Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Easy Early Literacy Spaces, Part 1

This post brought to you by Holly Storck-Post, Youth Services Coordinator at Monroe Public Library.

I started at my current position as Youth Services Coordinator in June, and since then I’ve been adding little early literacy activities and awareness to our children’s section. Some of the things I came up with, a lot of them were suggestions from my amazing staff, and many were inspired by other libraries!

Here is some of what we’re doing. Anything not mine includes a link to the original idea whenever possible!

Early Literacy Tips

This grew out of the idea of posting early literacy tips during storytime. I don’t do our regular in-house storytimes, and I wanted the opportunity to explain why we offer so many different activities. I typed up a TON of tips, some taken straight from ECRR, some adapted from The Early Literacy Kit, and a few more that I specifically wanted to address. I put them in speech bubbles, laminated them, and now I have a backlog that I can pull from every time I change a display or put out a new activity.

Activity Board
The inspiration for this idea originally came from Brooke. I copied her idea, adding in the Spanish language since we have a growing Spanish speaking population and I am working on ways to increase our services to these patrons. At first I just taped it up to the pillar, which quickly failed, so then we added a magnet board in order to have more options.
The next activity at this station was something I came up with for a simple matching game. When I used this game in bilingual storytime, a kid quickly corrected me from “diamond” to “rhombus!”

Play Table

One of my staff who specializes in early literacy saw a post on this blog about a felt table, and suggested that we try it. I covered our table in felt (you need a LOT of tape), and pulled out some of basic felt pieces and wooden props to set out. The kids and families have LOVED this one. One child made us additional props for the animals scene using paper and crayons, and the flowers are getting sorted by color almost daily (on the other days they end up in a big pile on the floor. Those are the days I eat a lot of chocolate).

More ideas for Easy Early Literacy Spaces coming soon!  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wisconsin Science Festival 2014, Pewaukee Public Library

This post brought to you by: Jenny Wegener, Head of Children’s and Young Adult Services, Pewaukee Public Library
Have you heard about the fantastic Wisconsin Science Festival?  Since it began in 2011, the Wisconsin Science Festival has celebrated curiosity and learning.  The Festival is headquartered in Madison but more and more libraries across the state are joining in and offering great learning activities as well!   Why should you consider partnering with the Science Festival?  As the Festival web site states, “Science festivals not only celebrate curiosity and creativity, they also build a community of people who find joy in exploring the unknown and appreciate the enterprise of the sciences, arts and humanities.”  I am sure you will agree that their mission sounds familiar!  
The Pewaukee Public Library has participated in the Wisconsin Science Festival for three years.  The first two years, we offered an afternoon show.  The Science Alliance from Lake Geneva entertained in 2012 and Karl Debelack did his Bubbleology show last year.  In early spring of this year I decided that we should increase our Science Festival events – things always sound so do-able 8 months out – to include hands-on science activities for families and a star-gazing event hosted in the evening by the Pewaukee Astronomy Club.  
I am happy to report that it was a success.  Okay, except for that part about the marshmallows in the carpet, but really, the whole day went very well.  The hands-on science activities were a huge hit and I was SO happy to have a great group of 12 volunteers, most of them National Honor Society kids, helping out.   We held the event from 10:30 to noon, a time frame that seemed to work well.  The science activities included simple things like block and Lego play to more involved experiments such as play dough in a plastic bag and slime.  Kids also enjoyed learning about weights and measures, building catapults, looking at rocks with magnifying glasses, playing in sensory bins of rice and water beads, and more.  Many of the activities were “reruns” of things we had done in summer which helped cut down the planning time and expense.  Steve Belliveau did his “Getting Excited About Science” show for us in the afternoon and even the weather cooperated – the skies cleared just in time for the Astronomy Club to set up some telescopes and share their love of the night skies with patrons.  

The Wisconsin Science Festival people are great to work with – our event was posted on their website, included in their promotional materials, they provided bookmarks & pencils to use for promotion, and we were even able to order t-shirts for the volunteers at no charge!  If you are interested in participating in 2015, take a look at their site for answers to questions.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Easy-Peasy Stealth STE(A)M

This post brought to you by Terry Ehle, Youth Services Coordinator for Lester Public Library.

At the entrance of our youth space, Toni (one of our wonderful youth staff members) created an easy stealth program for kids to participate in while their parents are using the self-check nearby.  She took a section of board books and color-copied their spines on an 11X17 sheet of paper.  She then made several copies of that sheet and taped them together and laminated them.  A few directed questions and voila!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Become a Master of Out-of-the-Box School-Aged Programming by Harnessing the Talents of Your Community: A Step-by-step Guide

Brought to you by: Cole Zrostlik, Youth Librarian at St. Croix Falls Public Library. Come learn more at "Shake It Up! Best Outside-the-Box School-Age Programs" at the Wisconsin Library Association Annual Conference, 1:45-2:30 on Wednesday November 5.

Soon after the earth cooled, children’s librarians started hiring jugglers and magicians to draw under-served populations into the library, to compel reluctant readers, and to, well, do a super important part of their jobs for them. At the St. Croix Falls Public Library we have found success by shifting our thinking about youth and family programming-- from education/entertainment offerings to community outreach experiences. By doing this we have been able to create, and now foster, programs that serve more people, are way more accessible to our users, cost less, and that create richer experiences for our community.
Get your community more involved with your school-age program offerings and see a more vibrant assortment of programming develop at your library. By utilizing the strengths and interests of your service population, you can begin to provide exciting, out-of-the-box programming to your community. What follows is loosey-goosey, seriously oversimplified, step-by-step guide to creating community-driven, experience-based programming at your library.
  1. Give some of your you-time to do fun stuff with community organizations/potential community partners. Work on someone else’s schedule and take the first step to integrate yourself (or your library) into other community organizations’ programming (they just might do the same for you!)—sign up to run a booth at the school science fair, get to know your City event planner and ask to have your programming take place alongside City-wide events, call up a neighboring library to see if they want to work together on a project or two, take advantage of opportunities to work behind a table (outside, under a tent, is soooo my favorite) and not a desk. Not only is this a fun way to do outreach, but it is a great way to meet cool people who have a lot to offer to the community.

    The St. Croix Falls Public Library’s BIG FREE LIBRARY this summer at Franconia Sculpture Park.

  1. Think poor, create rich experiences. I’ve worked both ways, and prefer a tiny budget to a surplus of programming funds. A lack of funding not only forces you to be creative with your programming, but also gives you the freedom to take chances and make mistakes. Lacking the budget to hire performers or even to buy flashy supplies obliges you to work directly with the kids, families, and readers you serve, giving you a chance to build relationships with your community and with potential partners.

  1. Partner, partner, partner. Whether you mean it or not, these are the people who, at some time or another, will help you throw super hip, in-house family dance parties, who will deliver live amphibians to your library for families to check-out, who will teach children’s yoga classes for absolutely free, who will help kids construct and race tooth brush bristle robots, or who will show up at your event with a bicycle-powered spin art machine just because you asked (and these people make you look LIKE A GENIUS!).

    Despite being less than 10 miles from the SCFPL, Franconia receives funding from the state of Minnesota to do outreach to kids in that state only.

    Want better program attendance? Buy-in from the school district is THE BEST WAY for families to find out about all the amazing services and programs you offer. A good relationship with your school librarians (and the other way around) is not only a good way to get your programs on the school announcements, but a VITAL word-of-mouth tool to advertise your programs. My BFF, Rita the elementary school librarian, and I love to plan programs together, or piggyback off one another's school age offerings.  

    Our school and library have a good thing going on! Rita decided to throw herself a birthday party during a Family Dance Party! The Parents of the Elementary Saints showed up too to do a little fundraising!

    Volunteer program facilitators are not always perfect, and (most of the time) volunteers are not the same as performers or classroom teachers. Remember, you are in charge. Be clear about expectations, express your needs and see #5.

    At St. Croix Falls, we’ve learned that many volunteer-led programs need to be integrated with staff-directed passive programming to make sure that kids, parents and volunteers get the most out of their experience.

    Example: A volunteer-led origami course for fifteen 8-12 year olds becomes an origami workshop. Here’s the breakdown of this program: At one station, the volunteer teaches her super complicated, multi-piece origami to interested kids. Three other stations (created by yours truly), consist of one table staffed by a knowledgeable 12-year-old volunteer with a simple, step-by-step origami project, lots of origami paper, and a bunch of super cool origami books, another table is stocked with an assortment of math games for kids to play in small groups, and the third is a self-service tangram station. Easy peasy. More examples of “workshop” formatted, volunteer-led programming at the SCFPL include Discover Archaeology Day, our STEAM challenge programming, Girls and STEM, Crafternoons, and a host of other events. This is a great way for even painfully shy people to become active community programming contributors.

  1. Try to convince your friend Marceleen to buy turtles and become NW Wisconsin’s “Totally Turtles Lady.” In other words, don’t be shy about volunteer recruitment. What kinds of things do the youth in your community want to know about but make you feel queasy thinking about trying to teach yourself? What does your community have to offer and who can offer it? What kinds of talents and interests do you notice in your community? Library board members, seasonal community members, moms and dads, super young volunteers, community partners, non-traditional high school volunteers, teachers-- it can’t hurt to ask.

  1. Lots of people want to help you. They just don’t know how to yet! Who will be the next teen blogger, science fair experiment guy, Crafternoon collaborator, Pokemon club facilitator, chess club guru, downtown event coordinator, grant partner, or kid who always passes out snacks at your library?

  1. Say yes to all (well, a lot of) program ideas from your community. Be thoughtful about the ideas you use and the ones you don’t. But if the idea seems feasible and if you already have buy-in from your community, why not give it a try?
Go out into the world! Remember, this doesn't happen overnight, but you are well on your way to creating programs that serve more people, are more accessible, cost a lot less money, and create richer experiences for your community.
Questions? Email Cole at
See community-led, interest-based, and outside-the-box programming ideas at  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tessa Michaelson Schmidt is WLA's Librarian of the Year!

Tessa Michaelson Schmidt - a.k.a.,
Librarian of the Year!
The Wisconsin Library Association recently announced their annual award winners. We are positively over the moon to celebrate one of the award winners in particular: Tessa Michaelson Schmidt is Librarian of the Year, an award given for outstanding leadership and accomplishment in library service.

Tessa's name is familiar to probably every youth services librarian in Wisconsin. In her work with the Department of Public Instruction's Public Library Development team, Tessa travels around the state working with library systems to bring exciting and vital programs to public libraries of all shapes and sizes. From continuing education opportunities to the awesome Growing Wisconsin Readers program, Tessa's work with DPI enriches the services that public libraries are able to provide.

It's incredibly exciting for Tessa to be receiving this well-deserved honor. Her positive energy and constant support for youth and special services in public libraries is hugely appreciated.

It's safe to assume we're Kermit-levels of excitement about this announcement!!
Let's show some YSS love for Tessa! If you'd like to leave a note for Tessa celebrating her as Librarian of the Year, please feel free to do so in the comments section!

Read about Tessa's work at the DPI website.

WLA will honor Tessa and the other annual award winners at the Annual Conference, which is coming up in just a few weeks!

Awards Reception
5:30-7:00 PM Thursday, November 6 

You will also have the opportunity to hear Tessa speak about leadership in youth services in this session:

Homegrown Leadership for Youth Services Librarians: Cultivating Your Inner Leader
2:45-3:30 PM Wednesday, November 5

Friday, October 17, 2014

Barbie Zombies

So I'm no longer a Youth Librarian. Or a Librarian. And I don't live in Wisconsin anymore. But there's an old saying, "Once a Youth Librarian, Always a Youth Librarian." Ok not really, but there should be. Cause it's true. And sometimes you just have to share something very cool. (and they haven't taken away my blogging powers yet)

For teen crafts. Cause there are never enough good teen craft ideas.
I always see used Barbies at Good Will and Salvation Army. You could even put out a request among your patrons for old Barbies. You'd probably get donations. But hurry, cause this is a perfect pre-Halloween craft. Throw in the movie, Hocus Pocus with an awesome zombie in it and you've got a great program.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bookworms Tween Book Club in September

This post is brought to you by Katrina Dombrowsky, Youth Services Director for Columbus Public Library. 

The Bookworms Tween Book Club at the Columbus Public Library kicked off their school year with Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. Here's a photo gallery of their themed meeting; they were even able to Skype with the author for the full book discussion experience!

A picture puzzle that doubles as name cards. The kids had a blast solving the puzzle, which reads: "Knowledge not shared remains unknown. -Luigi L. Lemoncello"

 Dewey Decimal-themed snacks with "Lemoncello-ade"
Dewey Decimal snacks! I can't take complete credit for this one. My creative coworker Erin discovered a version of this and helped me make a shopping list. 000-099 General Knowledge (Smarties), 100-199 Philosophy & Psychology (Hugs), 200-299 Religion (Goldfish), 300-399 Social Sciences (Chocolate coins).

Read-alikes display.
We had a great conversation with author Chris Grabenstein. He shared pictures from the library that inspired his book, gave us some writing tips, and told us some insider information...Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library might be made into a movie!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Great Youth Stuff at WLA

What's that you say? You aren't registered for the best little state conference in the universe?

Today - yes Monday October 13 - is the last day for early bird registration.

To tempt you with the amazing- ness (nesses? ni? Natorum?) that are the youth offerings at WLA, may I present the short version of EVERY youth oriented program?

Great WLA Stuff
for Youth Librarians

Wednesday November 5
8:45-10 - Keynote
Richard Harwood
SLP Partnerships for Success
No Sensory Overload Library
12-1:30 - YSS luncheon
Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian Toolbox blog
Shake-it-up- School Age Programs
School/Public Library Partnerships
Caldecott Crash Course
Homegrown Youth Leadership
Making it Real: Common Core
Age Appropriate Storytimes
YA Lit: Good, Bad & Real Girls
WLA Business Meeting
Banned Books Read In
SLIS/SOIS Reunions
WLA Foundation Fundraiser

Thursday Nov 6
YSS Business/Board Meeting
8:45-10 – Keynote
Michael Johnson, Boys & Girls Club
Guerrilla Storytime Swap
Field Trip Adventures for Kids
Reach Out and Read
Avi – author luncheon
“Appy” Hour – Parenting & Kids apps
Booked for Lunch: School/Public Library
Burr/Worzalla Award – Kevin Henkes
Management Side Sucks My Soul
Awards and Honors Reception
NMRT Meet-up
Vendor/Librarian Bowling Tournament

Friday Nov 7
What Boys Want & Need from Library
Book Cycle – Summer Books for Kids
Books Across Cultures to Kids
Unstorytime – Preschool Programming
11:45-11:30 – President’s Luncheon

Ho-Chunk Oral History

Come mingle, come lead, come laugh, come dish, come learn and come prepared to rock the Dells with youth power. We're all waiting to see you!!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Greatest STEAM Program Ever!

….well maybe not but it was super cool.
This post brought to you by Terry Ehle, Youth Services Coordinator at Lester Public Library.
I was very nervous about Fizz, Boom, Read as a scientist I am not, but my staff and I decided to dive in and go for it.  It turned out to be one of the best summer reading programs ever.  We had so much fun we decided to keep the science theme going by developing “Families with STEAM” as a way to continue science related exploration at our library.

Recently we held our first event – Treasure Hunters!  Participants were invited for a rousing read of “Pirate Treasure Hunt” by Jan Peck and given the opportunity to deck themselves out like pirates.  Then each family was given a map to enter the main area of the library where several obstacles and activities awaited them. 

  • Station 1 – Through the tape jungle to Cannon Ball Alley to build a catapult and shoot a cannon ball into a box (with a shark on it of course!)
  • Station 2 – Follow the rope through the cave to Telescope Table to make cardboard tube telescopes. Participants then used a compass (mini lesson provided) to look through the telescope to find a hidden object.
  • Station 3 – Over the stepping stones to create a glyph flag about their family which they hoisted up the mast using two pulleys attached to the ceiling.
  • Station 4- Over the snake infested waters to design and build a tinfoil boat. Once built, they were asked to predict how many pennies their boat could hold without sinking and then test it.
  • Station 5 – Walk the plank to find treasure.  Throughout the hunt we had hidden magic rocks made from baking soda, water and plastic gems.  Once they reached this station, they were able to drop their rocks into a large container of vinegar where it hissed, bubbled and released the treasure.
  • Station 6- Finally, participants followed a dotted tape line to the back of the library that led to a big X and treasure chest of books and snacks.

Did I mention that each station had a QR code that led participants to more information and other experiments they could try at home?

It was amazing, families LOVED IT!  We held the program on a Thursday night and 45 people attended. 

It wasn’t expensive; everything we used, except for the snacks, came from the story time closet with leftovers from the summer thrown in. The look on the kid’s faces when the treasure appeared from the rocks was priceless.  There were families with kids of all ages, including teens! It was chaotic, messy and a bit overwhelming and I could have used a volunteer at each station, but in the end, it was worth it!

Next month:  The Night Shift – an exploration of our nocturnal friends.

For more details about this program, please email Terry at

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Read On Wisconsin Titles for October

This post brought to you by Emily Townsend!


Over the past year, I've had a number of people ask about the who's and how's of Read On Wisconsin (ROW) monthly book selections. This month, I thought I'd offer a brief explanation of who chooses the ROW monthly titles.

The Read On Wisconsin titles are selected by a Literacy Advisory Committee (LAC). The committee members include teachers, librarians, and early childcare providers from around the state. Many are members of WEMTA or WLA. LAC members serve for a two-year term. This means we are welcoming new members and thanking outgoing members every year. The committee members are then divided into the five ROW age groups (see book list below for divisions), according to their interest and expertise. LAC members in each of the age groups work together to choose titles and write discussion questions for those titles. You probably know a ROW LAC member. Check out this year's committee by clicking here and the above link. 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the LAC for their hard work and their exciting and engaging selections for the month of October. The Primary group selected two different books about trees -- definitely a topic of interest to the K-2 crowd this time of year. The Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers group selected a clever and fun book about costumes and identity in Matilda and Hans as well as a lovely board book about a grandmother and grandson harvesting berries.The Intermediate and Middle School groups chose lively and thoughtful selections that will get kids thinking outside of their regular experiences. Likewise, the high school group's choice of Maggot Moon, an alternative history fiction, will challenge students to reflect on their ideas about society, history, and ideology. You can find a complete list of this month's titles below. 

For updates, resources and activities throughout the month follow us on Twitter and Pinterest. As always, discussion questions for the books are available on our website and resources for the titles and authors can be found at

Here are the Read On Wisconsin titles for October:

Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

Matilda and Hans by Yokococo. U.S. edition:  Templar / Candlewick Press, 2013.
Wild Berries by Julie Flett.  Simply Read Books, 2013.

Primary (K-2) Books
Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid. U.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2013.
Chavela and the Magic Bubble by Monica Brown. Illustrated by Magaly Morales. Clarion, 2010.           

Intermediate (Grades 3-5) Books
Buffalo Bird Girl:  A Hidatsa Story by S.D. Nelson. Abrams, 2012.
Middle School Books
I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady. Illustrated by Michele Wood.  Eerdmans, 2012.      
The Thing about Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. Illustrated by Julia Kuo. Atheneum, 2013.

High School Books
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner. Illustrated by Julian Crouch. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2013.

If you're interested in learning more about how the titles are selected, check out our Choosing Books page on our website or contact me at I'm happy to answer any questions.