Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gee, thanks!

During Toddler Time one day, we had just finished a fingerplay when it was time to hold hands in a circle. A little girl came up to me with her hand held out like she was giving something to me. "Here," she said. Since I couldn't see anything in her hand, I thought she was either pretending, or there was something very small in it. I bent over to look and still didn't see anything. "What is it?" I asked. "A booger," she answered. And then I saw it, nice and plump, on the end of her finger. "Why don't you go give it to your mother," I suggested. She was happy to oblige, thankfully. Whew!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This Week's Fingerplays

Here are a couple of the rhymes we did this week:

Here Is the Beehive

Here is the beehive.
Where are the bees?
Hidden away where nobody sees.
Watch and you'll see them come out of the hive.
One, two, three, four, five.

Tom Thumb Up

Tom Thumb up and Tom Thumb down.
Tom Thumb dancing all around the town.
Dancing on my shoulders.
Dancing on my head.
Dancing on my knees.
Now tuck them into bed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Great Titles From Tricycle Press

In researching publishers that I might want to submit to, I've fallen in love with Tricycle Press. As you know from my post about Robert Munsch, I love books that are fun and imaginative, those that go in unexpected directions or really understand the mind of a child and what works for them.

Several new books from 2008 especially caught my attention:

The Day We Danced in Underpants, by Sarah Wilson and Catherine Stock

This puts us in the time of Louis XIV. Guests at a formal ball in the summertime get hotter and hotter and sweatier and sweatier until finally they all, including the king, strip to their underwear and have a real "ball". What kid doesn't laugh at underpants?

What Does Mrs. Claus Do?, by Kate Wharton and Christian Slade

Has your child ever asked what Mrs. Claus does while she's waiting for her husband to make his rounds? She's running board meetings, performing safety inspections, developing new toys with the engineer elfs and working as a polar geographer and heli-ski operator. Whew! She's busy!

Twelve Terrible Things, by Marty Kelley

Marty Kelley certainly knows what would ruin a child's day. There's the cheek-pinching granny, the cafeteria lady who thinks EVERYBODY loves gravy, and the brother who makes you smell his feet. I might add this to my "Rotten Days" theme.

Most likely these won't be on the shelf in Sherwood, but you can request them and wait for a pleasant surprise.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Be Good!

"Be good", is what we often tell our children (and maybe other people's children too). And I'm sure whatever child we just said that to certainly means to be good. We know exactly what "be good" means. We have the perfect picture in our heads. But does the child know what "be good" means?

To the child, it probably means "don't do anything that makes Mommy (or Daddy, Grandma, Teacher, etc.) mad." The problem is, poor little Jacob/Emily has no idea what that might be. "Hmmm," thinks Jacob/Emily, "I know hitting people gets me in trouble, so as long as I don't hit anyone, I'm being good. Oops! I just got in trouble for throwing something. Okay, no hitting, no throwing. Uh oh! I just got in trouble for running. So no hitting, no throwing, no running. What? Now I'm in trouble for yelling. Maybe I just better sit here by Mommy and not move. That's the only way I won't get in trouble." Poor kid. Now he/she's afraid to try anything. How did this happen?

Children are very literal and concrete. They can't picture what "Be good" looks like in their heads. Let's take going to Storytime as an example. Mom walks in the door, Jacob heads for the blue rug, and Mom says "Be good." Jacob just turned three a couple of months ago and hasn't had much experience with group activities. He really has no idea what's expected of him. Better if, at home or in the car on the way, Mom says, "Jacob, when Storytime starts, I want you to pick a spot on the floor to sit. And while Miss Teresa reads the stories, stay in that spot and listen quietly. You can talk and play with your friends before and after Storytime, but not during." Now Jacob knows exactly what's expected of him. That's so much better than waiting for him to do something wrong and then correcting him.

It's always better to be telling your children what they are supposed to do, than what they aren't. When we get to say "yes" to our kids, and praise their good behavior (because they knew what was expected of them) we end up with happy, positive, confident children.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Favorite Rhymes and Fingerplays

Parents have asked me a few times where I find my fingerplays and rhymes, or where they can get them so they can have them to refer to at home. This blog seems like a perfect place to make them available. Here are some that we did today and last week. If there are other specific rhymes you'd like me to post, ask for it in a comment, and I'll put it up.

Three Little Kittens
Three little kittens were sleeping in the sun.
Three little puppies said "Lets have some fun!"
Up to the kittens the puppies went creeping
As quiet as can be.
One little, two little, three little kittens
Went scampering up a tree!

A Little Seed I Plant in the Ground
A little seed I plant in the ground.
A little rain comes tumbling down.
A little sun comes shining through.
I pick a flower, just for you!

Rain For the Garden
Rain for the garden,
Rain for the trees.
Rain made the puddle
That I didn't see!
Woops! Splash!

Hands Up High
Hands up high.
Hands down low.
Hide those hands.
Where did they go?
Here is one.
Here is two.
Clap them, fold them.
Now we're through.

My Hands Upon my Head I Place
My hands upon my head I place,
On my shoulders, on my face,
On my hips and at my sides,
Then behind me they will hide.
Now I clap them, one, two, three.
Then I fold them quietly.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What Should Mom Be Doing?

Sometimes parents look very unsure of themselves when they first come to Toddler Time or Storytime. They're not sure where they should sit, if they should make their child sit down and be quiet, and they especially don't know what to do with themselves once the program starts. Do they have to stand up and sit down for the songs? Do they have to do all the fingerplays? Can they visit with the person next to them? Can they go sit in the chairs and drink their coffee?

I'll tell you what I like to see at Toddler Time.

I like it when Mom comes in and sits in the circle with the other parents. I'll use "Mom", though I love seeing dads and grandparents. And it's great when the nanny gets to bring little Jacob or Emily (favorite names of 2008).
She lets her child greet the other kids and maybe start a spontaneous silly game, though she doesn't let it get out of hand with running and chasing. If her child wants to just watch from her lap, that's fine too. She says hi to the other parents, but when the music starts, she focuses on her child and the activity going on. She smiles encouragement to Emily and does the motions along with me, singing the song or saying the rhyme with me, though she doesn't have to stand up and sit down for every activity. Maybe Emily joins in too, maybe not, but she sees that Mom is engaged and participating, so she knows this is important to Mom, and that Mom is having fun, so she can too. Mom intervenes quickly if Emily gets a little too rambunctious with the other kids. When it's time for a story to be read, Mom makes sure Emily sits on her bottom in front of me, but if Emily would rather sit in Mom's lap, that's not a problem. Mom listens quietly to the story and doesn't use it as visiting time, since she wants to be a good role model to Emily. After all, Emily learns how to behave in groups and how much importance to place on paying attention to the teacher by watching Mom. Whenever Emily makes an attempt to sing, do motions, or participate, Mom is her best cheerleader, with smiles and clapping when it's over.

That's a great mom!

Here's what I like to see at Preschool Storytime.

Mom brings Jacob in, and he greets the other kids. She doesn't expect him to sit down and be silent for the six or seven minutes before the program begins. She lets him make friends or play a little game that doesn't involve chasing or turning cartwheels. Mom sits in the chairs or on the edge of the circle and says hi to other parents. When I start the program, she quiets down and sets a good example of listening when the teacher reads. A quiet comment here or there is okay, but if lots of parents visit during a story, it gets very distracting. Mom keeps an eye on Jacob since she knows he just recently graduated from Toddler Time and sometimes he gets antsy and starts to visit with other kids in the middle of the story. If I can't get his attention back, mom intervenes with a whisper in the ear, or by moving him to the back of the group where he can sit in her lap and keep listening. It's hard for me to read a story well if I have to interrupt it several times to try to quiet a child. If Jacob's done with Storytime, even though I'm not, that's okay and they can leave. Some younger ones just aren't ready for a thirty minute program. They'll grow into it. When Storytime is over, she praises Jacob for being such a good listener, and asks him about his favorite story.

What a great mom! See you next week.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Robert Munsch - A Favorite Read Aloud

If I'm going to read to kids, I would always rather read something funny than something beautiful. You know what I mean by beautiful - those artsy, poetic, quiet books that parents prefer at bedtime (because they put you to sleep). There's certainly a place in children's literature for them, but funny is always more fun. That's why "fun" is the root word of "funny". Isn't it?

Robert Munsch is a genius at read aloud books, probably because he is a storyteller at heart. While not every single one of his books hit the spot for me, the ones that do are absolutely the most fun for me to read aloud. I'm sure you've heard of a few of them: Love You Forever, Thomas' Snowsuit, Alligator Baby, Stephanie's Ponytail, Mortimer, The Paper Bag Princess, Mud Puddle.

His books always feature some kind of repetitive language, and sometimes a silly song. In Love You Forever, we see the mother crawling across the floor, picking up her baby, and singing her "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always" song. In Stephanie's Ponytail, it's the kids yelling at Stephanie "Ugly, ugly, very ugly!" To which Stephanie replies, "It's MY ponytail, and I LIKE it!" Frequently there's a huge fight (very silly of course) between the grownups, or the child saves the day or outwits something scary, all of which is satisfying to a child on a deeper level.

BUT, all the cute dialog and repetitive language in the world won't make a book fun unless it's read aloud with energy and variety (see "Your Voice is a Symphony" below). Besides, the fun works both ways. Channeling a little Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy is fun for you too!

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Child Won't Participate!

Sometimes parents seem disappointed or confused when their child won't participate at Toddler Time. Their child might be excited to go, but once there, he or she just wants to sit on mom's lap and watch. Mom (or dad) says, "Why should I bring him when he doesn't want to do anything? Isn't it a waste of time?" To which I say a resounding "No!"

There can be a number of reasons why little Johnny or Susie (or is it Jacob and Emily?) just want to watch. Some kids just aren't into crowds. Lots of adults are that way - small groups of people, great. Big groups, let's go home! So when you show up and 30 other toddlers join you, it might be just plain intimidating. Can you come at a time when the crowd isn't so big?

Maybe you're new to Toddler Time. In that case, your child may want to take some time to figure it all out. I've known little ones who need six or eight weeks to finally feel like they understand what's going on and feel ready to participate. Be patient.

The funny thing is, some kids do feel like they're participating when they stand in the middle of the floor and stare. One adorable little boy happily trots into the room, runs right up to me and stares into my face. I say hi, he says hi. He might even try to tell me something, but I haven't quite mastered his language, though I know it's english. The program starts and there he stays, planted in one spot, watching me intently for the next half hour. He never sings the songs, does the motions, or shakes the maraca in his hand. Yet if you could ask him, I'm sure he'd say he was participating.

But here's the important thing: all these kids are getting valuable input. The language, the rhyme, the patterns, the music, it's all registering in their brains and making connections. One mom told me that her child never seems to want to take part, but the minute she gets home little Maddie starts singing the songs and talking all about everything that happened at Toddler Time.

It's making a difference. It's just not measured by how perfectly Jacob does The Eentsy Weentsy Spider.

Friday, June 5, 2009

And Then...

Madison grabbed her crayons and sprawled on the floor of her bedroom with her new coloring book. This one was going to be good. It showed scenes from her absolute all-time favorite movie, the one she had talked her parents into letting her see three times.

She opened the book to the first picture. It was perfect. There were her favorite character and the nasty villain. Madison set to work with the utmost care, glad to have a box of 96 crayons to choose from. Just as she put the finishing touches on the last bit of background, the picture seemed to go a bit blurry. It was swimming in her vision. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. The two characters looked right back at her. They blinked.

And then...

Write your own ending! Grab your kids and ask them how they'd end the story. Keep asking "And then what happened? And then what happened?"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How To Keep 25 Toddlers Motionless and Silent

I'm only exaggerating a little.

I have a shelf of Toddler Time books that I pull from every week. 2 books for a 30 minute program is about all the little ones have the attention for in a group setting, but I have found which books keep them glued in place and which have them wandering the room. Here's my list of favorite Toddler Time books (in their opinion):

Dear Zoo - by Rod Campbell (Great repetitive language, funny ideas, and flaps!)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle (Kids get to say "But he was still hungry!" Chomp, Chomp)

The Very Busy Spider - Eric Carle (Fun animal voices, plus kids get to say the repeating line and feel the pages.)

From Head to Toe - Eric Carle (We get to stand up and do everything the book says.)

How Many Bugs in a Box? - David Carter (Who can resist the praying mantises? And those scary saw-bugs! Quick! Slam the book shut!)

Opposites - Robert Crowther (The moving parts hold their attention for an amazingly long time.)

Freight Train - Donald Crews (Beautiful and simple. Don't know why, but you could hear a pin drop when I read it.)

Go Away Big Green Monster - Ed Emberley (Yelling is so much fun. But I have had a couple of kids cry.)

A Turtle in the Toilet - Jonathan Emmett (Pop ups are irresistible. And who doesn't laugh at a turtle in the toilet or a skunk under the bed?)

Spot Goes to the Park - Eric Hill (ANY of the lift-the-flap Spot books.)

Rosie's Walk - Pat Hutchins (Did Rosie see the fox? "NO!")

No David - David Shannon (Kids are amazed at the naughty things David does. And seeing him run down the street naked is hysterical.)

Come Along, Daisy - Jane Simmons (The suspense is killing them.)

Clip, Clop - Nicola Smee (Good repetitive phrases and a funny ending.)

Pete's a Pizza - William Steig (Seeing a boy made into a pretend pizza is a real brain twister.)

Dinosaur Roar - Paul Stickland (Dinosaurs and opposites, plus funny voices, and it's a winner.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alien Ants?

This spring I began taking my manuscript for "And Then..." into third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms for some storytelling and creative writing activities. It was such a blast! I visited Middleton, Hopkins, Archer Glen and Mabel Rush Elementary Schools. During my visits I told a few of my stories, (they're 200-400 word cliffhangers) and asked the kids to come up with their own endings, both verbally in front of the group and in small groups, and then individually in writing. Listening to their incredibly imaginative stories was the most fun I've had in a long time.

After one of my stories (about a falling star landing in your back yard), I passed by one group of kids and saw a boy doing the John Travolta disco dance. When I asked them what was happening, they said there were disco dancing alien ants in the back yard. I love the mental image that conjures up.

I'll be scheduling more author visits this fall. Let me know if you'd like me to visit your school!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spiderman Underpants?

I teach a Toddler Time class (several actually). These little munchkins are 18 months to about 3 years old - the potty training phase. Lots of kids come faithfully every week and we get to know each other. My little friends look forward to seeing me, and I adore seeing their faces bouncing through the door (and they literally bounce).

A while ago I was right in the middle of a Toddler Time, doing some fingerplay, when one of my buddies came careening into the circle absolutely exploding with the news he had to share with me. "I'M WEARING SPIDERMAN UNDERPANTS!!" Of course, I knew instantly that he must have finally successfully completed potty training, so I beamed at him and said, "Really!? That's awesome!" Moments like those stick in my head and always bring a smile.

Monday, June 1, 2009

And then...

Peter nearly twisted his ankle in the hole before he noticed it. His friends were already out of sight on the wooded trail, but Peter let them run off. This was worth investigating. It was about the size of a gopher hole, maybe a little bigger, but the edges were smooth and tidy, like someone, or something, had put some effort into getting it just right. Peter bent to get a closer look. He could hear a rustling sound coming from inside, much more noise than a little mouse or gopher could make by itself. As Peter tried to get a look inside, he got the surprise of his life when a light beamed out of the hole.

And then...

(Now it's your turn. What happened next? Write how you think the story turns out as a comment to this post. And to get the imagination juices flowing, keep asking yourself "And then what happened?" Try not to look at anyone else's comments so your story ending stays original. Get your kids and ask them what happens and write their endings too.)

Your Voice is a Symphony

We probably all remember the adults who read us stories when we were young and managed to turn the most exciting books into absolute yawners. Why was that? What did they do that made our favorite books so dull? How can I keep from putting my young listeners to sleep, or worse yet, turn my attentive group into unmanageable rug-rollers?

Think of it this way. Can you imagine a symphony concert where all the instruments played at the same volume and the same tempo throughout the piece of music? Where there was no distinction between the horns and the strings and the percussion? Your voice, when you read aloud to children, is a symphony. The different characters in the book are the different instruments. Papa Bear sounds different from Mama Bear and Baby Bear. The rising action of the plot brings a different tempo, faster at the climax, slower as things calm down. The varying emotions of the story bring out the dynamics. Goldilocks is quiet as she lifts the latch and tiptoes into the house. Papa Bear is LOUD when he demands to know who's been sitting in his chair.

Conduct your voice as an instrument. Bring out all the nuances of characters, tempo and dynamics, and your young listeners, whether it's your own child at bedtime, or a group of six-year-olds will beg you to read it AGAIN!


Welcome to the Storylady blog. Here you'll find items about reading to children, suggestions for great read aloud books, and tips on helping your children get the most out of storytime visits at libraries and bookstores. I'll share the humorous side of being a Storylady and make suggestions for other Storyladies (Are there any Storygents?).

Along the way I'll also post some short "storystarters," little stories that have no endings. I want you to finish these stories in your comments. Put your imagination to work! Get your kids in on it! I've had some great times with elementary school classes inventing endings to my stories, and I can't wait to see what kids and their parents come up with.