Monthly Archives: April 2008

Alphabet Die-Cut Books

The printing department was going to throw out cases and cases of very nice paper that just happened to be an inch too short and had jammed up all the copiers they’d tried to use it in. It was rescued by another library employee, and we were allowed to take it and use it for whatever. I took several boxes and have just begun to think of fun things to do with it.

For my first project I stapled together six sheets of paper, at the ends, just like a book. Then I used die cuts and colored printer paper to punch out the letters A-D and two items that corresponded to those letters. C for Cat and Carrot, A for Apple and Airplane, B for Butterfly and Bear, and D for Duck and Dinosaur. It was something of a trick to guess how many to cut out and to separate them into groups and then distribute them for use.

Children filled in their name on special title pages that they could paste on, then put the letters together on the pages however they wanted. There was even a spare page for them to practice their other letters, or decorate however they wanted.

Many parents wanted their children to participate, but the children didn’t all have attention spans to sit for that long, or they needed to leave, so a number of parents took books and letters home with them. In addition to creating their own books, children were able to see how other author’s created alphabet books.

Not only was this activity fun, but it taught important skills about how books work, loving books, letter recognition, and many other pre-literacy skills. I’ll definitely be repeating this activity–though the next time I plan on using stamps and ink pads to save on prep time and to make it easier to manage the group.

Some of My Favorite Toddler and Pre-school Characters

One of my most successful activities, making puppets out of some of my very favorite characters in toddler and pre-school literature. I found simple outline drawings of four popular characters (each was identified with their creator and name), blew them up, and then printed them on card-stock. Children colored them, cut them out, and then pasted them on tongue depressors. These simple puppets were paired with books featuring these characters engaged in simple everyday activities.
Four characters were featured: Lucy Cousin’s Maisy, Eric Hill’s Spot, Jonathan London’s Froggy, and Paulette Bourgeois’s Franklin. Multiple copies of each of their books were displayed, some in board book and pop-up formats. Among my personal favorites: Maisy Goes Camping (Maisy) Spot Goes to School (color) (Spot) Franklin Goes to School (Franklin) Froggy Gets Dressed

Children were encouraged to explore the activities that took place in the books along with their puppets. Some participants had never heard of these characters before, but many were old favorites. Either way they enjoyed the pairing of puppet and book.

I designed this activity to encourage narrative skills, as well as to continue to foster print motivation. Ideally, children would be able to tell stories with their puppets, tell the stories along with the text stories, and have fun playing as they saw fit. In addition, it is an activity that children from a very broad range can enjoy, since even very small children could enjoy the puppets.
Attendance was high (between 40-50 each day) and the reports were very positive. Children and parents LOVED this activity. One parent gathered a fish book along with Maisy Goes to the Library (Maisy) so that her daughters could read a fish book like Maisy does at the end of the story. Another parent reported that following making Mazie puppets with his daughter (who he thought was too young) Mazie became one of her few words, and that weeks after she still plays with her.

This is one we’ll repeat for sure!

Letter Lacing!

This week’s activity following storytime is Lacing! When I was a child I used to have some cardboard shapes that we laced, and I remember enjoying them. So I modified the activity to tie it into our literacy theme. So we are lacing letters–continuing the alphabet from our alphabet books, with E,F,G,H and I. The letters are made with foam, cut on the ellison die, with holes made with a hole punch. Yarn is cut to a length suitable for each of the letters.

Hopefully, this activity will encourage children to practice their letters, work on motor skills, and have a good time learning. Parents can also use the library’s dies to make a complete set of letters to practice with at home. The foam is sturdy enough that children can practice lacing more then once and in different patterns.

In addition, this is an activity that caregivers can take with them to work on at home. Take-home activities are VERY popular, as many children are overstimulated at the library, want lunch, a nap, and quiet before they can work on a literacy activity. Many parents work these activities into their regular at-home education practices, and we include books with other suggestions.

Number Chains!

The first week of April we started our work on numbers and emphasized sequencing along with numeral/quantity relationships. In order to do this, and have fun, we made number chains of links starting with one 1, then two 2s, and so on, with a strip for their names. I printed these numbers on a standard 11inch printer page then copied them onto colorful printer paper, then along with a volunteer, I cut them into strips and gathered them with paper clips into groups of 11 strips.

Each participant got a group of strips, which we showed them how to connect using a glue stick. While I wanted them to connect in the correct order, many of the children were just happy to connect them. And as I always say–there is no wrong way–we learn at our own speed, and work on our own level–the only rule is to have fun (oh, and don’t eat the glue or put it in anyone’s hair) Some parents and caregivers created their own chains which they used to practice numbers with their children.

Sequencing is an important pre-literacy skill–and practicing putting things in order, from number strips, letter strips, or flashcards can be a fun and easy way to develop this skill. We had over a hundred participants, both children and caregivers.

Along with this activity, we displayed books featuring numbers and counting, particularly counting to 10. There are a number of very popular books re-telling the classic round story about 10 in a bed. Which is perfect for toddlers, because it is repetitive, and allows for participation. It also teaches cause and effect. While children worked on their crafts, I discussed with parents the advantages of reading this type of book and suggested several titles they might use.

Since these activities attract children from 17mo to 7 yrs old, from a wide variety of backgrounds, who are at various stages of reading readiness, parents have extremely varied needs. Some parents think that their children are too young for counting, too young for books, and lack the attention span for reading. So during the activities I enjoy demonstrating how small children can enjoy a book, and how interactive many of our board books are. Because these activities are joint caregiver and child, I have a lot of opportunities to interact with parents and offer tips and suggestions on fostering literacy skills. But since there are so many parents and children I can’t always offer extended attention, so I dedicated a shelf of my display cart to parenting and literacy books filled with ideas for fun ways to make literacy learning a part of every day.

Shapes! Shapes! Shapes!

Spring break and the last week of March featured fun with shapes. This activity focused on color and shape recognition, as well as working on motor skills with cutting and using glue sticks. Plus it was FUN for kids as young as 2 and as old as 10!

An easy activity, we printed a square, a circle, a triangle, and a rectangle on colored copy paper. Some of these shapes we cut out so the smallest kids could participate, others we allowed children to cut out. Then we brought out 11 x 16 pieces of white copy paper. Children with the help of caregivers were able to cut out shapes and paste them to their pages in whatever pattern and order they wished. They could choose whatever colors they wanted and as many shapes and colors as they had patience to cut and paste.

To support this activity, we displayed some fun shape books, as well as books on colors. And along with helping children with cutting and figuring out how to paste, I and a teen volunteer asked children to discuss their creations. Several older children from a daycare facility asked to have their creations displayed–which we did!

Some of our fun books: Ship Shapes Ship Shapes
Shape Capers
Shape Capers
So Many Circles, So Many Squares
So Many Circles, So Many Squares
Mouse Shapes
Mouse Shapes

Finding Unusual Formats

Lately I’ve been spending more and more time wander the shelves of our Juvenile Fiction collection pulling out books that look interesting. Some of the books are ones I read as a child, or fit into the bibliographies I’m working on for one of my classes, but recently I’ve found a bunch with unusual and surprising formats.
The first one was brought to my attention by a girl who was looking for a later book in the series, she said the first one was hilarious. Regarding the Fountain (Regarding the...) is told through letters, diagrams, and other bits of ephemera. It has a number of sequels in the same format. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to read it all, because no sooner had I started looking through it then another girl came and asked for a book fitting its description!

I found the next on our new book cart–it is unusual not so much in its format, as in its genre bending. A Research Puzzle This book is a chapter book mystery, in which a boy is given the type of assignment familiar to many teachers, librarians, and students. He is asked to research a boring inventor that he has never even heard of, but in his research he uncovers some unexpected information on-line which he then has to determine its accuracy. This book is thus a cross over between a non-fiction book about research, the twentieth century, and determining accuracy, but also a mystery told in chapter book format.

Another series that I found like that is like this is the Wonder-Wits series, which is even more non-fiction, though within a story and somewhat of a chapter book. Wonder Wits There are actually a number of these in the series, with very colorful images, short text, and crafts and games children can complete following reading the book.

I found this picture book/chapter book cross when looking for books for reluctant boy readers. Dracula vs. Grampa at the Monster Truck Spectacular (Wiley and Grampa's Creature Features, No. 1) It has way more pictures then the usual chapter book, and while it is in black and white, it is much more a picture storybook.

The Last one I’d heard of before, but found when I was helping transfer our Juvenile Graphic novels out of the general collection and into their own area. The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer (Owly (Graphic Novels)) Owly is a graphic novel with a twist–there are no words. While wordless, it is not really aimed towards pre-readers, and would be suitable for grade 4 and up. I particularly liked the sensitivity and emotions of these wordless characters.

Ready to go get Ready to Read

My early literacy activities are focused on the six ready to read skills developed by the American Library Association, though every skill is not emphasized every day. Each week we focus on one different theme, and bring in books that are associated with that topic. Even when the theme is shapes or numbers, the connection with early literacy is maintained through the usage of books and other skills.

There are six skills that we foster in different ways, in storytimes, in activities, and in our ready-to-read center, which is full of activities that help children develop these skills in play:

  • Vocabulary: Exposing children to new words, synonyms, and a variety of experiences prepares them to be readers, and also makes them ready for school.
  • Print Awareness: Helping children understand the connection between words and the actual real item, can also be seen in connecting the numeral with the quantitative amount.
  • Narrative Skills: Encourages children to interact with text, tell the story, guess what will happen next, helps them to understand how a story works and how the world works. Cause and effect
  • Print Motivation: Sharing the love of reading, putting fun in the fundamentals of learning, and illustrating how enjoyable reading and learning can be.
  • Phonological Awareness: Exposes children to the way words work, and the sounds they make, through rhyme, rhythm, and song.
  • Letter Knowledge: Knowing ABCs, and how they relate to sounds and each other–what order do they come in?

Every week following storytime, we hold an activity to foster these skills, along with displays of books which parents and caregivers are encouraged to take home to continue the fun and learning. These activities are for learning, but more then that they are for FUN, and children are allowed to come and go as their attention span fluctuates. Some children would rather play on the computer or color independently–and why not! For some activities, parents and caregivers can take materials home with them to complete when the children have more energy or more attention.

Much of my efforts go in educating parents and caregivers who may not be aware that their child is old enough to be developing these skills, or they may not be aware of the benefit in some of the activities they are already doing. Parents and caregivers frequently tell me that their child is not old enough for books, crayons, counting, practicing their letters, or working on the craft. The message I have to share is that children can work on developing these skills at their own pace, but are never too young to start getting ready to read!

Number Magic!

This week’s Reading Readiness Post-Storytime theme has been numbers and counting–which while not strictly reading related is a very important skill. Recognizing the connection between the numerals and the physical quantity of an item, along with sequencing the order of numbers, both contributes to Kindergarten readiness and literacy. Many of the children I work with are very good at identifying how many fingers are held up, but can not tie that into the numeral. Some children can count fingers, but have difficulty with counting other items.

Our activity this week uses plates purchased from Lakeshore Learning, and doctored by me, to teach these skills. It also helps children with motor skills–since many are still mastering the crayon, and find the rubbing motion to be a new skill. The plates, which are relatively flimsy on their own, are attached to pieces of craft foam, and then pieces of paper are taped at the top over the plate. Children then color on the top and magically numbers appear.

Initially we just used the plates without the foam or tape, but the children needed more supervision and help then caregivers or children had any patience to give. Mounting the plates and using tape provided a much easier activity, and even 2 year old children could color without distorting the underlying image. (Though it is much harder for them to rub over the plate)

We had about 40 attendees for the first two sessions, before we solved the problem, but only about 32 after. This was mostly the result of weather, and normal attendance patterns.

Libraries–Helping Children!

Right now I work in two different libraries and am attending Library Science school–this keeps me very busy, but never too busy to share my enthusiasm with everyone I encounter. I’m particularly excited about my two jobs in Youth Services, and the literacy activities I’ve been presenting. I spend large portions of my time sharing with other library employees and anyone willing to stand still long enough to hear my latest plans for encouraging literacy and anecdotes from my latest projects.

Part of this is advocacy–as the more I’m able to communicate the importance of what I’m doing the more likely other librarians are to continue it after I leave and the more likely it is to reach more children. But it is also that I just really, really enjoy what I do!  Today a co-worker asked what I was doing, and I started to explain how what I was working on was going to help the children do the activity better.  She stopped me in the middle to say: “Just say you are helping children–it is shorter, and it is pretty much always true!”

So here I am, full of enthusiasm, and ready to share my love of libraries, children, reading, and my commitment to fostering literacy and life-long learning!