Our 50th Post!

our 50th postWow, that was fast. Cue the band and ready the confetti cannon. It’s our 50th post!

It seems only yesterday that I launched this blog and became a first-time blogger. Thank you for your interest and support, especially the subscribers who have joined me along the way, and the folks who have sent in questions, comments, and suggestions.

Now that there’s a good stock of posts to explore, this seems as good a time as ever to announce my new blogging schedule. Moving forward, I’ll be posting one story time project a week (I’ll aim for Tuesday mornings), with at least 2 posts from other categories per month. We’ll see how it goes!

I’d love to hear from you. What parts of this blog do you like? The story time projects? The art supply recommendations? What would you like to see more of? Are there any new directions you’d like me to take? Is there a book you’d like to see featured? A craft project you’d like me to develop? The goal of Pop Goes the Page is to be a creative resource for librarians, teachers, museum educators, parents, and children…so how can I serve you best?

E-mail me! danas@princeton.edu

One tantalizing glimpse into the future…I’m planning a contest to celebrate our first birthday in August, and the prize is plenty o’ goodies for your art cabinet. So stay tuned!

The Other Half

tiger talesQ: I’m curious about the read-aloud portion of your story times. Do you have any suggestions, advice, or tips?

Sure! Most of the projects you see on this blog are from Tiger Tales, our story time for 3 – 5 year-olds, so I’ll talk specifically about that.

Tiger Tales doesn’t require registration, so it’s first-come, first-served until we fill (24 kids maximum for the project portion of the story time). We do restrict by age range, so while everyone is free to listen to the story, only 3 – 5 year-olds can actually do the project. We bring out bins of toys to occupy the younger sibs (older sibs read or help with the project).

It’s time for story time to begin. Behold the tools of my trade!

tools of my tradeAt the very beginning of the program, kids line up to receive a name tag (I use these handy-dandy name tag stickers). I use a Sharpie to write the tags because kid-friendly markers tend to smudge something fierce.

Name tags are useful for many reasons:

  1. It helps me learn names!
  2. I ask kids to spell their names for me, so it gives them some practice with their spelling (and sometimes breaks the ice with the shy ones).
  3. Later in the program, it’s much easier to say “Pat! Stop running with those scissors!” then “Hey you! Stop running with those scissors!”
  4. I count out 24 name stickers at the start of the program and then recount at the end of the program to tally my attendance numbers. Simple. This technique is also useful at super busy story times. When my 24 stickers run out, I know the program is full!

It can be quite hectic before story time begins. Rather than trying to shout over the din, I ring a story time bell, wait for everyone to quiet down, and then I make the announcements. I ask adults to refrain from cell phone conversations and, if someone gets restless or cries during the story, to please move to the front of the gallery so we can work on our listening skills in the story time area.

Then I ask a few questions about the book (“What’s on the cover?” “Would you like a dragon for a pet?”), connect the questions to the book (“Well, this boy knows exactly what it’s like to have a dragon for a pet…”) and announce the title of the book. But before I even open it, I have everyone put on their “listening ears” and then I do…THE BIG SHUSH. Basically, THE BIG SHUSH is everyone putting a finger in front of their mouths and, all together, we count:

One (big, audible breath)
Two (big, audible breath)
Three (big, audible breath)
SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

If you think one person shushing is effective, try everyone in the room shushing! It even quiets the babies down!

Then I start reading.

My reading style involves multiple character vocalizations (and even a few sound effects). Sometimes, the book becomes a prop as I flap it like a butterfly, climb it up a tree, or jiggle it during a storm. At times, I ask kids to act things out or make sounds to match the story (“Stomp your feet!” “Let’s hear your best parrot squawk!”) Often, while I’m reading, I’ll offer a little comment on the story, ask the kids a question, or pause while a kid makes a comment on the book.

That said, sometimes I’ll read a book all the way through without very much audience interaction at all. Just character vocalizations, a steady narrative, and the riveted attention of the children. It always feels a little magical when that happens.

Story time with kids is about engagement with the text, but let’s face it – it’s also about crowd control. That’s where those name tag stickers come in handy. “OK Paul, I’m going to read again now…” or “Avery, shhh, sit down, sit down please.” Once the book concludes, I reveal the project and we proceed to the project area to get started!

project area I never reveal the project before the book, and the toys for the younger kids don’t come out until the book is finished. The focus is always on the book first.

You might notice that I don’t do songs or finger play. That’s because the Princeton Public Library features these things pretty regularly at their story times and I wanted to supplement, rather than replicate, their offerings. I don’t do flannel boards either. The folks at Flannel Friday have that covered if you’re interested in flannel board resources, however!

If you’re wondering what book I’m reading in this post, you’ll find the answer here.

Have a question of your own? E-mail me!

Gingerbread Cottage Challenge

jens cakes and pastriesYour eyes do not deceive you. That is a Strega Nona gingerbread cottage, complete with out-of-control marzipan pasta. It was created by the talented Jen Carson of Jen’s Cakes & Pastries (with assistance from her 3 children). This cottage was a contender in a Hansel & Gretel Gingerbread Cottage Challenge we hosted in collaboration with Labyrinth Books, our local bookstore.

The premise was simple…exactly what makes a gingerbread cottage enticing to little boys and girls? Inquiring witches want to know! So we gave five local bakeries, cafes, and caterers the same gingerbread house kit, and challenged them to create the most enticing gingerbread cottage they could. Then we displayed the houses in the children’s section of Labyrinth Books and invited kids to stop by and vote.

The winner got to select his/her favorite children’s book. Then we purchased two copies of the book. One copy went to our children’s gallery, and the other was donated to the Princeton Public Library.

Here are the houses…the winning house is displayed last…drum roll please…

Chez Alice Cafe & Bakery (Artist: Matt Banihai)

chez aliceThe Little Chef (Artist: Edwidge Fils-Aime)

little chefThomas Sweet Chocolates (Artists: Thomas Sweet Staff)

thomas sweet chocolateJen’s Cakes & Pastries (Artist: Jen Carson, James, Sean, and Sara)

jens cakes and pastriesWINNER! The Bent Spoon (Artist: Jen Travigline)

bent spoon This amazing cottage came complete with a multi-tiered nut brittle walkway, sugary trees, stunning snow people, an almond-shingled roof, a mini-spoon picket fence, a chimney with marshmallow smoke, interior lights, and tons and tons of glittery snow icing – weighing in at a record 11 pounds! The Strega Nona cottage came in at a very close second (a mere 4 votes behind).

The winner’s book selection? Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

Coordinating this program was a snap. I purchased the gingerbread kits at Bed, Bath & Beyond (using a handful of 20% off coupons of course). Make sure you buy an extra house in case one of the other kits needs a “replacement part.” I bought some inexpensive cookie sheets from Target to act as bases for the houses. Then I whipped up some voting cards, collected the houses, and watched as children arrived to ooh, ahh, and debate over which house they were going to vote for.

My absolutely favorite part, however, was after the event. The children’s book buyer swooped down on a house, broke off a piece of chocolate fence, bit into it and said “Oooo, I’ve been waiting to do that all day!”