregivers as the storytime leader needs to focus on the whole group. If a child or children are need a minute to refocus, it is advisable for the group to take a break outside of the storytime and return to the storytime once the child or children are ready.


Then, create interactive components to each storytime where children and their caregivers play a game together. This will require some extra work and creativity on your part but will harvest the participation you’re looking for in the storytimes. Activities can range anywhere from playing with a large parachute as a group to one on one – or in this case one on six – where kids identify their caregivers toes, legs, knees etcetera with post-it notes.


Be sure to keep your supervisor informed and don’t hesitate to put up a “no cellphones” sign.


From Ashley: 


It might be time to have a friendly chat with the daycare provider. You could try addressing her as part of a larger group of adults; “Hey grown-ups! Let’s all put down our phones and stay engaged with the stories like the children are!” Or if you don’t think this will work, you can speak with her directly. Try to use positive language and include her in your solution. Your ultimate goal is for her to become a partner in the solution. For example, “Your daycare group are a really enthusiastic bunch, and seem to really enjoy coming to storytime! I love how much interest they take in the stories and myself. I’ve noticed that it can be a bit hard for them to follow some of my library rules, however. Especially the one about having a quiet voice while a story is being read. You know them best; do you have any ideas on ways to help them be more successful here?” This brings it to her attention but doesn’t blame her or the kids in any way. It may be hard because you seem pretty annoyed with her, but try learning her name and being comfortable talking with her peer to peer. That way, if one of her kids is having a really challenging day and your attempts to rein it in aren’t working, you can call her in by name and ask her to take the kid for a walk or a break at the back of the room. It may be that having to actively participate in caring for the kids during storytime will be so annoying to her that she’ll stop coming. Or it will be so annoying to her that she’ll work harder on setting expectations for them before they come. Either way, I think if you see this as a “two adults working together” solution, it seems less daunting. Good luck!


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Meet Soraya Silverman-Montano, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

It should come as no surprise to anyone in the Storytime Underground community that our colleagues are often engaged in some really awesome projects. One such colleague is this month’s Storytime Guerrilla of the Month, Soraya Silverman-Montano, who recently completed her stint as an Emerging Leader on behalf of ALSC. Ninjas, meet Soraya.


photo (1)

Like many an awesome youth services librarian, Soraya wears many different types of hats, both metaphorical and literal.

Since being (thankfully) forced to volunteer by her incredible mom at the age of 14 (and, shortly thereafter, that service grew to love), Soraya has been working at the library for ten years and is currently a Youth Services Librarian with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. According to Soraya: “I can honestly say from the bottom of my geeky heart that I love everything about it! I enjoy making explosions and slime, being ridiculously silly every week while sharing my favorite stories, and also coordinating the occasional teen program to express my geekiness to likeminded individuals at this awesome awesome job!” Outside of work, Soraya considers herself a pretty cool wife, friend, daughter, and sister of five girls; a gamer, crafter and unique chef; a mommy of three doggy fur babies; and of course, an avid reader of mostly YA fiction, manga and comics.


Q: What’s your philosophy for choosing books and activities for your storytimes?
Soraya: The #1 rule for me when picking books and activities is that they above all else: Must. Be. Fun! #2 is that I have to be able to get the kids to be engaged and involved in the story or game, and the #3 rule is that I generally should be able to make a fool of myself because if you can’t laugh at yourself then who are the kids gonna laugh at/with? ;)
I pick stories with songs the kids can sing with me, ones with repetition or rhymes that they can read along with. I do flannels and fingerplays with interactive songs or pieces the kids can pull off the board, or hide and go seek, or matching games.
And if a book/activity doesn’t inherently have an interactive portion I make it fun and interactive by asking questions throughout the entire story: Would you be friends with a crocodile? What if it was a nice crocodile? Who here likes apples? I love apples! You guys have good taste, literally! What do you think’s going to be in the box? A banana? A sad clown? A MONSTER IN HIS UNDERPANTS?!


Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?
Soraya: Flannels. I love flannels. They are so great at reeling a fussy crowd back in and at getting chatty parents to participate and focus back on storytime. If you have a small storytime that day and the group isn’t engaging with you, you can get kids excited by having them come up and pull pieces off the board.
And flannels are so diverse! I have ones that tie into fingerplays, some that are alternate ways of reading a well-known story, matching games, and hide and go seek games. I have some that teach ABCs, colors, counting, emotions or shapes; anything is possible!


Q: If you could travel through time, what one piece of storytime advice would you give your new librarian self?
Soraya: Don’t stress so much! You have to find your own groove. You don’t have to do the same outline as Lily or the same songs as Marshall or themes like Robin or books that Ted reads. If a kid is screaming his head off and can’t sit still, it’s probably not because of you and just because they’re having a rough day. If you have a tough crowd who won’t engage, you’ll learn techniques to get them to. Look for new ideas from coworkers, online, from 3rd parties like classrooms, there’s always more to learn. And as you learn, storytime will become easier and easier. You just have to give yourself a break and a chance to grow into that awesome storytime guru you will be.


Q:  When you have a storytime problem, who/what do you turn to for advice or support? It can be a person, a blog, a website, a resource…
Soraya: The resource I use most and that I am extremely grateful for is my coworkers. They are a plethora of knowledge about any aspect of a storytime you can think of, and we’re always bouncing ideas and thoughts off of one another. Plus, it’s equally beneficial to see that skill in practice, to shadow them and see exactly how they incorporate what you’re trying to learn in person. That doesn’t mean you have do exactly as they do, but you’ll at least have some ideas to think about how you want to incorporate it into your storytime.
I also use Storytime Katie (who I had the pleasure of briefly meeting at Annual this year which was awesome) for theme ideas. We have similar tastes in books and it helps me brainstorm other books that go along with whatever theme I have for the week. Plus she posts her crafts ideas, too, which is fabulous.
And I am a member of the Storytime Underground Facebook group where I’m able to post any questions, stories, or even just geeky things I’d like to share with everyone. It’s an excellent resource to use to get a variety of ideas from other Youth Services folk around the country and even the world. Social media rocks the socks!


Q: You recently “emerged” as an ALA Emerging Leader. Can you share some information about your project? How has it made you see your youth services work differently?
Soraya: Our Emerging Leaders group was tasked from ALSC, the Association of Library Service to Children, to do research that would lead to developing a Youth Services Value Calculator, which essentially breaks down each service we provide to children, parents, schools, etc. and assigns a monetary value to that service. We quickly realized, though, that this was a daunting feat; how can you assign a price to something invaluable, such as establishing a love for reading and instilling early literacy skills at an early age so that they have school readiness and will hopefully be more successful and ambitious in their pursuit of education?
We determined that a Value Calculator would be insufficient as a measurement tool because it is only a snapshot of what services are provided for a brief moment in time. Our group felt that a more thorough and all-encompassing tool would need to be developed for Youth Services staff to show their value and how important providing our resources is–so that we can better advocate for ourselves to administration, legislation, the public, whomever. Ultimately, we voiced our conclusion that there should be an ALSC taskforce or some other entity dedicated to researching and finding relative concrete value for our services in order to create such a tool. We were ecstatic to find out that such a taskforce has been created, and we’re eager to see their results and how this project will evolve!
This Emerging Leaders project was eye-opening in that I realized there aren’t a whole lot of tools out there specific to Youth Services that can easily convey to the public just how crucial we are to the children and families we serve and to society as a whole. Now it may be a stretch to say that librarians are responsible for creating a more educated, open minded public, but who’s to say that we don’t have an important role in doing so? If we can reach kids while they’re young, or at any age in between, and help them to love reading and learning, and that in turn leads them to value education, pursue higher degrees, think for themselves and continue to learn, wouldn’t that lead to a more educated society? :) I know now just how necessary advocating for Youth Services is, and that we need to take every opportunity to make sure that everyone else, too, realizes how important libraries, Youth Services, and reading are to help the children and people of our community shine even greater than they already do.

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Perfect Little Library, by Kelsey Cole-Burns

Perfect Little Library small

It is perhaps the hardest question to ask a children’s librarian, next to “Choose your favorite cat video.” Last week, our founder Cory Eckert asked the Storytime Underground group on Facebook to choose 5 picture books that every children’s collection absolutely must own. Choosing five is as hard as it sounds. There were calls of despair and general nail-biting as we were forced to choose just five. Phyllis Davis compared the tortuous exercise to “when you are at the YS Desk and have to watch the parent who tells their child they may only check out one book to take home!” What kind of monster would ask this?


Needless to say, we all survived and created a pretty stellar list, one that I would like to call the Perfect Little Library. Although there were some sneaky sixth additions, this was a great exercise in restraint and deep consideration for choosing your ultimate favorite picture books. As I chose my books, I had to choose five diverse books, weighing age appeal, cultural diversity, popular appeal, and literary merit.


Below are the most chosen books by 38 librarians around the U.S. What 5 picture books would you put in your perfect little library?

And below are books that received 1 vote, organized by author:

  • Alborough, Jez.   It’s the Bear
  • Allard, Harry.   Miss Nelson Is Missing
  • Andreae, Giles.   Giraffes Can’t Dance
  • Aylesworth, Jim.   The Gingerbread Man
  • Barnett, Mac.   Extra Yarn
  • Bottner, Barbara.   Miss Brooks Loves Books
  • Brett, Jan.   Annie and the Wild Animals
  • Brett, Jan.   The Mitten
  • Brown, Peter.   Children Make Terrible Pets
  • Burton, Virginia Lee.   mike mulligan
  • Campbell, Rod.   Dear Zoo
  • Carle, Eric.   Head to Toe
  • Carle, Eric.   The Very Busy Spider
  • Cousins, Lucy.   Peck Peck Peck
  • Cronin, Denise.   Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type
  • Deacon, Alexis.   Beegu
  • Degen, Bruce.   Jamberry
  • DePaola, Tomie.   Strega Nona
  • Dewdney, Anna.   Llama Llama Red Pajama
  • Eastman, P.D.   Are You My Mother?
  • Eastman, P.D.   Go Dog Go
  • Ehlert, Lois.   Eating the Alphabet
  • Falconer, Ian.   Olivia
  • Gag, Wanda.   Millions of Cats
  • Gaiman, Neil.   Chu’s Day
  • Galdone, Paul.   Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Garcia, Emma.   Toot, Toot, Beep, Beep
  • Goble, Paul.   The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
  • Grossman, Bill.   Donna O’neeshuck Was Chased By Some Cows
  • Haynes, Max.   In the Driver’s Seat
  • Henkes, Kevin.   Owen
  • Jenkins, Martin.   Can We Save the Tiger
  • Kasza, Keiko.   The Pig’s Picnic
  • Katz, Karen.   The Colors of Us
  • Keats, Ezra Jack.   Peter’s Chair
  • Leaf, Munro.   The Story of Ferdinand
  • Lee, Suzy.   Shadow
  • Lester, Helen.   Tacky the Penguin
  • Lionni, Leo.   Little Blue and Little Yellow
  • Macaulay, David.   black and white
  • McCloskey, Robert.   One Morning in Maine
  • Mosel, Ariene.   Tikki Tikki Tembo
  • Munsch, Robert.   The Paperbag Princess
  • Muth, Jon.   Three Questions
  • Piper, Watty.   The Little Engine that could
  • Prelutsky, Jack.   Read Aloud Rhymes For The Very Young
  • Rathmann, Peggy.   Officer Buckle and Gloria
  • Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan.   The Secret River
  • Scanlon, Liz.   All the World
  • Scarry, Richard.   What Do People Do All Day
  • Seuss, Dr.   Horton Hatches The Egg
  • Seuss, Dr.   My Many Colored Days
  • Seuss, Dr.   Red fish Blue fish
  • Shea, Bob.   Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great
  • Sierra, Judy.   Tasty Baby Bellybuttons
  • Sierra, Judy.   Wild About Books
  • Simont, Marc.   The Stray Dog
  • So, Meilo   Gobble Gobble Slip Slop
  • Taback, Simms.   There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
  • Tan, Shaun.   The Arrival
  • Thomas, Jan.   Can You Make a Scary Face
  • Thomas, Jan.   Rhyming Dust Bunnies
  • Van Allsburg, Chris.   Polar Express
  • Vorst, Judith.   Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day
  • Wadsworth, Olive.   Over in the Meadow
  • Watt, Melanie.   Scaredy Squirrel
  • Wheeler, Lisa.   Jazz Baby
  • Williams, Vera B.   A Chair for My Mother
  • Wilson, Karma.   The Cow Loves Cookies
  • Wood, Audrey.   The Napping House
  • Wood, Don.   Little Mouse the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear
  • Yolen, Jane.   How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight
  • Zimmerman, Andrea.   Trashy Town

Kelsey Cole-Burns is a Youth Services Librarian at Fremont Public Library in Mundelein, Illinois. You can visit her blog at

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TL;DR Advocacy- Pay it Forward

Today’s Boot on the Ground post comes for Julie Crabb. Julie majored in Theatre Performace and Secondary History/Government Education at the University of Kansas, but ended up falling in love with her first library job. Her main goal is to add a ton of movement, STEAM activities, and maybe even some pop music parodies into her storytimes at her new job!


TL;DR Advocacy













I may have just landed my dream job, but I have been a ninja in training for years.


You should prepare while you pursue…


Devour blogs written by those who have the same attitude as you. Get really into literacy and how you can impact a child’s life. Learn shaker songs and put a ukulele down on your Christmas list this year. Start bookmarking flannel board finds and STEAM station ideas. Read picture books to your loved ones and force them to do silly dances with you.


Let your goals be known. Be enthusiastic at every moment you get a glimpse of that dream job. Navigate the road bumps as they come alone, but don’t get defeated. Make sure that the right people know you are an advocate with some big ideas.


Once you get the job, pay it forward to the blogosphere that helped you get there.



Tell us your advocacy story in 149 word or less an 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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