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The Third Week

This week, Erica was on vacation.  However, that didn’t stop it from being pretty action-packed.  My plan was to visit the Northeast story times on Tuesday (Chrissy) and Thursday (Marion), and attend a few others at different branches during the rest of the week.

On Tuesday, I came in as scheduled.  However, Chrissy called in sick.  I didn’t want to disappoint the kids by canceling story time, so I volunteered to do it.  Thankfully, the room was already set up!  I had half an hour to put together a story time, so it was a bit of trial by fire.  Chrissy had planned to do a chicken story time, and we’d prepared a chicken craft and found a chicken hand stamp.  However, I wasn’t sure I could find several really good chicken books of the right length and difficulty on short notice.  But I could think of several farm animal books.  I pulled one from the shelves, “Hen Hears Gossip,” and used Erica’s big book of “The Big Red Barn”.  The I pulled a few others to set out for parents to check out.  For our song, I found an Old MacDonald felt board set.  This was the newest thing for me – I do regular kindergarten story times for Page Ahead, but I’ve never used a felt board.  I thought this would be a great chance to use some of what I’ve learned from Erica and give it a try.

Overall, I think it went fairly well.  Hen Hears Gossip didn’t garner as much enthusiasm.  I think the joke – that each animal hears the gossip in a slightly different way, and repeats the wrong thing – was a little too sophisticated for many of the children, although the parents got a kick out of it.  The Big Red Barn was familiar to many of the kids, so they loved that.  I basically just followed Erica’s outline, so the story time practically ran itself.  Most of the books I set out got checked out and played with, also, so that was nice.  And the craft was very popular.  I discovered that it’s very difficult to manage a big book, especially towards the end; I’ll have to ask Erica for advice on how to hold it and turn the pages.

I observed Joanna at Green Lake and Marion at Northeast as well.  They had very different styles from each other and from Erica, so that was great.  Green Lake gets a much smaller crowd, so Joanna was able to use musical instruments and shaker eggs.  This was a lot of fun!  Rather than doing something structured with them, she just put on a CD related to the theme and let kids play and dance.  I thought this was a nice release valve.  Also, Joanna was doing a family story time, which I hadn’t observed before.  Something less structured allows children of all ages to be involved, and gives parents with infants a chance to soothe the baby while the older child is distracted.  She also tried to have a little something for each age group.  She started out with a pop-up book for the younger children, and transitioned into more difficult books later.  Also, instead of a felt board she used a velcro glove with little puppets.  I hadn’t seen that before, but it’s cute.

Observing Marion was interesting because it was in the same space with the same kids I normally see.  That made it very easy to see how small differences can have a big effect.  One little thing Marion did that I absolutely loved was to move her chair closer to the rug.  It really added to the sense of intimacy, even though her story times were both very large (75-95 people).  Like Erica, she wrote a letter on the board.  However, she wrote both the upper and lower case.  This is a very small change, but I thought it could make a big difference in how kids learn to recognize letters.  Also, I really liked how Marion handled the book.

One thing I noticed at both story times is how difficult it is to change the children’s routine.  Joanna tried to sing along with the book “Old MacDonald had a tractor,” but it was very difficult to get the kids to adapt to the new pattern.  Marion used a slightly different version of the song “open, shut them” than Erica, and the kids essentially just refused to do it.  They sang their regular tune and words until Marion changed her version to match theirs.  I can see the importance of having a routine for young children, but I also want to make sure in my own story times that I expose them to new things.  I realize that I’ll have to be very deliberate and up-front about changing any established pattern, or it will be difficult for the children to accept the new idea.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to as many story times as I would have liked due to scheduling conflicts, but I’d like to continue visiting other story times throughout the quarter.  I especially would like to attend a bilingual story time.  Marion also suggested trying out King County story times, to compare their styles.

This week I also attended the regional children’s librarian meeting.  It was fascinating to see how the regional system is working out.  In many ways, it seems to be very effective.  The librarians from many branches have worked together to make sure story times are offered on a variety of days, at different times, and that all age groups are adequately covered.  Even though budgets have been cut and there are fewer available children’s librarians, program coverage actually feels like it’s increased.  It’s wonderful to encourage everybody to work together this way.  Also, the librarians shared their thoughts, concerns, and resources with each other.  I wonder if communication between them was this good before the region was established.  However, the regional system also has its problems.  Some neighborhoods and schools are receiving less time and attention, and covering for them with librarians from other branches puts a strain on everybody and wastes time in transit.  The librarians are not each assigned an equal load; some are leading many programs while others have almost none.  Seeing how these issues are addressed has definitely informed the way I think about distribution of time and resources throughout a system.

Next week is the children’s book group, which I’m very excited to attend!

Hours +9, Total =51 (+2 for book group next week =53)

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