Archive | The Lamppost

Becoming a Purple Person

I am excit­ed to start year two of Bookol­o­gy! I con­tem­plat­ed doing themes around COVID-19 and then I thought why not write about the impor­tance of being a pur­ple per­son? Some of you might be ask­ing your­self the fol­low­ing ques­tions: Does this relate to sci­ence? Do you become pur­ple by eat­ing egg­plants or beets? Do you paint your­self pur­ple? Let me explain.

The World Needs More Purple PeopleI was walk­ing around the children’s depart­ment at the library where I work. I combed through some of our new books. I stum­bled on The World Needs More Pur­ple Peo­ple by Kris­ten Bell and Ben­jamin Hart. This is an inter­ac­tive sto­ry that adds humor, empa­thy, appre­ci­a­tion, and curios­i­ty. This book empha­sizes that pur­ple peo­ple paint a world where accept­ing your­self is impor­tant and help­ing oth­ers is essen­tial. Here is the link to the inter­view Kris­ten did with ET Cana­da about this book. This book also helped me gen­er­ate new pro­gram oppor­tu­ni­ties that encour­age chil­dren to explore who they are and the world around them. Enjoy.

Pro­gram 1: Make Me Pur­ple

Set up a table with paper, crayons, and/or mark­ers and then read the book, The World Needs More Pur­ple Peo­ple by Kris­ten Bell and Ben­jamin Hart. Fol­low­ing the book, have chil­dren write and draw what they learned from the book about what it means to be a pur­ple per­son. Post these up on a wall or the refrig­er­a­tor to help them remem­ber the impor­tance of being pur­ple.

Pro­gram 2: The Puz­zle of Me

For this activ­i­ty, chil­dren will cre­ate a puz­zle of them­selves. To do this, have them draw puz­zle pieces, mak­ing sure the pieces are able to be put togeth­er. For each piece, have them draw some­thing that is unique about them or a word or phrase. Once com­plete, encour­age them to give their puz­zle to a fam­i­ly mem­ber or friend to put togeth­er.

Pro­gram 3: I Am Game

This game is sim­i­lar to cha­rades. Instruct chil­dren to think about words that describe who they are and to write them down. Next, have them draw a pic­ture of them­selves on a piece of con­struc­tion paper and post it up. Gath­er fam­i­ly and friends and have the child act out the word that describes them. When some­one gets a word cor­rect, have the child glue it to their draw­ing. Once fin­ished have them say, “I am” fol­lowed by all of the words that they act­ed out that describe them­selves.

Resources to Help Spark Ideas on Indi­vid­u­al­i­ty

  1. Kids in Ser­vice: Teach­ing Kids Empa­thy 
  2. Kids World Cit­i­zen: Videos about Empa­thy For Kids 
  3. The Child Devel­op­ment Insti­tute
  4. Edu­ca­tion World: Every­one is Unique 
  5. Penn State Exten­sion: We are dif­fer­ent, we are the same 

Mr. Z’s Book Selec­tions on Indi­vid­u­al­i­ty:

Books on Individuality


Little Engines:
A Simple but Impactful Early Literacy Initiative

Little Engines Live Chat

In ear­ly fall of 2019, I com­plet­ed a grant appli­ca­tion through our local ear­ly child­hood board. I pro­posed a new ear­ly lit­er­a­cy pro­gram called Lit­tle Engines. Each month, we will have an ear­ly child­hood pro­fes­sion­al pro­vide a sto­ry­time pro­gram with activ­i­ties. These include lit­er­a­cy, nutri­tion, child­care, school readi­ness, music/recreation, creativity/arts, and STEAM. The library pro­vides fam­i­lies a tote bag that includes var­i­ous activ­i­ties and a book to enjoy at home togeth­er. This is also a part­ner­ship pro­gram between our local school dis­trict, a local video­g­ra­ph­er, and pub­lic tele­vi­sion. Although this is a grant-fund­ed pro­gram, it is a sim­ple pro­gram that any­one can adopt.

Our First Pro­gram:

Dr. Constance Beecher

Dr. Con­stance Beech­er, Iowa State Uni­ver­si­ty

In Feb­ru­ary 2020, we had our first pro­gram with Dr. Con­stance Beech­er from the School of Edu­ca­tion at Iowa State Uni­ver­si­ty. Dr. Beecher’s pro­gram focused on enhanc­ing STEM learn­ing through inter­ac­tive activ­i­ties for fam­i­lies to do togeth­er. The pro­gram began with a short inter­view with Dr. Beech­er and it was con­duct­ed by me and Kel­ly Nesheim from Iowa Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion. We did not have an audi­ence in front of us how­ev­er, we encour­aged fam­i­lies to tune in via Face­book Live. The inter­view focused on the impor­tance of fam­i­ly engage­ment and the ques­tions that were asked include:

  1. Tell us a lit­tle about you and what you as an ear­ly child­hood pro­fes­sion­al. 
  1. What does fam­i­ly engage­ment mean to you?
  1. What are a few things par­ents, grand­par­ents and care­givers can do each day to help engage with their child(ren)?
  1. Are there any spe­cif­ic resources that you can share on fam­i­ly engage­ment and resources that can help to gen­er­ate ideas?
  1. What are going to be doing today for your pro­gram (dis­cuss some of the activ­i­ties you brought and the story(ies) you will be read­ing). 

The inter­view was con­duct­ed in the children’s depart­ment sto­ry­time room. We repur­posed the space to include an area rug, col­or­ful set­ting, a few posters for a back­drop, and a table to show­case her resources. Dr. Beech­er added the STEM back­packs cre­at­ed by her team. Fol­low this link for more infor­ma­tion about their Check­out STEM pro­gram.

The DotFol­low­ing the inter­view, Dr. Beech­er pro­vid­ed an inter­ac­tive STEM sto­ry­time. She read the sto­ry, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. At the con­clu­sion of sto­ry­time, fam­i­lies were instruct­ed to par­tic­i­pate in a vari­ety of STEM activ­i­ties includ­ing an art project, explor­ing the STEM back­packs, and a sci­ence exper­i­ment. All fam­i­lies were giv­en a tote bag with col­or­ing sheets, a book­mark, and a free book. Here is the link to her pro­gram.  Please note that due to COVID-19, we are migrat­ing this pro­gram to a ful­ly online pro­gram. Addi­tion­al updates and pro­grams will be post­ed this fall.

Key Resources Rec­om­mend­ed by Dr. Beech­er

Sign up for the Vroom app

PBS kids

Sci­ence of Par­ent­ing

The fol­low­ing are the steps to help you cre­ate your own Lit­tle Engines pro­gram:

Step 1: The Lay­out

It is impor­tant to con­sid­er the lay­out for this pro­gram. Some ques­tions to con­sid­er include:

  1. What ear­ly child­hood mes­sages do I want to send to par­ents? What are the key top­ics I want to focus on?
  2. How do I want to share these mes­sages? Do I want to record these mes­sages, or do I want to share them live via Face­book Live?
  3. How many times per month do I want to do this pro­gram, and will it be tied to a reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled pro­gram?

Step 2: Need­ed Equip­ment

A key part of the Lit­tle Engines pro­gram is the use of a vir­tu­al plat­form to reach fam­i­lies. For this pro­gram, we pur­chased a tri­pod to fit both a tablet and a cell­phone so we can record these videos. How­ev­er, you could use a web­cam and con­nect a lap­top or desk­top com­put­er to record the videos. You will need to have access to a strong WiFi or eth­er­net for live videos.

Step 3: Record­ing Plat­forms

The fol­low­ing is a list of record­ing plat­forms:

  1. Face­book Live
  2. Zoom
  3. Google Hang­out
  4. Web­room

Step 4: Find­ing Pre­sen­ters

For this pro­gram, the pre­sen­ters we locat­ed were from a vari­ety of sec­tors includ­ing edu­ca­tion, health, parks and recre­ation, emer­gency ser­vices, uni­ver­si­ties, and ear­ly child­hood com­mit­tees. It is impor­tant for me to empha­size that the pre­sen­ters for the Lit­tle Engines pro­gram have expe­ri­ence speak­ing with peo­ple; how­ev­er, they may not have expe­ri­ence on cam­era. It is impor­tant to reas­sure them and help pro­vide guid­ance through­out this process. The fol­low­ing is a short list of pre­sen­ters to whom we will reach out to par­tic­i­pate in the Lit­tle Engines pro­gram:

  1. Iowa State Uni­ver­si­ty School of Edu­ca­tion
  2. Boone Iowa Coun­ty Con­ser­va­tion
  3. Ear­ly Child­hood Iowa board
  4. Iowa Asso­ci­a­tion for the Edu­ca­tion of Young Chil­dren play com­mit­tee
  5. Boone Coun­ty Hos­pi­tal
  6. Blank Children’s Hos­pi­tal
  7. Reach Out and Read Iowa
  8. Iowa Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion
  9. Boone Humane Soci­ety
  10. State Library of Iowa

Step 5: The Pro­gram

The Lit­tle Engines pro­gram has two phas­es. The first phase includes an inter­view between me, on pub­lic tele­vi­sion, and the month­ly guest speak­er. This inter­view focus­es on ask­ing the speak­er spe­cif­ic ques­tions relat­ing to fam­i­ly engage­ment. The objec­tive for this inter­view is to pro­vide par­ents an under­stand­ing of the top­ic, resources avail­able to them and their child to learn more about this top­ic, and ideas on how they can engage with their child. The sec­ond phase is the pro­gram and some ques­tions to con­sid­er include:

  1. What are spe­cif­ic top­ics that are in high demand for the fam­i­lies you serve? Some exam­ples include healthy eat­ing or the impor­tance of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty.
  2. What space do you have avail­able to host this pro­gram and is it pos­si­ble to mod­i­fy this space to meet the need of the part­ner?
  3. What will engage­ment between chil­dren and fam­i­lies include? For exam­ple, what activ­i­ties can the part­ner pro­vide in their pro­gram to encour­age this engage­ment?
  4. How can we mod­i­fy the pro­gram to meet a vir­tu­al plat­form?
  5. If pos­si­ble, what give­aways can you pro­vide to fam­i­lies, i.e., books, book­marks, a tote bag, and/or a make-and-take craft?

Step 6: Adver­tise­ment

To adver­tise this pro­gram, we worked with Iowa Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion to cre­ate a logo to include on posters and news­pa­per arti­cles. We adver­tised on the local radio sta­tion, local news­pa­per, on our Face­book page and the com­mu­ni­ty Face­book page, with the local school dis­trict, and the local human ser­vices com­mit­tee. Can­va is an excel­lent tool for us to use to cre­ate mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als at no cost. 

Key Books Used for this Pro­gram

Five books used in the program


Lights, Camera, Action:
Launching Virtual Storytime

Although COVID-19 has been dif­fi­cult, libraries con­tin­ue their core mis­sion to pro­vide access to resources and ser­vices by improv­ing and increas­ing their dig­i­tal ser­vices. Sto­ry­time is a key ser­vice the pub­lic library pro­vides to sup­port ear­ly lit­er­a­cy, fam­i­ly engage­ment, and help­ing chil­dren find the joy of read­ing. Face-to-face inter­ac­tion helps to improve the con­nec­tion with fam­i­lies — how­ev­er, librar­i­ans have had to tran­si­tion sto­ry­time pro­gram­ming to a vir­tu­al plat­form. Let’s take a look at some ways to have a suc­cess­ful vir­tu­al sto­ry­time.

Step 1: Per­mis­sion Guide­lines

For now, many pub­lish­ers have adapt­ed their per­mis­sion guide­lines to allow edu­ca­tors and librar­i­ans the oppor­tu­ni­ty to read sto­ries online. School Library Jour­nal has a great web­site with the lat­est updates and guide­lines and pub­lish­ers.  It is impor­tant to fol­low these guide­lines to com­ply with copy­right law.

Step 2: Vir­tu­al Plat­form

The choice on the vir­tu­al plat­form will depend on the guide­lines set by a pub­lish­er. In my expe­ri­ence, Face­book Live is a pop­u­lar vir­tu­al plat­form that is easy to nav­i­gate. Zoom and YouTube are oth­er vir­tu­al plat­forms you can use. For this arti­cle, I will pro­vide the steps for access­ing and using Face­book Live.   

Step 3: Using Face­book Live

To access Face­book Live, go to your Face­book page, click on write a post, and choose live video. Before start­ing your sto­ry­time, click on the mag­ic wand on the left-hand cor­ner. On the low­er right-hand cor­ner, choose the tool option and then click on the sec­ond flip option above. Vis­it the fol­low­ing web­site from Face­book for the Face­book Live tuto­r­i­al, and the blog Youth Ser­vices Shout-Out on how to rotate your screen so the audi­ence can see the sto­ry in the right direc­tion.

Step 4: Tips and Tricks on Read­ing the Book

Pri­or to using Face­book Live, I turn on the record-a-video option in the cam­era app. This ensures that the light­ing is good, and the sound has good qual­i­ty. A few min­utes pri­or to sto­ry­time, fol­low step three to flip the screen so the audi­ence sees the book in the right direc­tion. It is impor­tant to project your voice a lit­tle loud­er than you would dur­ing a reg­u­lar sto­ry­time at the library. 

Step 5: Audi­ence Inter­ac­tion: 

The fol­low­ing list pro­vides some sug­ges­tions on how best to inter­act with an online audi­ence.

  • Pete the CatHave a great smile and wel­come every­one at the start of the pro­gram.
  • Encour­age the audi­ence to add a com­ment in the post and do your best to respond either dur­ing or after the pro­gram.
  • Wear a fun­ny hat or cos­tume to com­ple­ment the theme or just for fun.
  • For rhyming or sto­ries with a beat, add instru­ments and encour­age the audi­ence to sing along. A great exam­ple is the book Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and James Dean, Harper­Collins.
  • Add a pup­pet or two.
  • If you have a pet, con­sid­er hold­ing them at least at the start of sto­ry­time to wel­come the audi­ence.
  • When using Face­book Live test out some of the fil­ters such as a back­ground or a cos­tume.

Ten Per­fect Sto­ries to Read Online:

Ten Stories to Read Out Loud

  1. The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar by Eric Car­le, Pen­guin
  2. The Frog in the Bog by Kar­ma Wil­son and Joan Rankin, Atheneum
  3. How Do Dinosaur series by Jane Yolen and Marc Teague, Scholas­tic
  4. Drag­ons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, Pen­guin
  5. Cor­duroy by Don Free­man, Pen­guin
  6. Pig­gy and Ele­phant series by Mo Willems, Scholas­tic
  7. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Day­walt and Oliv­er Jef­fers, Pen­guin
  8. Click-Clack-Moo by Doreen Cronin and Bet­sy Lewin, Simon & Schus­ter
  9. Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, Pen­guin
  10. The Rain­bow Fish by Mar­cus Pfis­ter and J. Ali­son James, Simon & Schus­ter

Ten Stories to Read Out Loud

Many authors are also pro­vid­ing vir­tu­al sto­ry­times. Fol­low this link,

Please vis­it my library’s Face­book Page @Ericson Pub­lic Library, to enjoy a vir­tu­al sto­ry­time with me and my cat, Oliv­er Jones.


Creating Collage

In the light of the moon a lit­tle egg lay on a leaf.”

Eric Car­le, The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar

Very Hungry CaterpillarRecent­ly, I was watch­ing a YouTube video of Eric Car­le dis­cussing his famous book, The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar. View the Youtube video by fol­low­ing this link.  It was fas­ci­nat­ing to learn about his tech­niques and the his­to­ry behind this clas­sic children’s book. Towards the end of the inter­view, Car­le explained that besides the sto­ry and the graph­ics, The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar is a book of hope.  As we move to the sea­son of Spring, the les­son of hope from this book helped to inspire these activ­i­ties:

Activ­i­ty 1: An Inter­ac­tive Read­ing of The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar

This sto­ry is per­fect for audi­ence inter­ac­tion.  Before sto­ry­time, fol­low these steps to trans­form this sto­ry­time to an inter­ac­tive for­mat:

  1. First, either search for images of the food the cater­pil­lar eats or draw them.
  2. Sec­ond, cut a hole in the cen­ter of each food big enough to fit either a wood­en craft stick pup­pet.
  3. Third, search for an image of a cater­pil­lar or draw one and tape it to the wood­en craft stick.
  4. Forth, put the image cards in order of the foods the cater­pil­lar eats.

Begin the sto­ry­time by telling the chil­dren that today you will need help telling the sto­ry of The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar.  Inform them that depend­ing on the day of the week the amount of the food the cater­pil­lar eats grows so each of them will get a turn.  For each food item that the cater­pil­lar eats you will hold the image of the food up while the chil­dren puts the cater­pil­lar through the hole.

Activ­i­ty 2: Cater­pil­lar Col­lage

Eric Car­le is famous for using the col­lage tech­nique for this sto­ry.  Col­lage is an excel­lent activ­i­ty for kids to work on fine motor skills.  For this activ­i­ty, chil­dren will use the col­lage tech­nique to add to the sto­ry.  For this activ­i­ty, you will need to have a selec­tion of items for kids to choose from. These items do not need to be the same size, col­or, or shape.  Exam­ples of items include cup­cake lin­ers, cot­ton balls, shiny stick­ers, tex­tured paper, and leaves.  Remem­ber, col­lage inspires chil­dren to be cre­ative and their designs will be unique to them.    


  1. On a table(es) pro­vide glue, crayons, mark­ers, and/or col­or pen­cils
  2. Put three bowls on the table with the items that you choose (see exam­ple list above)
  3. Pro­vide each child a sheet of con­struc­tion paper for them to glue items down.
  4. At the end of this activ­i­ty, encour­age chil­dren to share their design.

Web­sites on all things Eric Car­le and Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar

  1. Eric Car­le Muse­um
  2. The Offi­cial Eric Car­le Web Site
  3. Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar Activ­i­ties
  4. Anoth­er great site on Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar Activ­i­ties
  5. Eric Car­le Inter­view

Arti­cles on the Impor­tance of Col­lage for Learn­ing

  1. Scholas­tic arti­cle on Col­lage Map­ping
  2. Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Young Chil­dren (NAEYC) arti­cle on Art Expe­ri­ences
  3. Mate­ri­als Mat­ter in Children’s Cre­ative Learn­ing

Pic­ture Books Fea­tur­ing Col­lage

Six books on collage


What’s in the Basket?

Invest­ing in ear­ly child­hood nutri­tion is a sure­fire strat­e­gy. The returns are incred­i­bly high.”

Anne Mulc­ahy

I am the head of children’s ser­vices at Eric­son Pub­lic Library in Boone, Iowa. Accord­ing to Iowa Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, Boone has 1,901 stu­dents and 877 of those stu­dents are in a free or reduced lunch pro­gram (Kids Count, 2017). That is 46% of the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion and this is just a small town in Iowa. Learn­ing this sta­tis­tic caused me to take action. By part­ner­ing with a local gro­cery store, we helped raised mon­ey to go toward the pur­chase of nutri­tion­al snacks to be offered to patrons attend­ing after-school pro­grams. Since adding snacks to our pro­grams, we have seen an increase in atten­dance and inter­est in our pro­grams. Fur­ther­more, adding these snacks has helped to inspire the library to devel­op pro­grams on healthy eat­ing.

Here are a few exam­ples. (Please note that your library might have a pol­i­cy against serv­ing food in pro­grams and/or about serv­ing food that is not pack­aged. These pro­grams can be mod­i­fied if need­ed).

Pro­gram # 1: The Ants Go March­ing

Hey, Little Ant!Objec­tive: Explor­ing the world of ants

Snack choice: Ants on a log

Sup­plies need­ed: cel­ery, sun but­ter (in place of peanut but­ter), and raisins. Make sure you wash your hands.

Pro­gram out­line:

  1. Read the sto­ry Hey Lit­tle Ant by Han­nah and Phillip Hoose
  2. Cre­ate an obsta­cle course where chil­dren crawl under chairs as an exam­ple of how ants move through an anthill.
  3. Fin­ish the pro­gram by enjoy­ing ants on a log. Set up a few sta­tions with cel­ery, sun but­ter, and raisins and have chil­dren cre­ate their own snack.

Pro­gram # 2: Over the Rain­bow

Objec­tive: Explor­ing the world of light

Snack choice: Fruit Plat­ter

Sup­plies need­ed: col­or­ful red apples, oranges, green grapes, bananas, blue­ber­ries, and plums. Make sure you wash your hands.

Pro­gram out­line:

  1. Intro­duce the world of light by view­ing Light by Dr. Binocs Show on YouTube.
  2. Have chil­dren explore the world of prisms by com­plet­ing the fol­low­ing activ­i­ties:

Activ­i­ty # 1: Using a flash­light and an old CD or DVD disc, flip over the disc and turn on the flash­light direct­ly over it. The col­ors of the rain­bow will show.

Activ­i­ty # 2: Anoth­er activ­i­ty includes a flash­light, cup of water, and paper. Place the cup of water on top of a con­tain­er. Tape the paper to the wall and shine the flash­light to the cup of water to expose rain­bows. Use crayons or col­ored pen­cils to draw a rain­bow.

  1. The fol­low­ing books are great choic­es on the top­ic of rain­bows and light:

Books about sunlight

Pro­gram # 3: Dig­ging in the Dirt

Objec­tive: Explor­ing the world of worms

Snack Choice: Veg­etable Worms

Sup­plies need­ed: Use cel­ery for the body, a grape for the head, and blue­ber­ries for the legs. Use sun but­ter to stick the blue­ber­ries to the body. Make sure you wash your hands.

Pro­gram Out­line:

  1. Read the sto­ry Diary of a Worm by and pair it with non-fic­tion books about worms, dirt, and plants.
  2. Show them a quick clip about worms from Scishow Kids on YouTube
  3. Set­up two activ­i­ty sta­tions.

Sta­tion # 1: For the first activ­i­ty sta­tion, chil­dren will explore dirt by plac­ing their hands in a tub of dirt. Make sure you have a lot of paper tow­els handy. Ask kids the fol­low­ing ques­tions to help encour­age inquiry: What does dirt feel and smell like? Why do you think dirt is impor­tant? What crit­ters do you think live in the dirt?

Sta­tion # 2: For the sec­ond activ­i­ty sta­tion, chil­dren will explore the world of worms. Find pho­tos of worms and increase the size of the pho­tos so chil­dren can see the tex­ture of the worm. Using crayons, mak­ers, or col­ored pen­cils, have chil­dren draw what they see. If pos­si­ble, ask a local bait shop for a few worms and have the kids watch them move in dirt.


Library EMT

The best way to find your­self is to lose your­self in the ser­vice of oth­ers.”

—Mahat­ma Gand­hi

World Wildlife FundI went into the week­end pre­pared to take it easy from a long and busy week. I quick­ly shift­ed my focus to the hor­ror hap­pen­ing in Aus­tralia. I was watch­ing a video that showed a small frac­tion of the ani­mals and humans faced with this dis­as­ter. I began to think what I might be able to do to assist. I remind­ed myself of a con­ver­sa­tion I had with my local Y‑Camp coör­di­na­tor who was look­ing for a ser­vice project and a light bulb went off. Upon my return to work I con­tact­ed them, and I pro­posed a project to give back to the World Wildlife Foun­da­tion (WWF), Aus­tralia. For this project, we will encour­age patrons to stop by the library to write and/or draw some­thing for WWF to let the ani­mals know that we are think­ing of them.  Our pro­gram is called Ani­mal Pen Pal.

The pur­pose of my arti­cle this month is to share how your library can begin an Ani­mal Pen Pal pro­gram for WWF, along with oth­er ser­vice project ideas. 

Start­ing an Ani­mal Pen Pal Pro­gram with WWF

An Ani­mal Pen Pal pro­gram does not have to be spe­cif­ic to WWF; how­ev­er, this is the focus on my library’s Ani­mal Pen Pal cur­rent­ly. 

Step 1: Vis­it WWF’s web­site for infor­ma­tion about the wild fires and about their work. Quick fact: Only 5% of koalas still exist as quot­ed by WWF!

Step 2: Reach out to a cur­rent part­ner or a com­pa­ny organization/agency who will par­tic­i­pate. Exam­ples include: A local Y‑Camp, parks and recre­ation, con­ser­va­tion, Unit­ed Way, or an after school pro­gram, to start your ideas rolling. 

Step 3: Gath­er sup­plies, includ­ing pen­cils, paper, crayons, stick­ers, envelopes, pup­pets of Aus­tralian ani­mals (kan­ga­roos and koalas) and pic­tures.

Step 4: Set up a space at your library for patrons to drop by and write and/or draw some­thing to send to WWF. Pro­vide a space for them to take a pho­to of them hold­ing one of the pup­pets, if desired.

Step 5: Gath­er all let­ters and draw­ings and send them off to the WWF, Aus­tralian. 

Address: Lev­el 1, 1, Smail Street Ulti­mo NSW 2007 or PO Box 528 Syd­ney NSW 2001.

Oth­er Ser­vice Project Ideas:

Ser­vice Project #1: Sto­ry­time Food Dri­ve: Part­ner with a local food dri­ve and design a sto­ry­time around kind­ness. Encour­age fam­i­lies to bring a non-per­ish­able item to donate to the shel­ter. 

Ser­vice Project # 2: Gar­den Cleanup: Design a pro­gram that encour­ages patrons to assist in clean­ing up the library gar­den. Reach out to a local nurs­ery and ask for a dona­tion of flow­ers for the library gar­den and encour­age patrons to help them. 

Ser­vice Project #3: Recy­cled Crafts: Take a pledge to pro­vide craft projects where recy­cled items are used. Cre­ate a recy­cled craft night where patrons attend with items and design and cre­ate any project they wish.

Arti­cles and Web­sites on Libraries, Envi­ron­men­tal­ism, and Ser­vice

  1. Sus­tain­able Think­ing for Libraries 
  2. Learn about Green Libraries 
  3. Nation­al Day of Ser­vice web­site 
  4. World Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Ideas 
  5. 35+ Ser­vice Projects for Kids

Mr. Z’s Book Sug­ges­tions on Ser­vice

Books on Service


On Your Mark, Get Set … You!

Just Make a Mark and See Where it Takes You”

—Peter Reynolds, author of The Dot

The New Year is upon on us and libraries are busy with hol­i­day pro­grams cel­e­brat­ing all things win­ter, pro­vid­ing make-and-take pro­grams that inspire cre­ativ­i­ty, and hav­ing a warm place to read. I had a lit­tle time to go through the children’s stacks to begin think­ing about themes for the New Year. I was in the “REY sec­tion” and I stum­bled upon books by author Peter Reynolds. Reynolds’ sto­ries ignite and inspire indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, cre­ativ­i­ty, art, and dis­cov­ery. I began to read them again and it sparked an idea for a great children’s pro­gram I’d like to share with you. 

Pro­gram Overview:

This pro­gram cel­e­brates the works by Peter Reynolds by encour­ag­ing chil­dren to cre­ate an artis­tic expres­sion of who they are. The objec­tive is to show­case work com­plet­ed by chil­dren that cel­e­brates their indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. Search your col­lec­tion (see list below) for Peter Reynolds books. 

Pro­gram Prepa­ra­tion:

  1. Pre­view books by Peter Reynolds.
  1. Review your sup­ply clos­et for paint and paint brush­es. This is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to reach out to the com­mu­ni­ty to request a dona­tion of sup­plies. 
  1. Set up between 3 to 4 tables and include var­i­ous sheets of white paper (con­struc­tion, card­stock, or reg­u­lar).  

 Pro­gram Exe­cu­tion: 

  1. Begin the pro­gram by read­ing a few books by Peter Reynolds. The fol­low­ing are sug­gest­ed ques­tions you can ask depend­ing on the book you are read­ing:
    1. The Dot: What is the one gift you have that you give to oth­ers?
    2. Ish: What word or words describe an idea you have that you can share with oth­ers?
    3. Sky Col­or: What col­or rep­re­sents you today?

Peter Reynolds' books The Dot, Ish, and Sky Color

  1. After sto­ry­time, chil­dren will take a seat at a table and begin to design and cre­ate a piece of art­work to rep­re­sent some­thing about them­selves. Some ideas can include:
    1. The Col­or of You: Chil­dren will decide one or two col­ors that best describe how they cur­rent­ly feel about them­selves. Using only that col­or or col­ors, they will paint an emo­tion reflect­ing their feel­ing.
    2. Blend­ing the World: For this activ­i­ty, each child will begin paint­ing some­thing that reflects the world. They will do this in one col­or. They will switch places with anoth­er child, who then adds some­thing to their pic­ture in a dif­fer­ent col­or. By the end, each child will have a mur­al that shows the world from var­i­ous per­spec­tives. 
    3. Day­dream­ing: Chil­dren will dip their paint brush in one col­or and close their eyes. Tell them to pre­tend to look up at the sky and ask them to paint what they see while keep­ing their eyes closed.

Paint­ing is not the only medi­um you can use for this activ­i­ty. You can use a vari­ety of your avail­able art sup­plies. You can also invite fam­i­lies to ven­ture out­doors and col­lect rocks, sticks, and dirt and design your project around cre­at­ing with nat­ur­al resources.

Web­sites to Inspire Art Activ­i­ties:

Hap­py Dream­er Activ­i­ties by Scholas­tic

Fable Vision Learn­ing

Peter Reynolds’ Web­site

Oth­er Great Books Sim­i­lar to Peter Reynolds

four books for creativity


Going Rogue

Explo­ration is real­ly the Essence of the Human Spir­it.”

—Frank Bor­man

’Tis the sea­son for fall themes such as pump­kins, leaves, and turkeys.  As I was plan­ning pro­grams for Octo­ber and Novem­ber, I decid­ed it was time to go rogue and think of new themes. I start­ed search­ing terms such as “fun­ny fall cel­e­bra­tions” and “unusu­al hol­i­days.” From Nation­al Mad Hat­ter Day to Nation­al Cake Dec­o­rat­ing Day, my search helped me devel­op new pro­gram oppor­tu­ni­ties for fam­i­lies to enjoy includ­ing:

Nation­al Mad Hat­ter Day, Octo­ber 6, 2019

Jour­ney down the rab­bit hole and make Won­der­land come to life. This is a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to host a Mad Hat­ter tea par­ty. For the tea par­ty, use paper cups with han­dles, choose a sim­ple tea fla­vor such as Con­stant Com­ment© decaf or make cold brew tea and let it sit to get to room tem­per­a­ture. For games, you can cre­ate a Mad Hat­ter hat, cut the top off, and have chil­dren throw play­ing cards into the hat. Vis­it Brid­get Read­ing for more infor­ma­tion about host­ing a Mad Hat­ter tea par­ty. This pro­gram is rec­om­mend­ed for ele­men­tary chil­dren, 2nd through 4th grade.The fol­low­ing are my rec­om­mend­ed books to use for this pro­gram:

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Nation­al Rep­tile Aware­ness Day, Octo­ber 21, 2019

Each year, rep­tile enthu­si­asts have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cel­e­brate these crea­tures and to share their love with oth­ers. This offers a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to work with a zoo, an exten­sion office, or a pet store to bring rep­tiles off­site for chil­dren to see and learn. Rep­tile Mag­a­zine has excel­lent resources.  This pro­gram is rec­om­mend­ed for all ages. You might enjoy using these books for this pro­gram:  

National Reptiles Day

World Jel­ly­fish Day, Novem­ber 3, 2019:

Did you know that jel­ly­fish are not actu­al­ly fish? Do you know that a group of jel­ly­fish can be called a smack? Cel­e­brat­ing World Jel­ly­fish Day pro­vides fam­i­lies an oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn about these amaz­ing crea­tures and oth­ers liv­ing under the sea. You can pro­vide an inter­ac­tive expe­ri­ence with this pro­gram where chil­dren pre­tend to move like a jel­ly­fish, enjoy view­ing videos from NOAA’s Ocean and Explo­ration Research and/or enjoy a glow-in-the-dark jel­ly­fish dance par­ty. This pro­gram is rec­om­mend­ed for all ages. The fol­low­ing are my rec­om­mend­ed books to use for this pro­gram:

National Jellyfish Day

Nation­al Dough­nut Day, Novem­ber 5, 2019:

Fam­i­lies can enjoy a tasty pro­gram cel­e­brat­ing donuts.  This is a per­fect pro­gram for kids to explore their cre­ative side.  For this pro­gram, chil­dren will cre­ate their own dough­nut using a paper plate and a selec­tion of sup­plies includ­ing pom-poms, mark­ers, crayons, con­struc­tion paper, glue, and even sprin­kles. This pro­gram is rec­om­mend­ed for all ages. Vis­it The Spruce Crafts for craft ideas to cel­e­brate Nation­al Dough­nut Day. Vis­it with a local bak­ery or gro­cery store to see if they can pro­vide dough­nuts for all ages to enjoy. Here are a few good books to use for this pro­gram:

National Doughnut Day


Dogman© Unleashed

Encour­age kids to be cre­ative with­out wor­ry­ing about being per­fect.

—Dav Pilkey

 At the start of the fall pro­gram sea­son, I asked our youngest patrons what pro­grams they would like the library to offer. I heard a child yell out, “DOGMAN”! I smiled and I told him that was a great idea. Dog­man© is a graph­ic nov­el series writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Dav Pilkey that tells the sto­ry of George and Harold’s new­ly cre­at­ed hero of jus­tice. Dog­man© is part dog, part man, sniff­ing out crime to save the world.  The series is hilar­i­ous and it helps read­ers learn the impor­tance of empa­thy and hav­ing con­fi­dence. We launched our first Dog­man© pro­gram on Wednes­day, Sep­tem­ber 4, 2019. The fol­low­ing pro­vides the objec­tive and steps you can take to cre­ate your own pro­gram.

Dav Pilkey books

Vis­it Dav Pilkey’s web­site for a full list of book titles and series.

Pro­gram Objec­tive:  Our Dog­man© pro­gram pro­vides chil­dren the oppor­tu­ni­ty to read the sto­ry aloud with oth­er fans and to design and cre­ate their own graph­ic nov­el based on the series. Cur­rent­ly, the pro­gram occurs once a month and lasts between 1 to 1.5 hrs. It is geared for chil­dren in grades 2 to 4, but we wel­come all Dog­man© fans and those who are inter­est­ed.

DogmanSup­plies: Dog­man© books, com­put­ers, mark­ers, pen­cils, pens, LEGO© bricks, and plain paper.


  1. Read Aloud: At the start of the pro­gram, have chil­dren read aloud to the group from one of the Dog­man© titles. Let them know that if they strug­gle with a word to ask for assis­tance. 
  1. Brain­storm: Encour­age the chil­dren to use Pilkey’s sto­ries as inspi­ra­tion for their sto­ry. Dur­ing this step, chil­dren will devel­op their char­ac­ters, choose a plot and set­ting. They can expand on one of Pilkey’s sto­ries or cre­ate an entire­ly new sto­ry. They can draw or sketch their ideas. I pro­vide LEGO© bricks as an option if they want to cre­ate 3D mod­els. It is impor­tant to let chil­dren know that per­fec­tion is not the key.  Encour­age them to have fun and explore their imag­i­na­tion.
  1. LEGO© Sto­ryS­tarter: LEGO© Sto­ryS­tarter is part of LEGO© Edu­ca­tion, pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of cre­ative writ­ing tem­plates for chil­dren to cre­ate, doc­u­ment, and share their sto­ries. It is a free down­load. After the brain­storm­ing stage, chil­dren will use the Sto­ryS­tarter pro­gram to for­mat their sto­ry and use LEGOs©, their draw­ings, or a free image web­site such as Pix­a­by for char­ac­ters and scenes.  They can upload every­thing to Sto­ryS­tarter and every­thing can be saved to a desk­top or flash dri­ve. View this video for more infor­ma­tion: LEGO Edu­ca­tion Sto­ryS­tarter Build­ing the Sto­ry.
  1. Print and Share: At the com­ple­tion of this pro­gram, print the sto­ries off and have chil­dren share them with the group. I plan to cre­ate a com­mu­ni­ty open-house where their sto­ries can be on dis­play for the pub­lic to read and enjoy.

Arti­cles Sup­port­ing the Impor­tance of Graph­ic Nov­els:

  1. 5 Great Rea­sons to Read Graph­ic Nov­els from Play­ful Learn­ing
  2. The Research Behind Graph­ic Nov­els and Young Learn­ers by Leslie Mor­ri­son
  3. The Case for Graph­ic Nov­els in Edu­ca­tion by Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion
  4. In Defense of Graph­ic Nov­els by Dr. Kathryn Strong Hansen

Mr. Z’s Graph­ic Nov­el Top Picks:

  1. Dog­man by Dav Pilkey
  2. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
  3. Per­cy Jack­son series by Rick Rior­dan
  4. Smile by Raina Tel­ge­meier
  5. El Deafo by Cece Bell
  6. Bone by Jeff Smith
  7. Cora­line by Neil Gaiman
  8. Sand War­rior by Alex­is Siegel
  9. Lunch Lady by Jar­rett Krosocz­ka
  10. Roller Girl by Vic­to­ria Jamieson

Books to Gen­er­ate Ideas:

Dav Pilkey books


Summer Reading Kick-off

Ericson Public Library

For the past four years, my library has pro­vid­ed our com­mu­ni­ty with a sum­mer read­ing car­ni­val to kick­start our sum­mer read­ing pro­gram. For the first two years, we had a few bounce hous­es and cot­ton can­dy and 400 patrons attend­ed. To plan our past car­ni­val, I brain­stormed ideas on how to con­tin­ue by pro­vid­ing a car­ni­val with more than bounces hous­es and cot­ton can­dy. The one word that was in my head was part­ner­ships. I made a list of cur­rent library part­ners and sent them an email invi­ta­tion. Every part­ner agreed to par­tic­i­pate. When word got out about our car­ni­val, I received emails from new agen­cies and orga­ni­za­tions ask­ing if they could par­tic­i­pate. A total of 42 part­ners par­tic­i­pat­ed and our atten­dance was over 1,600 (our pop­u­la­tion is at or around 12,500)!

A kick-off car­ni­val is a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty for any library to begin its sum­mer read­ing pro­gram. I per­son­al­ly love these types of pro­grams because library part­ners pro­vide the activ­i­ties at no cost to us or the com­mu­ni­ty. We do apply for a local grant to help with any addi­tion­al costs. It is always impor­tant to remem­ber that a pro­gram does not have to cost mon­ey to be suc­cess­ful nor does it have to be large scale.

cotton candy and children

The fol­low­ing is my plan­ning process to pull off a suc­cess­ful kick-off pro­gram.


  1. Spend time review­ing the past car­ni­val and iden­ti­fy both the suc­cess­es and the areas need­ing improve­ment. For exam­ple, last we year we did not have a map for patrons to locate activ­i­ties and to ensure part­ners had enough space;
  2. Send a thank you let­ter to the part­ners and invite them to the next car­ni­val.
  3. Do you see a lack of activ­i­ties for a spe­cif­ic age group?


  1. Review the cur­rent list of part­ners and begin to research new part­ners. Our kick-off car­ni­val has a com­bi­na­tion of part­ners from social ser­vice agen­cies, schools, ear­ly learn­ing orga­ni­za­tions, local com­mu­ni­ty col­leges, ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions, and uni­ver­si­ty depart­ments.
  2. Begin reach­ing out to new part­ners and invite them to the car­ni­val.


  1. Con­tin­ue adding new part­ners if need­ed. Remem­ber to think about both spaces inside the library and out­side the library so you can accom­mo­date the amount of part­ners attend­ing. Do you have a street out­side of your library you could block-off? Our library is three sto­ries and has a large street so we can accom­mo­date a lot of part­ners;
  2. Send out the first email about the date for the kick-off event, infor­ma­tion about last year and the date for them to con­firm their par­tic­i­pa­tion.
  3. If you are using a street, reach out to your city to request a street clo­sure for your kick-off pro­gram.


  1. Fol­low up with part­ners if they have ques­tions;
  2. If you have room, con­tin­ue invit­ing part­ners to the kick-off pro­gram;
  3. Begin review­ing your space and map­ping out con­firmed part­ners;
  4. Begin cre­at­ing posters, draft­ing out social media posts, and locat­ing poten­tial mar­ket­ing avenues. The poster I cre­ate for this event does not list every activ­i­ty, only high­lights. See exam­ple below.

summer reading kickoff


  1. Final­ize posters and begin adver­tis­ing on social media;
  2. Con­tin­ue review­ing the space and updat­ing the map as need­ed.
  3. Recruit vol­un­teers to help. The Friends group, col­lege stu­dents, high school stu­dents, retirees, and the local 4‑H club are great choic­es;
  4. Through­out these months, I cre­ate Face­book Live videos to announce all of the fun activ­i­ties at the kick-off and invite part­ners to join me.


Science Center of Iowa

one of our excit­ing draw­ings for 4 tick­ets to the Sci­ence Cen­ter of Iowa

Hope this helps you plan your own sum­mer read­ing kick-off for next year. Please reach out to me if you have any ques­tions.

Have a great sum­mer!

-Mr. Z


summer reading list


Fresh Air: Taking Storytime Outdoors

We could nev­er have loved the earth so well if we had no child­hood in it.” —George Eliot 

Giggle, Giggle, QuackIn the state of Iowa, where I live, the change from win­ter to spring is like an on and off switch. Yet, at the end of anoth­er vor­tex, Spring has final­ly come to Iowa. Spring is a per­fect time to sched­ule your sto­ry­time pro­grams out­doors. The library I work at has a court­yard where we have out­door sto­ry­times; how­ev­er, a local park will do as well. Out­door sto­ry­times bring the library out of its nat­ur­al habi­tat and into the wild and are a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring sto­ries to life through a vari­ety of out­door activ­i­ties includ­ing:

  1. A Sto­ry Hike. For me, a sto­ry hike is a set of out­door activ­i­ties that enhance the read­ing expe­ri­ence. Each activ­i­ty I design is based on the sto­ries I read. One great exam­ple is The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar by Eric Car­le. For this sto­ry hike, fam­i­lies were asked to search for the var­i­ous foods the cater­pil­lar ate. At the end of the hike, they enjoyed see­ing real but­ter­flies we raised at the library.
  2. Musi­cal Per­for­mances. Adding music to sto­ry­times is noth­ing new but, for out­door sto­ry­times, I enjoy invit­ing com­mu­ni­ty musi­cians to pro­vide a live per­for­mance. The songs are both clas­sics and mod­ern and relate to the cho­sen theme. Fam­i­lies are encour­aged to par­tic­i­pate by using musi­cal instru­ments through­out the per­for­mance.
  3. Art in the Park. An out­door sto­ry­time opens up many art oppor­tu­ni­ties by using nature as a back­drop. In years past, I cre­at­ed a flower sto­ry­time, for which one of the activ­i­ties was hav­ing the chil­dren paint a flower gar­den. Fam­i­lies used a key of the flow­ers on the library grounds and searched for them. They were pro­vid­ed with a col­or­ing sheet with the out­lines of flow­ers in a gar­den. Once they found each flower a bot­tle of paint was sit­ting in the gar­den. They were invit­ed to add that col­or to their col­or­ing sheet.
  4. Tast­ing Nature. For this activ­i­ty, I choose sto­ries with either veg­eta­bles or fruit. I con­tact­ed my local gro­cery store nutri­tion­ist to see if they would donate veg­eta­bles, fruit, or both for this activ­i­ty. At the end of this activ­i­ty, fam­i­lies are treat­ed with veg­eta­bles or fruit found in the sto­ry.


I Took a WalkGreat Sto­ries to Read for Out­door Sto­ry­time

  1. Are you Ready to Play Out­side? by Mo Willems
  2. I Took a Walk by Hen­ry Cole
  3. Plant­i­ng a Rain­bow by Lois Ehlert
  4. My Gar­den by Kevin Henkes
  5. Gig­gle, Gig­gle, Quack by Doreen Cronin
  6. Rum­ble in the Jun­gle by Giles Andreae
  7. Walk­ing through the Jun­gle by Stel­la Black­stone
  8. Planting a RainvowEat­ing the Alpha­bet by Lois Ehlert

Songs to Enjoy

  1. Walk­ing through the Jun­gle
  2. In the Gar­den
  3. A Camp­ing We Will Go
  4. Flap Your Wings Togeth­er
  5. Rain­bow Col­ors

Outdoor Science Lab for KidsIdea Books for the Great Out­doors:

  1. Out­door Sci­ence Lab for Kids by Liz Hei­necke
  2. Gar­den­ing Lab for Kids by Rena­ta Brown
  3. 150+ Screen-Free Activ­i­ties for Kids by Asia Cit­ro

Arti­cles on the Impor­tance of Out­door Play:

  1. 6 Rea­sons Chil­dren Need to Play Out­doors
  2. Our Proud Her­itage: Out­door Play is Essen­tial to the Whole Child
  3. Take it Out­side
  4. The Impor­tance of Out­door Play for Young Children’s Healthy Devel­op­ment
  5. The Perks of Play-in-the-Mud Edu­ca­tion­al Phi­los­o­phy

Joining Forces

Cre­at­ing a Library Exchange Net­work

Last year, I had the dis­tinct hon­or to attend a pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ty at MIT (Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy). As part of the train­ing, we were giv­en a chance to see some of the projects stu­dents and pro­fes­sors are work­ing on in fields such as edu­ca­tion, fash­ion, and health­care. I was sur­prised to learn from Dr. Chris Bourg, Direc­tor for MIT Libraries, about the Pub­lic Library Inno­va­tion Exchange (PLIX) where MIT researchers work with pub­lic librar­i­ans to exchange ideas to devel­op new cre­at­ed learn­ing pro­grams. Scratch Cod­ing and the Duct Tape Net­work are exam­ples of their pre­vi­ous projects. After return­ing home, I cre­at­ed a Library Exchange Net­work with both com­mu­ni­ty and state part­ners to devel­op new learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for library patrons and the com­mu­ni­ty by reach­ing out to indi­vid­u­als in a vari­ety of dis­ci­plines such as the arts and engi­neer­ing.

From small to large libraries, any size library can cre­ate a Library Exchange Net­work with THREE easy steps:

Step 1: Part­ner­ship Radar

A part­ner­ship radar pro­vides you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to map out poten­tial part­ners for your exchange. Cre­ate a list of poten­tial part­ners who could poten­tial­ly offer a library pro­gram (this is some­thing you might already have com­plet­ed). Some exam­ples might include a con­struc­tion com­pa­ny who could help chil­dren cre­ate bird­hous­es, a uni­ver­si­ty or col­lege who could pro­vide a STEM pro­gram, or a gar­den­ing group who could pro­vide chil­dren the oppor­tu­ni­ty to plant a bulb. Your map can include local and or non-local part­ners. Your part­ner­ship radar will con­tin­ue to grow.

Storytime with WrigleyStep 2: Throw­ing the Line Out

As with fish­ing, you need to throw a line out to poten­tial part­ners by email or phone, express­ing the library’s inter­est in devel­op­ing a library pro­gram relat­ing to their pro­fes­sion or skill. For exam­ple, I reached out to a local teacher who has a ther­a­py dog to estab­lish a new Sat­ur­day sto­ry­time pro­gram where fam­i­lies enjoy not only sto­ries, songs, and a craft but also enjoy time with her ther­a­py dog. Con­clude your email by wel­com­ing them to your library for a brain­storm­ing ses­sion.

Step 3: Idea Exchange

The idea exchange is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for you and the poten­tial part­ner to brain­storm ideas on poten­tial pro­gram oppor­tu­ni­ties for the com­mu­ni­ty. For exam­ple, I had our local train muse­um vis­it with me to brain­storm new pos­si­bil­i­ties for fam­i­lies to learn about the his­to­ry of trains through expe­ri­ences includ­ing an inter­ac­tive kiosk and a live pre­sen­ta­tion. The goal at the ini­tial exchange meet­ing is to throw out as many pro­gram ideas as pos­si­ble even if they seem impos­si­ble. The meet­ings that fol­low will be reserved for the design of the pro­gram. 

10 Ben­e­fits of a Library Exchange Net­work

  1. Pro­vides new learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for the com­mu­ni­ty.
  2. Increas­es the library’s vis­i­bil­i­ty.
  3. Lim­its staff time to devel­op new pro­grams.
  4. Requires lit­tle or no cost. Many employ­ers require employ­ees to com­plete com­mu­ni­ty ser­vices.
  5. Shares both tal­ents and resources.
  6. Fos­ters coöper­a­tion.
  7. Reach­es new audi­ences.
  8. Re-images the pur­pose of the pub­lic library.
  9. Expands both ser­vices and pro­grams.
  10. Ensures the library con­tin­ues to be an enjoy­able place with­in the com­mu­ni­ty.

Nation­al Part­ners:

Code NinjasOur local part­ner­ship is exten­sive; how­ev­er, here are some of our non-local part­ner­ships who have chains through­out the Unit­ed States.

  1. Cod­ing Nin­jas
  2. Syl­van Learn­ing
  3. Bricks 4 Kids
  4. Boy and Girls Club
  5. After­school Alliance
  6. Engi­neer­ing for Kids

Arti­cles to Enjoy on Library Part­ner­ships:

The Who, What, Where, Why, When, and Hows of Pas­sive Pro­gram­ming,” by Aman­da Ben­nett, OLC Small Libraries, 17 March 2014

How Pub­lic Libraries Help Build Healthy Com­mu­ni­ties,” by Marcela Cam­bel­lo and Stu­art M. But­ler, Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion, 30 March 2017  

Books to Gen­er­ate Pro­gram Ideas

books for programming

Some Pro­gram Exam­ples Pro­vid­ed by Our Part­ners

Two Programs


Paws and Read

Cel­e­brat­ing Our Fur­ry Friends with a Pet Read­ing Pro­gram

Ani­mals are such agree­able friends — they ask no ques­tions, they pass no crit­i­cisms.”

—George Elliott

Oliver Jones

Oliv­er Jones, Mr. Z’s good friend

In Octo­ber 2011, I was in a state of tran­si­tion. I had just returned from intern­ing at the Library of Con­gress to a full-time job as head of a children’s depart­ment. I was excit­ed about this new adven­ture but, to move for­ward, I was miss­ing a fur­ry friend. One day, a patron came into the library and walked up to me and said, “I have this male kit­ty cat I need some­one to adopt. Do you know any­one who might want to adopt him?” I looked up, and it was an orange tab­by cat. I smiled and told her I would adopt him. His name is Oliv­er Jones, and he has been with me for almost eight years through many highs and lows. I reflect on this sto­ry from time to time to remind myself how impor­tant ani­mals are to the human jour­ney.

Through­out my time as a children’s librar­i­an, pro­grams that com­bine read­ing with ani­mals have been suc­cess­ful. My library’s pet read­ing pro­gram occurs one Sat­ur­day each month. A local teacher and her dog Wrigley vis­it the library and pro­vide a sto­ry­time pro­gram for 2- to 5‑year-olds. Pet read­ing pro­grams can be for any age group.

Steps in Cre­at­ing a Pet Read­ing Pro­gram:

  1. Decide on the objec­tives for a pet read­ing pro­gram at your library. Some ques­tions to ask might include: Will the ani­mal be part of a sto­ry­time pro­gram where fam­i­lies have time to inter­act with them? Should a new read-with-a-pet pro­gram be cre­at­ed where chil­dren can reg­is­ter a time to read to them?
  2. Research cer­ti­fied pet ther­a­py pro­gram web­sites for a direc­to­ry of cer­ti­fied mem­bers in your area. The ani­mals vis­it­ing the library should be a cer­ti­fied ani­mal, not your pet or a patron’s or a coworker’s. Ther­a­py Dogs Inter­na­tion­al is one resource for you to check.
  3. Reach out to local cer­ti­fied indi­vid­u­als to pro­pose the new pet read­ing pro­gram. At the ini­tial meet­ing, ask them to send a copy of their cer­ti­fi­ca­tion along with any insurance/liability infor­ma­tion. Keep this infor­ma­tion on file.
  4. Sched­ule your first pro­gram. Do you want this to be part of a morn­ing sto­ry­time or a new after-school pro­gram? I have done both types of pro­grams with great suc­cess.
  5. Iden­ti­fy the space for your pro­gram and col­lect resources spe­cif­ic to this pro­gram. Chil­dren can bring their own book to read or search the library col­lec­tion with the ani­mal.

The fol­low­ing are my top pic­ture book, chap­ter book, and non­fic­tion book sug­ges­tions. Although each of these choic­es have an ani­mal theme, a child can choose any book to read to the ani­mal.

Picture Books






Pic­ture Book Sug­ges­tions

  1. Drag­ons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  2. Moth­er Bruce by Ryan T. Hig­gins (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  3. If You Give a Dog a Donut by Lau­ra Numeroff (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  4. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  5. There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  6. Stel­lalu­na by Janell Can­non (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  7. A Uni­corn Named Sparkle by Amy Young (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  8. Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  9. The Bear Ate Your Sand­wich by Julia Sar­cone-Roach (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)
  10. Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cum­mings (inter­est lev­el: K‑3)

Chapter Books






Chap­ter Book Sug­ges­tions

  1. Mag­ic Ani­mal Res­cue (series) by E.D. Bak­er (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 3 grade)
  2. The Chick­en Squad (series) by Doreen Cronin (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 3 grade)
  3. Ranger in Time (series) by Kate Mess­ner (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 5 grade)
  4. Almost Home by John Bauer (inter­est lev­el: 4 – 6 grade)
  5. A Dog’s Life by Ann M. Mar­tin (inter­est lev­el: 4 – 6 grade)
  6. Cap­tain Pug (series) by Lau­ra James (inter­est lev­el 1 – 4 grade)
  7. Mr. Popper’s Pen­guins by Richard Atwa­ter (inter­est lev­el: 3 – 6 grade)
  8. Stu­art Lit­tle by E.B. White (inter­est lev­el: 3 – 6 grade)
  9. Dog Man and Cat Kid by Dav Pilkey (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 5 grade)
  10. Drag­on Mas­ters by Tracey West (inter­est lev­el 2 – 4 grade)






Non­fic­tion Book Sug­ges­tions

  1. The King of Sting by Coy­ote Peter­son (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 6 grade)
  2. Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Read­ers: Woof! 100 Fun Facts About Dogs (inter­est lev­el: 1 – 4 grade)
  3. I Sur­vived True Sto­ries (series) by Lau­ren Tarshils (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 5 grade)
  4. Ani­mals that Make Me Say (series) by Dawn Cusick (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 5 grade)
  5. Dog Days of His­to­ry: The Incred­i­ble True Sto­ry of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 4 grade)
  6. The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Sto­ry of Bal­to by Natal­ie Stan­di­ford and Don­ald Cook (inter­est lev­el 2 – 4 grade)
  7. Oh, the Pets You can Get: All About our Ani­mal Friends by Tish Rabe (inter­est lev­el 2 – 4 grade)
  8. 50 Wacky Things Pets Do (series) by Hei­di Fiedler and Mar­ta Sorte (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 5 grade)
  9. Gross Me Out (ani­mal series) by Jody Sul­li­van Rake (inter­est lev­el: 2 – 5 grade)
  10. Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Kids 125 True Sto­ries of Amaz­ing Ani­mals by Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Kids (inter­est lev­el 2 – 5 grade)

Tam­pa Bay Humane Soci­ety Pet Read­ing Pro­gram

Here’s a video about a suc­cess­ful pet read­ing pro­gram at the Humane Soci­ety of Tam­pa Bay. This video adds that these pro­grams are not only essen­tial to help a child with their read­ing, but they also help chil­dren build their self-esteem in a non-judg­men­tal envi­ron­ment.

Read to a Dog Pro­gram at Pima Coun­ty Pub­lic Library

Enjoy watch­ing this video about a suc­cess­ful dog read­ing pro­gram at Pima Coun­ty Pub­lic Library. This video stress­es the impor­tance that this pro­gram helps to boost a child’s con­fi­dence. 


Puppet Mania

Using Pup­pets to Enhance the Sto­ry­time Expe­ri­ence

Any­one who does any­thing to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ”

― Fred Rogers

Mr. Z with two of his puppets

Mr. Z with two of his pup­pets

I recent­ly watched Won’t You Be My Neigh­bor, the new doc­u­men­tary on the life and career of Fred Rogers … Mis­ter Rogers. At the con­clu­sion of the doc­u­men­tary, I reflect­ed on how he shone a light on the role sto­ry­telling has in our ser­vice to chil­dren and fam­i­lies. At the start of every show, Mis­ter Rogers joined the audi­ence at 143, his numero­log­i­cal code for “I love you.” Rogers pro­vid­ed a wel­com­ing envi­ron­ment where every audi­ence mem­ber was invit­ed to trav­el to the Neigh­bor­hood of Make-Believe, where the audi­ence met pup­pet friends Daniel Tiger and Lady Elaine Fairchilde, to name two of them. Each pup­pet por­trayed real feel­ings and real expe­ri­ences.

Through­out my expe­ri­ence as a children’s librar­i­an, pup­pets have been essen­tial tools for con­nect­ing with fam­i­lies. Here’s a pup­pet toolk­it to help you bring pup­pets into your sto­ry­time pro­gram or to enhance your cur­rent work with pup­pets. This toolk­it is based on my expe­ri­ence. Add or edit the toolk­it to meet your needs.

The Pup­pet Toolk­it

Tool #1: Pup­pet Pur­pose: Think about the pur­pose a pup­pet will serve for your sto­ry­time pro­gram. Some ques­tions to con­sid­er:

  1. Does the pup­pet align with a theme or does it need to align with a theme?
  2. Will the pup­pet help facil­i­tate the pro­gram?
  3. Will you have one or mul­ti­ple pup­pets in the pro­gram?
  4. Will you use ani­mal or peo­ple pup­pets?
  5. Where will you use the pup­pet in your sto­ry­time (at the begin­ning, mid­dle, end, or through­out the sto­ry­time?

Tool #2: Find­ing or Cre­at­ing a Pup­pet: Search for places to pur­chase pup­pets or ideas on how to cre­ate a pup­pet. In doing a sim­ple search, you can find sev­er­al pup­pet dis­trib­u­tors. Search at com­mu­ni­ty yard sales or a local thrift store. Many of us, includ­ing myself, are on tight bud­gets and it may be dif­fi­cult to pur­chase pup­pets. There are many resources for mak­ing pup­pets. Here are a few to get you start­ed:

  1. A video from Par­ents Mag­a­zine on how to make a sock pup­pet.
  2. A pup­pet craft tuto­r­i­al from Danielle’s Place 
  3. Mak­ing Home­made Pup­pets” from Savay Home­made 
  4. A sim­ple Pin­ter­est search.

Tip: Always remem­ber to look in your library sup­ply clos­et before pur­chas­ing. Tell your com­mu­ni­ty about this project and the sup­plies need­ed. You might be sur­prised with dona­tions.

Mister Rogers stampTool #3: Embody­ing a Pup­pet: When watch­ing Mis­ter Rogers, it was easy to think, “I can’t embody a pup­pet like he does,” or “I don’t have any train­ing in pup­petry.” Let me set­tle your mind. Although I don’t have pup­pet train­ing, my audi­ence laughs and enjoys each pup­pet expe­ri­ence. What does it mean to embody a pup­pet? Once you decide to pur­chase or make a puppet(s), fol­low these steps:

  1. Refer back to the first tool: think about the pur­pose of pup­pets in your sto­ry­time.
  2. Prac­tice hold­ing the pup­pet and mov­ing it. Skills need­ed will dif­fer if put your hand through a hole or you hold the pup­pet with a stick.
  3. Prac­tice how your pup­pet will speak. Will it have your voice or will you cre­ate a voice?
  4. Prac­tice in front of a staff mem­ber or fam­i­ly mem­ber to get feed­back. Remem­ber, it is not about hav­ing a per­fect per­for­mance. It’s impor­tant to be com­fort­able and have fun.
  5. Will you inter­act with anoth­er pup­pet? If so, prac­tice! Will you oper­ate both pup­pets or will a staff mem­ber or fam­i­ly mem­ber be the oth­er pup­pet?

Tip: Search on YouTube for more videos on how oth­er libraries use pup­pets in their pro­grams,

Tip: Watch these two videos by librar­i­an and pup­peteer Kim­ber­ly Fau­rot on “Bring­ing Your Pup­pet to Life.”

Children playing with puppets

Tool #4: Pup­pet Inter­ac­tion with the Audi­ence: It’s impor­tant to think about your cur­rent audi­ence of chil­dren and fam­i­lies who attend sto­ry­time.

  1. What inter­ac­tion will the pup­pet have with chil­dren and fam­i­lies?
  2. Will the pup­pet ask ques­tions? If so, what ques­tions will it ask?
  3. Will chil­dren have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to pet or hug the pup­pet? This has been the most effec­tive use of pup­pets in my pro­grams. Chil­dren love to do this.
  4. Will the pup­pet ask chil­dren to help tell the sto­ry? For exam­ple, the pup­pet might ask chil­dren to bring some­thing to put on the felt board or it might tell them it is hun­gry and they need to look for food.
  5. How can the pup­pet be used for some­thing besides telling a sto­ry? You might use a pup­pet to help chil­dren and fam­i­lies relax before the sto­ries and activ­i­ties begin.
  6. Will the pup­pet inter­act with the adults? Can the adults help embody a pup­pet? Pup­pets can be an effec­tive tool for adult par­tic­i­pa­tion. As a pup­peteer, I inter­act with adults by ask­ing them ques­tions relat­ed to the sto­ry­time. I have had suc­cess in ask­ing adults to choose a pup­pet and inter­act with the audi­ence through­out sto­ry­time.

finger puppetsTool#5: Using Pup­pets to Inspire Cre­ativ­i­ty: Pup­pets are a great tool for inspir­ing cre­ativ­i­ty. I host­ed a pup­pet-mak­ing pro­gram for fam­i­lies to make their own pup­pets. Sup­plies were includ­ed:

  1. Paper bags (pro­vid­ed by a local gro­cery store) or $1.96 (50 count) priced online
  2. Stick­ers
  3. Crayons (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $5.04 for a pack of 12, priced online)
  4. Scis­sors (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $4.50 per one, priced online)
  5. Wood­en craft sticks (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $7.99 for a box of 200, priced online)
  6. Yarn (pro­vid­ed by a local moms group) (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $14.97 for assort­ed col­ors, priced online)
  7. Pom-poms (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $6.99 for a bag of 100, priced online
  8. Wig­gly eyes (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $6.25 for a bag of 200)

Poten­tial cost depend­ing on what’s in your sup­ply clos­et : $47.70

At the com­ple­tion of the pup­pet-mak­ing pro­gram, fam­i­lies gath­ered in our sto­ry­time room to meet the new pup­pets. Many par­ents helped their child intro­duce their pup­pet to the group.

The Pow­er of Pup­pets

Through­out my career as a children’s librar­i­an, my pup­petry expe­ri­ences have been pro­found. Dur­ing a sen­so­ry sto­ry­time pro­gram, a moth­er noticed I had pup­pets on the ground. She asked to speak with me briefly about her son who is on the autism spec­trum. She told me the dif­fi­cul­ty he has with objects like pup­pets because he can’t see where his hand is going. I under­stood com­plete­ly. At the con­clu­sion of our con­ver­sa­tion, we noticed her son on the floor play­ing with a few pup­pets on his hands. He was talk­ing with them, ask­ing them ques­tions. The moth­er start­ed to cry. We both smiled at each oth­er. Pup­pets can be mean­ing­ful for both child and par­ent.

Two sock puppets

Pup­pet Resources

  1. Why Pup­pet Play is Impor­tant,” Karen Whit­ter, Play & Grow, 4 Jan 2017
  2. Pup­pets Talk, Chil­dren Lis­ten,” Christie Belfiore, Teach, not dat­ed
  3. The Pow­er of Pup­pets: How Our Fuzzy Friends Help Kids Grow Social-Emo­tion­al Skills,” Car­olyn Sweeney Hauck, Explore. Play. Learn., Kinder­Care blog, 7 Feb 2018
  4. Pup­pet Scripts,” Pup­pets for Libraries, 19 Jan 2012
  5. Pup­pets and Sto­ry­time,” Dr. Jean Feld­man for Scholas­tic (PDF)
  6. Pup­pets for Non-Pup­pet Peo­ple,” Mal­lo­ry Inman, Mal­lo­ry Tells Sto­ries, 10 Jun 2015
  7. The Pup­petry Home Page,” Rose Sage Barone and Nick Barone
  8. Pup­pets, Lan­guage, and Learn­ing, a book by Jane Fish­er

Rec­om­mend­ed Sto­ries for Using Pup­pets

recommended books for puppet shoes


Gobble up a Good Time

It is amaz­ing how quick­ly depart­ment stores move all of the Hal­loween items out and bring out Christ­mas lights, wrap­ping paper, reli­gious items, dif­fer­ent sized San­ta Claus­es and orna­ments. Oh, and who can for­get about the start of Christ­mas music at the begin­ning of Novem­ber? I love Christ­mas, but for the longest time, I’ve been con­fused about why depart­ment stores do not ded­i­cate space for Thanks­giv­ing. Thanks­giv­ing is a hol­i­day that sym­bol­izes the impor­tance of gath­er­ing with oth­ers to give thanks. Before we begin to hang a tree or wrap presents, it is impor­tant to give thanks to our friends and fam­i­ly mem­bers. Spend­ing time togeth­er is a great way to give thanks to each oth­er.

Why not include a few crafts and a sci­ence exper­i­ment as part of your cel­e­bra­tion? Read on! You’ll find a few tips on how you can involve the entire fam­i­ly in each craft project.

leafCraft 1: Giv­ing Light to Leaves

The chang­ing of leaves is the sign that autumn has arrived. For this craft, you will first need a lunch bag. Go out­side and spend time walk­ing around look­ing at all of the fall­en leaves. Ask ques­tions like, “what do they feel like?”, “what col­ors do you see?”, or “are they smooth or rough?” Grab a few larg­er-sized leaves and put them in your lunch bag. Head on indoors. Gath­er the fol­low­ing:


  • The leaves you brought in
  • Glue ($2.28 for two, priced online)
  • Tis­sue Paper (Could be no cost if you have some left over from wrap­ping presents, $10.43, priced online)
  • Waxed Paper (Could be no cost if you have it in your kitchen, $2.94, priced online)
  • Crayons (Could be no cost if you have them at home, $5.04 for a pack of 12, priced online)
  • Scis­sors (Could be no cost if you have them at home, $4.50 per one, priced online)
  • Twine ($3.50 for one roll of twine, priced online)

Total esti­mat­ed cost: $28.69 if you need to buy every­thing new

tissue paperSteps

  1. On a sheet of paper, tape down a leaf and work with your child to trace the leaf’s out­er shape. Remem­ber, the shape does not need to be per­fect. Just like snowflakes, all leaves do not look the same.
  2. Help your child cut the leaf pat­tern out.
  3. Work with your child to tear dif­fer­ent col­ors of tis­sue paper and put them in a pile.
  4. Glue the leaf pat­tern on wax paper and help your child cut around the leaf to make a leaf shape.
  5. Put glue in the mid­dle of the leaf.
  6. Work with your child to glue the tis­sue paper pieces to the mid­dle of the leaf.
  7. Let it dry.
  8. Glue twine on the back of the leaf and find a win­dow to hang it from
  9. Wait for the sun­light and be amazed.


  1. Con­nect the leaf project by first read­ing the book, Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  2. Show them a book with the types of trees to help them learn how to iden­ti­fy the type of leaves they find out­side. I sug­gest Trees, Leaves, & Bark by Diane Burns.
  3. Dis­cuss: “when I look at my leaf this is what I see, what do you see?”
  4. Talk with your child about the col­ors that the sun­light is shin­ing through.
  5. Talk with the child about the shape of the leaf.

pumpkinCraft 2: The Tube Pump­kin

Jack-O-Lanterns are a sym­bol for Hal­loween, how­ev­er, pump­kins are also a sta­ple at a Thanks­giv­ing table. From pump­kin pie to pump­kin bars, pump­kins are an impor­tant ingre­di­ent for Thanks­giv­ing din­ner. Pump­kin-themed crafts are also a fun way to cel­e­brate the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day. This craft is called The Tube Pump­kin because all you need is a paper tow­el tube to make the pump­kin shape.


  1. Paper tow­el tube
  2. Orange and green paint (Could be no cost if you have them at home, cost, $2.32 for one, priced online)
  3. Plain white paper
  4. Paint Brush (Could be no cost if you have them at home, cost, $7.96 for a pk of 10, priced online
  5. Tape

Total esti­mat­ed cost: $10.28 if you need to buy every­thing new


  1. Help your child make a pump­kin shape using a paper tow­el tube. I found it best to bend one of the ends of the tube inward.
  2. This will act as a stamp.
  3. Pour some orange paint on a plate.
  4. Take the paper tow­el tube and dip it in orange paint.
  5. Place the paper tow­el tube on the paper to make your pump­kin shape.
  6. Help your child paint the pump­kin using a paint brush.
  • It is impor­tant to note that if your child decides to use a dif­fer­ent col­ored paint besides orange that is just fine. Allow­ing for cre­ativ­i­ty is impor­tant.

The RUnaway PumpkinCon­nec­tions

  1. Read the book, The Run­away Pump­kin by Kevin Lewis before you do the craft.
  2. Ask them what oth­er things are also orange (or what­ev­er col­or they used to cre­ate their pump­kin).
  3. If you have a pump­kin at home and it is cut open, have them smell it and describe what they smell.
  4. Con­sid­er roast­ing and eat­ing the pump­kin seeds. Talk about how seeds grow into plants.

Apple Volcano suppliesApple Vol­ca­noes,
a Fall Sci­ence Exper­i­ment

Apples are also impor­tant to a Thanks­giv­ing menu. From apple pie to apple crisp, apples are a crunchy delight. This fall sci­ence exper­i­ment uses apples, not for bak­ing, but for sci­ence.


  1. Apples, any kind will do (Could be no cost if you have them at home, cost for 1 apple is $.076, price from Wal-Mart).
  2. Bak­ing soda (Could be no cost if you have it in your kitchen, cost for 1 store brand box, $0.98, price from Wal-Mart).
  3. Dish soap (Could be no cost if you have it at home, cost for small store brand dish soap, $3.75, price from Wal-Mart).
  4. Food col­or­ing (Could be no cost if you it in your kitchen, cost for 1 box of Wilton food col­or­ing, $3.19, price from Wal-Mart)
  5. Knife

Total esti­mat­ed cost: $8.68 or free if you have the items on hand


  1. Use a knife to cut a small hole in the top of the apple about half way down.
  2. Place the apple on a cook­ie sheet with a rim or in a cake pan.
  3. Have the kid­dos put a cou­ple spoon­fuls of bak­ing soda in the hole.
  4. Add a drop of dish soap to the bak­ing soda for a foami­er reac­tion.
  5. Add a drop of food col­or­ing.
  6. Pour vine­gar into the hole of the apple and wait to be amazed!
  7. Search on YouTube for apple pie vol­cano to view the exper­i­ment.


  1. Pair this activ­i­ty with the sto­ry, The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. Read the sto­ry before the exper­i­ment.
  2. Ask your child what col­or apple they enjoy the most.
  3. Ask, “are apples chewy or crunchy?”
  4. Ask, “do apples grow in the ground or on a tree?”
  5. Ask, “why do you think the apple began to fizz?”

Cel­e­brate fall! Give thanks! Have fun!