I’m sort of starting the blog thing over at this address…


I copied over some of what I thought were more relevant posts. This new blog will also feature booklists for children readers and librarians alike.

My co-worker who did the creative program lost interest.  So I swept in with a new type of creative writing program.

The quick backstory.  Three other employees and myself started a zine collection at the downtown branch where we work.  You can read all about it here – http://jplzinelibrary.wordpress.com/.  One element of this to appreciate is a zine collection’s rarity in public library systems, only a handful of public library collections such as this exist in the country.

I started a creative writing and artistry class for kids ages 8-13.  At our weekly meetings we work on various projects for submission to a quarterly published  zine we create.  This zine is something that will be cataloged in the zine collection at my branch.

Writing Prompts…
Sample writing…

Collage projects…

With haiku…

Collage and haiku…

The local paper did a small write up on the program, too!

So far I’ve only held two of the classes, but the turnout has been decent and myself and the kids are looking forward to the first finished publication.

What would a storytime about ducks be without a fun craft and some duck songs?

I Had a Little Ducky
I had a little ducky,
He lived in a box.
He swam in a puddle,
He climbed on the rocks.
He snapped at a mosquito,
He snapped at a flea,
He snapped at a minnow,
And he snapped at me!
He caught the mosquito,
He caught the flea,
He caught the minnow,
But he couldn’t catch me!

Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play
Five little ducks went out to play
Over the hills and far away.
Mama duck said,
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
And only four little ducks came back.

The Ducks on the Bus
The ducks on the bus went quack quack quack.
Quack quack quack, quack quack quack.
The ducks n the bus went quack quack quack.
All through the town.

The ducks on the bus went flap flap flap….
The ducks on the bus went waddle waddle waddle.


Creative Writing

creativewritingA co-worker of mine has a program called Creative Writing.  It’s for children ages 6 to 12 and happens every week.  It’s pretty minimal work for such a fun kid program, AND it’s educational.

Anyway here’s a collection of writing prompts to help you get your own creative writing program off the ground.

Sea Monster writing prompt

Pretend you live in a house on the edge of a lake, river, or ocean.  Beneath those waters you have seen something moving…something big.  You decide to take your video camera out to the edge of the water to see if you can capture a moving image of the mysterious thing under the water.  Out of nowhere the beast jumps out of the water and snatches the camera out of your hands with its mouth- making your camera into a tasty snack.  So now, you have witnessed something extraordinary– but you have no way to prove it.  Before you forget what you have seen, you take out a notebook and begin to write a detailed account of what you witnessed.  You describe the beast from top to bottom.

Once you have written a full-page description of the sea-monster, you take out some art supplies and try to create an image of the monster.

This is the beginning of your monster diary and your obsession with seeing the beast again…

Your writing mission:  Write a full-page description of the sea-monster you saw.  Be as detailed as possible- describing every body part, every color, every sound, and everything to do with the beast.  Once you have written a full page, use the art supplies to create an image of the beast.  Does your writing match your image?  Could we read your writing without seeing your artwork and still understand what the beast looks like?  Your goal is to be as descriptive with your words as you would be with your art.

Summer Toy Invention writing prompt

You are a Toy Inventor and you are designing the company’s newest Summer Toy.  It is going to be an outdoor toy, designed to get people very wet.  However, the company wants this toy to be something completely different than anything ever before!

Your writing mission:  Design the coolest water-toy the world has ever seen and describe it all in an essay.  Tell what it looks like, how it works, how much it will cost, what ages it is for, and where you use it.  This essay should be so detailed that people will want to run out and buy the new water-toy!

The Apprentice Story writing prompt

Pretend you are living in a society where parents help prepare their children for a prosperous future by finding them an apprenticeship.  An apprentice is a person who legally binds his or herself to a master tradesman to learn a specific trade.  For example, a person could become an apprentice to an Electrician to learn the electrical trade.  Or a Blacksmith could take on an apprentice to teach them how to forge metal.  You could even be a chef’s apprentice and learn how to cook gourmet meals!

Think about what kind of trade you would like to learn.  It doesn’t have to be a realistic trade.  You could be a wizard’s apprentice or a dragon tamer’s apprentice.  Use your imagination to the fullest!  However- remember to be as detailed as possible in your description of your daily routine.  When you wake up in the morning how does your day begin?  What kinds of tasks do you have to perform during your day?  What challenges you?  What do you have to wear?  What types of tools do you need for your trade, if any?

Write a log of your daily activities with your Master Tradesman.  Start from sunrise and describe the day until bedtime.

At my library we have Saturday Surprise once a week. It’s a program for children 6-12.   Months in advance, you sign up for which Saturday you’d like.  Anyway, my latest Saturday Surprise program was about Bicycle Safety and Repair.

I contacted the Baptist Medical Safe Kids program and they agreed to come out to talk about bike safety, show a safety video, and fit and give out twenty free bike helmets.

Then I contacted my friends who volunteer at a Bicycle Co-Op called Zombie Bikes.   I knew these people because my record store (now closed – http://deadtank.wordpress.com) shared a building with the bike shop, and helped to sponsor the retail space for Zombie in it’s infancy.  Anyway, the Zombie bike volunteers were very excited about coming out and teaching the kids some simple repair techniques for bikes, as well as just learning the parts of the bike.

The class was limited to twenty, and easily had enough people sign up. Below is a copy of the flyer advertising the class.


Here are some photos from the class. These were taken by Jenny from Jaxscene.






Here is the link to more photos at Jaxscene.

Click on the photo and it leads to more in the flickr account.

Also, the Bikejax people were also there and took some pictures.

We’re planning on having the Zombie Bikes people back soon – hopefully turning this into a regular program on bike safety and repair for kids.

Try something similar at your branch!  Many local bike shops would jump at the chance for the free publicity!

Using Props!


Bringing in props is a great way to spice up your storytime.  After a while the most enthusiastic blend of puppets, songs, and new fingerplays may seem stale – either to you as the presenter, or the caregiver’s parents.  Simple things you take for granted in your household fascinate children (and sometimes parents).  Start bringing these into the storytime arena.

Here are some examples of some simple props and what to do with them.

Apples – You can do a storytime about apples, or if you need a broader topic fruit or food.  Bring in a variety of colors.  You can play games sequencing the apples; placing them in a row thusly – red, red green, red, red, green, red, red… and asking which one comes next.  Use other sequences too!  Big to small.  You can also talk about how some apples are the same and some are diffeent.  You can slice them in half and talk about the seeds, and how they make a tree.  At the end of storytime, every child can take home one apple.  Remember to remind them to wash it before eating!

Records / Record Player – I have a big record collection, and in my kitchen at home I have an old record player.  I listen to music when I’m cooking and eating breakfast in the morning.  Well the morning before my “Shapes” storytime was happening I was eating breakfast and DUH – “records are circles!”  And perfect for musical storytimes.  I brought in the record player and a kids record I had.  We did the “Hokey Pokey” from it, and talked about how records and CDs are different and the same.

Musical Instruments – I play a few different instruments- and they always make good props (even if you can’t play them well).  Whatever you play well can be used with songs you sing. Anything else can be used for comparing and contrasting.  Remember to talk about the different sounds!  I’ve brought in acoustic guitars, electric guitars and a banjo.  Next week I’m bringing in my drum set for my advanced guitar class.  I’ll keep them at the library an extra day and then use them for my Toddler Power Hour.  We’ll be talking comparing them, talking about the sounds of big drums and small drums (and cymbals!)  and every child will get to play them.

food Food. Everyone loves it!

…Or used to love it at one point.  Often, as we’re growing up, we’re told a lot about ‘what to eat’ – followed rather quickly by, ‘what not to eat.’  These two lists grow more complex and lengthy with every passing year.

Fortunately the innocence of children perseveres in this world of diet fads and scientists quietly retreating from the lipid hypothesis**.  And teaching them a few simple rules about food will surely do more good than harm.  Last Thursday led me to do just that.

The picture here depicts a game I played with my toddler group.   During storytime, each child received one of these food products.  We talked about each food a little bit. What we like, what we don’t.  I gave a few examples of what I eat sometimes and what I eat always.  They I called up the children to put their food on the board either in the “eat sometimes” column or the “eat always” column.

This activity was easy enough to prepare and execute, and if left a lot of room open for silly jokes.  “Not quite right – although I bet everyone in here would like to eat a cupcake often,” etc…  Parents always enjoy silly jokes.  Storytime the kids love? …Great! Storytime the kids and parents love? … Super awesome great!  The parents should enjoy the program too.  Last I heard, these kids aren’t driving themselves to storytime.

Here are some other quick and easy activities I use for this theme.

After I introduce a new vegetable to the pot we sing this song. We talk about vegetable names, colors and I tell them my favorites (typically tubers).  This song is sung over and over until the soup is done.  Have the children make a stirring motion.  If you have a favorite puppet you use, have them try the finished product.

The Soup Is Boiling Up

The soup is boiling up,
The soup is boiling up,
Stir slow around we go,
The soup is boiling up.

This apple tree song is pretty basic.  A flannel board of a tree and five apples is a good visual, but you don’t have to have it.  I put visual instructions after each phrase in parenthesis.

Way Up High In the Apple Tree.

Way up high in the apple tree, (point up high)
Five little apples smiled at me, (show five fingers and smile)
So I shook that tree as hard as I could, (act like you are shaking a tree)
Down came an apple…Mmm, it was good! (motion an apple falling to the ground, and rub you tummy)

**A small footnote book recommendation for a small book with small ideas but big execution – “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan.  If you eat food, I can’t recommend this book enough. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Clear, fresh and compelling writing, with a flair for balancing witticism and eye-opening facts.  Other books I love by him (yes, I’ve read them all) are “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire.”  Let us to begin to have our storytimes reflect not just fun and education, but also ourselves.

Library Field Day

Last month I had the idea to do a Library “Field Day”, you know – relay races, cotton candy, etc. Well I’ll be the first person to admit that this program wasn’t given my all. Despite the obviously hurdle of our downtown branch having no field, I started off ready to do all the paperwork to get a rock climbing wall donated and have everything from snow cones to the tradition egg toss. I was so pumped.

I quickly realized I had little time to accomplish this and even less time to plan or my Fall toddler music and movement programs, and modify the guitar lesson outline for the new November students. Readily acknowledging my time constraints, I needed a quick out.

I found a Kid’s Gym in town called My Gym. I called them up, mentioned what I’d like to see happen for Field Day, and they said they’d show up to do health and workout related games with the kids. Since I hadn’t met these coaches or seen them do programs, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this place. But I was hopeful and had my fingers crossed.

I called up one of the local Smoothie King franchises. And they said they could donate 90 free smoothies. I was excited about that for a week straight, knowing it’d help get people in the door. My excitement subsided when I called to remind them of the event and they bailed. Four days before the program and all I had was a kids gym I knew little about.

I used leftover gift card money from a donation Publix made for my Pizza Taste Off and bought 100 Capri Suns. I also called every smoothie place in town. The day before the event, Planet Smoothie gave me 50 coupons for a free smoothie to pass out to the kids.

The planning was as good as I could get it. My Gym showed up 30 minutes early to set up the multipurpose room downstairs. And with cold Capri Suns waiting for the program’s end, I witnessed nearly 70 people come into the multipurpose room and have a great time. I couldn’t recommend the My Gym coaches enough as someone to bring in to help with a program. Check out the pictures below and see for yourself.


The fist two photos I took, and the last two were taken by Jenny Kalota from local blog Jax Scene.

Jax Scene also made a few videos of the event. The one linked below is my favorite. As the kids move the parachute, the coach is underneath it with a shark puppet. If he grabs the child’s leg they have to yell for a parent, who are lifeguards in the game, to come and rescue them.

Check it out here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaxscene/3018132606/in/set-72157608797531778/

Turkey Display

We have these sets of giant wooden cubes in our department.  Every month or so they need to be reinvented into a display with some relation to a program coming up, or in this case, a holiday.  My co-worker Stephanie Miller did this turkey display, and before it was even done I was asking her if I can get photos of it for my blog.


This is definitely one of the better displays that has come from these cubes. It’s creative and obvious what it is, but also simple and allows for plenty of room for the books to be displayed.  Incorporating bookends into the displays helps to ensure it is always well stocked with Thanksgiving favorites.

Jacksonville Public Library employee and photographer hobbyist Carol Bailey was in our department the day after Stephanie finished the display.  She said she’d take the phot and email it to me, so the photo credit belongs to her.

 I love this time of year.   Storytimes about monsters rule, hands down. We can do things about fall and the weather all season long – but don’t waste those last two weeks of October on that!  Kids love monsters.
I’ll have some more monster programming things up soon. But for now, here are some goulish fingerplays and songs for your younger franken-kids.




Ten Little Monsters
One little, two little, three little, Monsters
Four little, five little, six little, Monsters
Seven little, eight little, nine little, Monsters
Ten Monsters can’t scare me.

Ten little, nine little, eight little, Monsters
Seven little, six little, five little, Monsters
Four little, three little, two little, Monsters
One Monster can’t scare me.

Monster, Monster
Monster, Monster, turn around
Monster, Monster, touch the ground
Monster, Monster, show your shoe
Monster, Monster, How old are you?
Monster, Monster, reach up high
Monster, Monster, blinks you eyes
Monster, Monster, slap your knees
Monster, Monster, sit down please.

If you ever see a Monster
(it’s easy, you just make faces with the kids)
If you ever see a Monster
A big ugly monster
If you ever see a Monster
Here’s what you do!
Make this face…
And this face…
And this face…
And this face…
If you ever see a monster
Make sure you shout BOO!!!

What Do Monsters Do?
What do monsters do?
They stretch and touch their toes.
What do monsters do?
They comb their purple hair.
What do monsters do?
They stick out their green tongues.
What do monsters do?
They brush their teeth with a broom.
What do monsters do?
They rub their yellow eyes.
What do monsters do?
They wiggle their orange ears.
Boy, am I glad that I’m not a monster!