Thursday, March 27, 2014

The importance of free play in the library

My deadline for summer reading club programs is next week.  For months I have been working the calendar to find a mix of paid presenters, movie showings, games, crafts, and wild-card activities for all age groups.  This is exhausting and I haven't reached June and July yet!

I had a major AH-HA moment yesterday, however.  I had a drop-in Lego program, where kids could just come in, have a snack, and play with Legos.  No structure. No rules (except no throwing or putting things up your nose). No guidelines.  No theme.

The Lego bin awaits!
So far, in my humble two months at this branch, this after-school program has been the biggest success story for this age group.  In the hour's time, I had more kids come in than many of my other programs combined.


Several parents stayed.  Kids asked when this was happening again.  Moms said they hoped I would do this all summer.  But wait!  I didn't do any prep work for this program!  I did no research or thinking about a theme!  This was on the calendar for only a couple of weeks and was kind-of a whim.

Sometimes the kids like structure.  I have had programs where I ask the kids what they would like to do and they stare back until I say "how about this?" and the program starts.  But not this time.  These kids came to play.  They came to meet up with their friends and just be together after school.  It was about being part of the community they lived and just being kids.  They formed their own groups, made their own stories (and freely shared them, YAY!), and had the best time. 

Lego programs are on my calendar this summer.....three of them.  I won't plan anything else but to have the Legos there and some Icee-Pops.  Maybe we will just have to do this every month after that.  Who knows?  This isn't about Legos, it is about allowing kids to just be kids, to be a part of the library doing something they love, and, after a long day at school, to not be directed in their activities.  It could be drawing or play dough, or sidewalk chalk, or dance - anything that allows kids a little free, unstructured play in their day.  I think it is time for me to think more about free play in the library.  I wonder what else we can do?

As a post script, I saw this excellent post on ALSC twitter feed.  It goes into great detail the concept of Play in the Public Library!  Check it out!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book Spine Poetry - Middle School Book Club!

Did you know April is National Poetry Month?  A few weeks ago I came across a blog post by Travis Jonker on 100 Scope Notes (an SLJ blog) about Book Spine Poetry.  He was calling out for submissions, and I thought this would be a great activity to do with my middle school book club (grades 6-8)!

I showed them an example and set them free in the YA area of the library.  Here are some examples of what they came up with:

("Gorgeous/ Lucky/ Brilliant/ Smile")
*Cute and simple, I like it!

("Fact of Life #31/ Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet/ Skinny/
Withering Tights/ Geek Magnet")

("Confessions of a Serial Kisser/ I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader/
My Name is Not Easy/ My Mother is a French Fry")

("I'm with Stupid/ Beauty Queens/ Flirt Club")
*Hillarious, btw!

("The Adventures of Tom Sawyer/ The Killer's Cousin/ Impossible")

("The Orange Houses/ After the Moment/ Moonrise/ Midnight/
The End of the World")

("Blood Wound/ Death Sentence/ Okay for Now")

("What Are You Afraid Of?/ The Disappeared/ So.B.It")
*This one's pretty good!

("Fat Angie/ Struck by Lightning/ The Hunger Games")
To be honest, this didn't go as well as I had imagined.  We had already spent about 40 minutes discussing our book of the month, and the kids were pretty wound up.  Some of them went sprinting out of the room to grab books before I had fully explained what we were doing, and they succeeded in making a pretty huge mess of our YA area.  Even though I told them they had to put everything back, I was finding stacks of books just shoved on shelves afterwards, so I wasn't too happy about that.  In the future I think we might do this activity at the beginning of a meeting, rather than the end, before I fill them up with lots of sugar :)  Still, it was a fun activity to try, and I just emailed our submissions in, so I will be excited if they end up posted in the 2014 gallery! 
 Be sure to visit 100 Scope Notes to learn how to do this yourself!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Teen Tech Week 2014

March 9-15th was Teen Tech Week.  For most of that week I was away at the PLA, but before I headed out, I got my TAG group together to build "Doodling Robots" at one of our meetings!

I can't claim responsibility to buying these kits since this activity was prepared ahead of time by my predecessor.  We had three kits to work with, which is perfect for the size of my current regular TAG kids.  I normally have between three to six kids regularly attending, which, for the size of my community, isn't too bad.  They ripped open the kits and enthusiastically built the bots.  Of course, they had to try them out and even let them 'battle.'

For the rest of the week, we had them on display behind the reference desk, where any of the after school kids, and even the curious adults, could check one out with some paper and play around with them.  By adjusting the pens, the bots could doodle in a circle, or bop along randomly.
The after school crowd as particularly fascinated.  We used the bots at the end of the week as prizes for participation (volunteering), so the bots got loving new homes.  Programs like this requiring little effort or maintenance can be well received in your community.  Sometimes the unexpected is what the kids in my library are looking for!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bookworms Book Club - Green Eggs and Ham!

The Bookworms Book Club just celebrated its one-year anniversary! This book club for Kindergartners through 2nd graders has been such a fun and rewarding program, and I just can't say enough how much I love these little kids!

We celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday this month with my FAVORITE Seuss book: Green Eggs and Ham!

Of course, we needed snacks.  Like green eggs:
(sugar cookies, frosted white, with a green Mega M&M)
And rainbow Goldfish crackers, because why not?

We also needed awesome eggy nametags:
(These were just drawn free-hand.  I had teen volunteers help me cut out the pieces and I glued them together.)

We always sit and read the book together at the beginning of the meeting.  I think Green Eggs is fun to try to read really really fast, and they thoroughly enjoyed my getting completely tongue-tied several times!

On to the games! I cut out printouts of a bunch of Seuss characters from various books, and pinned the books' titles to our bulletin board.  The kids had to place the characters up on the board with their proper titles.  Some were easy like The Cat in the Hat and Sam-I-Am, while others were less known, such a Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose and the Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz from Dr. Seuss' ABC.  They did a great job and helped each other when they weren't sure!

"What's that giant green ham for?", you ask! Why, it's the Seuss version of "pin the tail on the donkey!"  The kids used their egg nametags (with a piece of tape on the back), and "pinned" them to the board.  As a blindfold, I borrowed a big red Sam-I-Am hat from a coworker, and it fit perfectly over the kid's faces.  Even without being able to see, they did a pretty good job!  They had a blast with this and wanted to try it over and over to get their egg closer to the ham!
(This was just drawn free-hand on green paper, and glued on to the "tray," which is white paper, colored gray. This idea came from Seussville.)

We always finish with a craft, and this month they made a set of Dr. Seuss "Memory" cards to play at home.  "Memory" (or "Concentration") is just a simple game where you flip cards over, two at a time, until you find a match.  If your two cards match, you keep them, but if they do not match, you have to flip them back over.  I made these cards myself and printed them on cardstock.  The kids cut them out, and decorated little cardboard boxes (they look like Chinese takeout boxes) to keep them in (We just happened to have these so I used them!).  We had Dr. Seuss stickers and markers to decorate with.  

I searched high and low for a Green Eggs and Ham craft and never found anything I liked for this age group, so I ended up coming up with this myself.  I think the kids enjoyed making it and I like the idea that they went home with a new game to play.

This monthly program is always a blast, and really gets kids excited about reading!  I had 8 attendees this month (this is average), which is a very manageable size.  We had a lot of fun celebrating Dr. Seuss and can't wait until our next meeting! 

Next month we are reading Fancy Nancy Sees Stars by Jane O'Connor.  See you then!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fish Fingers and Custard - A Whovians Club Adventure

Whovian noun
 A fan of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who:
as a fan from way back, Barrowman is well aware of just how passionate Whovians are about everything ‘Who’
-- Oxford Dictionaries

I am a HUGE Doctor Who fan and super excited to start a group for teens that share my enthusiasm for everything related to the Doctor.  Unfortunately I missed the inaugural meeting of this epic new group, but I was back and ready to go for the second!

Looking back for a moment..  The first club meeting got things going by making bowties!  Because bowties are cool.. 
These awesome bowties were completely no sew.  I slightly altered this bowtie making tutorial to make them easy and quick to do!  And a GIANT thank you to Miss Kristen for filling in for me!  I appreciate her willingness to jump in and learn who Rose Tyler is..  The teens asked Miss Kristen if they could make fezzes at the next meeting.  She said she would pass the message on to me.  And I said CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Duct tape fezzes!  Both stylish and fun to make!  If fezzes are cool, then duct tape fezzes are AWESOME!  I found this tutorial on how to make homemade fezzes.  It was a little too involved and required a sewing machine.  I used the patterns they provided and traced them out on cardstock and covered the whole thing in duct tape.  A bit of yarn poked through the top made a great tassel.

I think they turned out wonderful and the teens looked amazing!
I would like each club meeting to include a game or challenge so this month's was all about the monsters of Doctor Who.  I pinned these bad guys on the board and challenged the teens to information on who they were and when they first appeared on the show.  They knew them all, even some episode titles!  (Images found from googling each character on the Internet)
The highlight of this club meeting was the snack!  Fish Fingers and Custards!  (Shhh... It was really fish sticks and vanilla pudding!)  They actually scooped their custard with the fish fingers.  I love the 11th Doctor, but I don't think I would eat like him.  Gross!  But they loved it!

One of the teens made up a game to play.  His version of Guess Who.. He called it Doctor Who!  They took turns picking a character and the others asked yes or no questions in order to guess WHO?!  It was awesome to discover how much they really know about the show.  And I learned that I will have to up the skill level on future games! 

I really enjoyed this group of teens.  They are smart and witty and got along incredibly well for not knowing each other.  I am looking forward to future meetings with them and excited about the adventures we will have alongside the Doctor!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Rubber Band Bracelets, anyone?

Sometime back in December, I bought a bag of rubber bands.  You know, the ones that you can loom all kinds of bracelets and other creations with.  I wanted to see what they were all about.  Soon after I learned my first simple weave, I was in my library when a bunch of teens were milling about and starting to get restless.  I brought them over for a 10 minute lesson and gave them a fistful of bands.  For 15-20 minutes, those kids were not thinking about running around and what they would do to kill time.  Win-Win.

Fast forward to January, and me starting my new job as the sole Children's Librarian in a new village. I made lots of bracelets to wear up my arm, because I knew kids would comment on them.  They did, and I shared my bracelets with them.  Then kids were stopping by my desk for bands.  Then they were teaching me new techniques.  Then they started asking for programs!

So this month, we had a Rubber Band Loom In.  This is a very small community, so 13 girls at an after-school program is pretty exciting.  They marched in with their looms, their cases of bands, and their enthusiasm to share what they knew with each other. "Look what I made!" or "Sit here, Ill show you how" for a solid hour.  I had to kick them out when their parents showed up!

The reason I share what seems to be an obvious idea is this:  For about $1, you can buy 300 bands and 12 clips.  For $10 you can get a loom, instructions, and bands.  You can loom on your fingers, two pencils, or in ways I haven't even tried yet.  The value of the bracelets though, lie in the connections you can make with your pre-teens.  You are showing them the common ground.  You are learning their names, finding out their likes, and allowing them to see you as a cool new friend. Priceless.

I can't wait to do this program again.  New fads are sometimes just that.  Fads.  But fads like this can add so much value to the library, when you see kids so excited to come over, and you see parents so grateful that the girls are laying down their cell phones and actually hanging out and talking to one another.  Very cool.