Saturday, March 23, 2013

Earth Day, Arbor Day, and Nature Programs for April

April is a great time for nature programs in your classroom or library.  There is Earth Day ( April 22, 2013) and Arbor Day (April 26, 2013), warmer days, and wonderful Spring things to celebrate.  There are many classic stories about trees, and lots of new favorites, too, but When You Are Camping will, of course, be one of my go-to books this April. I hope you'll consider using it, too. 

Here are some of the other books I'll be bringing along to author visits, and some of the activities I'll be sharing. 

Amelia Bedelia Hits the Trail by Herman Parrish and Lynne Avril.   When You Are Camping's Hazel and Tilly have a friend in young Amelia Bedelia.  This is a perfectly short and breezy read for a school-age group.  Kids always enjoy Amelia's misunderstandings and this book has great tie-ins for activities. 

For example, create a nature table just like Amelia's teacher and invite children to bring something to add to it.  Help them identify and/or label what they found.  Children can work on their narrative skills by telling the story of how they found the object.

Create a "Nature Trail" in your room.  Foot prints and tracks can mark a trail from station to station.  Depending on how many helping-hands you have at your disposal, your space, and your resources, you could set up science experiments, art or crafts, matching or other problems for children to solve, and props for children to explore.

Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland.  Okay, one of the things people often tell me that they like about When You Are Camping, is that there are no bears or other scary animals in the story.  So what am I doing?  Reading When You Are Camping along with a book about a very big bear that scares someone.  Hmmm.  But gosh, this bear is just so darn cute.  Big Bear Hug has a pretty simplistic message--dont' hurt living things--which is just fine for really young children (3-6 years old would be perfect).  Prek and K audiences will love this bear and his big bear tree hugs.  Add a few action rhymes.  Ask children about the animals that Hazel and Tilly saw in the story, and the animal friends that they would like to make in the woods or at the park.  Talk about how to treat small insects and animals.  Now that is one great, Earth-loving, tree-hugging story time!

Painting, coloring, or "collaging" a forest scene would be a nice activity for this young age.  Cut out people figures or a bear for children to glue on.  You could make tree stencils for children to use, or just let them free draw.  Invite families to act out parts of the stories: walking in the woods, telling a story, and especially hugging!

I Can Name 50 Trees Today from the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library is a great non-fiction read for school-age audiences.  The rhyming text is engaging and keeps everyone interested.  Non-fiction books will open up the opportunity for alot of discussion.  What trees would Hazel and Tilly see on their camping trip?  What trees would they see if they camped in the desert, or in the jungle?  What trees have you seen around your house or on camping trips? 

In most parts of the country, April is not a great time for leaf-gathering, leaf rubbings, etc, but there may be flowers, bark, or evergreens to look at.  Help children make a "Tree Journal" so that they can record differences between trees they see, or how one tree changes over the next few months.  Brown paper bags make great journals with perfect pockets for leaves, seeds, bark. and more.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor and Illustrated by Laura Beingessner.  My daughters and I fell in love with this book right away.  It helps that Rachel grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college right down the street from our house, and spent hours looking at the same birds in the Natural History museum that we look at.  These facts brought Rachel Carson to life for me and my children.  Lawlor and Beingessner do a great job of making Rachel Carson a vivid personality who loves nature, works very hard, and creates something very important.  I think most children will find this biography readable and interesting. Biographies can be challenging choices for story times, but I am looking forward to sharing this with young Pittsburgh audiences whether I read it or book-talk it.  Definitely give it a look!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fresh New Programs For 2013

I love libraries.  I love working in them.  I loved managing one.  And I love using them, especially with two young children.  And, I love story time, but I hope that youth librarians will consider some new additions and more frequent alternatives to the same storytime routine on their event calendars in 2013. Here are a couple of the programs that my family and I would love to attend this year:

Digital media or tech labs for kids and families.  These have become practically obligatory for teens, but it's time for libraries to embrace the fact that more and more elementary age children are being taught with tablets, e-readers, and other technologies, and that they love it!  Libraries are missing out on scores of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who would love to "geek out" at the library with a make-your-own-movie Saturday, or build-a-blog night.  And why leave out our very youngest patrons?  Tech companies and publishers are wise to the fact that babies and toddlers love computers and apps, too.  Where is the family "geek out" night where librarians show off downloadable books for children or great learning apps on their Kid's webpage? 

Creative Movement.   Dancing, stretching, pretending, singing.  Toddlers can't sit still for long.  Instead of fighting their endless need to move, I'd like to just go with it and host a toddler's Creative Movement Morning.  We can help build imagination by stretching and walking liking animals, build vocabulary with song, and build math skills with rhythm and beat...just to mention a few literacy skills we could integrate. 

Bilingual storytimes done well.   Spanish, Swahili, Mandarin, doesn't really matter, languages are amazing and magical, and good for our brains.  Many parents want to expose their children to a second language, but language classes for young children are still rare in most parts of the country and pretty expensive no matter where you live.  Families would love the opportunity to bring their child to a free, weekly program that exposes their youngsters to another language.  Bilingual storytimes aren't unheard of in 2012, but they are rarely in a language other than Spanish and often rely on volunteers.  I would love to see libraries offering consistant bilingual programs that are truly done well: singing, fingerplays, action rhymes, and activity sheets...the works!

Math and Science skill builders.  Let's face it, most librarians are liberal arts devotees.  If more engineering or chemistry majors ended up working in libraries there would be alot more programs about using protractors or learning the periodic table.  And, as a liberal arts devotee myself, I have to admit that, that wouldn't be a bad thing. I love the Super Science Programs that some of our Pittsburgh libraries facilitate for k-5th graders.  With 3 or 4 simple experiments to try out and a few informational texts to listen to these are a great way to include more science in our family dialogue.  How about some Magic Math Programs next year, too, and replacing some of the standard baby lapsit programs with Baby Math Builders (matching, sorting, and counting are super basic math skills for our youngest, future engineers).