Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Adoption and Families Storytime

Last night I had the pleasure of being a guest at Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena, and doing a storytime at their Free Family Night:

They asked me to do a storytime about adoption and forever families. So I chose a few classic books that are wonderful on this theme, and one recent book that has a relevance to this theme or to the theme of a new baby.

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora is a fun story about a bunny rabbit named Dot whose parents adopt a baby wolf, despite her protests that he is going to "eat them all up." She eventually develops a bond with him, though, and even risks her life to protect him from a bully. I love the character of Dot. She is a girl with a lot of spunk, brains, and courage!

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis and illustrated by Laura Cornell is a beautiful, funny and touching book about a family's adoption story.

We Belong Together by Todd Parr just says it all, so simply and so perfectly. In this book parents (who are represented as diverse types of couples or single parents) tell their adopted children that they belong together because, for example: "You needed someone to kiss your boo-boos and we had kisses to give."

I found a lovely flannelboard idea on Story Time Secrets which I modified for last night's adoption storytime:

Who is knocking at my door, at my door, at my door?
Who is knocking at my door?
Look! It’s Mommy.
Let’s give Mom a great big kiss, great big kiss, great big kiss.
Let’s give Mom a great big kiss.
Goodbye, Mommy!

Who is knocking at my door, at my door, at my door?
Who is knocking at my door?
Look! It’s Daddy.
Let’s give Dad a great big hug, great big hug, great big hug.
Let’s give Dad a great big hug.
Goodbye, Daddy!

Who is knocking at my door, at my door, at my door?
Who is knocking at my door?
Look! It’s Grandma.
Let’s give Grandma a great big smile, great big smile, great big smile.
Let’s give Grandma a great big smile.
Goodbye, Grandma!

Who is knocking at my door, at my door, at my door?
Who is knocking at my door?
Look! It’s Grandpa.
Let’s give Grandpa a great big wave, great big wave, great big wave.
Let’s give Grandma a great big wave. Goodbye, Grandpa!

I also played some of my usual favorites on CD and sang and danced to "Clap Your Hands" and "I Was a Bird" by the Old Town School of Folk Music, and "Shake Your Sillies Out" by Raffi.

The storytime was packed! There were around 80 people in that celebration room. I think everybody had a good time. I hope to do something with Kidspace again in the future.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Article in Horn Book Magazine

My bilingual book club for 2nd and 3rd graders, Lucha Libros, was featured in Horn Book's "Field Notes" section of their magazine for the November/December 2017 issue! In it I write about how the program developed, and how it has changed over the years in response to feedback from participants and parents. If you have ever thought about starting a reading competition like Battle of the Books, I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Horn Book and turn to page 42 for the whole scoop on how we do it here!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Writing Magical Realism like Natalie Lloyd

Yesterday in our Writing Party for Primary Grade Kids, we did a writing prompt about magical realism based on the book The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd. Normally we read a picture book but I just read a few selections from this chapter book which is the Young Reader's League pick for 2017. It's a beautiful book, and although ghosts are a major theme in the book it is more sweet than scary.

Natalie Lloyd is very skilled at coaxing readers to suspend our disbelief so that we can enjoy the magical events that are unfolding. She places those magical events in context with characters who all witness the event and interpret it in different ways. After I read an excerpt about the "Gypsy Rose Summer," I asked the kids how they know that (in the world of the book) this really happened. They said they knew that by how different people felt the petals, how many people saw the petals, how everybody heard the noise. A group of people are witnessing something extraordinary and unexplained, and they all have different interpretations of what's going on.

We did a group writing activity about how a ghost like the ghosts of Blackbird Hollow would get our attention. We listed our favorite things, voted on one, and then came up with a character description for a ghost who would haunt us by using that favorite thing.

Then we did a writing activity on our own, developing that idea further by adding what different people would say about the haunting.

Kids read their stories:

At the end of class two kids' names were drawn to receive a free copy of The Key to Extraordinary! And on Thursday, November 16th at 6:30 pm, they'll have an opportunity to get their books signed when Natalie Lloyd comes to Pasadena Public Library for our Young Reader's League celebration. We're flying her in all the way from Tennessee. We're so excited to have her. Please tell your friends--this will be an author visit not to be missed!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Spanish Chapter Books for Elementary School Kids

I recently got an email from a parent who was looking for some Spanish chapter books for her daughter who is in 4th grade and has to do three book reports this year on Spanish books. I often get requests like this from parents whose kids are in our wonderful dual-immersion Spanish schools at PUSD. As I was compiling my response, I thought it might be worth sharing for other people whose kids are in upper elementary school and able to read in Spanish.

We do have a lot of Spanish chapter books. Many of our most popular English series are available in Spanish translations. The ones that might work best for a fourth grader are the Clementine/Clementina books by Sarah Pennypacker or the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, or some of Roald Dahl’s books (such as Fantastic Mr. Fox/El Superzorro). We also have Geronimo Stilton books in Spanish (originally Italian).

But I also want to recommend a few authentic Spanish-only chapter books a fourth grader might enjoy. These have been published in Spanish-speaking countries like Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina.

¡Zoé es lo más! – from the La Banda de Zoé series by Ana García-Siñeríz and Jordi Labanda -- Zoe runs for class president

¡Esta casa es mía! – by Ana Maria Machado. A family builds a house by the beach and has to learn how to share the environment with the animals that were already there.

The Candela series by Mónica Rodriguez – A funny, goofy superspy who goes around the world and even to different times and learns things about history

The Rino Detective series by Pilar Lozano Carbayo and Alejandro Rodríguez – A very richly illustrated detective series with a rhino that solves mysteries

The Mondragó series by Ana Galán – Another very nicely illustrated chapter book series, this one is fantasy/adventure about a dragon who can’t fly

El secreto del escritor fabuloso by Jordi Sierra i Fabra – A magical and mysterious story about the nature of stories—a boy moves in next door to a writer and starts spying on him.

Jordi Sierra i Fabra has a lot of horror books similar to Goosebumps, so maybe when she’s a little bit older she might enjoy those too.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: Can an Aardvark Bark?

I've decided to take the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge presented by my fellow Pasadenan Alyson Beecher and today I'm sharing the book Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins.

The whole book is so beautiful and so simple that it could be shared in a storytime, and then pulled down from the shelf later by curious children who can pore over its information about animals in solitude and wonder.

What makes this book so perfect for storytime is that it lends itself to interaction and noise! You could ask the kids if they can bellow like a giraffe, or bark like a seal, or whine like a porcupine! You can find sound clips of the animals making these sounds too, but it might be better for developing preschoolers to start by using their imaginations to invent what they think a giraffe bellow sounds like.

Learning animal sounds has many benefits for early literacy. I've especially seen benefits for children with special needs. My son, who is autistic, was unable to say more than 30 words at age 2 1/2, but he could say many animal sounds. Animal sounds were a substantial portion of his early vocabulary.

Here is one of my favorite flannelboards dealing with animal sounds. First, I put all the sounds up haphazardly and incorrectly, and ask the preschoolers to help me put the words where they are supposed to go. Kids get print knowledge, phonetic awareness, and so much fun out of doing this!

Want to find more great nonfiction picture books? I post new nonfiction books to the Pasadena Public Library's Children's Book Suggestions LibGuide as we get them. I also have archived lists available for download as PDF files.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Benefits of Introducing Kids to Published Authors

Over the past few years of teaching and facilitating writing workshops for kids, I've noticed there are two kinds of young writers: the underconfident, and the overconfident. This is totally normal. Children lack perspective. (Even adults sometimes lack perspective!) Children often have difficulty imagining that the way they write now is not the way they will write always, and that the older they get and the more they practice, the more their writing is going to change.

(Personally, I was the overconfident type--I was the kid who was sending my handwritten manuscripts to Big 5 publishers and couldn't imagine why they wouldn't publish them! I may not have struggled with getting words on paper, but that didn't mean I was ready, and it was sometimes hard for me to see what improvement was needed. I didn't know any published authors, so I had no way of knowing what the road ahead would look like.)

Amazingly, for BOTH types of young writers, the same approach can work wonders: introduce them to someone who has lived longer and accomplished more, and let her tell them about the changes she had to make along the way.

This is why it's so vital to me in my work as a librarian to not only make a case for kids reading lots of books, but for meeting lots of authors. I do my best to bring published authors to the library at least a few times a year (given budget restraints). It's important to me that kids get moments like this, when they got to see author Kristen Kittscher describe the hardest thing she had to learn as a writer, and how learning this improved her plots.

Then she gave kids an effective, simple formula for crafting better plots:

What if...
And then...

You can read more about her plot exercise and view photos and videos of Kristen and the kids at Pasadena Public Library's Kids Blog.

And if you don't have the resources to be able to hire authors to visit your classes, that doesn't have to stop you from bringing authors to your library or school! Many authors are willing to skype with classes, or do chat interviews or Q&As. Ask around and find out what authors live in your area, and start there. Kristen Kittscher is a longtime Pasadena resident, so we lucked out there!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Writing Parties for Primary Grade Kids

Many children's librarians consider summer their busiest season, but for me I tend to do my programs during the school year, and I usually promote them at schools. I've been doing writing programs for kids of different ages for several years now, but this year I decided to get all of my programs for the school year on flyers, along with blurbs or details about what each workshop will be about. I'm using lessons I created for my book, 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras.  It's going terrific so far! Last week, kids created a made-up language and then wrote dialogue for wordless picture books. They loved it. I gave them sticky notes shaped like word bubbles and they filled up the picture books with dialogue in no time.

They also took more picture books and sticky notes home to do more writing. They get so excited about writing at these programs! It's one of the most rewarding things I do!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Split-Panel Books: Writing Parties for Primary Grade Kids

At tomorrow's Writing Party for Primary Grade Kids (previously named "Creative Writing for Beginning Readers"), we are going to make split-panel books that let you turn half of the page to create a funny new person or animal. Our inspiration for this workshop will be the book A Cheese and Tomato Spider by Nick Sharratt.

There are supposedly over a hundred different sentences you can make by turning the different panels--I haven't tried myself, but I believe them! And the book is great for a storytime or a large group, because the pictures are so big and bold.

Personally, I have a certain order I like to read the book in. I like to make silly things happen to the grandma. She goes from being a "strawberry flavored granny" to an "exploding granny" while the pictures show her head changing in shape from ice cream scoops to a volcano.

This book can teach kids many different English language concepts, from sentence structure to parts of speech. You can start by identifying the pattern in the book (Interjection, Article, Adjective, Noun) and asking the kids to create a few sentences as a group that would fit into Sharratt's pattern.

When making split panel books with children at the library, I have black-and-white pictures of people and animals that I've downloaded from the Internet and cropped to be just the right size to fill the right half of one letter-sized paper in landscape orientation. I try to make sure the body parts line up at least somewhat, with the feet, head and stomach more or less interchangeable. It's never as perfect as Sharratt's flawless illustrations, but it works! You could have students draw their own illustrations, but I find this method saves time for learning the writing concept.

I make copies of the pictures and cut them out, and scatter them all over the table along with scissors and glue sticks. I let kids glue the pictures into blank books I've created simply by folding several plain letter sheets and stapling them very close to the fold.

After the pictures are glued, you take a pair of scissors and cut the pages down the middle--but tell the kids to be careful not to cut clear across the fold of the book! Then I like to draw silly additions to the pictures, but that's optional. I encourage the kids to write something on the opposite side of each picture. There are different sentence formulas you could use. You could use Sharratt's Interjection-Article-Adjective-Noun formula, or you could create a different one. My preferred sentence formula for this activity is Subject-Predicate. The top half describes the animal or person and the bottom describes something the animal or person is doing.

I always make a sample book so that the kids see that indeed you CAN turn those blank pages into something funny!

If you liked this workshop idea, stay tuned for information about my book, 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras, which will be published by ALA Editions this November!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bears Storytime

I recently saw a live bear in the wild, while on a hike up at Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was scary! You may not know this, but bears can run as fast as a horse can, at short distances. You have to be very careful and keep a very large distance from bears in the wild. So for today's Preschool Storytime, I was in the mood for some books about bears. I got some great ideas from the book Transforming Preschool Storytime by Betsy Diamant-Cohen and Melanie A. Hetrick.
(Speaking of Diamant-Cohen, I was very fortunate to be able to meet her a few weeks ago at ALA!)
Transforming Preschool Storytime gives librarians ways to sustain early literacy learning over several weeks by continuing a storytime theme and exploring that theme through all different kinds of books, songs, and rhymes. Kids not only hear the stories but act them out and retell them, which are very important literacy skills. Although I cannot commit to doing an extended series of storytimes all around a theme (at our library we rotate who does storytime every week), I did find a lot of great ideas in the book that I incorporated in today's storytime.

Books I Shared

Our first story, Bear's Big Breakfast by Lynn Rowe Reed and illustrated by Brett Helquist, is a fun, alliterative romp through the forest where Bear is hungry for something beginning with "B." The bunny, bat, bee, bluebird and boa constrictor are all eager to help him find a better meal than them!

Our second book, Bear Cubs by Anne Wendorff, was the perfect nonfiction introduction to how a bear spends its first several weeks as a blind cub before it grows into the fearsome creature we know and love! Just enough text to make this book good for sharing with preschoolers.

Our third book, That's (Not) Mine by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant, was about two bears who are having trouble sharing a chair. The law that "I'm sitting in it, so it's mine," isn't working out so well for them, and they just keep arguing. (Sound like any of your kids?)

Flannel Board Story

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

I told this folktale with flannel pieces and I asked the kids to hold up a hand whenever I said an opposite. This was an idea I read about in Transforming Preschool Storytime. So when we said, "The porridge in the big bowl was too hot," we held up one hand. When we said "The porridge in the medium-sized bowl was too cold," we held up our other hand. And when we said, "The porridge in the smallest bowl was just right," we clapped our hands together!

You can read a retelling of this story at There are a lot of great book versions of this fable, interpreted by different authors and illustrators. You can view them here in our online catalog.

Video We Shared

Our film story, based on the book Happy Birthday Moon by Frank Asch, is a sweet story about a little bear who thinks he is talking with the moon when he hears his voice echoed to him. His simple but generous heart motivates him to seek out a hat for the moon's birthday, and also to apologize to the moon for losing the hat it gave him for his birthday.

Songs and Rhymes We Shared Without Music

The following two songs we sang with jingle bells, shaker eggs, drums and other percussion instruments! Pease Porridge Hot Pease porridge hot
Pease porridge cold
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old

Some like it hot
Some like it cold
Some like it in the pot
Nine days old

This Little Bear (I adapted the song "This Old Man" to include bears and the musical instruments I have)

This little bear, she played one
She played knick knack on her drum
With a knick knack paddy whack
Give a dog a bone
This little bear came rolling home

This little bear, he played two
He played jingle bells on my shoe
With a jingle jangle
Give a dog a bone
This little bear came rolling home

This little bear, she played three
She played shaker eggs on my knee
With a shake shake, shakey shake
Give a dog a bone
This little bear came rolling home

This little bear, he played four
He played tap tap on the floor
With a tap tap tappy tap
Give a dog a bone
This little bear came rolling home

We're Going on a Bear Hunt (much abbreviated from the book by Michael Rosen)

(pat knees to the beat)
We're going on a bear hunt
We're going to catch a big one
I'm not scared!
What's up ahead?
Long, wavy grass.
We can't go over it
We can't go under it
Oh, no.
We have to go THROUGH it.
swishy, swashy... (rub hands together)

We're going on a bear hunt
We're going to catch a big one
I'm not scared!
What's up ahead?
Thick, oozy mud.
We can't go over it
We can't go under it
Oh, no.
We have to go THROUGH it.
squelch, squerch... (stomp feet)

We're going on a bear hunt
We're going to catch a big one
I'm not scared!
What's up ahead?
...A cave.
A dark, scary cave.
We can't go over it
We can't go under it
Oh, no.
We have to go THROUGH it.
tiptoe, tiptoe...

What's that?
Two bright eyes,
Two furry ears,
One big nose...
It's a BEAR!

Quick, out of the cave! Tiptoe, tiptoe...
Back through the mud! Squelch, squerch...
Back through the grass! Swishy, swashy...

Back to our house. Open the door,
Run up the stairs--
Oh, no! We forgot to shut the door!
Run back down the stairs...
Shut the door (creeeaak)
Back upstairs!
Into the bedroom!
Under the covers!


The Other Day I Saw a Bear
We also sang this call-and-response song. The verses are call-and-response style at first, then they go into unison. I first learned this song when I was a young Girl Scout. I used to avoid doing longer songs like this at storytime, but recently I've branched out into more call-and-response songs and I think they're an important way to build early literacy and really cement the lyrics in the child's memory!

The other day (The other day)
I saw a bear (I saw a bear)
A great big bear (A great big bear)
Away up there (Away up there)

The other day I saw a bear
A great big bear away up there

He looked at me (He looked at me)
I looked at him (I looked at him)
He sized up me (He sized up me)
I sized up him (I sized up him)

He looked at me, I looked at him
He sized up me, I sized up him

He said to me (He said to me)
"Why don't you run? ("Why don't you run?)
I see you ain't (I see you ain't)
got any gun." (got any gun.")

He said to me "Why don't you run?
I see you ain't got any gun."

And so I ran (And so I ran)
away from there (away from there)
but right behind (but right behind)
me was that bear! (me was that bear!)

And so I ran away from there
but right behind me was that bear!

Ahead of me (Ahead of me)
I saw a tree (I saw a tree)
A great big tree (A great big tree)
Oh lucky me! (Oh lucky me!)

Ahead of me I saw a tree
A great big tree Oh lucky me!

The lowest branch (The lowest branch)
was ten feet up. (was ten feet up.)
I had to jump (I had to jump)
and trust my luck! (and trust my luck!)

The lowest branch was ten feet up.
I had to jump and trust my luck!

And so I jumped (And so I jumped)
into the air (into the air)
But I missed that branch (But I missed that branch)
away up there. (away up there.)

And so I jumped into the air
But I missed that branch away up there.

Now don't you fret (Now don't you fret)
and don't you frown (and don't you frown)
cuz I caught that branch (cuz I caught that branch)
on my way down! (on my way down!)

Now don't you fret and don't you frown
cuz I caught that branch on my way down!

That's all there is. (That's all there is.)
There is no more (There is no more)
until I meet (until I meet)
that bear once more. (that bear once more.)

That's all there is. There is no more
until I meet that bear once more.

Music from CDs We Shared

I love to sing and dance to music. Here's the song and CD recording that we sang as our opening song for today's storytime.

“Clap Everybody and Say Hello” from Sally Go Round the Sun by Kathy Reid-Naiman

Clap everybody and say hello, (clap hands)
Clap everybody and say hello,
Clap everybody and say hello,
No matter what the weather.

Stamp everybody and say hello, (stomp feet)
Stamp everybody and say hello,
Stamp everybody and say hello,
No matter what the weather.

Wiggle everybody and say hello, (wiggle)
Wiggle everybody and say hello,
Wiggle everybody and say hello,
No matter what the weather.

Jump everybody and say hello, (jump)
Jump everybody and say hello,
Jump everybody and say hello,
No matter what the weather.

Sing everybody and say hello, (wave hi)
Sing everybody and say hello,
Sing everybody and say hello,
No matter what the weather.

Continue the Fun

If you want more stories about bears, try these!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Using Great Books to Teach Writing Great Hooks

At my Kids' Writing Workshop yesterday, I updated a lesson I created a few years ago about writing engaging beginnings. I combed through the upper middle grade books at our library and looked through all of my favorites, seeing if the first line was something I would hold up as an example of a great "hook."

 You'll notice the selection of books is very eclectic. It's something I try to keep in mind when planning workshops for kids who have all different reading interests.

Not all good books have a gripping first line, but of the ones that do, I found a lot of patterns. I grouped these into five categories:

1. Give the Reader a Sense of Urgency and Danger (Adventure, Thriller)

The house is falling in. 
The house is falling in and Danny is falling, knees and elbows crumpling onto the floor, and an earsplitting crash is tearing through the air—that’s surely the roof, breaking in two, about to come pelting down on top of him.

--The Bookof Storms by Ruth Hatfield

2. Tug on the Reader’s Heart Strings (Sympathy, often for poverty or loss, often sad)

            It was fun at first, playing house.
            I made all my own meals.  Crackers and cheese, three times a day.
                        --Love,Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

            Wilhelmina knew that there were some houses that had glass in every window and locks on the doors. 
            The farmhouse in which she lived was not one of them.

                        --Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

3. Make the Reader Scratch His Head (Humor, Strangeness, Mystery)

            On the morning I was scheduled to die, a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house.  The thirty-degree temperature didn’t seem to bother him, but he must have had a lousy breakfast, because he let out a burp as loud as a tuba. 
            Belching barefoot giants who look like Vikings are not normal in Belleville, Indiana.  But I didn’t really get a chance to see the guy closely.
            At that moment, I, Jack McKinley, was under attack in my own bedroom.  By a flying reptile.
--The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis

How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.  In fact, if she were to list her worries right then and there as she sat spellbound on the park bench and watched her little brother, Mac, carried aloft in the talons of these five black crows, puzzling out just how this feat was being done would likely come in dead last.  First on the list: Her baby brother, her responsibility, was being abducted by birds.  A close second: What did they plan on doing with him?
--Wildwood by Colin Meloy

4. Speak to the Reader Like a Trusted Friend (Narrative voice, Show the reader who you are)

            We only have a few hours, so listen carefully.
            If you’re hearing this story, you’re already in danger.  Sadie and I might be your only chance.
                        --TheRed Pyramid by Rick Riordan

            My name is Charlie Joe Jackson, and I hate reading.  And if you’re reading this book, you hate reading, too. 
            In fact, you do whatever you can to avoid reading, and the fact that you’re holding a book in your hand right now is kind of shocking.
            I know exactly how you feel; I’m one of you.
            Just remember: you are not alone.  We’ll get through this together.
--Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald       

            All I’ve ever wanted is for Juli Baker to leave me alone.  For her to back off—you know, just give me some space.
                        --Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

5. Set the Scene (Not Just The Setting! Tie it to plot, themes, meaning of book)

            There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.  There once was a very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas.  That was over a hundred years ago.  Now it is just a dry, flat wasteland.
--Holes by Louis Sachar

            The fjord is freezing over. I watch it from the edge of the cliff near our hall, and each day the ice claims more of the narrow winding of ocean. It squeezes out the waves and the blue-black water, while it squeezes us in. Just as Father intended it to. Winter is here to wall us up, to bury us in snow and keep us safe.
                        --Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

After we read these excerpts and talked about each writing style, I read selections from five other middle grade books and asked the kids which category each one would fall under:
The kids really got into analyzing these opening lines for what kind of opening they represented. I love it when I see kids realize there are principles and theories that they can apply to their own writing.

Then we did an activity: the kids had to write two different openings to a story, and their peers voted on which one they liked better by holding up "A" or "B." I find that the method of having everyone vote on their favorite version is a kind and encouraging way of giving kids feedback on which piece was the most effective. The kids read their pieces aloud. We all guessed what kind of opening they wrote (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) and then we voted which ones we liked best.

Here's a photo from when I did this a few years ago:

The other thing I like about this is that they can see that different people respond to different things. It's all very subjective, and that's how writing is.

I encouraged everyone to read The Tiara on the Terrace or The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher, because she's going to be our guest instructor for our next workshop! I told the kids that I would have a prize for whoever asked Kristen the best question, and then they rushed to grab the library copies of her books.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Music Literacy in the Library

A while back, parents in my local school district were surveyed about what needs there are for kids in the community. Many parents expressed a need for more music. That got me thinking, as a children's librarian, about how I could bring more music programs to kids at the library, and how I could connect that to literacy.

Then I discovered a great partnership in the person of this music educator I know who had come to one of our Educator Nights at the library: Dayita Datta. She came to me and pitched an idea for a music program for kids to introduce them to all kinds of concepts about music, while keeping the focus on singing, dancing and having fun. 

Yesterday we got to try out that program here, just as a one-time thing because of budget limitations. It was awesome. She had the kids dancing, singing, clapping rhythms, playing the metallophone. But literacy was deeply involved in the program all the way through: in the books she presented, in the ways she "sang" the books, and in the ways the kids anticipated outcomes and participated in repetition and rhymes. 

Here are a few of the books Dayita shared:

Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree

First this book starts out illustrating an English song, then it changes to a "music map" with chestnuts rising and falling to indicate the rise and fall of the melody, and growing bigger or smaller to indicate how long to hold each note.

I loved the music literacy applications of that! Eventually, what the kids see is the official sheet music of what they just sang.


Dayita didn't just read this book--she sang it on chant pitches, and encouraged the kids to come in on chanted "Oh yes!" and "Oh no!"

Freight Train

Playing a train whistle, Dayita taught the kids about the difference between rhythm and tempo. She kept the same rhythm but changed the tempo, or speed. Then she read the book, playing the whistle and inviting kids to clap along.

I hope I can have Dayita back at my library because there are a lot of possibilities I think she could explore with the kids if we were able to hire her for a longer series!