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Flannel Friday: Sarah Silverman Storytime Tour! (coming to an iPad near you)

What do you get when you cross Andy Kaufman and Fred Rogers? Need a hint?

GIFake. "Unicorn Serenades". Gify <>. April 30, 2011.

Surprisingly enough, you don’t get a unicorn! You get Sarah Silverman.

I have to admit, I didn’t know what to make of Sarah Silverman in the early part of her career. I always felt like an oddball because I wasn’t into her. I always felt I would like her as a person; so I kept an open mind.

Then a few years ago I caught Sarah Silverman: Turning Ignorance into Comedy on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Towards the very end of the interview they discussed kids. It turns out Sarah Silverman is bonkers for kids. She isn’t a parent herself yet, but she is the best-aunt-ever to the families in her life. This interview was a game-changer for me. I was keeping my eye out for a Sarah Silverman picture book. That seemed a natural first step into children’s entertainment. Over the weekend she tweeted:

Flashforward: Uncle Sarah is my new favorite storytime app, and I am a card-carrying SarahSilvermaniac.

This charming video-based interactive app is jim-jammed with stories, games, and songs starring Sarah and her mellow dog, Duck. But wait! It gets better. Hold onto your buns, librarians: the activities are *for the most part* DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE! It’s up there with Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App.

Uncle Sarah features 6 interactive activities: Sing with Sarah, Yay Storytime, Peek-a-Boo, A is for…, Sing the ABCs, and Don’t Wake Sarah. So far I have used two in storytime, and they were a huge hit. Due to the fact that  we are currently undergoing total renovation, we had to wipe out calendar this quarter. Instead we are offering a special service we call  “Sudden Storytimes” or “Spontaneous Storytimes”. Whenever possible, if there is a quorum of storytime kids in the department, and throw together mini storytime on the spot. I took the first opportunity to try Uncle Sarah on a group of my toddler timers from last session. I chose 2 activities to go along with a Not-So-Sleepy Storytime: Sing with Sarah and Don’t Wake Sarah.

Sing with Sarah

I used this as my hello song. I told them I have a friend named Sarah, “who is a really good singer. She can write an awesome song right on the spot. Do you guys want to meet her?” (They did!) So I popped open the iPad, and there was Sarah playing her guitar. She started to sing,

I’m making up a song right now. This is me making up a song. As I go along, You sing along, too. 

She repeats this verse over and over again, more videos of her in different settings playing instruments pop up and join in. By the 3rd round all the parents had joined in, and the kids weren’t far behind. I didn’t have access to a big screen since I was doing this on the fly. The visuals weren’t necessary for this group activity, but they’d be fun for one-on-one laptime.  It is 1) a genuinely catchy tune; 2) silly-with-a-touch-of-irony; and 3) simple enough for young children to pick up right away. Success!

Don’t Wake Sarah

This is a very silly game. Sarah is tired. “I’m taking a nap,” she says, “Don’t wake me up I need to get my sleep.” She rests her head on her hand and dozes off. A little dream cloud pops up, and we get to see what she’s dreaming. AWESOME! Now the fun begins. I went around in a circle letting the kiddos poke the screen like little maniacs.

Sarah doesn’t wake up right away, but every poke elicits a reaction of some sort: bobbles, beeps, flips, and bloops. Sometimes she wakes up with a start, “Wha? Is it cartoon time?”Other times she just opens one eye, saying “Don’t jostle.” Then dozes off again.

They tried every trick they could think of to wake her up. My favorite was a little one who kept sneaking up very quietly, and tickling her right on the nose saying, “coochie-oo, coochie-oo.”

I tried to control the kids’ contact with the iPad in a way that built anticipation.  When she did wake up my storytimers went bananas.  They never got tired of it, and to be honest neither did I. Luckily, I did the book and rhyme in the middle, because I totally lost track of time. I finally noticed a mom glancing at her watch, and wrapped up with my favorite closing activity.

One piece of advice before you use it with front of a group:


Like all the best interactive storytime books (e.g. Press Here, There Are Cats In This Book, etc.), timing is everything. So play around with it. And don’t be afraid of improvisation! Storytime is not a performance (although I suppose that’s a matter of debate among librarians). So fine, perhaps it is a performance. However, in my storytime room it’s more Improv Olymic than Steppenwolf. I adhere to the rules of improvisational comedy. My favorite rule is: say, “Yes, and…”

Happy Flannel Friday Everyone. Katie is hosting the #FFRU on her delicious blog: Secrets & Sharing Soda.


A Storytime Music Resource Where You’d Least Expect It.

I was just wandering around the web, and found a great list storytime songs in an odd place: NIH Online.

They have an excellent kid’s page. I’m just curious: Who put this together? Doesn’t this seem like an oddly awesome resource? Am I nuts? Anyway, since it’s an excellent place to find the lyrics and storytime ideas…Who am I to blow against the wind?

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Storytime 101: Sign Up for Fred Rogers Center ELE Activity

Storytime 101: Sign Up for Fred Rogers Center ELE Activity: If you’re a librarian who does…

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Target Grant Funded This Fancy Early Literacy Thingamajig

Last year I received a $2000 Target Early Childhood Reading Grant to produce a promotional item based on the 5 Early Literacy Practices. They finally arrived, and they’re everything I hoped they’d be (and more). Take a look:

Here’s a quick overview of the project:

“Readers Grow On The Go” is a set of collectible cards designed especially for toddlers and their parents to fill the difficult “waiting time” with constructive, engaging early learning activities. Parents of card collectors will receive a carabiner for clipping the cards to a diaper bag or stroller.

My objectives:

  1. Inspire parents to engage young children in spontaneous, practical EL activities outside of the library.
  2. Demonstrate how the 5 Practices support early literacy development
  3. Produce a durable object with that supports the 2 objectives above.

Thanks to my fantastic collaborators in the marketing department: Marketing Supervisor, Sue Wilsey, and Graphic Artist/Designer Colleen Kelly, the finished product is everything I hoped it would be (and then some).

Sue sourced the materials, and negotiated the deal. Originally, I proposed using laminated paper. Luckily, Sue decided to think bigger. She presented me with several options. In the end we went with a plastic similar to that used for library cards. The plastic gives this project a very professional look and feel.

I wrote the text for the cards. The instructions had to be short, simple, and clear. I had a design concept in mind when I applied for the grant. I’m a huge fan of Ed Emberley’s Fingerprint Drawing books, and decided the aesthetic was a perfect fit for this project. I designed the “S is for Snake” card to give Colleen an idea of what I wanted. As always, she took the concept and ran with it. I can’t stop gazing affectionately at the adorable robot, the little bugs on the “counting” card, and well, all the other ones.

I can’t wait to see what the kids think of it.


Flannel Friday: Crowdsourcing Experiment?

The other night my husband and I went on a late-night snack hunt. As impulse buys are the name of the game in a snack hunt, when I saw these babies I had to have them:

Story on my feet

Story on my feet

I just know there’s a storytime activity in there somewhere. I think my storytimers would crack up if took off my shoes and used my feet to tell a story. The only problem is, I don’t what that activity (song, rhyme, story, joke…?) is at the moment. So, this is an #FF crowdsourcing request:

Do you know of a story, song, rhyme, etc.? It could be an original story, or a picture book in  which 3 friends:  a critical thinker, a worrier, and a happy-go-lucky type go on a search for something important to all three of them. It can be anything! No ideas are bad ideas. It doesn’t even have to be a fully formed idea… It could just be a little germ of an idea. Perhaps together, we #FFers could write a story! Or many stories.  write storytime activity whatever else you see when you look at these beautifully beady little eyes)

Please share it in a comment. I will take one entry per comment. And in 1 month July 1st I will put all the entries a hat (really an online randomizer). The winner will receive the MATCHING PAIR! One lucky contributor will have an #FF Original to keep.

Sarah of Miss Sarah’s Storytime is our lovely hostess this week. Happy June!

Happy Flannel Friday


Flannel Friday: Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do

Update: Here is the pdf so you can make this flannelboard: Clothesline Clues To The Jobs People Do

This week’s #FF is based on one of my favorite picture books from 2012:

Clothesline Clues to the Jobs People Do by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook

I made this magnet board last fall for our teacher workshop, and forgot to post it for flannel friday. Anyway, I love this book for a million reasons, but here’s a few: 1) it’s beautiful, 2) brilliant concept + perfect execution; 3) it’s silly; 4) it captures how kids think of grownups doing their jobs in a whimsical way. Anyway, it’s pretty simple.

Name that job!

Name that job!

I’ve only used it a couple of times, but the kids loved it. I hung yarn, and used some handy dandy magnetized mini clothespins to hold up the clothes. Then I read the story, and we discussed what the clothes on the line said about the people who hung them. The group was too big to let the kids take turns dressing the dolls peacefully during the story.

Artist & Astronaut in their gear.

Artist & Astronaut in their gear.

Instead I  I left the pieces up during playtime. They had a ball putting on the Ms Cate’s Storytime Show, and the moms and I had a ball being the audience.

Katie is hosting the #FFRU this week at her delightful blog, storytime katie… Thanks Katie! She’s using this inlinkz so adding your post is super simple!

Oh shoot! I have a pdf of these images. I had to (sort of) draw these images based on an assortment of dress up dolls I found on the internet. I thought I had it saved on dropbox, but that was a figment of my imagination. I will update this post when I #sundaylibrarian.


Early Literacy is APPening @ Calgary Public Library

Now if this doesn’t inspire you to start working your way through the courses available on codeacademy, I don’t know what will:

In early February Calgary Public Library released Grow A Reader, a free mobile app that offers parents and caregivers practical early learning tips and activities on-the-go. Grow A Reader is an informational app based on the Every Child Ready to Read 2. It presents the 5 practices—Talking, Singing, Playing, Reading, and Writing—in simple, concise terms followed by clear instructions for putting them to use. Users can toggle between booklists, videos and “tips” that put the 5 practices to use.

Calgary PL clearly put a lot of love  (and money) into developing this product. The proof is in the pudding. Grow A Reader is a beautiful, engaging app that delivers vital information in an elegant form.   The app functions smoothly even under my tap-crazed fingers.   The videos are polished and professional. Many of them feature multiple camera angles!  The librarians are poised and professional in each video.  The had time to get comfortable in front of the camera.

Here are some screenshots:

Looking Good, Librarians!

Looking Good, Librarians!



The 5 practices in everyday life

The 5 practices in everyday life

Quick tips

Quick tips

Most importantly, they’ve packed a ton of knowledge into this app.  The app includes booklists, quick tips, and dozens of video clips of librarians performing interactive rhymes, lullabies, bounces, tickles, etc. In addition, short documentary-style videos demonstrate the 5 practices in action and explain why they are an essential part of early childhood education. In fact, I would go as far to say this app demonstrates all the best librarianship has to offer.

I can’t wait to show this to every parent I meet.