pool noodles and mats and duct tape and bean bags!

We’ve been offering a program every Friday at 10:00am for 18mos-5 year olds and their caregivers: dance parties, science, process art, parachute play, and movement. About half we do ourselves and we are fortunate enough to be able to hire out the other half.

This month I was all set to do a parachute play session, but then a post about an obstacle course caught my eye on the Storytime Underground facebook page.

I’m totally an obstacle course kinda woman.

It was my favorite kind of program: low prep and cost/high impact. Here’s a picture of almost the whole space:

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And here are the individual stations:

Balance beam: Many thanks to our teen librarian who let me use her superfancy rainbow duct tape. It was a big hit!

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Tossing: The monster friend on the left we made and the frog on the right was something we found that had been stashed away. I was wildly impressed we actually tried to throw the bean bags INTO the mouths and not AT each other.

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Over and under and over: pool noodles, step stools, and chairs. This was really popular. We had one kid who just did hot laps through this station over and over and over again.

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Trucks and shapes with duct tape: Not so wiggly, but it was nice to have a calmer station where we could trace our shapes with our trucks.

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How far can you jump: ducts tape with numbers. A surprisingly popular station given how easy it was to set up. I ended up making one of these closer together which was definitely the smart thing to do. It gave them so much confidence to be able to reach 5!

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Crawl through: mats and chairs. Yup. This was the big one. I had questioned having multiple entry and exit points, but it worked out really well. I also had 3 stand alones in case we were a little nervous about the long tunnel. We were originally going to purchase tunnels, but I wanted to make sure this was going to be something we wanted to repeat before we invested money so we used our mats from our baby storytime room hence the need to have chairs to keep them upright.

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I had multiple requests from caregivers to include this next winter in our Friday rotation of programs (which are actually in jeopardy given our staffing levels on Fridays but fingers crossed!) and we had about 50 kids and caregivers in attendance which was about perfect for the space.

Miss Erin is now really tired as she jumped and crawled and tossed and balanced right along with them!

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one of those moments when it’s all worth it

I was finishing up a preschool/kindergarten tour with about 25 kids and we’d reached the really fun part where I ask “Does anyone have any questions?” and everyone’s hand goes up and when I call on a kid they put their hand down and pause….pause….pause….”I HAVE A DOG AT HOME!”

I know I’m not actually going to be asked any questions with this age group but I always ask anyway because I kind of love the answers. After a few rounds of pause…..pause….pause….”I LIKE LEGOS!” and pause….pause….pause….”CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM IS MY FAVORITE!” I decided to ask a different question: “Does anyone want to tell me their favorite book?”

All hands up.

Over 75% of the kids said “Moo!” by David LaRochelle most likely because I’d just read “Moo!” by David LaRochelle to them before we started the tour but also because that book rules. I turned to the teacher and asked if we had time for me to read it again and she said that would be fine.

And then one girl asked “Can we read it with you?” and I don’t know what came over me but I asked “Can you read it TO me?” which was greeted with a chorus of “YES!”

And they did.

I pointed. I reacted non-verbally as if I was reading it. And they read it to me. With expression.

I witnessed 25 kids on the verge of learning to read get so excited about reading a book together.

On the days when you feel like you’re going to lose your mind trying to juggle the programs and the collection and the outreach and the tours and staff cuts and budget cuts, remember moments like this. We, as youth services professionals, have an enormous positive impact on the kids in our communities. We are growing readers.

High five, tribe.

things i can control, things i can influence, and everything else

It’s been a mean couple of weeks. The kind of weeks where I’ve dreaded coming to work.  The kind of weeks where it feels like the hits just keep coming. The kind of weeks where I’m wondering if this is the new normal and the new normal might not be sustainable for me.

I keep reminding myself there are a few things I can control, a few more things I can influence, and a whole mess of things I can’t do much about.

In an attempt at feeling somewhat more in control, I’ve jumped head first into a few independent projects. I started researching incentives for reading and was directed to Stephen Krashen by the one and only Melissa Depper. The original impetus was going to an outreach site and being asked “What do I get for reading this week?” every time I visited, but I’m quickly realizing this research has relevance to the ongoing SRP/SLP/SRC Revolution. Are we actually doing the exact opposite we intend to do when we incentivize reading? One of my favorite things to say I “do” in my job is motivate kids to read because reading is the best. If reading is the best, why do we give kids anything to do it? Shouldn’t we be spending our summers allowing kids to read whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want and providing a ton of readers’ advisory help? Instead of labor intensive programs, shouldn’t we be offering book talk sessions for all ages (oh, man. I just thought of this idea and our SRP programming is already SET for this summer!) so kids can be introduced to books of interest to them in a fun way? I mean, there’s RESEARCH here, people, actual research!

I also picked up “Tools of the Mind: the Vygotskian approach to early childhood education” by Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong. After much consideration and much helpful advice from my fabulous twitter PLN, I’ve pretty much decided to forgo an MLIS in favor of an advanced early childhood education degree. I love school aged kids and I love working with them, but I have a passion for early childhood literacy and I am hopeful I will be able to continue working in a public library setting with a degree like this. I won’t be able to be a library director when I grow up, but quite honestly, my interest in management has waned.

Which brings me back to things I can control, things I can influence, and everything else.

I can control what knowledge I have. With that knowledge, I can influence and hopefully inspire people in my community, but the everything else part? I’m ready to to be done worrying and stressing and let it be everything else.

I have a history of melanoma and I just found out I have yet another spot that needs to be removed asap. Making it even more fun, it’s on my foot. MY FOOT! Which most likely means a longer recovery time. My already understaffed team is going to have to cover my storytimes, programs, outreach, and desk time for I-don’t-know-how-long-yet and I hate that it’s because of me. I don’t exactly have the best role models when it comes to taking the time one needs to recover and couple that with recent staff reductions, the guilt I feel over this could be crippling. But you know what? I am a valuable employee, but I am not essential. I’m not. What is essential is my health. I have watched employees literally work themselves to death by ignoring health issues and putting their job’s first. Miss Erin is going to put her health first and come back armed with many Mister Rogers’ episodes watched, many books read, and all ready to tackle SRP2015.