Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Perking Up School Age Programs

One thing we all face as busy youth librarians is keeping programs lively and interesting for the kids - and you!  In our discussion area we shared strategies we use to keep programs perked up and lively for our sometimes picky and always busy school-aged patrons.

Among the ideas:
Music! During library tours for first graders I turn to Pete the Cat. Normally I read/play Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin. Harper Collins has the Pete sing-alongs (http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/feature/petethecat/)

Pizza! I have a book club at the high school.  I secured funding to offer pizza for the kids on the day we finish each book.  I advertised as such, but still only five interested kids.  Well, after the first pizzas arrived, the book club doubled in size.  We continue to gain/lose members, but I have my core group intact.

Humor! For class visits, I pick hilarious and interactive books/stories, make the kids all be a part of it, and take Q and A.  The Q and A always leads to more hilarity.  I also award bookmarks (the cool ones!  Scratch and sniff!) for asking a Q.  Everyone who asks gets one.  I make sure that by the end, everyone HAS asked, so that no one leaves empty-handed. We have fun, because I like to be a stand-up comedian with kids.

Secrets! We practice checking items out on our self check on the storytime card and then the highlight of tours for younger kids is seeing books come from the outside drop attached to our building. Lots of ohhs and ahhs, I just grab a coworker to take our items and slowly drop them in. OHH! AHH!

Partners! We first started out by asking the elementary principal if we could take just 15 minutes of the teachers time on inservice day before school started. We presented to the teachers what we had at the library and that we would like to partner with them for the benefit of the kids. We then started school visits - we now have monthy class visits with 2nd, 3rd and 5th grades which lead into higher numbers in our SRP. Which lead into other activities that were very successful. We had a safety program in which  a local police officer came talked about summer safety  and we almost ran out of room in the kids room ( it was packed) We also have the fire department come with a fire engine and talked about fire safety. These programs were promoted by the school.

DIY! The biggest success we had recently was the cardboard creations party, and it was probably one of the simplest. We collected cardboard of all kinds (boxes, sheets, scraps). We also provided markers, crayons, glue, tape, scissors, and then the participants just got to build whatever they wanted. It was very low stress for the department, had a big turn out, and was easy to clean up.

Outdoors! I like using the outdoors when I can.  One of the favorite things we have done was making dioramas using items from outdoors.  We got big boxes and decorated them as teams using a specific theme for the day.  We did rocks, trees, flowers etc, and linked that to stories that we read before sending them off to collect their items.  In the end some of the groups had very interesting displays...some had basically a mess.  

Water Guns! One summer it was particularly hot and almost every program ended with water gun fights.  I tried to link that to stories with some success.  The kids really didn't care though because after all, they got to have a water fun fight! 

Super Heroes!  We had Super Hero skill training- X-ray vision (figure out what's in the bag by reaching in), Leap over Tall Buildings- obviously, and a Super Hero Encapsulator Toss- a basic bean bag tossing game.  We also decorated a mask, everyone got a cape cut from a plastic table cloth, and we had a Web-blaster where we sat in a circle and made a spider web by tossing the yarn from person to person.  We also read some hero books.  

Bang!  It's super simple and kindergarten through teens enjoy it. Best of all, it can go 5 to 30 minutes. You decorate a Pringles can and write something on small cards. Also put in several cards that say BANG! Kids pass the can around, draw out one card to answer. If the child answers it correctly, he or she keeps the card. If not, the card goes back in the can. If a card that says BANG! is drawn, it goes back in the can along with all the player's other cards. And it goes on and on and on, until you put a stop to it and declare the player with the most cards the winner.

Lively Librarian! I think the best thing I do when I'm either giving a tour or at an outreach event or really any time I interact with school aged kids in the library is be myself. Kids can tell when you're faking it: either faking interest in what they're saying or faking enthusiasm for what you're doing. I need to be authentic. It doesn't matter how spectacular a program might be. If you don't believe in it, it won't be successful. 

Take off Limits!  We do a Dr. Seuss birthday party. This yearwe have changed it do drop in format, wheras in the past we have allowed only 30 kids to participate. This was the best move ever. We get around 100+ kids for these events now!

Dogs!  I bring my yellow lab Layla to work everyday, and the patrons-adults and kids-love her.  She walks around the stacks, visits the computer station and greats everybody that comes in the door.  So when her birthday comes around in October I think I'll have a party for her :)  I can display her "recommended reads"  (hopefully some will circulate), her favorite movies, build the whole day around her personality.  Through in some cake and punch and who can resist, right?!

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