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.

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.

Marketing Services: SNAILS Meeting, February, 2014

This quarterly meeting’s topic was about marketing to people with disabilities. With my background of 12 years in corporate marketing, I can tell you that unfortunately, many libraries just seem behind the curve with their marketing skills.  There are so many talented and creative librarians, and I just never understood why it doesn’t seem to always translate to their promotion of services.  What I do notice, is that even the smallest extra marketing effort can make a difference, whether it be a flyer, a Facebook or Twitter post, or even just telling patrons about the program when you see a flicker of interest in the topic.   The reason I have been able to make such great connections with the families that attend my sensory storytimes is because I really try to understand their needs even before they attend the program during my conversation.  Not only does it sell the family on the program, but it helps me learn about the needs of their child.

The guest speaker introduced to our group was JJ Hanley of JJ’s List.  This is a directory website similar to Yelp for people with disabilities.  Libraries can be listed and include all the services and programs they provide, especially those that are helpful for people with special needs.  We then had a discussion and reviewed examples of marketing ideas and community assessments done by other libraries.  I was really impressed with JJ’s passion for being an advocate for people with special needs and her grass roots project that has turned into such a great resource for people.  I would recommend that all libraries showcase their resources for people with disabilities on this website.

Following lunch, we viewed the webinar by Barbara Klipper, “What’s After Storytime?  Programming for Children & Tweens with Autism.”    She is also the author of the book Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Specturm Disorder available at the ALA Store.  This was a fantastic webinar and I learned a great deal about how I can better my programs.

Overall, a great meeting and a room full of inspired and caring librarians.

Lincoln Story League, January, 2014

I attended the first meeting of 2014 held at the Mount Prospect Public Library.  Libraries in attendance included Poplar Creek, Gail Borden, Crystal Lake, McHenry, Park Ridge, Evanston, St. Charles, Schaumburg, and Bartlett.   Many of the ideas presented were winter and snow themed and included several flannel stories, music, and crafts.  Other highlights included:

  • Mustache storytime using props and flannel board.
  • Gail Borden shared their startup information for a community garden.
  • Two librarians shared nice draw-and-tell and cut-and-tell stories in which the story is told while it is drawn on a white board or cut out on a piece of paper.
  • Mr. Brian from the Evanston PL completes a Best Books List each year and this was passed out to everyone.

Lincoln Story League, December, 2013

This meeting was held at the Evanston Public Library.  Libraries in attendance included Poplar Creek, Warren-Newport, McHenry, Palatine, Crystal Lake, Glenview, Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Evanston, Park Ridge and Gail Borden.  Many ideas were winter and holiday themed.   Really cute crafts and flannels were shown.  Some of the more popular ideas introduced new songs or games such as “The Alligator in the Elevator” and “Icky, Sticky, Bubblegum.” Bigger events that were highlighted included an American Girl Tea Event from Arlington Heights and  a Preschool Teacher Open House Event from Gail Borden.

Sensory Storytime: SNAILS Meeting, November, 2013

The quarterly meeting was held at the fantastic Skokie Public Library.  There were demonstrations from three area librarians of their Sensory Storytimes and ideas.   Being new to the Sensory Storytime program, I was really impressed with how detailed and well-thought out these storytimes were and I hoped I could replicate the same.  One simple idea that I really liked was rolling the ball to a child while saying the name during introductions.   Sometimes, as librarians, we take for granted such simple gestures when we do so many storytimes every week.  Yet, this was an easy and kind gesture that invoked warmth and welcome.

The presentation also included a great definition and goal outline for defining the Sensory Storytime.  Book ideas, game and movement activities, sensory ideas, and structure were displayed, as well as, titles and descriptions of each library’s storytime.  We also went around the room and shared different ideas about what we have done in our own sensory storytimes, what’s worked, what didn’t work, and shared samples.   Holly Jin, gave a demonstration of several Ipad and tablet apps for kids with autism or other needs.  What a fantastic way to incorporate technology!  Technology can be a great way to bring visual aids and interactive tactics into the sensory storytime.  I love this idea!  Technology seems to be so focused on STEM, which is great, but can also be less inclusive and special needs kids deserve just as much attention.  So many other ideas were shared including early literacy grants, applying with Lekotek and tweens with special needs.

This was such an inspiring meeting full of ideas!  I can’t wait to wrap my head around all the great work shown and incorporate new ideas and projects into my work.