Summer’s End and Fall’s Fantastic Beginning!

The month of August was quite busy this summer, although I did enjoy the lazy and dog days of the warm sun.  The fall season is now upon us, and my September is already beginning to be an exciting time.  I must say that this time of year in Chicago and Northern Illinois is one of my favorites because there is such beauty to discover in wonderful simplicity like the changing seasons.  I have the best memories from childhood of fall in Chicagoland, like the smell of back-to-school supplies and sounds of big piles of crunching leaves.

August found me not only job searching, but also working hard at my internship.  The youth department there has many great ideas, but just hasn’t had the resources or staff to put them into action.  I was very excited to take on the challenge given to me of creating a blog for the Early Learning Center’s early literacy programming.  Their programming consists of 4 different groups of programs, targeted to children at select ages.  For instance, there is a Terrific Twos program designed just for two-year old children to have fun with music, singing, talking, playing and stories.  The blog is called Ready…Set…Read! and was just launched to the library public last week!  Each of the programmers provide me with an outline of their class including the rhymes, songs and books to be shared with the kids. I am then compiling all the information, often times adding even more rhymes and songs and also creating themed booklists for each post. The feedback received has been great so far and the word is getting out to patrons to use the blog as a resource.  I’ll be expanding it to include family storytimes, and possibly additional blogs for other age groups.  It’s a work I’m very proud to share that I hope parents will enjoy reading as much as I’ve enjoyed creating the blog!

I also was honored to be featured in this article posting by the Director of Youth Services at my internship.  When she told me she was a guest writer on the ALSC blog, and wanted to include me in her story, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was so happy to see that most importantly, my photo was good!  She also made me even happier and humbled with such a complimentary article, and I was eager to share with everyone I knew, including here on my site.  Enjoy!

More to come this September!


Recap: Community Outreach Events

I had the pleasure over the past month to take part in two community outreach events through my internship.  What a rewarding and wonderful experience to bring the joy of the library to kids who otherwise may not be able to either visit the library or have access to books and learning outside the classroom.

The groups of kids we visited were both in the local neighborhood, one was in a community clubhouse and the other a school.  All the kids were about 3rd through 5th grade, although I’m sure there were some younger ones too.  What was amazing is that these kids were as my colleague said, “hungry” for books!   They literally attacked the books when it was time to choose new ones to take home.

Both programs were essentially the same format and highly successful.  Attendance is volunteer, so these kids want to be there! The theme was tied in with the summer reading program and began about 4 weeks ago.  While there were new children in attendance, many had been attending each week and were familiar with the flow of the program. Each program began with an educational session in which we interacted with the children about knights, princesses, castles and medieval weapons (to go along with the Midsummer Knights Read theme). Many hands went up when questions were asked and they were excited to hear what the topic for today would be which was court jesters!

There were lots of smiles and wide eyes as a story was read and then the children worked hard on a craft.  There were also crossword puzzles and coloring sheets.  The kids loved all the activities.  For an hour long program, it was packed full of fun.

One of the two groups gets to choose books to take home and return ones they’ve read.  It’s done on an honor system and they were all very respectful of returning the books.  It seems to work similar to a bookmobile model where we bring the books to the kids because there is really no feasible way for them to get to the library.  The community these children live in is essentially an immigrant neighborhood, with lower income families, where there is no bus service and it’s a bit of a long walk, especially in the hot Chicago weather.  To be able to bring to them a “mobile” program each week and feed their strong desire for learning and books is what will keep them hopefully interested in learning throughout their childhood.  It also brings them a positive experience of reading and learning that they may not be getting at home or in school.

When I saw these children run for the books, attack the stacks we had, and search for something particular because they liked a series or a subject it was a event I never saw before!  I loved it!  What was disappointing to me and them was when we didn’t have enough of a subject or the next in a series for example because of the limited resources.  Yet, once I knew what they liked, I could find another book in the piles that would probably appeal, and except for one or two instances, they took it home.  I wanted to make sure these kids, who were so incredibly “hungry” for books to not find one they would like!

I can’t think of a more rewarding experience as a librarian then to see these young people RUN for books and learning opportunities!

Programming Recap: Fractured Fairy Tales

For what has been a few months now, I have been assisting in weekly programming events in the Youth Services department, especially in “Medieval Mania” as part of the summer reading program events.  The best part of this experience is that I was given the chance to plan, implement and run a program of my very own. I had 60 minutes to entertain children in 3rd through 5th grades and I was so excited (as much as I was nervous about being sure I had enough to fill the time).

What they don’t teach you in library school, however, is the fine art of children’s crafts!    The stories I chose to read, games to play and activities during the program came second nature to me.  Yet, OH how I deliberated, searched online and in the library’s enormous and stocked craft storage for what was going to be my inaugural craft of the summer!  How I laughed with my friends and family that I was nervous of these kids liking my craft because I not only wanted it to fit the theme of “Fractured Fairy Tales,” but also be a simple and fun activity and age appropriate.

My program was a huge hit!  The children loved the story titled, “The End” by David La Rochelle and understood both the humor and the sarcasm in the book.  The story is a simple and original fairy tale, told backwards beginning with the words, The End and ending with Happily Ever After.  It was inventive and the kids laughed when we read it aloud.  This was a great choice for a read aloud story because of the humor, as well as offered an alternative to the traditional fairy tale, which can sometimes be either too commercialized or too complex for storytime.

The game we played was a relay race, and the twist was that the race was backwards!  With about 40 children in attendance at the program, there were at least 7 teams; each team had to walk backward with a spoon holding a ball.  In retrospect, this was a bit tough for the kids to play and I would have had another game as a backup.  However, some of the kids really liked the game and even chose to play again!

The craft was a Hansel and Gretel Gingerbread house.  Using a die cut machine, I cut out craft foam houses and luckily used them all!  Then, the children had access to glitter glue, ribbon, beads, foam shapes, buttons and markers all in a large variety of colors.  I even had small self-stick magnets to put on the back if they wanted to make the house into a magnet for their refrigerator or desk.  This was a great craft because each child could be creative and use their imagination, while it also connected to the Fairy Tale theme.  Boys and girls alike loved inventing their own house and many surprised me with just how thoughtful they were in their placement of objects.  I also allowed about 5-10 minutes at the end of the allotted time to give children who didn’t finish the craft, time to finish which turned out to be a great strategy.

Turns out, 60 minutes quickly expires when a program is run well!  I would attribute it to not only observing my fellow librarians over the past weeks to see what works and what doesn’t, but also research and planning!   In addition, my many years in event planning really paid off in being able to control the crowd, keep things moving along and engage the children.

Knowing at least 3 weeks in advance was also a big help in determining what I could test out to be sure it would run smooth.  Questions I kept in consideration included asking myself:

  • if the activity would hold the child’s attention span
  • is the craft or game too easy or too difficult
  • will the story make sense to a child of this age
  • what is the flow of the program and is the scheduling fluid to accommodate on the spot changes

When I asked the kids as they were leaving if they had fun, the majority said YES…what I think is a fairly good gauge of a good time!

Check out my Gingerbread House example.

Program Outline:  Storytime, Game and Crafts by Jennifer A. Peterson

June 2011; Grade 3-5/Ages 8-10  Theme: Fractured Fairy Tales

Program Description

The program will begin with a general welcome and question to the kids if they know what a fairy tale is and what their favorite fairy tale is.  A fractured fairy tale will be briefly explained. Aproximately 10-15 minutes.

The story, The End by David LaRochelle will be read.  The question will be asked if they know the tale of “Hansel and Gretel.”  Aproximately 15 minutes.

Then a game will be played.  10-15 Quotes such as “I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff” will be given and the kids need to guess which famous fairy tale person said the statement.  Aproximately 10-15 minutes.

The craft will follow the question game.  It consists of a craft foam blank gingerbread house decorated as the kids wish, with buttons, glitter glue, markers, beads, ribbons.  Aproximately 15-20 minutes.

A relay race game will be played but backwards!  Teams will be divided and each child will race backwards with a spoon and a ball.  If kids don’t want to play the game, they can continue to work on their craft.  Aproximately 10-15 minutes.

Additional books and crafts will be used if time allows:

  •  Beware of the Bears by Allan Mac Donald.
  • The Truth About Hansel and Gretel by Karina Law.
  • The Three Silly Billies by Margie Palatini.
  • The Frog Prince Continued or the Stinky Cheese Man story both by Jon Sczieka.
  • Additional craft to make will be an origami frog.


Gingerbread House:   Using the die cut maker, various colored foam in the shape of a blank gingerbread house will be available.  Materials such as buttons, beads, ribbon, markers, glitter glue, and foam shapes will be available for the kids to use to decorate their house.  Small magnets are also available if the kids want to stick them to the back of the house to create a magnet.

Origami Frog:  Square sized, green and red paper, small google craft eyes, black markers.  There are two types of origami frogs the kids can choose to make, one is more simple than the other.

Materials Needed:

  • Craft foam, decorating materials, glue, scissors for craft; Approximately $1 in cost per craft
  • Large spoon and ball or round object for the game
  • Power point and laptop for the question game

Room Setup: 

  • Three tables on the stage for craft
  • 1 table on the floor for miscellaneous
  • Computer for power point game

Internship Fun (out of) the Sun!

I am so excited to write to you today about my experience this summer in my internship at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL.  Not only has the exceptional Youth Services staff embraced me as one of their own, but the work I am doing is truly helping the young customers at this fantastic library.

I’ve been interning here since January, 2011 on special projects yet, this summer with more available time on my hands, began regular weekly hours.  With the advent of the summer reading program, it was the perfect time!  Gail Borden has outdone itself with adapting the theme of “A Midsummer Knight’s Read,” the iREAD theme for this year.  The library, and especially the Youth Services department has been transformed into a medieval dream complete with a castle in the center of the lobby area!  Registrations began on May 24, 2011 and I was there in the booth to help kids of all ages from Pre-Readers to Middle Schoolers sign up.  On the first day, it was nonstop, and it was a joy to see the smiles on the children’s faces as we gave them their reading log plus encouraged them to check out some books to begin their summer journey.  Since the first day, the registrations have been steady and I’ve been in the booth helping ever since! It is a truly heartwarming and worthwhile experience to see kids excited to read and know I’ve had a part in bringing that to their world.

Another project I’ve delved right into is regular weeding and development of the collection.  I began with the Fairy Tale NonFiction collection.  The most challenging aspect of this particular collection is one can see merit in almost all fairy tales as many offer a unique version of the story.  Some considerations I took when evaluating were:

Is this author, title, story unique to the collection?  In some instances there were books that were clearly not appealing in cover art appearing dated and old, yet because it was unique, I debated whether or not it was worthwhile keeping the book.  Most often I looked within BWI to find a newer or alternative version that would be more appropriate, but there were instances when it was not possible.  In those cases, I then checked the circulation numbers and had to make a decision of whether or not to weed the book.

Is the book able to be repaired?  These books that could be repaired and were worthwhile to the collection were then sent to tech services to be fixed.  In some cases, the age of the book was new but was such a well-loved story that I ordered a new book to replace the worn one. However, the challenge became when the book was too damaged to be repaired, and it was no longer in print to order.  I then had to go back to my previous decision making of uniqueness and alternative authors and stories.

This was a great project and I’ve since been able to work on other similar collection evaluation and development processes.

Next week, I will be showcasing my program to children in grades 3rd through 5th at the weekly Medieval Mania event.  My theme is fractured fairy tales and I have stories, a gingerbread house craft and games planned for this hour long segment.  It has been so fun to plan the crafts and games, organize the flow of the event, and choose stories to read aloud.  I can’t wait to share the success of the program!

More to come this summer so stay tuned for additional posts!