on surviving a rainbow magic fairy party

I am not a fairy person. I am not a rainbow person (unless we’re talking about the LGBTQ+ community and then I’m all kinds of in love with rainbows!). And I’m not a huge fan of the Rainbow Magic Fairy books. So, I’m not sure what I was thinking last fall when I said “I think we should throw a Rainbow Magic Fairy Party and I’ll do it.”

I’ve been mildly freaking out about it ever since.

I may have mentioned this before, but we don’t require registrations for just about every program we do at the library. While I completely understand the reasoning behind this, it does mean staff takes the brunt of the stress: What if I run out of materials?What if I don’t have enough room? What if I can’t control the crowd?! (that’s all me and my inability to feel in control of school aged kids. I seriously need to work on this.)

I definitely have Kim from Literary Commentary to thank for inspiration. I probably read this post a thousand times. I so wanted to do flower crowns, but alas I was worried about how many kids would show up.

Here’s what we did:

1. I started by talking about the fairies and it took me awhile to get comfortable with my approach. I decided to focus on talents. I mentioned that the fairies all have different talents: the sports fairies! the dance fairies! the music fairies! I talked about Gail Carson Levine’s book “Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg” and how Prilla is a new fairy and no one knows what her talent is at first. This ended up being a really great way to approach it as we talked about things we were really good at doing. And yes, it warmed my little heart when a girl said “My talent is reading!” I had a few kids who said “I don’t know what my talent is…” which allowed me to channel my inner Mister Rogers and talk about how we’re all different and special and we are still trying lots of things to find our talents, but a talent usually comes from something we really love doing so what are some things YOU LOVE TO DO? Nervous kids turned into excited kids!

2. I read the first 2 or 3 chapters from Inky the Indigo Fairy. I confess: I chose Inky because she wore jeans. And wasn’t pink. And wasn’t blonde. We had advertised it as a program for K-3rd graders and I had some much younger kids. Call me impressed that the majority of them sat through a 15 minute reading of a book without pictures.

3. We decorated wings. We purchased these from Discount School Supply. Have I mentioned how lucky I am to work for a library that can afford this kind of thing? Because I am. And I know I am. I mentioned before we got started to think about what our talents are and to keep those in mind when we’re decorating. We used washable markers and glittery heart stickers and some stick on jewels to decorate.

4. We made wands. We purchased thin dowels and used glitter hearts and ribbon. They could also color the dowels with washable markers if they wanted to. This ended up being a different “station” (thanks to my awesome team for some quick thinking on this option!) which took them away from the open area where we had decorated our wings and gave us a chance to clean up a little to get ready for….

5. The Fairy Dance Party! I put together a playlist of fairy-ish songs: When Will My Life Begin from Tangled, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies from the Nutcracker (added bonus that the Sugar Plum Fairy is mentioned in Inky!), To the Sky by Owl City (yeah, yeah, it’s from Guardians of Ga’hoole, but they didn’t care or notice it was about owls not fairies!), Bibbiti Bobbiti Boo from Cinderella (and I was shocked, SHOCKED I SAY, many kids didn’t know this one), Fly To Your Heart from the Tinkerbell movie, Touch the Sky from Brave and….wait for it….LET IT GO. Three times. I had to play Let it Go THREE TIMES.

And then it was over. And I realized I had survived. And not only had I survived, I realized I had a rapt audience of about 27 girls and 3 boys where we talked about talents and individuality and being special. And then we danced to songs that were about flying in the sky and reaching for the stars and being ourselves.



star wars reads day may be over but star wars forever!

Star Wars is huge, right? I mean, everyone has an opinion: the original movies were the best! I love Jar Jar Binks! I hate Jar Jar Binks! Clone Wars is better than Episodes 1, 2, and 3 combined! Ewoks ruined Return of the Jedi! The Empire Strikes Back is the best movie hands down!

And Star Wars Reads Day is huge, right? Families! Characters! Games! Giveaways!

And it’s election season, right? Campaign ads and campaign ads and campaign ads. And then more campaign ads and campaign ads and campaign ads.

So, last night while watching Star Wars: Rebels (yes, we bought the entire season on Amazon. no, we don’t have children. yes, I’m glad we bought it because from what I saw? It RULES.) I starting thinking about extending our Star Wars love for a few more weeks. With something passive. And something timely.

Star Wars 3

Okay, okay, I know. I’m going to get nailed for including a picture of Yoda as a rebel because technically he’s obviously not a rebel, but YODA. And I really wanted to use rebels instead of jedis because of the new show, but I didn’t want to use a character from the new show in case there were kids who haven’t had the chance to see it yet.

Star Wars 4

Next week, kids will create “campaign” posters for their favorite side. They can draw a picture, they can write a few sentences whichever they feel most comfortable doing. I wondered at first how many kids would even pick the Empire, but if my nephews are any indication: The Dark Side is popular. Very popular.

Star Wars 2

The following week, we vote. Everyone who votes gets an “I voted” sticker and a chance to win some Star Wars swag.

My original idea last night was to have a ballot that included everything: each movie, Clone Wars, Rebels, and even the books. But in the light of this morning and after talking it over with my supervisor, we decided simple is better. A gazillion choice ballot would be overwhelming for some of our youngest patrons who are huge fans and we wanted them to participate as well.

This entire program took me about 25 minutes to create and if I know our kids, we’ll have at least 75 participate over the course of the 2 weeks.

Passive programming, y’all. It’s an amazing thing.

tmnt: passive program for the win!

This past spring, I took this course taught by the fabulous Marge Loch-Wouters and to say it inspired me is an understatement. I learned programming does not have to be an incredibly expensive or stressful endeavor. I learned to think outside the box. I learned sometimes passive programs are not only less labor intensive, but better.

This fall I’ve gotten a chance to put some of what I learned into action.

September was dubbed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle month. The original intention was to highlight areas of our nonfiction collection that TMNT fans might have overlooked: ninjas! turtles! slimy things! subways! the renaissance! (Okay, that last one was kind of a stretch, but you get the idea.) We booked the Outdoor Discovery Center to come and do a program on local Michigan turtles.  We had displays.

And then we dipped our toes into passive programming.

First up: design your own pizza! I found a “blank” pizza coloring page online, slapped it into Publisher and asked kids to color in the pizza and then write the ingredients. About 120 kids participated and everyone got a scratch and sniff pizza bookmark because TMNT LOVE pizza.

The next week, I was going to do a scavenger hunt, but I just wasn’t feeling it. At all. It didn’t help that my coworker Chris had already finished a Star Wars scavenger hunt that was really witty. My creative juices were just not flowing. So, on a whim I decided to go with Test Your Ninja Skills stations.


First up:


Y’all? This was crazy fun to watch. We’ve got some kids with some mad chopsticks skills in this community. And they were so proud of themselves! “Miss Erin!!! I got ALL OF THE POMPOMS! ALL OF THEM!” It was also really great to see our caregivers working with our youngest patrons. The patience these kids exhibited was astounding. (Pro tip: secure BOTH containers to the tables with book tape!)



This one was also fun. Their natural inclination was to stack them like a pyramid which is why I included a picture of cups stacked differently. I loved watching kids figure this one out. We had leftover small condiment containers we’d used for a Rainbow Loom program so I went with those instead of regular sized cups.

And finally:


Yeah, I straight up told them where to find the turtles. Our department is pretty big and the last thing I wanted was for this to be frustrating. The whole point was FUN. And even with me telling them, we still got questions: “Where’s the DISPLAY?!” Uh, right behind you?

Kids then filled this out:


and dropped it in a container at the desk. Kids were only allowed to enter once, but could interact with the stations as many times as they liked. We had 180 participants and 7 kids won TMNT prizes: from books to wall clings to a lunchbox and lanyards.

We’re taking a bit of a break for October though we’ll have the aforementioned witty Star Wars scavenger hunt up for the month. We’re not doing a giveaway for this one because we don’t want kids to get used to getting something every single time.

Because the whole point? Is for them to explore the department, show off their skills and have fun IN the library.

I think we accomplished that goal with this program!

wild readers: a new program that may or may not succeed

I remember when I read Abby’s post about Donalyn Miller’s book “Reading in the Wild.” I immediately went out and bought the book and consumed it in an alarmingly short amount of time. And then I told my coworkers. And then I bought it for my teacher sister-in-law. And then I talked about it incessantly.

I had big plans. I wanted to work with our Adult Services department and create a multi-generational program with the focus being on leisure reading. I wanted to throw a big all ages party where old people and young people and people in between would get together and just talk about books and share what they’re reading and make plans for what they were going to read next and I imagined awesomeness.

And then I remembered it’s somewhat challenging to work inter-departmentally in my library and I got wrapped up in my iPad obsession and we hired someone new and I tucked it away in my brain.

This fall, we begin the program on a much smaller scale. A K-3rd grade scale.

Here’s the plan:

When a child signs up for the program, they must be accompanied by a caregiver. The caregiver will sign a “pledge” (we’re still working on this part…something about allowing the child to carry a book with them pretty much wherever they go, allowing the child to choose the books they’re reading and stressing the focus is on leisure reading…) and the child gets a snazzy backpack:


and a Reading Passport (which I never in a million years could have done without Rebecca sharing her amazing SRP booklet. I know! I know! I already linked to it in my last post but seriously. Check it out. She was a lifesaver!) and off they go.



We have a variety of opportunities for them to read in the “wild”: while they’re waiting (to be picked up from school, at a restaurant, before a movie starts, during commercials), moving (car/train/bus/plane), fun places (think bathtub with pillows) and anywhere else they can think of. We’ve also left them places to write down books they want to read or things they want to remember about a book they’re reading. Once a month, starting in October, we’ll meet on a Saturday morning with the goal being to get them to talk about what they’re reading. We’ll show some book trailers, maybe read a chapter from a book, but it’s really about encouraging them to talk.

I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing when I approached the team during a department meeting about how it would work and I am so glad I talked to them a month out because there’s a whole bunch of things I didn’t consider:

1. What happens if a kid comes in and has 15 stamps and 5 brothers and sisters who also have 15 stamps and there is only one stamp and there are 5 people waiting for reference help in addition to the 6 kids who need their passports stamped? (That’s an extreme case, I’ll admit, but I am very concerned about added pressure to desk staff-me being one of them!-and I thought it was a good point.)

2. A staff member pointed out that this was a program that was geared toward kids who are already motivated to read which was definitely NOT my intention. Yes, those kids will sign up and I hope they do, but I’m really hoping to appeal to kids who just hadn’t thought about all of the places they could be reading. So…what can I do to appeal to them?

3. How can I make this measurable for my personal goals? I’ve included this program in my yearly goals and I thought it was ambitious to get 100 kids to sign up, but signing up is one thing…Do they turn in their passports? Do I keep a tally of how many repeat visits from each kid I get? And, again, how do I make this easy for front line staff to handle at the desk?

4. Is this a sacred cow I’ll end up having to slay in the future? Is it sustainable? Meaningful? Appropriate for the age?

I know typically people share successful programs and I am oh so grateful when they do, but I thought I’d share one that is brand spanking new and might just fail.

Please feel free to point out any potential pitfalls we may have overlooked. In fact, PLEASE POINT OUT ANY POTENTIAL PITFALLS WE MAY HAVE OVERLOOKED!