In the Spirit of Learning, It’s Time for Reflection

Today marks my last day at the Dominican University – Skokie Public Library Internship, so in the spirit of the learning process, it’s time for reflection.  I began the internship wanting to become more comfortable and knowledgeable as a storytime librarian, as well wanting to get experience in readers’ advisory.  And in the past year at SPL, I’ve done that and more.

I’ve been out to deliver storytimes at least once a week, many twice a week, at local Skokie preschools and daycares.  I’ve read to both preschoolers and toddlers, and I feel completely confident in my ability to plan storytimes for a variety of ages.  But the thing that has been the most beneficial to me as a burgeoning storytime librarian, more than even the practical experience, is the opportunity to talk with colleagues in Community Engagement who also go out to deliver storytimes.  They helped me work out how I could enhance the experience for children, suggesting classroom management techniques and sharing literacy tips.  They also taught me that there are a lot of effective storytime personas and encouraged me to take full advantage of my “calming presence.”  For my practicum paper, I chose to write about family storytimes, which gave me a greater knowledge of the ways that storytimes benefits literacy for young children and can bring families closer together.

In addition to storytimes, I worked consistently at the Youth Services desk, which gave me the opportunity to have conversations with both kids and parents.  I’ve searched for obscure research topics, such as the “volcano rabbit” and now am more familiar in ways to utilize databases as well as physical resources in the library.  I’ve also attended meetings for Community Engagement and Youth Services, so now I have a better idea of the kinds of concerns that arise as libraries strategize for the future.  I definitely think about data more than I ever did before and the way that it can impact services.

My internship at Skokie Public Library has made its biggest impact on me, however, in the final project that I submitted.  In December, I chose to begin a study on Universal Design for Learning, a conceptual framework that was originally designed for the educational field.  This framework, developed by CAST, is designed to target the way that learners process and interact with information.  Learners receive information through representation, show what they have learned through expression, and become self-directed through engagement.  Since the library in fact is a center for learning, I was very interested in seeing how this concept could be applied to the library.

I conducted my research in three forms.  I gathered literature on the topic of UDL to understand how the conceptual model, lead interviews that opened a discussion with practitioners about the role that this framework might play at Skokie Public Library, and observed  librarians during programs to determine what elements of UDL are unintentionally being used.  After this research was completed I developed the following planning tool help practitioners become more purposeful in designing programs with UDL in mind, which may also be used for observation and reflection.

Although I’ve submitted my final project for grading, the study is far from over.  I intend to write a paper on the subject, with SPL’s permission to print it in a library refereed journal.  I find myself constantly thinking about the way that Universal Design for Learning can be applied to different settings (even video games!) and am constantly bringing it up whenever I have the chance.  This has developed into an interest of study that will stay with me for a long time.  It will end up shaping me as a librarian in the way that I develop programming for kids at teens.  And if not for this internship, I might never have thought to delve into this topic in the first place.

I am glad to have had experiences at Skokie Public Library to increase my awareness of the needs of children in the library.  Moreover, this internship has given me the tools to meet those needs.  As I think about my future, I’m excited about the opportunities that await.

 

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Storytime is a Zoo

During my internship at Skokie Public Library, I’ve had the chance to really deepen my understanding and my skills in storytime.  After leading at least twenty-six outreach storytimes at local preschools and daycares, as well as picking the brains of other storytime librarians at Skokie, I’ve taken on my first solo-run of an in-house storytime.

I was very grateful to have the support of the youth services staff as I prepared to do storytime with kids from ages 3-6 and their parents.  I started by observing one librarian as she led Breakfast with Books in November; then in December, I partnered with another librarian to co-lead Breakfast with Books.  Finally, in February, I led the event on my own.  Two librarians dropped in to observe me, both to give me support through crowd control and constructive feedback.

I chose to center by storytime around the theme of a zoo.  As the kids at their breakfast (provided by the library), I asked them about their favorite animals from the zoo.  We started with the following hello/goodbye song.

HELLO/GOODBYE SONG
D A7 D
We wave hello like this, we wave hello like this, with our friends at storytime we wave hello like this.

Then we read the following books:

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown.  Mr. Tiger is tired of being proper and just wants to be wild.  He starts by crawling on all fours, then gets rid of his clothes, then runs away to the wilderness.  But he misses his friends, and when he goes back to the city, he discovers that things are starting to change.  I read this first.  Though it’s longer than the others, it’s silly enough that I think all the kids enjoyed it.  There were even a couple opportunities for kids to practice their ROARs.

Animal Opposites, by Petr Horacek.  A simply book with colorful animal, in pop-out form.  I think what makes this book so interesting is how it makes you anticipate the next animal.  Some of the flaps open in unexpected ways.  But honestly, my favorite part about reading this book was how the parents reacted when the big elephant came out at the end.

Two at the Zoo, by Danna Smith, illustrated by Valeria Petrone.  A boy visits the zoo with his father, and the count all the animals…in rhyme.  The kids got excited when their favorite animal showed up, and I was pleased when both the kids and the parents counted with me.  At the end of the story, a couple of kids wanted to see more animals.

From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle.  A book about animals and the different motions they make, asking if the young readers can do the same.  I really think this book works anywhere in the storytime, because it’s so active.  As it stands, it was a great way to end, right about the time the kids started to get restless.

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A snippet from my zoo #storytime in February.

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Between books, we also got moving with the following extension activities:

The Lions at the Zoo Go Roar, Roar, Roar!
C                                      C
The lions at the zoo go roar, roar, roar.
G                           C
Roar, roar, roar.  Roar, roar, roar.
C                                      C
The lions at the zoo go roar, roar, roar.
G           C
All day long!
REPEAT:
The snakes…go hiss, hiss, hiss.
The hyenas…go ha, ha, ha.
The monkeys…go eee, eee, eee.
The birds…go tweet, tweet, tweet.

This was a great chance to let the kids self-direct by asking what animals they liked and what sound they made. Some of the kids wanted to sing about really specific animals, like pandas and koalas. Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to all the animals that were shouted out (there were a lot).

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (magnetic board)

One of the things I like about this activity is how many literacy elements it involves: repetition, color identification, and animal identification. Although it has a rhythm to it, it’s easy to recite, because all you have to do is repeat the last animal and take out the next one. I tried to motion to the kids who had told me they liked specific animals. Not all the kids participated in this, but it really got the younger ones engaged.

Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes
Head and shoulders, knees and toes,
Head and shoulders, knees and toes,
Eyes and ear and mouth and nose,
Head and shoulders knees and toes.

This is such a common motions song that the kids were eager to show me what they knew. Because it easy I challenged them to do it faster, then faster.

Overall, I think this was a great storytime.  I had a lot of fun, and I think the kids and parents did too!

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Thinking About ILA 2015

I recently had the opportunity to go to the 2015 ILA Conference as an intern.  This was not my first conference—I had been to ALA for the previous Midwinter Conference—but I felt like this experience was another step into a larger world.  I learned so much more about how to plan and network at this conference.

Opening General Sessions Featuring Shankar Vedantam

Vedantam specializes in the brain and brain development, and he talked mostly about the gender bias.  I’ve been a little preoccupied with the gender bias in relation to reading lately, so naturally this appealed to me.  According to his studies, children start to develop a gender bias by the time they are three years old (as well as other biases).  This naturally led to a discussion on collection development, and Vedantam stressed that challenging the gender bias is something librarians must do actively, not passively.  It is not enough, he said, to be neutral.

Thinking about this more: we should be cautious even in the way we challenge gender bias.  Is it really as simple as providing masculine books for girls and feminine books for boys?  One big issue is that we want girls to see themselves as leaders—but I think a bigger issue is that feminine traits are not always seen as desirable.  Vedantam addressed this by talking about how often women leaders are described in masculine ways if they are effective, and if they are ineffective their feminine traits are villainized.

To truly challenge gender bias, I would suggest we go further than offers a variety of materials for all.  We ought to seek to celebrate all traits, be they masculine or feminine, keeping in mind that each child has a variety of interests that should be considered valid.  It’s not so much about equalizing boys and girls as it is about giving each child the opportunity for success.

Internship Shift

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Many of the interns served their shifts at the registration desk, but my shift was in the authors’ showcase.  I really valued this experience as a writer myself; I had the opportunity to talk with each author and ask about their writing, how they got ideas, etc.  It was also a good chance for me to practice networking, the act of going up to people to start a conversation.

One author started handing out bookmarks to the people in line for the lunch buffet.  One of the other authors remarked that it was a good idea, but said she worried that people would give her strange looks or wouldn’t want to talk to her.  Hearing this, it struck me that at conferences like these, everyone wants the opportunity to make a connection.  Everyone is both nervous and eager to start a conversation.

Panels

I also went to a couple of panels about programming for young kids.  At one of the panels, librarians talked about the challenge of creating a program that is too structured.  Often they set crafts out, and parents would take over in order to make the crafts according to the instruction.  Instead, the library wanted to create a space for process-focused programming, where kids had the freedom to make whatever they could imagine.  I also went to a panel about serving teens who don’t speak English, and while the topic didn’t have a lot of influence on what I’m doing in the library now (mostly storytime), it prompted me to think about my life as a librarian after I graduate.  I hope to be hired in a Michigan library, many of which are often smaller, at least in my neck of the woods.  In addition to these panels, I went to a couple of youth services breakfasts, which featured Chris Raschka and Katherine Applegate. Finally, I attended a DiversiTEA session.  Some librarians expressed concern that though they offered various materials and displayed them, their diverse populations did not seem interested.  In a way, this harkens back to the idea of bias and the way that we expect to see heroes in literature.  It’s not necessarily a problem for just librarians or publishers or authors, but a constantly evolving issue that we all should be actively thinking about.

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