Flannel Friday Holiday Extravaganza!

Happy December!


Here are this week’s contributions, thank you everyone!

Bridget at What Is Bridget Reading had to send me her link TWICE before I remembered to add it in so she gets to go at the top of the list now. :) She made excellent reindeer for Sandra Boynton’s “Bob” board book, which is too little to share in storytime.

Anne at So Tomorrow sends us a lovely clip art Christmas Tree rhyme all ready to print and go!

Kathryn shares TWO ideas at Fun with Friends at Storytime: a cookies idea (which could go either more or less Christmas-y per your needs) AND “Christmas Candles Shining Bright” which includes adorable holly leaves and SPARKLY PIPE CLEANERS. Need I say more? (Also, many winter holidays include candle rituals, so you could take off the holly and substitute “holiday” for “Christmas” in the rhyme and be good to go for a more general holiday activity.)

Laura from Laura’s Library Adventures shares a version of “The Mitten” with an ingenious solution to the problem of getting all those animals/flannel pieces into the dropped mitten, so check it out!

Sandy at Storytime Sparks is back (hooray!) with two winter & snowflake contributions! One is a prop story for the old song “Suzy Snowflake” and for the other she used cutouts from the dollar store and wrote her own rhyme “Winter Is Coming.” Awesome!

Jane and Piper at the Library wrote her own happy holidays rhyme to help showcase her photos of the fabulous tree crafts and holiday programs at her library! I *LOVE* all those trees! Thank you Jane!

And my contribution is a forest of pine trees–with a plain winter version and a stars-and-lights version.

Thanks all for joining us this week!

Find out more about Flannel Friday at our website, see all the past ideas at our Pinterest (including the Christmas board), and hang out with us on Facebook.

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Flannel Friday: Pine Trees

Here are some pine trees straight from the Colorado mountains!

A winter version with pine cones:

Winter Pine Trees

And a Christmas version with a star and lights:

Holiday Pine Trees

What can you do with these trees?

Well, when I started brainstorming for this post I remembered my strawberries. What I like about that set is all the talking I can do about different shapes and sizes (and colors!). That’s why I gave every tree its own look for this set, too, to help prompt conversations.

So one easy peasy thing you could do is put the five trees on the board and just ask the children what tree like best…do they like the very tall tree? Do they like the tree with prickly branches? How about the one with pine cones? If you are working with a specific Christmas theme, your question could be, “Which one would you like to cut down for your Christmas tree?” You can work in some open-ended questions such as, “What would you use to cut down the tree?” “How would you carry it home?” “Who lives in a tree in the forest?”

You could also do the “What’s Missing?” game (like I describe here) using Miss Mary Liberry’s “No Peeking” song, put five trees on the board, take one away, and see if the kids can tell you which one is not there.

If you are feeling ambitious, you could make several copies of each type of tree, and hand one out to each child in storytime. You could say, “Let’s plant a forest! If you have a very tall tree, come up and put it on the board! Great! If you have a tree with snow on the branches, come up and find a place for it.” …and so forth. I bet the resulting forest would look fabulous!

If you like counting rhymes instead, I found this one and this one.

No patterns today–I just free cut different shapes as I went along. If you’d like a pattern, let me know and I will scan the shapes separately & share that.

I am hosting the Holiday Extravaganza Round Up today! Find out about all things Flannel Friday at our website.

Thanks everyone!

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Flannel Friday Holiday Extravaganza Placeholder!

Here we go!

I get to host the FF Holiday Extravaganza!

Leave a message in the comments with your link & I will gather them and add them to the Round Up tomorrow; I won’t publish the comments but I will see your entries.

Just for fun this week we are celebrating the holidays, so I’m looking forward to seeing some festive posts. Obviously we don’t all take the same approach to acknowledging or incorporating holidaysor not–into our library storytimes and programming.

So just as with any of our themed Flannel Friday weeks in the past, if you have a holiday-related Flannel Friday post, awesome! If you have a seasonal wintery (or summery–hi Southern Hemisphere!) post, super! If you have a regular anything goes Flannel Friday post, excellent!

Thanks in advance! Check back tomorrow!

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Thank You

It’s been a difficult week for thanksgiving.

The injustices of this world are so acute, so present, and so painful that–even shielded as I am from most of them–it has been a struggle to open my heart and be wholly thankful for that which is good and for my many blessings.

Not least of those blessings: Being so fortunate to be part of a profession and calling that absolutely makes this world a better place, so fortunate to work and learn and struggle with passionate, engaged, and determined people who are constantly looking for new and better ways to serve the needs of those around us.

I’m so grateful for you.

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” –Bonhoeffer

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En Route to CALCON14


Tomorrow I will be driving at a ridiculous hour up I-25 to attend the Colorado Association of Libraries Conference! I’m pretty psyched because I haven’t attended the whole thing in several years–last year I just ran in and out to help MC the Bell Awards program presented by the 2014 Selection Committee.

Not only do I get to hang out again with a whole crew of amazing Colorado librarians, I’m presenting with one of my favorite people, Carol Edwards. Carol’s a long time active ALSC superstar, fellow former CLEL Steering Committee member, and the one who had the inspiration for our current project, the Bell Awards. We’ve worked on a lot of stuff together (mostly because whenever she says, “You know what we should do?” I go, “OK, I’m in.”) and this presentation is a direct result of our partnerships over the years.

THIS time she said, “You know what we should do? We should present on how to get ideas and projects off the ground.” (“OK, I’m in.”) So we did! Our session is called, “From Light Bulb to Launch: Getting Your New Ideas to Happen.” I’m a little nervous because this is the first time I’m presenting off of the “youth services track,” but I’m super proud that a general conference program on strategies for innovation is being led not by library directors or IT staff…but by children’s librarians. Yahoo!

I’m ALSO going to earn my Guerilla Storytime badges and my Presenter badge for Storytime University. AND I’m going to go to a bunch of cool sessions. AND I’m going to room with @daisycakes. So I’m going to have a great three days all the way around.

AND I have creamsicle cookies to share, so find me if you want one!

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Last Month for Bell Awards Nominations!

How did the year go by so fast?

Fortunately it’s not quite over yet! There’s still one more month for you to nominate picture books for the 2015 CLEL Bell Awards for Early Literacy!


The Bell Picture Book Awards are a project of Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy and are an annual, national recognition of five high-quality picture books that provide excellent support of early literacy development in young children. In particular, we’re looking for those picture books that support and/or model the early literacy practices of read, write, sing, talk, and play.

What does that mean?

Well, think about a couple of our Silver Bell honor books: Press Here, by Herve Tullet, is pretty impossible to read without actually engaging in play–families find themselves playfully pushing the buttons and making discoveries almost whether they mean to or not. That’s great support for play: the book itself helps make playing happen. Another Play Silver Bell title, Pete’s a Pizza, by William Steig, is a great example of a book that models play. While reading the story together, families get a sneak peek at another family in the middle of an imaginative, open-ended play time.

Two more examples, from last year’s 2014 Talk Shortlist: The book Which Is Round? Which Is Bigger? by Mineko Mamada, supports caregiver-child conversations by incorporating dialogic reading questions (with intriguing answers!) right into the text. The 2014 Bell Award title for Talk, Moo! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, models all sorts of reasons for talking, (with just one word!) including asking questions, expressing emotions, and making arguments.

So what books have you seen this year that help families and caregivers engage with their children around early literacy practices? What titles have reading, writing, singing, talking, or playing as part of the story?

Check out our nominations so far, then use this form to send in new nominations!

Nominations are open until November 15, 2014. Eligible books include both fiction and nonfiction picture books, published for the first time in the United States between November 16, 2013, and November 15, 2014.

We can’t wait to see what you choose!

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I’m a Freshman at Storytime University!

This summer, I enrolled in Storytime University, and I am having a lot of fun completing my homework!


Storytime University is the brainchild of the fabulous joint chiefs at Storytime Underground. It was created as a way to recognize the official and unofficial training and professional development we all undertake as children’s and teen librarians, and to encourage us and motivate us to keep that learning going, wherever we are on our career paths.

The chiefs have created a series of badges you can earn by completing activities. They range from small, easy things like, “Comment on the Storytime Underground Facebook page,” to big, harder things like, “Give a webinar.”

I love it. I think Kendra, Amy, Brooke, and Cory have done a great job. I love that there’s a lot to do, and I love that there’s a range of difficulty–so no matter where you are in your career or your professional development, you can jump in and find a next challenge that’s just right for you.

I’ve been a children’s librarian for a long time. It’s been almost 25 years since I started my career at an indie bookstore, and 18 since I got my degree and first library job. I’ve also been fortunate in my opportunities and have been able to pursue a lot of cool projects. Both of those things together mean that I’ve already had the chance to do a lot of the things on the SU badge list.

Now, the joint chiefs have made it clear that our past accomplishments totally and completely count towards current badges at SU. If you already run a blog, then of course you can mark yourself down for the “Write a blog post” badge.

But you know what? I decided I would challenge myself to earn all of the badges starting from June 2014. I figure I’m at a good halfway point in my career, and at the same time I’m starting fresh in a lot of ways as a brand-new supervisor. I think working on Storytime University stuff over the next year or so is going to be a fun way to jumpstart this next phase.

You can see where I am so far on my journey!

Are you enrolled too? If so, that’s awesome. What’s something new you’ve tried as a result of Storytime University?

If not, it’s never too late! To get started you can enroll on the Storytime Underground website. And have a great first day of school!

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Early Literacy Storytime: Paintbrushes

It takes a lot of time to master all the marks and strokes we use when writing letters!

When learning their writing strokes, children first scribble, then at 2-3 years work on first vertical (up and down) strokes, then horizontal (left-to-right), then circular strokes. 4-5 year old preschoolers then work on crosses/pluses, squares, diagonal lines, and Xs. Once children have practice creating and copying these types of marks they can start to put them together to make letters.

Since coordination of large muscles is often easier at first for children than coordinating small muscles, practicing these strokes with larger arm movements is one way to play with these ideas. In addition, tracing or copying letters or shapes on paper before children are ready to can be frustrating and counterproductive. Instead, we are going to use paintbrushes to “write” on our bodies! I got these from Lakeshore Learning; they are large and soft.


Choose a book about painting to read in storytime. Possible titles are:

Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, by Karen Beaumont
Mouse Paint, by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Art & Max, by David Wiesner
Bear’s Picture, by Daniel Pinkwater
Warthogs Paint, by Pamela Edwards
Blue Chicken, by Deborah Freedman
Blue Goose, by Nancy Tafuri
Tap Tap Bang Bang, by Emma Garcia

Afterwards, tell the children you are going to pretend to paint just like the characters in the story! Pass out one paintbrush to each child. Depending on the age of the children, you might:
o Ask them to “paint” long straight lines on their legs, or circles on their knees.
o Ask them to “paint” different parts of their bodies (as in Ain’t Gonna Paint No More)
o Ask them to paint zigzags, rainbows, straight lines on the floor in front of them
o Ask them to paint letters of the alphabet on the floor in front of them

When you’re all done, say something like this to the grown-ups:

“Parents, when you give your children crayons, markers, pencils, and paintbrushes to play with, they start to learn how to hold and use pencils and crayons and experiment with making different lines and shapes. This helps them become good readers because reading skills and writing skills support each other and develop together. Writing with your children will help them get ready to read.”

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Brain Boxes

Looking for something new to offer your young families? Something ready-to-go and research-based to support early learning? Do you have a little money or grant funding?

What about a Brain Box?

New Directions Brain Box

In 2013, my library hosted Dr Jill Stamm, the founder and director of the New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development. She came and spoke with parents and again with staff about her research and her book, Bright From the Start. It was a great program and I recommend reading her book–there’s lots of good information about healthy brain development for babies and toddlers.

Through Dr Stamm we learned about the Brain Boxes developed by the Institute. They are activity sets carefully designed for different ages: infants, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. They include materials and instructions to foster the caregiver-child interaction that builds healthy brains.

They’re on the expensive side, but there’s lots of research behind them, and you could easily spend an equivalent amount of money in staff time putting something similar together in-house. We bought a set after Dr Stamm visited, set up a set of procedures for our staff for inventorying and managing all the pieces, and got them in the catalog. In a year, they have NEVER been on the shelf. They’ve been a great addition to our collection and offer a unique early learning experience for our families.

What interesting early learning materials does your library circulate?

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You’re Invited to the Bell Awards Goodreads Discussion Group!

Do you love picture books?
Are you hooked on early literacy?
Do you love learning from other readers?

Come join us at the brand-new Goodreads Discussion Group for the 2015 CLEL Bell Awards!


If you’ve been reading Mel’s Desk for awhile, you know that some friends and I from Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy launched a new picture book award last year, to celebrate books that supported the development of early literacy skills in children. One of our goals for the awards is to be able to use picture books as a way to create some space for professional conversation around early literacy skills and practices.

So we’re meeting over on Goodreads! Twice a month, we’ll post five titles from our list of currently-nominated books for open discussion.

Have you used these books in storytime? Read them to your nieces? Where do you see early literacy skills and practices reflected in the content? Do you have a good idea for an extension idea?

Head on over! We’d love to hear from you!

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