The Importance of Play: SNAILS Meeting, November, 2014

The quarterly meeting at Batavia Public Library had two guest speakers.

The National Lekotek Center gave a brief presentation about their services and the benefit of ‘play’ to children of all needs, especially those with special needs. What an impressive organization with highly regarded research.  They offer three types of services to parents and children primarily between the ages of 3- 8 years old. Services include 12 1-house Individual Play Sessions, Access to the Toy lending Library, Social Playgroups and more. For more information, visit  With an annual membership, benefits to a library partnership include access to the Professional Toy Lending Library for patron or library use and Professional Development opportunities such as webinars. A family membership is $300 regardless of the number of people in the family.

The second presenter was a PHD student from Australia. She spoke briefly about her research with play and will be posting a video to her blog.

The main topic of the presentation was the importance of Play, which I really value in my programs. The phrase, “You can do it and here is how you do it,” is one I will take with me regardless of a child’s ability.  Often, we are given information or ideas, but never any resources about what to do next.  The strength of this Lekotek philosophy is one of empowerment for parents and kids.

Children of all abilities are over-worked, over-scheduled and over-evaluated.  Without free and unrestricted playtime, their stress level can skyrocket, causing them to have problems in school, which then leads to ‘extra’ work to help supplement the skills they lack, making even more work, schedules and evaluations they don’t need or want.  The creativity I see in kids of all ages when they have just an hour of free time to either create an art project, play a board game, or just explore simply amazes me every time.  Their imagination and their ability to think freely and without limits inspires my imagination to help create interesting library programs and connect with kids.

Some tidbits I took away from this session included the website and the Toys R Us Differently Abled Toy Guide which offers reviews and ideas for toys. What great resources for parents and librarians.  I find that giving families reputable information is important because it’s at the core of what it means to being a librarian.  Anyone can google to try and find fun and new toys, yet, with these resources, a parent can truly be educated and take into consideration the needs of their child.  As a librarian, being able to tell a parent, here is this great toy your son or daughter can play with, and here is why it’s great, is essential information to share.

I also learned at this meeting the importance of adaptive toys and how they can help children with disabilities play and enjoy being a child, just for the sake of fun!

Ideas I really thought were great included Sensory Packs; additional special collection designation, and a bibliography to make books for special needs families easier to find. Of course, it was also a good opportunity to speak to other librarians about their programs and outreach efforts to the special needs community.

I always meet great librarians and always leave these meeting inspired.  This one did not disappoint.

Illinois Library Association Conference Recap

Illinois Library Association Conference:  Kickstarting! Connections, Creativity and Community

The Illinois Library Conference was held this past October 14th-16th in Springfield. I really enjoyed the trip and even had some free time to do a Haunted Lincoln walking tour and visit the illustrious Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and National Museum. I was simply awed at the greatness that was our 16th President and such historic surroundings as our old State Capital building and Lincoln’s Law firm. One of my favorite discoveries was this incredible used book shop called Prairie Archives. Their website doesn’t do this place justice as it was wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor full of old books, including everything from the classics to history to contemporary fiction to old magazines. It is a treasure trove for people like me who enjoy scouring and digging through stuff for a unique and memorable find. I did take home a special set of books and it was indeed a memorable find for me.

Here I am, speaking to the ILA crowd about how to make early literacy Read to the Rhythm!

Exhibits opened on Wednesday. As part of the iREAD Committee, I also worked our exhibit booth. It was a blast! I am honored to be chosen for this Committee full of interesting and creative people. Being able to interact with so many librarians and share this great summer reading initiative was so worthwhile. If you haven’t seen pictures from the conference, visit our Facebook page and you can see all the fun your library can experience from iREAD.  A first for the iREAD committee this year was a presentation of showcase ideas, programs and crafts. I spoke about how the 2015 theme of Read to the Rhythm could be incorporated into early childhood and literacy storytimes and more. Check out our presentation online!

The Youth Services Breakfast with Don Tate was such fun. He is one impressive artist with a background no one could guess.  I am so happy to support the cause he has taken on called #weneeddiversebooks to encourage more diversity in publishing and writing.  I just loved his presentation and am so happy to have discovered his talent.


Evaluating Makerspaces on Tuesday, October 14th
This program presented by RAILS offered best practice and evaluation tips and ideas to effectively evaluate your makerspace. What I found most important was the point made to not get stuck in outcome based evaluation systems, and how to achieve those new ways of analyzation. Makersapces are intended for spurring creativity and critical thinking which can be tough to actualize with a figure. Using team base inquiry and theory based evaluation all while asking the question of, “What’s the point” gives more meaning to the data collection. Also helpful was how the type of Makerspace was categorized into Digital Creation, Analog Creation, Tinkering Studio and Participatory types of mediums. It helped me understand that not all Makerspaces have to be done using a computer or 3D printer, but that the idea is to create or ‘make’.

Babypalooza: Kickstarting Connections with Families on Tuesday, October 14th
Three libraries presented their versions of Baby and early literacy events. The basis of the Babyfest program is to create an event just for young families offering resources and services specific to their needs. They can be as elaborate as including storytimes, crafts, raffle drawings, and freebies from sponsoring partners. One library showed how to use Sign Language in storytimes which I found very helpful! It reminded me that just a few signs can add a new dimension to a traditional babytime class.

Hola! Czesc! Hello! Connecting Families through Bilingual Programs on Tuesday, October 14th
This panel of librarians working in diverse bilingual communities offered their program ideas and tips to help bring in patrons to the library. One idea I really liked was to have a guest storyteller, in addition to the librarian, at a family storytime. The guest storyteller would perform the story in their native language. It is a great way to encourage family and friends to attend a program together, and share their culture with others. While I have done Dia de los Ninos programs at my current library, making it a year round initiative was another great idea from this panel.

Volunteers Galore! on Wednesday, October 15th
One of the libraries’ presentation gave a really great example of their young friends program. What I liked about their program was that it involved children of all ages and their parents. The turnout at their meetings is impressive and they offer the program year round. It sounded like a success and one I think could be easily replicated.

Storytime Success

Part of my storytime responsibilities at my current library are planning and performing baby and toddler storytimes each week.  I have two classes, Babytime and Mini-Movers which are for children up to 3 years old.  I love seeing the smiles on these faces and we always have a great time together singing and playing.  It’s also a supportive outlet for parents and caregivers to have some ‘adult’ conversation time.  I’ve met some great families along the way and am glad they continue to choose my classes for storytime.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell.  Visit him at

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell. Visit his website at

This fall for one of my September Mini-Movers classes, I chose a newly published picture book called, Hug Machine by Peter Cambpell.

At first, I thought, this is probably more appropriate for a Valentine’s theme, but as soon as I read it  was hooked!  Hug Machine is a delightfully simple story about a little boy who declares himself, the Hug Machine.  He then proceeds to go around town and hug everyone and everything in sight, spreading love, joy and kindness to all.  At the end of the day, he finds himself too tired to hug, and then is surprised by a huge hug from his mom.  The story has been compared to Shel Silverstein poem “Hug O’ War,’ a modern classic indeed.  This book illustrates with soft, gentle and warm colors the feelings and emotions one gets when reading that poem.   It’s a fantastic author debut from Cambpell and has received much critical acclaim from Kirkus, School Library Journal and hundreds of reader reviews at Goodreads.

Reading the book with a cozy puppet in hand and letting the children hug him, made for an even warmer story.  Asking the kids if they like hugs and can they hug someone they love, were easy questions and provided an attention grabber for wandering toddlers.    Adding in a simple fingerplay further illustrated the theme of friendship and even added counting and math concepts.    It was an all around, heart-warming and fun storytime.  Books such as these make great selections for reading aloud and sharing with children of all ages.  I can’t wait to see what Cambpell comes out with next!

Flannel Friday Roundup

I am sharing my most recent flannel story board creations.     There are several places I go to for inspiration and I especially love the Flannel Friday group which has a fantastic Pinterest page.  I’m excited to participate for the first time with Flannel Friday!  I also can’t take all the credit for the designs, templates are a life-saver!

I can definitely tell my first pieces from my more recent items and I was a bit intimidated after seeing so many awesome craft projects.  I didn’t think I could create them as nicely as the examples… Yet, now I am hooked on making flannels! It takes some practice to cut the pieces just right and to use the Sharpie markers to add life to the object.  I love the interaction they bring to my storytimes, and they allow the children to become involved in the activity.  The flannels are especially good for those young ‘helpers’ in the class as it gives them a task.   I’ve also been using flannels because there are so many early literacy concepts to be introduced through such a simple technique.  In just these few projects included in this post, I was able to do colors, numbers and counting, sounds and actions, and concept recognition.


This toothy, yet adorable, shark made for a great pairing with 5 little fish. I also used a shark puppet in combination and it made for fun storytelling.



I found the crayon template and was immediately excited to do colors. I stuck to the basic rainbow colors. I created the crayola box from a generic online image and added my own colors and design. I also cut a slit to create an opening for the crayons to be taken out and then put back inside. It worked really well and the kids enjoyed being able to take out and put back the crayons.



My take on “5 Little” racecars. I used these for a “Cars, Planes, Trains” themed storytime as part of the Summer Reading “Have Book, Will Travel” theme for 2013. The kids enjoyed making race car sounds and driving the little cars on the board. 



Five Little Cats with Five Fancy Hats. There are many adaptations to use with this story including colors, numbers and clothing.

Flannel Rhyme: Cat in a Hat
Adapted from “Tell Me a Story” online.
(Make five tiny hats, and add them, one at a time)

One little cat in a sunny day
Put on his hat and went out to play.
Two little cats when it started getting dark
Put on their hats and went to the park.
Three little cats when the sky was blue
Put on their hats and went to the zoo.
Four little cats by the kitchen door
Put on their hats and went to the store.
Five little cats on a sunny day
Put on their hats and they all ran away. (take down all of the hats)


I created these zoo animals using various templates I found online. They worked great in conjunction with the 2014 Summer Reading theme, “Paws to Read.” I was able to not only do colors and numbers, but types of animals, animal habitats, and animal sounds. It really helped expand on the animal idea.

Paws to Read Summer Reading Success

The theme this summer was Paws to Read, and what a versatile and fun theme for the youth services librarian!  I had to create an idea to informally display the progress of kid who finished the summer reading program.  There were many ideas that my fellow librarians and I discussed, but I kept coming back to this thought of dog bones.  The children would write their name on a dog bone and we would feed Rocket the Dog.  Rocket was a large plush stuffed animal who was cozy and welcoming.  The hugs and smiles he received over the summer was immeasurable!  10362818_10152046838197382_624683702549072675_o

We needed a place to display Rocket and his food, so of course, the only solution was a doghouse.  I contacted the local Home Depot, who was often very generous with kids building programs, and asked if they would be willing to donate supplies or knew of someone we could hire to build the doghouse.  They volunteered a wonderful local artist who creates displays at their store!  He and I met to discuss the idea and our display challenges such as space and size.  What a fantastic doghouse did we receive!  Rocket had his own mailbox with a hinged lid so kids could put their bones inside and we could visually track the progress of all the ‘food’ he was eating. The characters from his book were also with him, and he even had a little white picket fence around his art.

The simple idea of a display turned into a complete art exhibit installation and I was so proud of the results and impressed with the artist and partner support!

Idea in Action: Adventure Packs

Update!  These have been so successful, I’ve added new packs to the collection.  I Love Cats and I Love Dogs are additions for the Summer Reading theme of Paws to Read.

  1. Winter Weather Fun;  added over the winter and includes the Frozen soundtrack!
  2. Playful People:  A Pirate Party
  3. Playful People:  A Princess Party
  4. Animals:  Dynamic Dinosaurs
  5.  I Love Cats
  6. I Love Dogs
  7. Dance & Gymnastics:  Moove and Groove
  8. Sports:  Take Me Out to the Ballgame

April & May 2014 Book Club Discussion and New Selection

Sigma Kappa Book ClubWelcome to our Virtual Sigma Kappa Book Club! Be sure to visit us on Goodreads, and please join our Sigma Kappa Group! Even if you can’t participate in our book discussion, join the group and meet a new reader.

Our March 2014 selection was the novel, Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner. The book tells the story of a political mogul, his wife and children who find themselves in the midst of a heated scandal. When I started this book, I thought it was going to be just another ‘fluff’ story. Yet, this book was so much more than I thought!

The story is about the Woodruff family; Sylvie and Richard, along with eldest daughter Diana and youngest daughter Lizzie. Each chapter was told from one of the three women’s point of view and offered wonderful insights into the ‘person’ behind the story. I thought the varied storytelling made for an intriguing family story. It helped me understand what the characters were feeling, thinking, and why choices were made, from their perspectives. I also enjoyed reading about the different family relationships, and how they changed over the course of time. I’m glad I purchased this one, and am pleased to add it to my collection.

Here are some questions to get you thinking a little more about the book. Please do post your thoughts and questions in the comments or in our Goodreads group!

What are your thoughts about the book? Have you read a Jennifer Weiner story before?

Did you like that each chapter had a different narrator?

What do you think of each of the three main women characters? Did you find fault or success in their end choices?

What do you think about the title, “Fly Away Home,” and its significance to the characters?

What do you think about the sister dynamics and the mother-daughter relationships? How do they work together? How does Sylvie and Richard’s marriage affect the family dynamics?

The InterestingsOur next book selection is the New York Times bestselling novel, The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer. Not only does it have this fantastic, colorful and striped cover, but is also a 2013 Goodreads Choice Nominee for Best Fiction and a 2013 Paris Review Best of the Best. (By the way, how many of us choose a book by its cover?)

The story begins at a summer camp. Six teenagers meet the summer of 1974, the year President Nixon resigns. The group remains ‘best friends forever’ over the years, each growing a life in different directions, yet, staying friends. The story follows the group to New York City, through careers and life choices, and displays for the reader how these personalities and friendships develop and change. The book has been described as panoramic, wide in scope, and even epic.

Visit Meg Wolitzer’s website and learn more about the author and her works.

Read the April, 2013 New York Times review upon the book’s release.

Read an interview of the author, Meg Wolitzer on NPR’s Fresh Air from February, 2014. You can also listen to the interview and read an excerpt.

This has been on my to-read pile since it first came out and I’m eager to read it! I hope you like it too. Happy Reading! See you in May!