Flannel Friday: Rainbow Ducklings

OK, to be honest I have no idea how often I will use these ducklings. But I planned a rainbow storytime for my babies for St. Patrick’s Day, and after reading Duckie’s Rainbow I wanted to sing Five Little Ducks, and of course I couldn’t resist a little ROY G BIV.

Roy G Biv Ducklings

I used this coloring sheet as my pattern, and because I really liked their little smiles I outlined all the pieces in black Sharpie and drew the smiles in. If you don’t want to use marker, you can use Piper Loves the Library’s shadow-back technique instead. (I chose not to deal with the feet. If anyone asks, I will say these are swimming ducklings!)

I used five of the ducklings to sing Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play, but you could do any Five Little Ducks rhyme, or sing Six Little Ducks, or play a game with your older kids and put all six ducklings on the board, and have the kids close their eyes. Then you take one duckling away and see if they can figure out which color is missing.

I do have a pattern for a more realistic set of six ducks from a previous Flannel Friday!

Anna has the round up today at Future Librarian Superhero! You can always find Flannel Friday info at the website.

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Storytime Workload Survey: The Prep Time Issue

Another question we did not ask on the Storytime Workload Survey is how much time it takes to prepare a storytime. We did look a little bit at how many other programs besides storytime you’re responsible for, but that’s a different angle.

Here are some of the comments you made about prep time:

I would easily present more storytimes more often throughout the year if I didn’t have other obligations, such as Lego Club or seasonal programs for older kids.

I am a one-man show at my library, and my branch can really support the number of programs that I have, but I do feel like I do too many programs with all the planning each program requires for just one person.

This is a small stand-alone library, so I am the only person doing children’s programming. Wish I had someone to partner with—not because of the workload, but for another brain to toss ideas around with.

I have scaled back my storytime offerings due to The Great Burnout of Summer 2013. :) My work desk is also the public desk in the children’s room. When I’m not presenting programs or at lunch, I’m at the desk.

I thought that my answers to the last two questions would be different. I personally thought that I could do more, but when I thought about how much energy I put into a storytime and the preparation I think that three is a good number (maybe stretching to 4). For the last question I also thought that I would want people to do more storytimes per week, however my staff not only does storytime, but on desk duties, material ordering, collections weeding, and sometimes other programming.

I do two toddler and two baby programs each week, usually keeping things the same, which cuts down on prep time.

These are really hard to think about when not every week looks the same, and I am a one-person department with no scheduled off-desk time. EVER. My work space is the middle of the children’s department, and I am “Youth Services” so I do everything from birth to teens and all SRP planning singlehandedly. Not to mention thinking about outreach and community connections [....] thinking about just storytimes seems almost a luxury.

Our system just started a big push for Early Literacy programs and quadrupled the number of programs for 0-5 year olds each branch is expected to do. We’re still figuring out how to make it all work without increased staff or budgets.

At my first children’s services position I was the only staff member at a branch with much lower attendance & fewer programs than my current branch, but I was much more stressed out. I was less prepared b/c I had no mentor and no planning time. Time off the desk is essential, as well as adequate training.

In many cases (such as mine), story times are maybe 1/3 to 1/4 of our responsibilities, yet require the majority of our energy and time. I love story times, but I also love other aspects of being a librarian and unfortunately I’m not able to commit as much time/energy to those aspects because of the several storytimes per week I do.

The biggest issue I have is story time prep. I often have so much on my plate between desk time, volunteer training, processing etc. that I don’t have the time I need to prep for my story time programs. It takes time to create flannel boards or learn new songs and fingerplays. As the only Youth Service person at my library I sometimes think the other staff are not aware how much time it takes. Or that me cutting out felt boards is actual work.

Any assessment of staff time per storytime must account for prep time. The amount of prep is, like all our other numbers, going to vary wildly, depending on how experienced your staff is, what constitutes “storytime” at your library (books? books and puppet show? books and puppet show AND CRAFT???), the number of prepared/dedicated resources at your location, and in many cases, the amount of caffeine readily available. :) Set-up and take-down time must be counted as well, all of which must be balanced against prep needed for other programs and time spent on the desk.

A related issue is how to advocate for more prep time if you need it, which really deserves its own post–or ten–but a very first step to making better decisions and being a good advocate for yourself is to be realistic about how much time you are spending on each storytime (cutting felt in front of the TV at home? learning songs in the car?), and/or looking carefully at what you wish you could include in your storytimes if you weren’t too short on prep time (new songs? take-home pages? literacy messages?).

What do you think? What are your issues around prep time? Have you successfully streamlined your prep, or negotiated more time for storytime? How much time do you spend on storytime each week? What are factors that affect the time you spend (professional collections of picture books that are always there? 10 years of storytime plans in your harddrive? A need to present a craft each week?)

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Storytime Workload Survey: The Multiple Prep Issue

Now the Storytime Workload Survey was put together quickly, which you can tell because we totally forgot to account for the multiple-prep issue when asking, “How many storytimes could you do a week?” Thank goodness we left an open-ended comments section at the end, where you guys could put your finger on it:

If I was in charge of storytimes and could bend the universe to my will, I would change it to have 1 Lapsit, 2 Toddler and 2 Preschool storytimes each week, with Toddler and Preschool being back-to-back on the same morning. I find it easier to get set up and be enthusiastic for multiple storytimes in the same morning, rather than putting on just 1 storytime per day.

There is, of course, also the “repeat show” story time. Presenting more or less the same storytime 2 times in a row is easier than doing 2 completely different programs.

I’m answering the questions as if each storytime presented each week was completely different and not repeats or tweaks.

I think we also have to look at if these are unique storytimes, meaning is it the same storytime on bears presented 3 times or 3 separately themed or planned events. I think presenting the same program any number of times is much less stressful than coming up with multiple single use programs.

For me the questions go to not the number of storytimes but the number of preps. For example I do 3 sessions of toddler time and 2 sessions of mother goose. So a total of 5 storytimes. I would be willing do more of these programs but I would not want to add another age level.

The Thought Experiment questions are a little tricky to answer. If I presented the same storytime more than once (ex. I prepared one toddler storytime but offered it multiple times), then I could do many storytimes a week. Prepping several different storytimes would obviously be harder, especially if a craft or activity were a component.

Because of the number I do, I present the same story time material several times during the week. I vary the presentation/activity to accommodate the age group present.

If I were presenting the same storytime (same age groups, same theme/books), I could probably do more like 7 or 8 a week. But thinking about my schedule now, where I do sometimes 3 or 4 different preps a week, I went with 5. Which still might be crazy. Hard to say. Good question though!

I completely agree that whether you can present similar versions of the same storytime or if you must present all-fresh sequences makes a big difference in the number of storytimes that feel comfortable to take on. This is where the number of staff you have to provide storytimes can have a big impact on how you may arrange storytime responsibilities in ways that maximize prep time and minimize stress and burnout. And of course that is going to vary from library to library depending on the staff involved.

This is a good issue to keep in mind no matter how large your staff to use when you are negotiating the program schedule with your supervisor or coworkers. If you’re being asked to increase your storytime frequency, you might feel more comfortable saying yes if it’s understood (by your supervisor, by your publicity team/on your calendar, etc) that you will be presenting largely the same material at more than one session, or if you can agree that each staff will do all the storytimes one week and have the next week off rather than both providers giving storytimes every week. Or if you need to drop a session in order to add something new, which session would free up the most prep time if it weren’t on your schedule any more? Or whatever! The point being, this is a spot in which you can work to educate non-storytime-providers about the prep and energy storytime requires, and perhaps introduce a little gray area and points for potential compromise when a discussion about adding or dropping storytimes might initially feel more black-and-white.

More Storytime Workload posts about breaks, numbers of storytimes per week, and amount of other programming, here and at Libraryland.

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Storytime Workload Survey: THE NUMBERS

So Lisa and I ran a very, very casual survey of storytime providers and she’s already written two great posts looking at the results, one about numbers of non-storytime programs per week and one about taking breaks.

I am finally catching up to her by giving us a look at the big numbers, the prime motivation for the survey: how many storytimes do we do on average every week?

So our survey divided out responders by how many hours a week they work overall, then asked how many storytimes they do on an average week. This was a quick and dirty set of questions and the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt as a result. We didn’t give specific instructions, so some people included their outreach events and some people didn’t; some people have a very regular weekly schedule, and some people don’t and kind of had to punt to give us a weekly number.


As of today, we have 130 responses all together, and here’s what we have:

PS I made this chart at http://nces.ed.gov/NCESKIDS/createagraph/default.aspx !

PS I made this chart at http://nces.ed.gov/NCESKIDS/createagraph/default.aspx !

For 40 hour/week staff, the average storytimes per week was 2.82 (94 respondents)

For 30 hour/week staff, the average storytimes per week was 3.38 (8 respondents)

For 20 hour/week staff, the average storytimes per week was 2.38 (21 respondents)

For <20 hour/week staff, the average storytimes per week was 2.44 (9 respondents)

I thought it was interesting that the average for all staff was 2-3 per week (with a little bump for those few 30 hour folks, go you guys!)–given we had staff from small libraries *and* big libraries respond, and staff with varying levels of non-storytime responsibilities (though we didn’t have a way to track that, it came through anecdotally in the comments).

It certainly looks like there is a sweet spot here. Not only the averages, but the modes were right at 2-3 per week, too. What do you think? Is this what you expected to see?

Added later 3/27: I forgot to say that what was also interesting to me was that it didn’t matter how many hours a week you worked; the number of storytimes stayed about the same. This means though that percentage-wise, storytimes are filling up proportionately more of your week if you are part time than if you are full time. I wonder if this is an expectation reflected in job descriptions?

PS: Here are the raw numbers–Google didn’t give me tidy charts so read the captions carefully!

Storytimes Per Person at 40 hrs a Week

Storytime Per Person at 40 Hours a Week: First Column # of Storytimes, Second Column # of Responders

Storytimes Per Person at 30 hours a week

Storytime Per Person at 30 Hours a Week: First Column # of Storytimes, Second Column # of Responders

Storytime Per Person at 20 Hours a Week: First Column # of Storytimes, Second Column # of Responders

Storytime Per Person at 20 Hours a Week: First Column # of Storytimes, Second Column # of Responders

Storytime Per Person at less than 20 Hours a Week: First Column # of Storytimes, Second Column # of Responders

Storytime Per Person at less than 20 Hours a Week: First Column # of Storytimes, Second Column # of Responders

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Starting to Report Out on the Storytime Survey!

Thanks to all 114 (!) of you who have answered the Storytime Workload Survey so far! It has been so interesting to look at the numbers and read through your comments.

Lisa is getting us started talking about the results over at Libraryland–she also shares what she learned from touching base with folks at PLA.

We will be exploring more about the survey in further posts, so stay tuned. We’re making this up as we go along, so what do you want to know most? What are you curious about? Let us know!

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Flannel Friday: Happy 3rd Birthday!


To celebrate heading in to YEAR FOUR of Flannel Friday, Anne at So Tomorrow is inviting us to look back over ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY SIX round ups and choose our favorites. O impossible task!

Well, I did have fun poking around in our archives for an hour or two, and I pulled out one old idea, one newer idea, and one of my ideas to revisit for today’s party.

First, the old idea: Going way back to the first few months of Flannel Friday Round Ups, here’s Where Does This Go? from Miss Mary Liberry.


Here you show children four “places” and and then four types of transportation. Talking with the kids, decide which vehicle belongs in each place.

Reasons I love this:

You don’t have to memorize a rhyme or song
You don’t have to get the pieces up in any particular sequence
You encourage conversation and talking among the children
There’s room for open-ended questions
Great vocabulary building
You are helping children think critically about properties and categories
Can be adapted to younger toddlers by having them identify the vehicle and then you put it on the board yourself
This can be easily expanded to include more types of transportation
It can be easily transferred to different categories (seasons, habitats, etc)
You can re-use the pieces for other transportation rhymes
You could adapt this for a crowd (eg, make bigger “places” and multiple, smaller vehicles, and have all the cars come up to the board at once)
It lends itself to a passive tabletop experience in the library (pretty clear to know what to “do” with these pieces without written or verbal instructions)
There’s room to be as simple or as complex artistically as you want

Next, the new idea: The Groundhog Weather Game from Itsy Bitsy Mom, from January of this year.


In this flannelboard you sing a song, spin a spinner to choose a type of weather, put the corresponding felt weather icon on the board, talk about what types of weather it represents, and decide if a groundhog would see her shadow in that type of weather.

Reasons I love this:

It hits every damn one of the five early literacy ECRR practices: Reading and writing (on the spinner), singing (the spinner song), talking (about the weather), playing (spinning the wheel and taking turns), PLUS pinging on background knowledge (characteristics of types of weather) and critical thinking (would you see a shadow in this weather?)
It was inspired by a previous Flannel Friday post
Anne also borrowed from a preschool education idea site and a craft blog and blended everything into something fresh
There’s lots of room for adaptation: you could skip singing the song, or leave out the groundhog, or…
Can be adapted to younger toddlers by asking them if there is a sunshine on the icon (rather than if there are shadows in that weather)
Can be adapted for a crowd (multiple icons of each weather type)
You can reuse the pieces for a discussion activity with any book that has weather in it
The spinner takes a bit of construction but could be used for multiple programs/outreach activities
Read item #1 in this list again :)

Lastly, one Flannel Friday from Mel’s Desk: The Shoo Fly Pipe Cleaner Puppets.


Reasons I love this:

They are inexpensive and easy to replace
They encourage eye-hand coordination
They promote active listening (giving children something to do with their bodies while they sing)
They are a nice change of pace from finger puppets or shakey eggs
They still make me smile!

Thanks everyone and happy birthday!

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Early Literacy Storytime: Underline a Phrase

Early Literacy Storytime: Underline a Phrase

A foundational pre-reading skill is being able to literally see that there are words on the page as well as pictures. Children need to know that when they are being read to, the readers aren’t just making up stories that fit the pictures, but are paying attention to the print on the page. Drawing children’s attention to the print from time to time is a gentle way of helping them “see” the words and understand how they are used.

A Beautiful Girl by Amy Schwartz

A Beautiful Girl by Amy Schwartz

Choose a book from your storytime plan to use for this activity. You might choose a book that has large, clear words for the title on the cover, or a book that has a repeated phrase in bold type (such as Bear Snores On or Where’s Spot?), or a book that has a single word on a page.

Read your book to the children. When you get to the phrase you have selected, run your finger under the words on the page as you read it. If your book has the printed phrase, “The End,” you might run your fingers under that as well.

Then at the end of the book, say something like this to the grown-ups:

“Parents, when you point to words while you read, your children learn that there are words on the page as well as pictures. They need to be able to recognize what words look like before they can become a good reader. Reading with your child will help them get ready to read.”

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Informal Storytime Workload Survey

The other day on Twitter I asked:

I had a wonderful set of answers! A very rough average [ed: oops, wrong math term] mode was 2-3 per staff member, but the range went from 2 all the way up to 15! Per week! Lisa and I got to chatting about how, as a manager, she wanted to know what was a reasonable number of programs to set as expectations for her staff, but that the data as to professional norms just wasn’t available. She said,

So we thought we’d toss up a really informal survey to see if we could get her some responses before she went to the conference. This is where you come in! If you present storytimes at your library, please take this survey. It’s just seven questions, quick pull-down or multiple choice responses, with one optional “tell us what you want” comment area at the end. If you responded to my survey on Twitter, please take a minute to put your answers here too. This is a really limited tool so we aren’t asking for service area, geographic region, size of library, etc, because we can’t manipulate the data too much. If you are a library student looking for a research project, please take this idea and run with it!

Thanks all!

Informal Storytime Workload Survey

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Join the Screen Time Book Club!

For the last year or so, I’ve had the privilege of serving on The Children & Technology Committee of the ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children. One of our projects currently is running an online “book club” in ALA Connect, an online community area for ALA committees, but also anyone interested in library work and issues. Our book club is reading and discussing Lisa Guernsey’s important book, “Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child.”


For those of you new to ALA Connect, you do not need to log into ALA Connect in order to see details of the book club. You will, however, have to create an account and log in if you are interested in participating in discussion. But you do not need to be an ALA member to create an ALA Connect account.

Each week, Andrea Vernola and I are adding a post to the Children & Technology Interest Group in Connect. The post will contain discussion questions and conversation starters for one or two chapters of Lisa’s book. Read or re-read along with us and connect with other library staff who are interested in learning about digital media, children’s development, and ways to help patrons navigate 21st century parenting. Comment on the posts in Connect and ask your own questions of other book club participants!

This week we’re looking at Chapters 2 and 3: Is TV Turning My Tot into a Zombie? and Could My Child Learn from Baby Videos?

Come join us!

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I had the great good fortune to be able to combine a visit to my brand-new niece with a day-trip to the first annual Michigan KidLib Unconference! It was even more fun because I wasn’t the only person coming from out of state! Anna from Cinncinnati learned about the unconference because she is a So Tomorrow reader (and if you’re not you should be too) and received permission from her boss to drive up for the day.


Why did we–and everyone else who drove across Michigan on a winter day–make the effort to attend? Because even without planned workshops and presentations, unconferences can be powerful continuing education opportunities. With three breakout sessions and 12 topics to choose from, everyone attending had the chance to listen in on and contribute to exchanges that informed their day-to-day library responsibilities. Session notes are available if you want to take a look!

It was a great day, I had amazing conversations all day long, met fabulous librarians, and saw some old friends face-to-face for the first time. Being with so many dedicated children’s services pros was wonderfully motivating and recharging, and I am so grateful for the experience.

Lisa, Anne, and Andrea did a super job planning and hosting the event. Lisa and Anne have blogged about how they put the event together with Andrea and I encourage you to read their posts and start to consider if this is something you might bring to your state too.

Can’t take on planning an unconference? What about a smaller event?

Google Hangout

Instead of a day-long in-person experience, can you schedule and host a Google Hangout, and for an hour talk about a single targeted question, program, or service? Maybe your library would like to start a new outreach program–can you reach out to staff at libraries that already offer that service, and ask them to join you to talk about their experience? Your state library youth services consultant might be able to help you find possible contacts–both those who are doing the service and those who are interested in trying it out. He or she might also have established communication channels to help promote the Hangout, too.

Regional Meetups

Does your state library help coordinate face to face networking opportunities? There may be a regular event that until now has flown under your radar. Or maybe there’s a general-interest-something in hand but you’d love to chat just with youth services staff for the night. See if you can use your local listservs, state library blogs, or state library association websites to publicize a night to get together after work. This sort of thing can be a success whether 3 people or 30 attend–more folks means more networking possibilities, but fewer means more chances for deeper conversations. Again, if you’re nervous about starting conversations or keeping them going, come prepared with a few specific questions, programs, research articles, or recent book reviews to talk about. Everyone else is eager to share and learn and it will be easier than you think to keep the ball rolling.

Online Conversation

If you aren’t ready to organize an event, read some thoughts about creating a personal network and consider joining in an existing online conversation. The Flannel Friday and Storytime Underground communities on Facebook always have an active conversation thread to join in or read. If you’re not excited about Facebook for personal reasons, consider creating an account to just use professionally. You don’t have to share anything more than very basic profile information, you don’t have to ever post a status update or photo, or even “friend” anyone, but it would allow you to follow some professional accounts and join in on conversations there. Twitter is another social network that you don’t have to “swim in the deep end” to garner benefits from. Create an account, set it to “private” and without ever tweeting once you can follow along regular Twitter chats, such as Readers Advisory (#readadv on the 1st and 3rd Thursday evening of each month) an ALSC-hosted discussion (#alscchat first Thursday evening every month), or general library issues (#libchat Wednesday nights weekly).

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