Archive for the ‘Librarians Help’ Category

I’m on the 2019 Newbery Committee!!!

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

My library system did a blog post about my getting on the 2019 Newbery committee. I went on too long, so it was heavily edited and made much more readable. Here’s the unedited original version, where I explain how long it took and why I’m so thrilled to be on the Newbery committee at last:

My name’s Sondra Eklund. I’m Youth Services Manager at City of Fairfax Regional Library, and I was recently elected to the 2019 Newbery Award Committee, and I’m so excited!

What does this mean?

I’ll be reading as many books as I possibly can that are published in 2018 in the United States by American authors for children ages 0 to 14. At the start of 2019, I will meet with 14 other people in a locked room, and we will choose the winner of the John Newbery Medal – for the most distinguished contribution to American children’s literature published in 2018. We will also decide if we want to name any Honor books which are also distinguished.

Committee deliberations are top secret, and I can never reveal what goes on in the room where it happens. During the reading year, I can talk about which books I like, but I cannot write about any eligible books online, and I must never give any indication of what books the committee is considering.

After the award has been announced, I can post reviews of books I enjoyed if I wrote the reviews before any committee discussion happened. But above all, I can give my opinion, but never “the committee’s” opinion – except in the announcement of the winners.

Now, as you can imagine, there are many, many children’s books published in America in any given year. This is where library customers and staff can help. I’m going to read as many books as I can, and other committee members will read as widely as they can. There is a nomination process during the year, so committee members will formally nominate, from our reading, which books we will consider in the final deliberations.

But just in case some good books get overlooked, if you or your children read an especially good children’s book published in 2018, I hope you’ll let me know! Our first job as committee members is to read as widely as possible, and you can help tip me off if there’s a book out there you want to be sure gets read. I hope to visit some local schools and talk about how the process works and get the kids on the lookout for good books as well.

How did I get on the Newbery committee?

Eight of the fifteen committee members are elected by the membership of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The chair and six other members are appointed by the ALSC president. I was elected to the position, and here’s how that happened:

I became a librarian as my second career. (I used to teach college math, but then got to work in a base library in Germany and fell in love with libraries.) But I have always loved books and especially children’s books.

I began writing Sonderbooks.com, a website of book reviews, in 2001. As I was getting my Master’s in Library Science, in 2007, the ALA Annual Conference came to Washington, DC. I went to the conference and was thrilled to attend the Newbery/Caldecott Awards Banquet. I got to hear Susan Patron give her acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal given to The Higher Power of Lucky.

That was when it dawned on me that I was now a member of the group that awards the Newbery Medal! Was it possible I could become part of the award committee some day?

Then I discovered School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog – with speculation each year about who will win the Newbery Medal for that year. When they posted the link to the Newbery committee manual, and I read every word, I knew this was something I should pursue.

Not long after that, I learned about an invitational seminar to train ALSC members to serve on the media evaluation committees – like the Newbery committee. I applied – and was not accepted. But I kept on applying (the seminar only happens every other year), and the third time was the charm. I attended the Bill Morris Invitational Seminar on media evaluation in Dallas, Texas, in 2012.

At the seminar, we heard from past chairpersons from various award committees. They gave us many pointers for serving on these committees and we got to enjoy some practice discussions. They also advised us to get involved in other ALSC committees and to put our name into the hat for award committee service.

So in March 2012, I put my name in, and got on the ballot in April 2013 to be on the 2015 Newbery Committee! I was so excited!

Then – I missed being elected by 15 votes! (Out of about 800 ballots cast.) It was already too late to get on the ballot for the following year, so I very sadly gave it a rest and worked on other ALSC committees.

I served on ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee 2011 to 2013, followed by the Grants Administration Committee 2013 to 2015, and then was chair of the Grants Administration Committee for the 2015-16 year. I admit I was putting the time in to build my resume – and was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was to help ALSC by working on these committees.

I also became a member of Capitol Choices, a DC-area group of librarians and other children’s book folks who meet monthly and choose the 100 best children’s and young adult books of the year each year. Their discussion is great practice for the critical evaluation necessary in award committees, and there are several past members of award committees in the group.

I was still publishing my website of book reviews, so I also applied for and got to be a Cybils judge. The Cybils Awards are Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. I have served on panels for Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy, Fiction Picture Books, and Young Adult Speculative Fiction. I’ve enjoyed the intense reading time – though this only lasts for two months, unlike the Newbery reading, which will last for a year. One of the things I learned from this work is that different people have different tastes, and other children’s literature professionals will appreciate things I didn’t see about certain books. But working together, we can make some great choices.

When March 2016 rolled around, I decided I was ready to try again. I gave my name for consideration to be on the Newbery Award Committee ballot. This time, I made a web page with my qualifications and printed cards to pass out at ALA Midwinter Meeting and the ALSC Mini-Institute that happened a couple months before voting.

This time I got the news on April 12, 2017 that I was indeed a member of the 2019 Newbery Award committee!

I did have forms to sign and policies to agree to – mostly about secrecy. But as soon as publishers start publishing books for 2018, I am ready and excited to read and reread and to work with the other committee members to determine which is the most distinguished American children’s book published in 2018! Stay tuned in 2019 to find out what we choose!

And if you read an American children’s book published in 2018 that you think is particularly distinguished – send word to Sondra Eklund at City of Fairfax Regional Library! You might have just helped discover the next Newbery Medal winner!

The Creative Edge at #alamw17

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

My first afternoon session today at ALA Midwinter Meeting 2017 was run by two people from Avon Public Library in Connecticut, “The Creative Edge: How One Small Library Is Leading the Way in Creative Arts Programming.”

Mary Fletcher’s official title is Creativity Specialist.  She has been in charge of a program where they have brought the arts into the library.

Arts are not crafts.  Art is an open-ended process.  Art has no planned product.  Art is open-ended.  Art has no adult sample to copy.  Art can be spontaneous.

A pre-planned craft can discourage creative choices.

The presenters showed us many pictures from their Open Art Studio.  I liked the image of a wall covered with buildings made of paper.  No two buildings are exactly alike.  Together, they form a wonderfully diverse town.

I was writing furiously.  I’ll include some good nuggets below:

Art is guided by the child’s choices.

When children are fascinated, they make amazing things.

We encourage exploration without imposing our ideas.

When self-motivated, kids will persist despite difficulties.

In their Open Art Studio, frustration is rare.  They gain self-confidence and self-reliance.

Creativity is intelligence having fun.  In the future creativity will be needed more and more.

Creative confidence hits a slump around 4th grade, when kids start wanting to conform.  Creativity must be nurtured to survive.

Open-ended art encourages imaginative play and storytelling.

Scribbling is to writing as babbling is to speaking.  With art, the library can support early writing as well as early reading.

A table anywhere will work, even if you don’t have the budget for a dedicated space!

The beauty of a library is that it’s not a school.  They will learn, but it’s child-guided exploration.  We can encourage imaginative tangents.  Facilitators are intentionally quiet and unobtrusive.

Facilitators get to serve at the banquet!  They provide materials designed to encourage experimentation.

They also encourage art through movement, and have hosted three Family Dances at the library.

They do a reading buddies program pairing teens with young children and spending a half-hour reading and a half-hour doing art together.

The program inspired me.  Though we may not be able to have an actual studio open all the time, it made me think about having more programs involving open-ended art.

Making and Unmaking at the Library

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Deconstruction5

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted in my Librarians Help! series – but a program that happened this week was so awesome, I have to report it here.

For years now, I’ve heard about Makerspaces in libraries and wondered if there’s a way we could bring that to our customers. At my level, a Youth Services Manager at a regional library in a system of twenty-two branches, there didn’t seem like a way I could bring this to my branch. How would we find space for equipment? How would we provide expertise? And how would customers pay for things like 3D prints? We already have a complicated system for regular print-outs. It just seemed beyond my resources to bring to our branch.

However, libraries are about learning and creating! Our mission dovetails so nicely with the ideas of Makerspaces!

And then I mentioned to a friend that my cousin is Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop, a for-profit Makerspace. Shortly after his name came up, Mark’s Mom posted on Facebook that President Obama had recently toured the newly-opened TechShop location in DC/Arlington. Now that TechShop is in our neighborhood, I wondered if they think about doing outreach. Their mission is much the same as that of the library – about creating and learning.

I contacted my cousin, and he put me in touch with the Education Coordinator at TechShop DC/Arlington. That such a position exists was a great sign. After some discussion, we set up three programs for teens at City of Fairfax Regional Library this summer!

The partnership works wonderfully. TechShop provides the equipment and expertise. We provide the space and the publicity, reaching out to our neighborhood teens. Our Friends of the Library pay TechShop’s fee (just like paying for puppet shows or other performers) and we are able to offer the programs free of charge to the teens who come.

For the first program, TechShop brought in their vinyl cutter and the teens designed vinyl stickers and cut them out on the vinyl cutter.

VinylCutter

For the second program, TechShop brought two Sphero Robotic Balls. The teens got into two teams and created obstacle courses from cardboard which they then ran the robots through.

Sphero

The third program happened this week. TechShop brought in two old computers and lots of tools. Then the kids took apart the computers and learned about how they work.

As with all the programs, the kids started out kind of reserved and holding back…

Deconstruction1

But once the drill came out…

Deconstruction2

They got more and more engaged.

Deconstruction4

I simply loved seeing them get better and better at figuring out how to take each next layer apart. They were having a fantastic time; they were feeling empowered; and they were discovering really cool stuff deep inside the computers!

Deconstruction3

It was an awesome thing to watch!

I’m hoping to do more programs with TechShop in the future. We’ve planned a 3D printing workshop in October, and I’d like to do another Computer Deconstruction program. Next summer, maybe we can plan some workshops at more branches.

Now, I do always want to think through how I can improve the program. Next time, I’ll pull out more books on making and creating. (The library recently purchased my cousin’s book, The Maker Movement Manifesto, for example.) I think for the Deconstruction program, I’d like to bring in more craft materials, to give the teens more ideas of something to do with the computer parts they uncover.

I think that other libraries out there that don’t feel quite ready to open a Makerspace of their own might think about this approach. Is there a Makerspace in your neighborhood that might be able to bring programs to your library? It’s a natural partnership.

Once again, as a Librarian, I got to help! In this case, I got to help kids learn and create in exciting and engaging ways. By working with TechShop, we were able to open teens’ minds to a world of possibilities. And we all had a lot of fun, as well!

Deconstruction6

Crazy 8s Math Club and Living Venn Diagrams

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

This week I brought my camera to Crazy 8s Math Club! We were learning about Sets and Venn Diagrams – and look at those faces!

Crazy 8s is a Math Club sponsored by BedtimeMath.org. They provide the ideas and materials, and the library provides the place.

Here is a set of kids with brown eyes. We had a Flat Visitor from California who also had brown eyes!

Crazy8s1

When we started the 3-set Venn diagram, I thought they could start with cars and trucks. They caught on quickly!

Crazy8s2

And finally, a living Venn diagram. The kids figured out where they belonged depending on whether they had brown eyes or not, whether they could curl their tongue or not, and whether they fold their hands with their left or right thumb on top. I’m happy to say that the kids who didn’t fit in any of those sets were excited to be “in the universe.”

Crazy8s3

And afterward — some silliness with the glowsticks (which they got to take home).

Crazy8s4

Crazy8s5

Crazy8s6

More proof that Math is Fun — and kids know it!

Fun with Math for Parents and Preschoolers

Friday, September 20th, 2013

This last Saturday I got to do an Every Child Ready to Read Workshop (sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children and the Public Library Association), but I confess I made some changes.

The workshop, as prepared, was “Fun with Science and Math for Parents and Preschoolers.” The workshop I did? Well, I confess I left out the science and added lots of math activities.

Some friends on my Facebook page asked for details, and I thought it might be helpful for other librarians to know the adjustments I made. So I’ll just give the basic outline of the program. Imagine nice slides that came with the Every Child Ready to Read workshop.

As they came in, I gave every parent-child group a piece of paper and a box of crayons. I told them to write their child’s name in large letters so everyone could see. Some parents did this and some had their children do it. I let them keep the crayons and paper just in case the kids got restless during the talking-to-the-parents part.

We began with the welcome song, where we sing to each child. For example, if I were the child, it goes like this: “Sondy’s here today. Sondy’s here today. Everybody clap their hands. Sondy’s here today.” And we go all around the room. (I use this particular welcome song in all my programs because kids respond so well to their name. In this one, the addition of a writing activity with their parents and holding up the sign is perfect.)

What follows is a bit of an intro about Every Child Ready to Read. To warm up the audience, I mix it up by reading a book, and this time I chose Let’s Count Goats, with words by Mem Fox, and goats by Jan Thomas.

But the meat of ECRR2 is the five easy practices. These five easy practices, done often with your child, will help your child get ready to learn to read when they start school. What’s more, they’re fun. What’s more, they are also practices that will help your child learn math concepts. The beauty of them is that they use teachable moments and can be tailored to fit your child’s level.

The five easy practices are Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing.

I have a lot of material on Talking about math as you go through your day.

Here are some examples of some questions you can talk about during the day:

How many toys are on the floor? (A great way to suggest cleaning up: see who can guess how many toys are on the floor.)

How many cars are going by? When riding in the car you can extend this by counting cars you pass and subtracting cars that pass you.

Look! Can you find a “3”? (Play “I spy” with numbers.)

How many spoons do we need? (Setting the table is a math activity.)

Can you find a matching sock? (So is sorting laundry.)

I spy something shaped like a circle! (Identifying shapes is a math activity as well as a predecessor to learning the alphabet.)

How many jelly beans do you want?

After that question, I talk about how when my boys were little, before they had much of a numerical concept, I’d ask them how many candies they wanted. They learn quickly that way! This is a great lead in to reading the book How Many Jelly Beans? By Andrea Menotti and Yancey Labat.

Also under Talking about math, I mention that counting, measuring, sorting, and comparing are all math activities. I pass out a handful of foam shapes to each family and tell them to decide how to sort them. They usually choose by either color or shape. They help the child sort them. Then they should count how many shapes in each group and write down the numbers. The families did great with this.

On the third slide for Talking, I have a link to www.bedtimemath.org, and this time I was able to bring their new book for checkout! We read an example problem from the website. I talked about how I did this with my own younger son. The magic words that my son learned could extend bedtime forever were “Just one more math problem, Mommy, please!” I could not resist that plea!

And bedtime, which is indeed a lovely time for reading to your child, is also a cozy time for talking with your child. The problems on bedtimemath.org and in their book are nice problems you can talk about a little bit and work out an answer together. They come at three different levels, so you don’t have to stop when your child is small.

The next of the five easy practices is Singing.

Singing slows down language, so it helps kids learn the sounds in words. It also helps them learn numbers by putting them to music. At this point, we sing “Ten Little Beasties” (same tune as Ten Little Indians), first clapping with each number, and then trying to hold up the number of fingers as we sing. Then we do “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” with motions.

The centerpiece of the five easy practices, the most obvious one, is Reading.

Of course reading to your child will help them get ready to read! But did you know it will also help them get ready for math? I bring a cart full of books with mathematical concepts to the program. And at this point I read one of them. I like to use Quack and Count, by Keith Baker, because it also introduces the concept of addition, and it’s a fun story. The group this week spontaneously added a “Quack, Quack!” at the end of every page.

The fourth of the five easy practices is writing.

Here I talk about all the reasons to write numbers in life. Any time you write a list, you’re modeling this. Even if you don’t use numbers, if you write your grocery list in groups, that’s still a mathematical skill of sorting.
For a little activity here, I ask the parents to help the children count how many letters are in their name and write down the number on the paper next to their name.

The fifth of the five easy practices is playing.

For reading, dramatic play is so good. For math, I use this opportunity to put in a plug for board games. Candyland’s a great start, and you can’t beat Monopoly Jr for beginning addition and counting.

But playing is also at a much less formal level. Any measuring, counting, sorting, and comparing can be playing. At this point, we have all the families get in line in order of the number of letters in the children’s names from the front of the room to the back. This time, we went from BJ to Alexandra.

For another playing activity, we did a Venn diagram. I brought in a bucket of cars and trucks. I put two yarn circles on the floor. One circle was for red things. One circle was for cars. I put them on the ground so they overlapped. We figured out together where the different objects went. (“Is it red? Is it a car?”) I definitely should have used red yarn for the “red things” circle. But the kids had fun with it, anyway.

On another “Playing” slide, when it works, I show this clip from the Fred Rogers center.

This time, for some reason the link wouldn’t work. But it shows a family making beaded bracelets and necklaces using repeating patterns. Then we get the same idea reading the book Pattern Fish, by Trudy Harris.

Finally, we summarize the five easy practices. For a closing take-home activity, I pass out foam rectangles and half-sheets of paper. They can staple the paper inside the foam to make a counting book. They are welcome to decorate the outside with patterns using the foam sticky shapes. (We probably don’t have to have a craft at the end, since the program does go long, but I had the materials, and it’s a nice take-home reminder….)

So there you have it! Some simple ways to incorporate Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing… about Math!

I’ve done this program twice, and we’ve had a lot of fun both times. The parents get lots of ideas, and we all have fun together. It does run long, a whole hour, but the kids stay engaged, so I must be doing something right.

Any ideas and tips you have from using the Every Child Ready to Read Workshops? Or just ideas for Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing about Math with Preschoolers?

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Show Me the Awesome: Math at the Library

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

This month I’m excited about Show Me the Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion, hosted by Liz Burns, Kelly Jensen, and Sophie Brookover. The Awesome artwork is by John LeMasney.

The idea is wonderful: Librarians talking about the awesome things they are doing.

Now, I’ve long believed that Librarians, as a whole, are tremendously undervalued. I have a sporadic series on my blog I call Librarians Help, trying to spread the word about the good we do. Read all the 30 Days of Awesome posts! If you’re a librarian yourself, you’ll get some great ideas. If you’re not, you’ll learn about some truly awesome things librarians are doing.

Mind you, I signed up to post in this series before I moved to a new home. Surely, a full month after moving, I’d be all settled in my new place, right? (Cue hysterical laughter here.)

I also signed up before booktalking season began. Today, for the first time in four years, I went to a local elementary school and talked with all seven grade levels about our Summer Reading Program and whet their appetites for some of my favorite books. I remembered how exhausting it is, but I had forgotten just how awesome it is to see all their faces listening to you tell about the books, and getting feedback that they are now determined to read some of the books you shared. I took a nap when I got home tonight, but I’m in a great mood. Getting kids excited about reading is such a mood booster!

But for my Awesome post, I already had in mind something I wanted to talk about: Math in the Library.

Before I got my MLS, my first Master’s degree was in Math. I taught college-level math for 10 years. And though I love math, the teaching job never felt like a calling, the way librarianship does. Part of what I love about the library? We don’t have to test anyone! No, at the library, we’re all about learning, and we assist learning for people who want to learn.

What’s more, I’ve always believed there’s no need whatsoever to “make” Math fun. Math *IS* fun! And we get to show that to kids!

So, what are some awesome ways recently I’ve gotten to show people how much fun Math is at the library?

Fresh in my mind, this morning I booktalked You Can Count on Monsters, by Richard Evan Schwartz, Great Estimations, by Bruce Goldstone, and Just a Second, by Steve Jenkins. But let me tell you about some programs.

First, I took Every Child Ready to Read‘s program, “Fun with Science and Math for Parents and Children,” and I changed it to “Fun with Math for Parents and Children.”

We did have fun! We emphasized the practices parents can use to build a foundation for reading in their children: Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing. And we talked about how you can apply those things to Math as well. I outlined some things I did in an earlier post. I am hoping that some of these parents are all the more eager to count with their children as they go about their days, to talk about math, and to play games with their kids. I made sure to introduce them to bedtimemath.org, and I hope some of the parents are starting a bedtime tradition of math problems at bedtime.

See how we can take a totally different focus than a teacher has to in the classroom? I can give the parents ideas of ways to have fun, and they can choose the ones they go with. (For example, when picking up toys, ask your kids how many toys they think are on the floor? Count as you pick them up, and it will go faster!) Did you know that setting the table or matching socks are early math activities?

My other Awesome Math program that I’m excited about is called Colors and Codes. In this program, I show the kids my crazy Prime Factorization knitting projects and Prime Factorization t-shirt, to give them the idea that you can use colors to represent numbers. Then, if you use numbers 1 to 26 for the letters A to Z, you can use colors to represent letters. Which means that colors can be used to write messages.

I start with showing them prime factorization color codes and move on to other bases. Base 6 and Base 5 work well for the 26 letters, but I also show them Binary (Base 2). I show them they can also use shapes. With binary, they can use practically anything: sounds, lights, dots & dashes…. Then I have lots of foam shapes available, and let them make craft projects. They can devise their own codes using these ideas and decide what they want to say.

The program uses very sophisticated mathematical concepts — and it’s totally fun! If they don’t quite get it, well, they can make a pretty picture, and I bet later some of the ideas will come together for them. (I did give them all a hand-out to color themselves.)

Oh, and one more low-key but totally fun program I do at our branch is “Brain Games at the Library.” Playing games builds logic skills and mathematical thinking. But see how there’s no pressure, no testing, and only fun? For the Brain Games program, we give them gently used books as prizes. It’s fun to watch the kids thinking they’re getting away with something when they take a pile of books home from their wins!

All this is to say that I’m so happy I still get to teach Math! Only now I get to show people how much fun it is!

Librarians Help! Showing how Awesome Math is!

Librarians Help! – Library Snapshot Day

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Yesterday was Library Snapshot Day in Virginia. Later, when they’ve compiled the data, they’ll post statistics like how many people were served. Last year, for example, 412,969 items were checked out from Virginia libraries in just one day.

We had a busy day, since of course it was tax day. On top of that, the kids in the public schools were off for the day for a teacher work day. We had a Puppet Workshop that was well-attended. Kids got to use art supplies to make puppets and then try out our puppet theater.

My co-worker Jackie Butler was the one who cleverly took these lovely pictures that didn’t show anyone’s face. Those who think libraries are dying or aren’t necessary to the community need to take a look at a typical day!

Yesterday, I also learned that ALA’s “The State of America’s Libraries 2013” has been published and is available on the internet. Click through! It’s fascinating! Again, libraries are alive and well and thriving. And librarians are still a valuable part of libraries. 53% of the Americans surveyed in this research project used a library in the last year, and 50% of those asked a librarian for help. I told you! Librarians Help!

And finally, I read a wonderful post by author Jo Knowles about why libraries are important. Who has a personal stake in the survival of libraries? We all do.

Librarians Help!

Librarians Help! – More Math!

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

This was a crazy week for me for programs. I don’t know what I was thinking (Well, besides the fact that it was Spring Break), but I scheduled a program every day I worked this week except Monday. What’s more, two of them were programs I was creating and had to figure out what I was going to do and say ahead of time. So, let’s just say I was a little stressed.

And it went great! The week is done! I can relax and enjoy Easter! And my month of April only has a few programs, so I can even focus my energies on moving.

But I want to talk about today’s program, because it was cool that I got to do it, and super that it actually worked.

It was an Every Child Ready to Read workshop. The workshop as prepared by the Every Child Ready to Read folks was called “Fun with Science and Math for Parents and Children.” Okay, I changed it. I called it “Fun with Math for Parents and Children.” (Because Math is more fun than Science! Don’t tell!) Of course, that meant I had to fill in with more math activities. But that was fun to do!

All of the Every Child Ready to Read workshops focus on five easy practices for parents to do with their children — Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing. Not only are those activities good for learning pre-reading skills, they’re also good for learning early math concepts.

We did some counting together; the parents did some counting with the kids. I read them How Many Jelly Beans?, Quack and Count and Pattern Fish. (All of the books I read got checked out after the program, too.) I passed out some foam shapes and the parents and kids sorted and counted them. I also passed around a small tub of shapes, and they all guessed how many. Then we counted them together — there were 77. We counted how many letters in each child’s name and then lined up in order of the number of letters. We sang “Ten Little Beasties” and “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.” I showed them the awesome site that is BedtimeMath.org. And they finished up by making their own little counting book with a foam cover and paper inside. They could decorate it with shapes in patterns, or just with pretty shapes.

The comment that really made me happy was the mother who said she “learned a lot.” Another mother said it was so nice to have a program a little different from a storytime. Yet another said she thought the balance between activities and talking was just right. That one brought me a big sigh of relief! I had worried about whether the kids would be able to tolerate all I was going to say to the adults. But it worked! It really worked!

My plans are to do another Every Child Ready to Read workshop next month — this time “Fun with Letters for Parents and Children.” Then I’ll take a break until after the Summer Reading Program and do more next Fall.

But our first one was a big success! And I’m especially happy that a group of parents will think of the library when they think of their children getting ready for school and ready to learn to read. And ready to do Math!

Librarians Help!

Librarians Help – With Critical Thinking!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Yesterday, we had a Math program at the library. Today, a program for exercising critical thinking. Both were all about having fun.

I have to laugh about today’s program, though. I’ve done the same thing in the past and called it “Board Game Bash.” Those times, I got about four kids to come and play board games.

Today’s program was during Spring Break, which I’m sure really helped. But it also helped that I called it “Brain Games at the Library” and I offered prizes — gently used books from donations made to the library and from advance reader copies that I had. But I suspect that parents in this area were a lot more interested in a program that promised to build their children’s brain power.

And it wasn’t a false promise! We had more than 20 kids show up and play! The big hit of the day was Labyrinth. I’m finding the perfect game for this kind of program is one that’s simple to explain and has an intriguing visual element. In Labyrinth, you slide a piece into the board, changing the maze and knocking another piece out. The path constantly changes, and you try to collect treasures from the card and so navigate through the maze to the treasure you want to collect.

Make 7, which is like Connect 4, but in which you try to add the value of your pieces up to 7, was also easy to understand and popular. Yikerz, with powerful magnets that you try to place without popping them together caused some tension and fun. Some kids played Rollit, some played Pass the Pigs, and some played Mastermind. And this time I did get some kids to try my three-way chess set from Poland.

Where’d we get the games? Well, I confess, for a very long time I’ve had a weakness for buying games. And now with my kids no longer at home, this is a great way to spread the fun around.

I still adamantly believe that playing games with your kids is one of the best possible ways to learn math skills and critical thinking skills. And the library is the perfect place for that as well, since the library is where you learn for the FUN of it!

I also loved that every time they won a game, the kids grabbed a book from the book box. Books that are prizes are all the more valuable!

We’ll be doing more of these programs, probably once a month through the summer. It’s easy for me to run, since I only need the time to set up and run the program, but don’t have to plan what to say. And I walk away smiling, just like the kids do!

Librarians Help!

Librarians Help – With Math!

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Today I had my Colors and Codes program that I mentioned last week.

Now, I spent ten years of my life teaching college math, but doing math programs at the library is so much more fun!

Why? Well, the biggie is I don’t have to grade them, so it makes the whole thing much more light-hearted. I’m showing them things about math that I think are really cool, and they get to think about ways to do it themselves. And it’s all just for fun. At the library, we teach people things they want to know! If they don’t want to know them, they don’t need to come. It’s that simple!

Here’s what I did. I showed the kids my prime factorization sweater (wore it of course), and we worked out how it works. (That was fun!) I told them if colors can represent numbers, they can also represent letters. Just use 1 to 26 for A to Z. So you can write messages this way. I showed them a prime factorization code, then showed them other bases and how you can make codes with them. We wrapped it up by getting out sticky foam shapes and they could put a coded message or just a pretty pattern around a picture frame or on a bookmark or a door hanger.

The highlight for me, I think, was when a girl was working on coloring in the prime factorization chart on the hand-out. She was stuck on 24. I asked her what it equaled, and she said 12 x 2. So we looked at 12, and then the light went on and we talked about how you could do figure it out different ways, but you always got three 2s and one 3.

Now, I’m going to write some notes to myself while the program’s fresh in my mind. It went well; the kids had fun. But I want to do it again this summer, and hope it will go even better.

1. I’ll set the age level higher. I do think I lost a few kids this time. I think I’ll set it at 10 or 11 years old rather than 8. You want the kids to be fully comfortable with multiplying. Now that I think about it, when I did this program a few years ago at Herndon Fortnightly Library, I think the age limit was 10.

2. We’ll do some coloring on the prime factorization chart before I move on. This group did work out with me how it works. I didn’t want to get bogged down, but I think some coloring would help them understand it better.

3. I’ll have them figure out the numbers for their name in every code I go over. For example, my name, Sondy, in a base 10 code is 1915140425. (S is the 19th letter, O is the 15th, and so on.) In a prime factorization code, it’s 19 1 3 5 1 2 7 1 2 2 1 5 5 1. (19 x 1, 3 x 5 x 1, 2 x 7 x 1, 2 x 2 x 1, 5 x 5 x 1) In a Base 6 code, it’s 3123220441. In a Base 5 code, it’s 34 30 24 4 100. In Binary, it’s 10011 1111 1110 100 11001. Taking the time to do that would mean they’d get what I was having them do when they went to use the foam sticky pieces.

4. We’d do some coloring on the other charts before we moved to the foam shapes. Then I’d have them do their name with the colors they picked.

5. I’d show them exactly how I did my name on the bookmarks, one using colors and one using shapes.

Did I mention everyone did have a good time? But I think I’ll do a little more hands-on, using their names, before I move to the craft next time.

But it was a great trial run!

And don’t forget! Librarians help! We get to show kids how much FUN Math is! And we don’t even have to test them on it!