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!

Summer Reading Workshop at Dominican University

I attended a continuing education workshop at Dominican University on October 11th called “Putting the Reading Back into Summer Reading.”  It was a great group of public and school librarians and I took away some great ideas and information.

The key topic we discussed was to make reading the focus of the program again and promote that books are the best.  Our ideas then stemmed from this main thought of bringing books and reading into the forefront of the program, building a culture of reading and making it more of a social activity.

The theme of course this year is, “Have Book, Will Travel.”  One creative idea I really liked was each summer reading participant gets a piece of a globe puzzle to decorate how he or she wishes.  This is then displayed with everyone’s pieces to put together the globe.  It creates not only a sense of accomplishment, but community.

  • Figure out what your library’s values and benefits of a summer reading program are and pick the purpose.  Is it for the kids?  Community?  Library?  To fill a learning gap?
  • Definitely partnering with the schools is essential.  Ideas like having a school library collection at the public library, or having a public library program at the school or opening up the school library for 2 hours a week could help with access issues.  Working with the school librarian to develop summer reading lists was key.
  • Putting teens and older children in charge of helping with the programs gives them ownership.  Creative ideas were to have the kids do 90 second video booktalks that are posted online or in the library.  Having a kids’ picks list or display.  Have kids do the display.
  • Do incentives really work?  Do they fit in line with your purpose?  Is your purpose numbers of participants or meaning behind the program? The only prize at the end being a book does put reading back into the focus instead of the prizes.
  • Don’t make the reading log or tracking complicated.  Have participants set their own goals and do away with the ‘minutes’ being the only calculator.  Those that set their own goal are more likely to exceed it. Everyone that participates wins!  Make this a community activity where everyone belongs.

School Supplies and Summer Reading

The crisp opening and binding crack of a never before read book reminds me of biting into a juicy piece of fruit. It’s absolutely delicious.  It is why I haven’t transitioned all my reading to an E-Reader.  I would miss that smell of the paper too much.   I have to say, I was a complete booknerd and had the same feeling about a school textbook…but only when I received the brand new textbook, because it had so much possibility!  No one else had smudged their dirty fingers on the pages or written their name on the inside cover. It was all mine, even if I didn’t really enjoy the content inside.

There is a great quote from one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail” in which Tom Hanks is writing an email to his then unknown love, Meg Ryan about the start of fall in New York City.  He says, “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”  Yes!  I love school supplies!  I want to buy that newly sharpened bouquet of pencils every time the end of summer comes around.  It reminds me of those brand new books I can’t wait to read.  It also reminds me of the books I didn’t get around to reading that were on the summer reading list.

Working in youth services at a public library means there are tons of requests for books on the summer reading list.  I love to scour these different lists to check off what I’ve read and to also see what unusual titles make the lists.  The best this year I found was The Crucible by Arthur Miller on a junior high/middle school list.  Yes, you heard right, a college level book usually found in American Literature classes Freshman year was found on a middle school list.  I have a BA degree in English and I didn’t read Arthur Miller until college.  I was very surprised.

I also thought it would be fun to take an informal poll amongst friends to find out what books they enjoyed most that were on their summer reading lists.  Have you read all of these books?  Did any of these books stick with you even today as an adult? Perhaps there was one you dredged through but ended up appreciating later on?

I have two books that make my all-time favorites and strangely, I was assigned to read them sophomore year in high school English;  The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea.  I love the wit and dry humor of The Catcher in the Rye and I think Salinger is one of the great American authors in modern times.  It’s definitely a character driven novel, and I love how he captures this young boy’s whining, his torments, and his anguish.  The Old Man and the Sea introduced me to the greatness of Hemingway.  Such a simple tale told in such carefully crafted simple prose, makes this a truly remarkable book.  Interestingly, both are male authors telling the story of one male figure, which is not a typical story I would be able to relate to.  However, when you look deeper at the symbolism and depth of human nature written about, it makes sense why I would love these books.

I did some digging to find the most assigned summer reading books and came up with so many choices, there could have been a list of 100 books.  I thought this was an interesting list from the Illinois State Library’s Read for a Lifetime program which appears to cover mostly contemporary literature.  Although now a bit old, this list from the Washington Post is a great mix of classics and contemporary authors.

Here are my top choices for summer reading catch-up ideas (aside from Salinger and Hemingway, which yes, you MUST read!).  I also included a list of the books that came about from the poll I took.  What would be your top books?

If you must give someone Charles Dickens, then give them A Tale of Two Cities.  War, love, Paris, nothing but the essentials of a great novel. One of my favorites of all time and a great book for British Lit lovers. Learn more about Dickens at Victorian Web.  Another fantastic family and semi-suedo-historical saga is East of Eden by John Steinbeck which has great scandal and family squabbles.  If I ever make it to Monterey Bay area, I will definitely put the National Steinbeck Center on my tour.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, or Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  You can also try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Even if you are not a science fiction/fantasy fan, read one of these fantastic books and you will be transformed. They will make you think more about the world in which we live and how we as humans react and interact.  Check out the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s of America website for even more ideas.

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Virginia Wolf’s To the Lighthouse will provide a beautiful read into the lives of women in literature.  Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is another great insight into women’s literature.  While these are not necessarily happy-ending books, they will definitely have you think about and explore how emotions and struggles were once experiences and shared.  For more interesting women writers and topics try the National Archives.

Read a memoir or biography, even if it’s fiction.  A book like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is one example of a fictional story told from the perspective of a young boy who lost his father on September 11th.  Even though it’s not true, you are instantly in this boy’s world.  You realize his story could be anyone’s in search of understanding an influential person in life.  Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos is a great read along with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, all three a bit of coming of age combined with overcoming struggles stories with a bit of a fictional twist thrown in there. All are highly engrossing and entertaining.  For more biographies and memories, try this page on the Barnes and Noble website.

Other popular books that made the “Favorite High School Required Reading” from my informal pool were:

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Jungle by John Updike

I hope these ideas have brought back some great reading memories or inspired a new interest in your reading tastes!  If you have more ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments.

Bodacious Beach Reads: What I’m Reading This Summer

What’s on your beach read list this summer?

Here in northern Illinois, it’s been a bit difficult to think of diving into a juicy beach book because the weather has been less than cooperative and random. So to beat the daily up and down weather patterns, I’ve been searching for new books to fill my days with dramatic, romantic, saga-filled, luscious reads! Eventually, the weather will catch up, and I can bring these to the beach and sit by the lake to enjoy. Below are five books that are in my ‘to-read’ pile that I will be reading this summer.

I prefer to tackle a really big book, and love to delve into a saga or historical fiction novel, so I will be attempting The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I’m a huge fan of The Tudors and have always had a soft spot for anything about the British monarchy, so this is a book I’m looking forward to reading. I’m also a follower of the Game of Thrones series on HBO, so I will be reading the first in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice. This will also feed my need for kings and queens, but in a completely fictional, medieval and fantastical manner.

Every woman I know has been bringing the racy book Fifty Shades of Grey up in conversation. Written by EL James, the erotic romance between characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey will, according to the author’s website, “obsess you, posses you and stay with you forever.” I’ve been warned this book is not for readers who don’t like spicy romances. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy because it’s sold out everywhere and the hold list at the library is about 25 people deep! Now I must read this to find out what all the hoopla is about. Have you read it? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Fans of Sex and the City will find a book by Candace Bushnell fun to read. Her stories about strong New York women struggling to find their way among careers, friends and men are great to settle into a lounge chair and read.  Her style of writing is witty, journalistic and entertaining.  Be sure to check out her Carrie Diaries series for a twist on your favorite SATC character.

If you like drama, courtroom thrillers or family dysfunction reminiscent of a Lifetime TV movie, then check out Defending Jacob by William Landay.  This book is the story about a well-respected, successful district attorney who must prosecute his 14-year-old son accused of murder. Character-driven and full of twisting and mysterious family secrets, this is a suspenseful novel sure to please.

What kind of summer reading do you enjoy? Are you a romance fan?  Mystery?  Women’s fiction?  Do you prefer to catch up on your classics like Jane Austen?  I would love to hear more about what is on your summer reading list below in the comments, or email me!

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!