Author Archives: Amy Koester

Recap of Guerrilla Storytime at Kids First, by Erin Silva

On May 5, 2015, I hosted a Guerrilla Storytime at the Kids First conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The session began with a brief introduction of the Storytime Underground and Guerrilla Storytime movement. I read the “Meet the Corps” section of the website because I believe passionately that “Literacy is NOT a luxury” – and we’ve got to recognize and remind ourselves that the work we do is vital. Then we began with my favorite opener – “Clap your hands”:

Clap your hands,
Touch your toes,
Turn around and
Touch your nose,
Flap your arms and
Jump up high!
Wiggle your fingers and
Reach for the sky!


Q: What do you do when a kid throws up in the middle of storytime? (Because that just happened to me two weeks previously!)
*Move everyone out of the way, and out of the area if possible
*Have another grown-up cordon off the area
*Sing a “distracting” song, like “We are the Dinosaurs” by Laurie Berkner
*I ended up having all the kids stand up while I very enthusiastically read a Clifford book to distract them from the action behind them…


Q: Themes or no Themes when planning storytime?
*Yes, because it helps with preparation, especially when doing multiple storytimes
*No, because the kids always want to check out the books we read and it’s hard to say no
*Some librarians blog about the storytimes after the fact, and then the list of books read is listed for grown-ups to check out later – this evolved into a conversation about hand-outs after storytime. Some do, some don’t. In lieu of a craft every week, I hand out a coloring sheet that has something to do with our storytime. We only do craft once a month.


Q: Puppets or no puppets?
*There was a large groan with this one…some of us have a real love/hate relationship with puppets. However – I explained that Mr. Foxy only comes out at the beginning when we do “Clap your Hands” and at the end when we do our goodbye chant. He then gives out hugs to any child who wants one.
*One librarian come forward and sang “When______ gets up in the morning” (So ducks get up in the morning, they always say quack quack!) She pulls out a puppet or stuffed animal to go along with the song.
*Another librarian shared how she reads/has memorized “Who Ate All the Cookie Dough” by Karen Beaumont. Each time there is another animal accused, that animal puppet is shown.
*Using a “Poetry Puppet” – this puppet comes out to introduce the poem of the day in storytime
*Bringing out a special puppet when singing “Come along and sit and read” (Tune of London Bridge)


Q: How do you incorporate “Learning” in storytime?”
*Point out letters in the room, and tell parents to point letters out in the grocery store
*Send home a take home sheet with early literacy activities
*Mailbox – put items, like letters that spell out a word, in a play mailbox and spell out words on a flannel board
*There was a discussion about bringing in outside partners but in that particular instance, it was too much of a time commitment for the parents, so it fizzled out. Group consensus was it was better to do “one-shot” outreach than a 6-week commitment


Q: The talkative parents…dun, dun, dun!
*Iowa children’s librarians are really into Iowa-nice public shaming! Suggestions included:

Waiting on parents to stop talking before continuing the story
Praising the kids for being such good listeners and then waiting
Having the kids find their grown-up and then all sit together
Make sure the grown-ups participate with the kids


Q: The disruptive child and the unresponsive parent
*The general feedback for this was to gently tell the parent that it’s okay to take the child out of the room/area until they are ready to come back in. It’s okay to leave – we want storytime to be a positive experience for everyone involved. Sometimes parents and caregivers think they must make the child stay and need some helpful encouragement to understand that really, it’s okay to leave and try again.

We ended by dancing to Laurie Berkner’s “Shake Your Body Down,” my favorite way to end toddler time!




Erin Silva is a Youth Services Librarian at Kahona (IA) Public Library.

Guerrilla Storytime Recap: Massachusetts Library Association Conference 2015

IMG_0028The intrepid Ashley Waring alerted us to the fact that she helped throw a terrific Guerrilla Storytime earlier this week as part of the 2015 Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference. We love it when y’all host Guerrilla Storytimes at your local events, and we’d love to support you to do more of them! You can always email us for more information, or check out our Guerrilla Storytime page on this very site. Make sure to let us know when you’re planning a Guerrilla Storytime!


Without further ado, the glorious peer-learning from Massachusetts!


Hello song: (sung to tune of “farmer in the dell”)
Hello my friends, Hello
Hello my friends, Hello
Hello my friends, hello my friends, hello my friends hello.


Q: What do you do with siblings?
Older siblings – let them have their own baby, let them model for younger kids, notice when they’re being good and congratulate them
Incorporate a peek-a-boo game even with an older group because younger siblings like it


Q: Registration v Drop In?
Sometimes you have to do drop-in because of staffing issues
Sign-ups hard because life is too unpredictable
If you do a craft, sign-up is good so that you know how much to prepare
Put out a basket with name tags, first 15 kids can attend storytime – this also encourages families to show up on time
Do 2 storytimes with small break in between, so if someone gets turned away from first one, they can attend second


Q: How do you accommodate for twins in babytime?
Give alternatives to motion, like peek-a-boo instead of lift up child
Tickling is good because you can tickle a few kids at once


Q: Favorite welcome or closing song?:
Make gallup sound on lap or bounce baby: Horsey horsey gone away, we’ll play together another day, so let your tail go swish and your wheels go round, giddyup we’re homeward bound
“Glad to see you” by Peter and Ellen Allerd
Older kids: Laurie Berkner “These are my glasses”
Toddlers: Laurie Berkner “Blow a kiss”
Goodbye friends song with signs: Goodbye friends, goodbye friends, goodbye friends, it’s time to blow some bubbles (with sign language) Jbrary:


Q: How do you do writing skills in storytime?
Coloring, writing – like filling in a blank “My favorite color is _________”
Brainstorm with group before storytime.  You write what they say so they understand that spoken word equals print, also good to assess their prior knowledge about the topic you’ll be doing
Do a group drawing activity. Everyone adds to a scribble drawing on the board.


Q: What is your favorite way to use scarves?
Wave them around to Raffi’s “shake my sillies out”
“Peek a boo, I see you, hiding behind your scarf. Peek-a-boo!”
We wave our scarves together, because it’s fun to do
One bright scarf, waiting for the wind to blow. Wave it up high, wave it down low. Put it behind your back, where did it go?
Popcorn kernels song from Jbrary
Shaker song but can do with scarves: shake your shakers high, shake your shakers low, shake them to your side, shake them on your head, and then you go to bed


Q: Favorite way to use a parachute?
Innies and outies game: parents wave the chute and kids run under then out
Sing: “1 little two little 3 little bubbles, pop those pop those pop those bubbles…” kids sit on it and parents sit around and shake it and make the air bubbles – great for parent involvement
Have kids try to move the item to a particular color on the ‘chute
Rolled up socks as balls was a hit for something to shake
Running under can be a challenge because of kids getting crazy, crashing into each other
At PJ storytime – put paper stars on ‘chute and they fly around, then kids can gather them up
At teddy bear picnic – put their stuffed animals on and shake them off
Can use ‘chute for old MacDonald – put stuffed animal on there to sing about


Q: A fire truck pulls up outside and everyone runs to look. What do you do?
Hurry hurry drive the firetruck, ding ding ding ding ding – song


Q: A child says I don’t like that book. What do you do? – turned into heckling share time ☺
I’m sorry, maybe you’ll like the next story!
Change the story! Kid who said “that’s not safe!” about what characters were doing, so librarian instead shared the book and they talked about safe v. unsafe.
When working with kids: tell, don’t ask. If you ask, they think it’s a choice and it may not go your way!


Q: How do you use technology?
If it’s an all ipad storytime, advertise it separately so parents know what they’re getting
Project lyrics to songs for larger groups
Put all your music on itunes, create playlists, but be careful not to get a cheap speaker system or dock because you need it to be loud enough for a room full of kids
What is that animal game? Using an animal sounds app


Q: No one is dancing with you, what do you do?
Make it a “copy me” game or song
Give them props to dance with
Give them a speech: “You are your child’s first role model.  They are learning from you, not from me”


Q: Favorite felt or flannel activity?
A big felt humpty dumpty, after they say the rhyme the kids get a turn pulling him off the board
Brown bear, brown bear flannel – have the kids retell the story
Mouse behind a house flannel, can also do a fox in a box
If kids don’t get a turn with felt, let them be the ones to help clean up the felt story


Q: How do you deal with snacks at storytime?
Other kids with snacks are very distracting – try talking to parents about not bringing them
Allergies are a problem


Q: How to engage reluctant grownups?
Tell kids “Find your grown up! Can your grown up clap? Where’s your grown-up’s nose?”
Say at beginning “Turn off phone.  If you’re engaged, they’ll be engaged.” Then if need be remind parents midway thru.
Hand the grown-up a prop and make them take it and use it.
Ask kids “I hear some voices. Does anyone else hear voices?”: shame grown ups into being quiet.
Use the word “caregiver” or “grown-up” instead of “parents” so that nannies, aunts, etc. don’t feel off the hook


Q: What is your favorite song?
watermelon, papaya, banana, fruit salad – shake and move
tea break: here’s a cup and here’s a cup, and here’s a pot of tea, pour a cup and pour a cup, then have a drink with me
First you spread the peanut butter, then you spread the jam, put a piece bread on top, and eat up all you can, then you take your sticky fingers and you wipe them on your pants, and you do a little wiggle for the peanut butter dance
bananas chant: (a few variations)
bananas unite!, peel banana peel peel banana, slice banana slice slice banana, mash banana mash mash banana, go bananas!
Form banana form form banana, peel banana peel peel banana, go bananas!
Can do other fruits, too!: form apple then eat, form corn then shuck & pop, mash potato, squeeze orange, pick & smash grapes

Hey, why don’t you… encourage summer “doing” for pre-readers?

Hey why don't youI would guess that it’s a rare library that doesn’t offer some sort of summer reading initiative. A huge proportion of those SRP libraries, I would guess, also offer some sort of summer literacy program for pre-readers, whether it’s the same program as for older kids or something designed specifically for 0-5s. How many libraries, though, have thought about supplementing summer reading for pre-readers with summer “doing”?


That’s exactly what the Arlington Heights Memorial Library did in summer 2014. They put together “Summer Reading, Summer Doing” program cards for 0-5s, packed with great ideas to encourage caregivers to engage in early literacy activities with their children. I love these types of programs for caregivers of young children when they include lists of activity options–it acknowledges that all children this young can be vastly different, and what activity is great for one particular little one may bomb with another. All the activities! All the literacy!

Awesome materials provided to me by Lindsay D. Huth, formerly of AHML and now with Arapahoe Library District.

Awesome materials provided to me by Lindsay D. Huth, formerly of AHML and now with Arapahoe Library District.

Bonus: AHML also handed out cards to program participants during each week of their program. For 0-2s, these cards offered tips for caregivers on how they can do simple things to stimulate early literacy skill development. For 0-3s, these cards each had a simple, excellent activity idea that could be easily replicated a home, either for free or with inexpensive household supplies. Think a balance activity using a hanger, string, and cups; making play dough; digging for “worms” in pudding; and more. Families who participated throughout the entire summer ended up with a complete booklet of age-appropriate activities for “summer doing”–having fun with early literacy benefits. What a great initiative!


So, hey, why don’t you think about how you can incorporate some summer doing at your library this summer? It could be for any age, formal or informal, part of a program or an at-home activity–possibilities are bounded only by your imagination. Get doing!

We’re 3 Months In for 2015–How go your resolutions?

Resolve to Rock meme imageAt the beginning of this calendar year, lots of you shared great posts and comments about how you Resolve to Rock in 2015. Now that we’re three months in, we figure it’s time to check in. How are your resolutions going? Where could you use more peer support and/or encouragement?


One of the beautiful things about the Storytime Underground community, both here on the website and on the Facebook Group, is the camaraderie–the guarantee that there are tons of library service folks who are going through, or have gone through, similar feats and struggles as you. Tap that resource! Ask questions, share ideas, and give encouragement. You’re all doing some amazing things.


And if you feel like reporting on the progress of your professional resolutions for 2015, please share in the comments! We’re here to support you all the way.

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!