Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pot Luck

My second family storytime for this summer was "Folktales from Asia."  I told a story primarily based on Lily Toy Hong's Two of Everything.  This title was recommended as being a good one to adapt for the flannel board in Travel the Globe: Multicultural Story Times (p. 51).  I searched the web to find other versions of the story.  I came across a nice animated version called "The Magic Pot."  I wrote my own version called "Pot Luck."  It can be found as a Google document here.

To tell the story I used our magnet board and a black plastic pot.  The duplicates and coins were placed in the pot beforehand.  I definitely recommend using a bowl or pot along with the board figures.  The highlight of the story was when the farmer's wife fell into the pot and two wives came out.  I don't think it would be as effective with a two dimensional pot (not to mention the difficulty of manipulating the figures).   The coins are just circles cut from construction paper.  I punched a hole in the center to make them look like old Chinese coins.  I made enough to double to 16 but when I told the story I only went up to 8.  The older children were able to correctly guess how many coins would come out of the pot, though one did gleefully yell out 6.  The parents enjoyed this story as much as the children did.

Summer 2011

Summer reading program participants put their names on a piece of construction paper and decorate it if desired.  The pieces are then stapled to the bulletin board.  We are almost out of land but have plenty of ocean.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Folktales from Asia - A Family Story Time

7/27/11 - 3 to 4 p.m. 
Attendance - 28 children, 14 adults                                              

Board Stories
"The Rat's Daughter" from The Flannel Board Storytelling Book by Judy Sierra
"Pot Luck" adapted from Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong and others (with prop)

Scroll Story
"The Boy Who Drew Cats" from Handmade Tales: Stories to Make and Take by Diane de Las Casas

Prop Stories
"Don't Let the Tiger Get You!" from Multicultural Folktales: Stories to Tell Young Children by Judy Sierra
"The Clever One" adapted from "The Girl Who Used Her Wits" in Handmade Tales: Stories to Make and Take by Diane de Las Casa and "The Clever Daughter-in-Law" in Celebrate the World: Twenty Tellable Folktales for Multicultural Festivals by Margaret Read MacDonald

"The Little Crab"

Origami cat and dog

I wanted to read The Empty Pot by Demi but ran out of time.  However, the audience seemed to enjoy the various forms of storytelling and reading a book was not necessary.  (I might use the book for class visits in the fall along with some of today's stories.)  "Pot Luck" was the favorite story today.  The children particularly enjoyed seeing the second wife being pulled from the pot.  They also enjoyed "Don't Let the Tiger Get You!" mainly because of the silly "characters" in the story.  Though the origami was simple, even the older children enjoyed it and a parade of colorful dogs and cats left the library this afternoon.  I found it interesting that I had the exact same number of children and adults as I did for the previous program.  I don't remember that happening before with Family Story Time.

Dog and Cat with Cat

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Looking in All the Wrong Places

I came across this article on  I wonder if Mr. Nash has ever visited a public library. 

This reminds me of the time (many, many years ago) when I helping a teacher from our town's special education preschool find books.  She mentioned that they couldn't get anyone to come to the school to read to the children.  They had asked a bookstore (part of a chain) but they couldn't do it.  I took a deep breath and politely said that I could do it (all the while wanting to scream at her - The library!! Why didn't you think of the library?? It's what we do!!!  After all, you use the library so you must know that we exist and are not very far from the school!!).  I ended up doing a monthly storytime for the entire school until the school go its own librarian.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Memory: A "Board" Game

One spring I was invited by an elementary school librarian to come talk about the public library's summer reading program.  Since I didn't want to just talk about upcoming library activities, I told a humorous story relating to the theme with stick puppets.  I also made a memory game using clip art from the summer reading  program manual.  I put the pieces on the flannel board and talked about the summer reading program and then I took the pieces off.  I then asked the students if they could remember what was on the board.  The students really enjoyed the game so I decided to use it to promote summer reading with other groups as well.

Every spring and fall our library has second graders visit.  I use the memory game every spring to promote the library's upcoming summer reading program.  The more items on the board, the more the children have to remember and the more difficult the game becomes.  This makes it a good game to use with various age groups since there can be fewer pieces for the younger children to remember while more can be added to challenge older children.  Another way to make it a challenge is to not mention the pieces at all while talking about summer programs.  Talking about the pieces makes it easier for the children to recall what was on the board.  Again, how it is presented would depend on the age of the group.  Sometimes I give hints as well.  It's fun to see the children get excited and work to get all the pieces back on the board.  It's also interesting to see that there are always one or two particular pieces that all of the classes have trouble remembering.

Because the summer theme changes from year to year, I usually do not make elaborate pieces for our board.  I copy and color clip art and then I glue it onto a slightly larger colorful piece of construction paper for a backing.  Since we have a magnet board I add magnets.  When I had a flannel board I glued pieces of craft interfacing to the back.  Scrap pieces of flannel would work just as well.  I use this method often when I need to make story pieces quickly. 

Of course the memory game can be used as part of a storytime program.  What I like best is the fact that it is a game that can be used with and adapted for various age groups and that it works well on a flannel or magnet board.

Below is an example of a quick and easy story piece - clip art glued onto construction paper.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hare & Tortoise (Not Aesop)

This spring I did a great deal of skimming through collections of folktales looking for stories to use for this summer's Family Story Time series.  One of the stories that I found was "Hare and Tortoise: A Tale from the Thonga People of Mozambique" which can be found in Trickster Tales: Forty Folk Stories from Around the World by Josepha Sherman.  The gist of the story is that Rabbit tricks Lizard, then Rabbit tricks Antelope and then Rabbit tries to trick Tortoise but Tortoise tricks Rabbit instead.

This story could easily be adapted as a board story.  Since I already had chosen three board stories, I needed to present this story in a different way.  I could have made the figures into stick puppets but I decided to try something different.  I made stand-up figures to tell the story.  I used Microsoft Publisher to enlarge and print out the images of the lizard and the tortoise.  For the rabbit and antelope I used the old-fashioned method of folding the letter-sized printout into quarters and drawing the image on larger paper. I used an 18 inches by 24 inches sheet of paper for the antelope and half of a sheet for the rabbit.  I used a pencil and drew light lines to divide the paper into quarters and then sketched each quarter to make the larger picture.  Much erasing ensued but the rabbit looked like a rabbit and the antelope looked pretty much like an antelope.  I outlined everything with black marker. The figures were colored with markers and then glued to poster board.  (Make sure the marker has dried if using white glue.)  I then cut out the figures leaving the bottoms uncut (to hold the stands).  I made stands for the figures out of poster board.  I ended up reinforcing the back of the rabbit with cardboard because he was so tall.  I did the same for the antelope.  Since the antelope was a bit top-heavy I ended up using a tab stand made out of cardboard for it. 

All of this sounds like a lot of work but it really didn't take as long as I thought it would.  I set the animals on a table before the program started.  (I used a box behind the antelope to keep it from slipping on the smooth table.)  The display peaked the interest of the children as they came into the room for the program.  (The antelope is out of proportion to the other animals but the children didn't seem to care.)

Telling the story went quite well.  I moved and removed figures as I told the story.  The only thing I will do differently when I tell it again is to not bother tying the hoe to the lizard or antelope.  Miming the actions as I was telling the story was just as effective and I had to turn my back to the group when tying the hoe onto the figures.  So the hoe goes.

Below is a picture of the figures set up on my living room floor.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Folktales from Africa - A Family Story Time

7/13/11 - 3 to 4 p.m. 
Attendance - 28 children, 14 adults

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott
Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa by Gerald McDermott
The Little Green Turtle ((illustrated by Adam Rolf, editorial by A.J. Wood and Rachel Williams)

Board Stories
"Leopard's Drum" from Teeny Tiny Folktales by Jean Warren
"Silly Humans" from an African folktale (see blog post for 7/6/11)
"The Wolf, the Goat, and the Cabbages: An African Dilemma Tale" from Multicultural Folktales for the Feltboard and Readers' Theater by Judy Sierra

Prop Story
"The Hare and the Tortoise" adapted from the story "Hare and Tortoise: A Tale from the Thonga People of Mozambique" from the book, Trickster Tales: Forty Folk Stories from around the World  by Josepha Sherman.

"Anansi the Spider"  Instructions to make Anansi (from Wisconsin 4-H Afterschool)
Note - I made the template smaller so that the paper would be above the holes punched in the plastic cup, making it easier to place the pipe cleaner legs in the holes.

Gerald McDermott's colorful and clear illustrations read well with a large group.  Zomo the Rabbit is one of my favorite stories.  This group had a great attention span (although I did lose one 2-year-old halfway through the storytelling).  This was probably because there were more older children than usual.  For this reason, the story, "The Wolf, the Goat, and the Cabbages," went over very well, with several of the children (and parents) participating in solving the problem.  I often will add or leave out a story, depending on the make-up of the group.  This time I read and told every story I had planned. One has to be flexible when doing family story time because the ages of the children vary so much.  I place an emphasis on visual storytelling because this appeals to a wide age range and that is why I use mostly (flannel/magnet) board stories and prop stories.  I also tell mostly folktales and humorous stories which appeal to all age groups.

Anansi (the sample), looking a little worse for wear after being passed around at Family Story Time:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Storytime Collections

I recently participated in a Tech Challenge given by the Children's Services Section of the New Jersey Library Association.  This Tech Challenge inspired me to start blogging again and to organize the material I have accumulated over the years (which is quite a bit since I have been doing this since 1990).  I was also lucky enough to win a Barnes & Noble gift card for completing the challenge.   This went toward the purchase of some books for my storytime collection.  I have learned over the years that personal favorites can disappear unexpectedly so it's always good to have a back-up.  I also learned the hard way that when this happens, the book cannot be replaced because it is out of print.  I like to use pop-ups with large groups so I have been purchasing those over the years as well.  If you have the space and budget, start a storytelling collection at your library.  If not, start a personal collection.  It does not have to be large.  Many of the titles in my personal collection are out of print and it's great to be able to bring them in when needed for storytimes.

There was not a large selection of pop-ups at the book store but I did find some titles to add to my collection.

Even though I have other dinosaur titles by Paul Strickland, I decided to add A Number of Dinosaurs because of the way the pop-up numbers get larger, counting from 1 to 10.  Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell is already in my library's storytelling collection so this is a back-up of a back-up.  I added Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg because it would be a good book to use with older children.  I found The Little Green Turtle (illustrated by Adam Rolf, editorial by A.J. Wood and Rachel Williams) in the bargain book section.  I'm seriously thinking of using this title to end my family story time tomorrow. It is not an African folktale but it does feature African animals.

Thank you CSS!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Silly Humans

Next week I will be doing the first of three summer family story times.  The first session will feature folk tales from Africa.  I wanted to read Too Much Talk by Angela Shelf Medearis but, alas, the library does not own this book.  The story is based on a folk tale from Ghana often called "The Talking Yam."  I remembered coming across the story as a reader's theater play at a workshop several years ago so I figured there had to be a version floating around the Internet somewhere.  Indeed, there were several, including a reference to a version in "Highlights for Children" (May 1, 2009) called "Yammering Yams."  I read a few versions including "Yammering Yams" but decided to tell it my own way so I wrote my own version featuring the aspects of the story that I enjoyed.  My version is called "Silly Humans."  I'm making it into a board story so I went in search of clip art for the story.  I needed a yam, a dog, a fish, a water jug, a cloth and a royal seat (search "Ashanti throne ottoman" to see what one looks like).  I traced the shapes of the objects onto paper and drew most of my own details for I wanted the pieces to stand out on the board and be seen by a fairly large group.  The water jug and the cloth are very brightly colored for this reason.  I always use black marker to draw an outline around each piece.  This helps the piece to stand out against a light background.  Since my library has a magnet board instead of a flannel board, the pieces will be laminated and magnets put on the back.  If I were using a flannel board, I would trace the pieces onto craft pellon and I would also outline them in black and color them with markers.  If anyone is interested in telling this story, my version can be found as a Google document here.

Pieces used for "Silly Humans" based on found clip art:


Colored with Markers

Friday, July 1, 2011


My Family Story Time programs have changed over the years.  When I first started, it was an evening program and I was working at a different library.  I always had a craft because I wanted the program to last an hour and I knew that most attention spans would not last longer than 30 minutes (including adults).  This turned out to be a great idea because the craft became a family activity and it was wonderful to see parents and children working together on a project.  So the craft has stayed. 

What I did find was that I was using fewer and fewer books over the years.   At the Hamilton Library, Family Story Time is from 3 to 4 in the afternoon.  This is because the meeting room is used for a non-library program every day in the summer.  Our story room is much too small for large groups so we have to limit our registrations.  We decided to experiment with a late afternoon story time for all ages.  It was very well received so now we do it every summer.  Basically we do not limit registrations though I start to panic when over 100 children are signed up.  Once I had close to that actually come, though only once.  We usually get 50%.   Because of the size of the group and the mixed ages of the children - usually babies through age 11 - I have found that visual presentations work the best.  I have always used (flannel/magnet) board stories in my storytimes but over the years for Family Story Time, I have increased the number of board stories while decreasing the number of books.  I used to read 4/5 books but then I went to 3 and now I plan to use only one or two.  I now use stick puppets and props as well to tell stories.  Other forms of storytelling that I like to use are paper cutting stories and draw and tell stories.  Because I am using fewer books it does take longer to prepare for the program.  Although I use several stories from storytelling books such as Handmade Tales by Dianne de Las Casas, I am adapting folk tales that I find to these various methods of storytelling.  It takes a great deal of prep time but the end result is that I am able to hold the interest of most of the children and provide an entertaining program for the adults as well.

Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer - Not So Much, Crazy - Yes

Yesterday morning was incredibly busy.  It was non-stop and at times there were three of us plus a student volunteer helping people.  We had the first day of registering for our summer story times, reading program participants registering or checking in and numerous parents and children looking for books on summer reading lists.  In addition there were tutors with their students and preschoolers playing with our stuffed animal collection so the children's room was a very lively place. 

Wednesday evening was the Kick-Off Party for our summer reading program.  We had crafts, games and refreshments under tents outside the library followed by a performance by Yosi.  Italian ice (aka water ice in South Jersey) was served after the performance.  I had desk duty so I missed the fun (but got to stay in the air conditioning).  Everyone had a great time.  The Kick-Off Party was supported by our Friends of the Library group.   Our Friends group provides funding for our summer programs and supports us year round.

I enjoy working this time of year even though it can get crazy at times.  Now I have to get serious about Family Story Time.  I've decided that to tell folk tales from Africa, Asia and Europe to fit in with the "One World, Many Stories" theme.  First up is Africa.  I've selected the stories and craft so now I have to prepare them.