Monday, November 24, 2014

Baby Storytime Top Five

Done right, storytime is more fun than a barrel of monkeys 
When I started as Youth Services Director at Columbus Public Library in early 2013, we lacked programs for ages 0-2. I worked to develop and implement a weekly baby storytime, and having never done a baby storytime before, I had my work cut out for me! So here are…

Five things I want to share about baby storytime
  1. Gettin’ jiggy with … research. I spent a lot of time reading information about how to create baby storytimes, best practices, early literacy information, and good rhymes/songs/bounces. Pretty much all of my research was online. The South Central Library System’s resources, Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy, and storytime blogs (especially Mel’s Desk) were helpful places to start.
  2. Repetition is key! I read that one librarian uses the same storytime three weeks in a row, and decided to follow suit. The repetition is fantastic for little ones, but I learned it’s also a wonderful way to help caregivers get to know and feel comfortable with the songs and rhymes we sing. Plus, as the only full-time dedicated YS person, it made the workload very manageable.
  3. Pay attention to what’s right for your families, and make changes accordingly. Initially I imposed a rule that storytime wouldn’t allow siblings, but quickly (like, after the first week) realized no siblings = no attendance. Many interested patrons had more than one child, and needed to bring siblings along.
    Adapt storytime to work for children and families
     I changed the rules, and started keeping extra puppets on hand so older siblings could participate. This provided a super fun opportunity for older brothers and sisters to role model. Eventually, the older ones just expected a puppet and adored the chance to show off their storytime skills.
  4. Get system support. I already mentioned that SCLS has great informational resources, but they also offer board book kits to member libraries. The kits consist of 10-20 copies of the same book – an excellent opportunity for weekly group read-alouds. What materials, ideas, information, or moral support does your system supply?
  5. Look silly, make mistakes, and know it’s okay. As a new librarian, I felt especially nervous about doing things “wrong” or looking silly (or worse, clueless) in front of parents. What if I messed up words to a song? What if I accidentally skipped a page during our group-read aloud and confused everyone?

    Both of those and more happened, and of course, everyone was kind and gracious and did not give me mean looks (a true fear). I became comfortable with bloopers and quickly saw that if I just laughed them off, so did everyone else.

Baby Storytime became one of my most fulfilling library activities, and I’m happy to say it has continued to thrive. Good luck and great work to all of you out there working to support early literacy in any way you can, whether that’s storytime or something else!

Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, Youth Services Librarian
LaCrosse Public Library, La Crosse, WI
(formerly Youth Services Director at Columbus Public Library in Columbus, WI)

Photos provided by the author

Friday, November 21, 2014

Early Learning Fun

E.L.F participants at Weyauwega Public Library
Because of the statewide Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative, we wanted to develop additional programming for preschoolers.  So, we launched a new program called E.L.F. (Early Learning Fun). Our intent is to roll it over into current fall children’s programming, Babygarten, Rhyme Time and Story Time.  It was a two-person effort for teaching and planning.

Our curriculum focused on letters, numbers, colors and shapes, and we built activities around the story of “The Three Little Pigs.” We used a song sheet and a variety of practice sheets, games and props.  Each child had a name tag that highlighted the first letter of their
Alphabet awareness name tags
name along with an animal picture.  At the beginning of each session, children were encouraged to find their own name tags. Caregivers were asked to sign in and actively participate in the sessions.

Overall, we felt that the program was successful. Two issues we discovered were attendance was not as consistent as we would have liked and back-to-back scheduling with another program didn't work. Attendance may have been a summer issue because
Props for "Three Little Pigs" activities
of vacations and other activities.  Our original intent was 30 minutes of structured activity followed by free play time and conversation opportunities between caregivers and us.  Next year we intend to schedule differently so we have more time. At the end of the sessions, we prepared take-home packets with materials we used, follow up worksheets, and a brochure about fall programming. Although it involved lots of planning and set up, we intend to offer it again next summer.  Feedback from those involved was very positive. Please feel free to contact us with questions; we would be glad to share.

Kelly Kneisler & Kathy Mattern, Library Staff
Weyauwega Public Library, Weyauwega, WI

Photos provided by the authors

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Daycare CE Power

Early literacy support and services is always a delicate balance. Wisconsin libraries have strong preschool storytime traditions – but they are just one small piece of our larger mission to promote literacy. Many libraries have created early literacy spaces that promote the five practices – play, read, sing, talk and write – right in the library. Others have begun 1000 Books Before Kindergarten programs to encourage families to read many books to their preschoolers to give them a jumpstart to reading and learning. Still other libraries try to reach out into daycares to provide regular or occasional programming to support reading and literacy with tots in care. Other libraries provide rotating deposit collections of picture books in daycares.

Providers create boxes after reading Portis’ It’s Not a Box
We have added to this mix with a long tradition of presenting free hour-long CE workshops to providers at the library. We work with the state Registry, a professional development  approval system, to list our programs and be approved trainers.

In the last two years, we have upped our game and really focused content from general topics (nutrition, diseases, traits of special needs populations) to topics to help our providers with early literacy. Topics include: outstanding books, storytelling, bringing books alive, book discussion, BELL Awards, preschool STEM,  ECRR tips, storytime how-tos; introductions to collections and creating effective story extensions – all subjects that we are experts in! This November, we are thrilled to have Dr. Dipesh Navsaria as part of a three hour provider workshop including presentations from our Family Resource Center, library staff and wrapping up with attendance at a library-sponsored Global Celebration sponsored by the library.

We also will take workshops out to daycares. Called “Walking Workshops”, we will present at any daycare that has five or more attendees at their inservices. We prepare two different workshops each year for the providers to choose from. This year it’s the Importance of ECRR and Bringing Books Alive. By providing continuing education that focuses on and highlights early literacy we really help our providers improve their skills.  

And best of all we get to know each better while we learn together!

Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator
La Crosse Public Library, La Crosse, WI

Photo provided by author

Monday, November 17, 2014

“Looking Closer at Family Literacy” Early Literacy Webinar Reminder

Pixabay image
Join us for the Growing Wisconsin Readers Fall Webinar Series on Tuesday, November 18, 1:00-2:15pm. Tomorrow’s presentation on “Looking Closer at Family Literacy” features the expert opinions of two Wisconsin literacy and literature authorities.

Cathy Compton-Lilly is an Associate Professor in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She will offer ideas about how Wisconsin public librarians might consider family literacy in the context of underserved populations.  Megan Schliesman is a librarian at the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her presentation will emphasize multicultural books to use in programming, not just as items in the library collection. Learn how to better serve the young children and families in your community, even if they are not regular library users.

All webinars in this series will be held live, recorded, and available for free--no registration required. Webinar archives can be found under “Professional Development” on the Youth and Special Services webpage:

Access the live webinar through Blackboard Collaborate via the following link

  • Attendees who need telephone audio (versus VoIP) should use the conference number:1-877-820-7831 and enter participant passcode:  697156.
  • Test your system beforehand 
  • Blackboard Collaborate overview video
  • Blackboard Collaborate online support or phone (877) 382-2293

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Best of the Best that Makes our Storytime a Success

There are four phrases that describe what I think makes the Toddler Time program at the Dwight Foster Public Library in Fort Atkinson a success: engage them from the start, keep-it-moving, make it interactive, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Engaged toddlers at the Fort Atkinson public library
From the moment the 18-36 month-olds walk into our story time room, we try to engage them.  For starters, the toddlers pick out a different theme-related sticker every week to put on the nametag wall.  It doesn’t take long for the regular little ones to remember and look forward to that weekly routine.  And it helps the newbies get over their shyness as they walk into a room filled with new faces. 

From the opening chant, currently “Open Shut Them,” to our closing signed-song, “The More We Get Together,” I try to keep this program moving with: stories, chants/songs, sitting and standing activities and an art project at the end of the half hour. So, we march, clap, whisper and shout. We stand and sit, wiggle and jiggle, shake the shakers, bang the sticks, fish for magnetic letters and even play a mean game of toss the beanbag. With a fast-paced, jam-packed agenda, we usually finish the program with only a few distracted kiddos. 

The center-piece for Toddler Time is the stories which can be difficult to find for this varied age group. I look for picture books that have a story line, albeit simple. Then I have the toddlers help me
A young listener is captivated by storytelling
tell the story.  I start by introducing the characters and telling the little listeners which parts they will play as we read the story.  So, with the help of their parents, they shout out a repetitive phrase or make animal sounds, call out the colors or count out the number of chickens, eggs or piglets on the page.  Making a storytelling experience interactive takes extra prep time but can be the difference between capturing and losing a little ones attention.    
When I find a chant or song that goes over well, like “Ba Banana” or “Five Green and Speckled Frogs,” it immediately gets forwarded into my next week’s agenda. I repeat, repeat, repeat these chants for two or three weeks before retiring them to my electronic page of “bests” to use again at a later date.

Feedback corroborates that what we’re doing works. One mom said, “Where do you come up with your art projects?” Another said, “I’m going to use that song for our bedtime ritual.” And my favorite is the mom who told me how her son, who stands and stares at me with wide-eyed wonder during the entire Toddler Time program, will sing the songs and act out the motions all week long at home. 

Engaging the toddlers from the time they arrive, keeping the program moving, making the storytelling interactive and repeating the best of the best for a number of weeks are some of the methods I use to achieve a successful “toddler” story time program.

Cindy Vergenz, Youth Services Library Assistant
Dwight Foster Public Library, Fort Atkinson, WI  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Finding a Rhythm for "Baby Bounce"

Babies love books (Pixabay)
Before I begin describing our program, I’d like to give you an idea of where we began….When I first started in my position in November 2013, our facility had been short staffed for over a year.  As you know, this meant cuts in programming.   I had been doing preschool story time on a weekly basis, getting to know my way around a new facility, and dealing with the oddities of being a government employee.   
One program that I wanted to bring back was our story time for infants aged 0-18 months.  This is a wonderful opportunity to build strong relationships with our patrons.  Baby Bounce returned in early January with me wondering how many would come, or if any would attend at all…


I like to plan things.  I like to write them down.  I like to type them up.  I like to have a plan, and I like to follow the plan.  That being said, you can only plan so much; especially when babies are involved.   I had a general idea of how I
Targeted demographic (Pixabay)
wanted to structure the program, but I did some online research first.  I ordered multiple copies of several non-circulating books so I could pass them out to families to read. I made sure I had a stuffed animal as a prop to model things as I went along.   Our library had many toys suitable for this age group that were only used for programming that I could use for social time.  I also created a bookmark with the bounce of the day and a list of the books and songs we used so parents could refer to them at home.  

I spent quite a bit of time taking posters around town to advertise to my target demographic.  I took information to schools, stores, churches, pediatrician offices, OB/GYN offices, and restaurants.  We contacted newspapers and other community groups like the WIC office, and I spoke with many of the families that came to the library.  I was hoping that, as there were no other baby story times in our area, we would eventually have a crowd.

Show Time

The first session was small.  O.K., there were only two babies, and the local news photographer.  But, this was actually a good thing as it gave me a chance to feel things out and get a better idea of what I would like to do during the program. We meandered through the winter months, sometimes with only one baby, but usually with about four.  The group wasn't always the same four, but we were happy to see them anyway.  Numbers still fluctuate.  Babies nap when they nap and schedules change.  


Over the months, I have made changes:  I added an art project, rearranged the order, and eliminated some things.  I also switched from a read along with the group books, to having parents read to their child.   This fall we are trying a different day for our Baby Bounce.  We’ll have to see how that works out.  We have a new website and a new Facebook page that we hope will help spread the word.  I hope you have a chance to share your love of books with our youngest patrons.    You’ll see them grow before your very eyes!    

Lara Lakari, Children’s Services Librarian
Stephenson Public Library, Marinette, WI 

Monday, November 10, 2014

“Partnership Spotlight—Rock County, WI” Early Literacy Webinar Reminder

Pixabay image
Join us for the Growing Wisconsin Readers Fall Webinar Series on Tuesday, November 11, 1:00-2:15pm. Tomorrow’s presentation on “Partnership Spotlight—Rock County, WI” features the experiences of Hedberg Public Library’s efforts to network, collaborate, and communicate with early childhood agencies and organizations county-wide.  Tune in for a session that identifies what it takes to build a working relationship with community partners!

All webinars in this series will be held live, recorded, and available for free--no registration required. Webinar archives can be found under “Professional Development” on the Youth and Special Services webpage:

Access the live webinar through Blackboard Collaborate via the following link

  • Attendees who need telephone audio (versus VoIP) should use the conference number: 1-877-820-7831 and enter participant passcode:  697156.