Holographic, glittered and flocked incentives

Glitter BookmarksThere are no late fees for overdue books in elementary school, and lately I’ve noticed that the 4th, 5th and 6th graders have been, shall we say, “extremely casual” about returning their books promptly. Three months is too long to keep others from reading a great book.  I know and admire other elementary librarians who can inspire students to return books on time with just a stern look and some pointed questions.  I wish I had this skill, but I have to go with my strengths.

I’m more about rewards than coercion, so when I found the glittered, flocked, and holographic chevron, leopard print, tiger stripe, sparkly, flaming card stock on clearance at Michael’s for $.49, I grabbed up every 12″ X 12″ sheet and cut each one into 16 bookmarks.  I’ll do the math for you:  that’s 3 cents a bookmark.

I gave every 4th-6th grade teacher one bookmark for advertising purposes, and asked them to let their classes know that every student that did not have overdue books on their library day the following week would be given one of these bookmarks.  I also gave the teachers a printed list of overdue books, instead of the usual automatic emailed list that Destiny sends.  In a busy teacher’s day, one more email with an attachment just doesn’t always get opened.

Almost immediately, books started arriving from everywhere–closets, cars, grandma’s house, under beds, in sibling’s rooms, and in backpacks.  It was like having a book magnet drawing them back to the library!

I was very pleased with the results, and I didn’t have to give anyone the stink eye.

Leave a comment if you have a method of getting books returned on time.

Who is? Who was?

Amelia Earhart index

Rosa Parks51kx4+QwNUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

anne franknelson mandela

Third graders are starting their biography reports, so to build excitement and to celebrate the addition of 20 new biographies from the wildly popular Who Is…? and Who Was…? series, published by Penguin, we played a quick, fun game in the library before checking out books, using the Apple TV.

Here’s a link to the game:  http://www.whowasbookseries.com/trivia-challenge/

Students were divided into four teams, and each had my new favorite toy to use:  the answer buzzers from Learning Resources.  Then they challenged themselves to choose the correct answer first.  Because it is multiple choice, even if they don’t know the answer, they are able to figure it out by the process of elimination.  Everyone was engaged.

Examples from the game:

This man was a home run king.

Who was Neil Armstrong?
Who was Babe Ruth?
Who was John F. Kennedy?
Who was Daniel Boone?



This woman is a world famous scientist and animal rights activist.

Who is Dolly Parton?
Who is Michelle Obama?
Who is Jane Goodall?
Who is J.K. Rowling?


There are 10 questions in each round, and if your students are having fun, they can play it a second time, and the most of the questions change.

The books are widely available in paperback, but after some searching, I found the books in hardback with library binding on Amazon.  They are easily identifiable by the over-sized heads on the covers, they are all about 100 pages long, include a timeline in the back, and, most importantly, kids love to read them, even when they don’t have a biography report assignment.  

Also, Penguin just announced the contest results to name the 100th book in the Who Was series.  Over 67,000 votes were tallied and winner was STEVE IRWIN.  Look for the book in Summer 2015.



The Book with No Pictures

Book with No Pictures

“Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say.  No matter what.”

Define a rule, and then proceed to show kids how they can manipulate it to their advantage.  Everyone knows, kids delight in that kind of power. This book makes adults who are reading it say very silly things. Because, well, that’s the rule.

I read The Book with No Pictures, by standup comedian, actor, writer, director, and executive producer, B.J. Novak, aloud to all the kindergarten through 3rd grade classes before the winter break, and it was a ridiculous amount of fun. For inspiration, I watched this video of the author reading his book to a group of kids, and I’m so glad I did.  How else would I know how to sing the page about how I eat ants right off the rug for breakfast?

When I reached the marathon gibberish page that starts with “Gluur Ga-wocko ma grumph a-doo…” for about the 10th time, I decided to ask for student volunteers to try it. It’s a challenge! The kids loved getting to attempt it, so I used more volunteers for other silly pages.

At the end of the story, I asked, “What would happen if you handed this book to your dad and asked him to read to you?” (chuckles)  “Or your grandma?” (guffaws) “Or how about the principal?” (completely lost it) They howled, naming all the people they’d like to make read it to them. Let that sink in for a moment–early elementary kids gleefully plotting what adults they will make read a book to them. That’s a win on so many levels.

Does this book foster a positive connection to the printed word? Does it ever.

Will adult curmudgeons sniff their noses and declare it is too silly? Maybe.

Do I wish it didn’t include the words “Boo Boo Butt?” Yes, so I whisper those words.

Is it ever going to be on the shelf again this year? Not likely.

One adorable little boy wanted it so earnestly, he stopped in the library nearly every day to see if I was done reading it to the other classes so he could check it out. When he returned it, he told me all about reading it with his dad, his mom, and his grandma. One of them may now be a recovering curmudgeon.

Next time, I think I’ll add a coloring page activity after reading this book.  I downloaded these two PDF’s from the Bryce Don’t Play blog.

More info about the book and the author can be found here, http://thebookwithnopictures.com/. On the Teacher page, there’s a link to a 10-minute excerpt from B.J. Novak’s keynote address to the American Library Association, including the inspiration for the book, his process of testing it, and (my favorite part) about his epiphany that when a child hands you a book to read them, they are essentially a little producer, handing you a script:

“Here’s what you’ll be performing tonight.
These are your lines.
Be yourself.
Feel free to make it your own, but stick to the script.
I may ask you to do it a second time.”

4th – 6th Graders Rock the Newbery Game

Buzzers 2

BOING!  “The Westing Game!”

HONK HONK!  “Moon over Manifest!”

DING DONG!  “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH!”

DING!  “The One and Only Ivan!”

These are a few of the answers the 4th-6th graders excitedly called out when we played a Newbery Award game in the library this week.

I’ll tell you the secret to making answering book title questions so much fun:  It was these answer buzzers that each make a different loud, funny sound. Go to Amazon and order them by Learning Resources. You can do it right now. I’ll wait here.

Buzzers 1A fun-loving colleague from a nearby school district elementary library loaned me these answer buzzers, and gave me the inspiration for creating this game. It cannot be overstated how much fun it is to answer a question when one gets to hit one of these buttons first. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these should be used in court when questioning defendants on the stand. They are just that compelling.

BOING!  I confess, I did it.

HONK HONK!  Yes, I stole those items.

DING DONG!  I had accomplices, and I’ll name names.

DING!  I’ll tell you everything, as long as I get to keep hitting these answer buttons!

I displayed Newbery Award and Honor books on a large table, and gave a short talk about the Newbery Medal. “Who knows what these gold and silver round stickers mean?” I shared some of the eligibility criteria, like the book must have been published in the United States in the preceding year, the author must also be a citizen of or reside in the United States, the book can be fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, and that children up through age 14 are the intended potential audience. I also shared some of the history; it is named for John Newbery, and the first award was given in 1922.  Information can be found right here on the Association for Library Service to Children website.

Students eagerly raised their hands to tell me which books on the table they had read and loved.

Holes was awesome, both the book and the movie!”

“We just read Island of the Blue Dolphins in class!”

The Graveyard Book was soooo good!”

“I’m reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle right now, and it’s the best book I’ve ever read.”

“My teacher read, Carry On Mr. Bowditch out loud to us last year.”

I believe the best advertising for books is from peers, and this was even better than I could have hoped for.

I made a two-page list of selected winners and honor books that best suited my needs for the game, that are in the school library collection, and made enough 2-sided copies for every student.


To make 4 teams quickly, I randomly set laminated, color-coded cards that matched the buzzers on all the chairs before the classes came in and sat down, to designated what team they were on.  I learned from a teacher that if you say, “You have 30 seconds to get to your team table,” they get there MUCH faster.

Chairs with Color Coded Cards

Game Table 4 Game Table 3
Game Table 1

I read out clues, and teams searched the lists for books that met the description, and rushed to hit the buzzer first, and called out their answers.  Below are some of the clues I came up with, but there are so many other possibilities.

A book title with Mr., Mrs. or Dr. in it
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Carry on Mr. Bowditch
Dear Mr. Henshaw
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (be sure to point out the year this was a winner–1939!)
The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

A one word title

Day of the week in the title
The View from Saturday
The Wednesday Wars

Book title has the word “game” in it
The Westing Game
The Egypt Game

Insect in the title
Cricket in Times Square
House of Scorpion

A sea mammal in the title
Island of the Blue Dolphins

An animal in the title
Julie of the Wolves
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Sign of the Beaver
Turtle in Paradise
Witch of Blackbird Pond

Title includes something to do with space
Sing Down the Moon
Moon Over Manifest
Walk Two Moons
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
A Corner of the Universe
Number the Stars

Book title has a number in it
The One and Only Ivan
26 Fairmount Ave.
Three Times Lucky
One Came Home
One Crazy Summer
The Hundred Dresses
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963

The last class of the day went MUCH smoother than the first, and I fine-tuned the process as the day progressed.  One lesson I learned:  We kept score for some classes, but not for others.  Funny thing, it didn’t really matter.  Kids loved playing whether they were earning points or not, and I just kept replenishing the books on the Newbery Award table as they were checked out.

Several students stopped by after school to ask if we could do more games like that, and even brainstormed ideas on what the games could be. (“How about a Wheel of Fortune Game?  You could make a big wheel and send us off searching for books…”)  You can’t buy that kind of excitement.

Oh my goodness, I just checked:  Amazon has a Wheel of Fortune spinner!

Ninja Storytime

Ninja! by Arree Chung

From the moment I finished reading, Ninja! written and illustrated by Arree Chung, I knew I had to create a story time using this picture book about Maxwell, a boy obsessed with ninjas. He silently sneaks around the house, surprising unsuspecting family members, surreptitiously thieving snacks, abruptly ending his dad’s couch nap, and earning both the outrage of his little sister and disapproval from his mother. In the end, he invites the little sister to join him in the ways of the ninja, and one is left to imagine the amusing havoc they will wreak together. The spare narration of Maxwell’s ninja thoughts amusingly contrasts with the illustrations, which show the true picture of what is really happening.

I had a much younger group than usual at the public library storytime, which ranges from K-5, so I highly edited the excerpts I had planned to read from two non-fiction books, to give background information about real 14th century ninjas, not just the ones kids are accustomed to seeing in cartoons and action movies.

Ninja, by Jason Glaser and Don Roley.


You Wouldn’t Want to be a Ninja Warrior!  A Secret Job That’s Your Destiny, by John Malam, and illustrated by David Antram.

You Wouldn't Want to be a Ninja Warrior

First Lessons in Ninjutsu, on page 10 of, You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Ninja Warrior, was the inspiration for creating an obstacle course for little ninjas-in-training. The challenge was to create an age 5-10 appropriate, kid-appealing, non-injury-producing, collateral-damage-avoiding, indoor-space-confined way to practice beginner ninja skills. My creative co-workers chimed in with great ideas and supplies to use, and it took many hands and weeks of planning and prepping materials.

After reading, we adjourned to table stations with craft supplies that children rotated through at their own pace, before starting the ninja training course.

Craft Activity Tables:

1)  Assemble a jointed paper ninja puppet

Ninja Puppet1Ninja Puppet2

2)  Color a pre-made origami ninja star (to use on the training course and take home)


3)  Assemble nunchucks, using painted cardboard tubes, yarn and hole punches



Ninja Training Course:

1)  Disguise:  I had new, donated t-shirts leftover from past athletic events (thank you City Parks & Recreation Department!) to make ninja masks. YouTube has many videos on how to turn a t-shirt into a ninja mask.  Alas, the group was young, and none of them wanted to wear a ninja mask.

Our amazing teen volunteer demonstrated the course.

2)  Balance:  Walk on rocks and a narrow piece of cardboard over water. Participants could make each subsequent trip more challenging for themselves by walking forward, backward, sideways, etc.


4)  Kicking:  Kick over boxes covered with wood-grain printed paper. We started with one box on each stool, and then stacked them three-high later. Some of our little ninjas were too short to kick them, so they punched them instead.


 5)  Escape:  Crawl through tunnel


6)  Weaponry:  Throw paper origami ninja star at target (hula hoop taped to the wall).

7)  Stealth:  Maneuver through a series of laser beams (red yarn tied between two rows of chairs).



8)  Agility:  Jump over bushes made with large, crumpled sheets of green butcher paper.

Repeat as many times as possible, until a parent/guardian insists it’s time to go
for at least the third or fourth time.

Online Resources

Be sure to check out the website, www.arree.com, which has a wealth of fun things to do, including Ninja coloring pages, an activity guide that includes instructions on how to make an origami ninja star, and a hilarious book trailer.

Visit www.ninjefyme.com to upload a photo of yourself, and add a ninja costume.

A few more photos from a shorter 30-minute Ninja Storytime at the elementary school for the transitional kindergarten classes, which included the Ninja! book by Arree Chung, the ninja training course, and no crafts (definitely no ninja stars or nunchucks).  I was able to make the red yarn laser beam section twice as long–and twice as awesome.


Mind Your Manners


With Thanksgiving around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time to brush up on (or learn) good manners.  I held this story time at both the public library for K-5’s, and the elementary school library for two classes of transitional kindergarteners, omitting the pumpkin craft at the school due to time constraints and skill level.

.Yes Please, No Thank YouSuppose You Meet a DinosaurNo Slurping, No Burping

Students enthusiastically participated in the story, “Yes, Please!  No, Thank You!” by calling out the polite way to answer together throughout the story.

They also were very engaged in guessing well-mannered ways to respond to situations (“thank you,” “excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” “you’re welcome,” etc.) posed in Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur, A First Book of Manners, by Judy Sierra.

No Slurping, No Burping, by Kara LaReau, is a hilarious new picture book, published this year, with a role reversal twist that makes kids giggle.  A brother and sister have to help their father with his mealtime etiquette, and then a special surprise guest comes for dinner.  The students were so eager (and a little nervous, too!) to see if he could remember all the manners he had learned when grandma arrives.  When it’s time to have dessert, it became clear that she could use a little refresher on her manners also, and everyone dissolved into laughter.



We reviewed a picture of a simple place setting, and then had a relay race with 3 teams, each with a bag containing everything needed for one place setting:  plate, cup, fork, knife, spoon, napkin, place mat.  Students had to run up to the table with the bag, one at a time, quickly set a place setting, and once it was correct, put everything back into the bag and run back to the end of the line.  The teams livened up the race by supporting each other, calling out encouragement, chanting names, and chiming in with helpful pointers.  “Put the place mat down first!”  Who knew setting a table could be so exciting?

We finished up this story time by making a paper pumpkin to use as a Thanksgiving table decoration.  The most exciting part of making the pumpkins seemed to be the novelty of getting to use the hole punches.






orange card stock, cut in 12 strips, 1 1/2″ wide  X 10″ long

green pipe cleaner

pumpkin leaf outline copied onto green card stock


hole punch


Punch holes at each end of all the orange strips, and in the leaf to put the pipe cleaner through.  Crunch up a small section of the pipe cleaner at the bottom and top of the pumpkin, so the orange paper holds the desired shape.  Spread out the strips of paper in a circle.  Finish by curling the top of the pipe cleaner.


Student Poetry in the Library


A Book Enlarged Poem

When one of our wonderful consultants at the elementary school worked with students on poetry last year, she came to me with a few poems students wrote relating to books and reading, and inquired if I would like to display them in the library. How fast could I say, “Of course!”

Together we made library displays with the poems. She did the beautiful lettering on large white paper, and I cut out some decorations to go with them on black card stock, and installed them. I free-handed the book with a flock of birds flying out of it. The book and birds are affixed with T-pins, not staples, so I was able to give them a 3-D effect by pulling sections outward on the T-pins. Then my wonderful son gave me a Silhouette Cameo for Christmas, and I used it to cut the other display shapes (tree, grass, girl sitting on a book, book with bookmark, music notes).

They make me smile every time I read them, and the students are proud to point them out to their friends when they are in the library.

The Book

The Book

Upon a shelf
left there to stay

The popular books all taken away
where they can laugh and let their words play

The mystical books of wizards and elves
The scary horror stories of ghosts on the shelves

But alas, that’s nothing like me
I’m just a story ’bout a girl and her tree

The new books go in, the old go out
There’s hustling and bustling going about.

I inhale the smell of new brandished leather
The gilded gold spine that holds it together

That’s not just like me, my color is rust,
and I only smell of moth balls and dust

I’m on the shelf for days, weeks
But then at dawn, a new sun peeks

Then yes, yes, yes, I knew it was true
The librarian says, “This book’s just for you.”

I shine with joy, I dance with glee
For I am a book ’bout a girl and her tree.



The Lonely Book

The Lonely Book

There sat a lonely book
It was the kind of book that nobody took

It sat on the shelf with nobody there
Other books passed by it without a care

Finally the lonely book met a lonely girl
And they hit it off in their lonely world

They walked off feeling fine
The loneliness won’t be back for a while




I am the music of reading
My melody is the beating of words in my head
It moves to the rhythm of my eyes
ripping down the page
With harmonies of overwhelming silence


First Lines: Can You Name the Book?




How many times has a book grabbed your attention from the very first sentence?

Students can peruse this interactive bulletin board and test themselves on their knowledge of opening lines to popular books, as well as be inspired to find a particular book in the library, after reading an opening line that sounds appealing to them.

On the front of the card, I printed the opening line from a book, and on the inside, I printed the title, author, and call #, to aid students in finding the book.  I also added a small piece of Velcro to hold the flaps down, since laminating them caused them to not fold tightly.

My criteria for selecting the quotes:  It had to be a fiction book currently owned by the school library, so students can check the book out.  (Sadly, this eliminated quite a few stellar first lines.)  The selections must have a variety of appeal to both boys and girls, and include reading levels grade 2 – 6.  I included some books that I know are read as part of grade-level classroom assignments, some award winners, some new books I wanted to attract interest in, and some beginning chapter book series.

     IMG_6274 IMG_6276 IMG_6275

 Take a minute and have fun seeing how many opening lines you can match up
with the book titles shown below them.

 Opening Lines:

     IMG_6265      IMG_6267

     IMG_6289     IMG_6288

      IMG_6269      IMG_6271

     IMG_6272      IMG_6273

     IMG_6277      IMG_6278

     IMG_6279       IMG_6281

     IMG_6282      IMG_6284

     IMG_6285      IMG_6286

     IMG_6287      DSC04854

     IMG_6296      IMG_6297

     IMG_6298      IMG_6299

     IMG_6290     IMG_6293

     IMG_6294     DSC04834



Book Titles:

     IMG_6300      IMG_6301

     IMG_6303      IMG_6304

     IMG_6305     IMG_6302

      IMG_6306      DSC04884

     IMG_6309     IMG_6307

     IMG_6308     IMG_6311

     IMG_6312     DSC04874

     IMG_6313      IMG_6314

     DSC04885     IMG_6326

     DSC04883      IMG_6318

     IMG_6319      IMG_6320

     IMG_6325      IMG_6321

     IMG_6322      IMG_6323


Angry Birds are Mad About Books!


The youth section of the public library where I work has six large bulletin boards, that the Youth Services staff change several times a year, to fit a selected theme.  This is my creation for the current “Games” theme.

I was given the video game of Angry Birds to work with, and had to do a little research on it, as I had never played the game.  And by “research,” I mean download the free game app and play it!  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

I cut the lettering out with my Silhouette Cameo, to recreate the font used for the game that looks like paint brush strokes.  I also used the Silhouette Cameo to cut out the stacks of books inside the cardboard tube structure with the green pigs.  The Angry Birds are made with rubber Halloween masks I found at the $1 store.  The red and yellow birds are stuffed with paper and attached with T-pins to the bulletin board.  The black bird mask is stretched to fit on a black rubber ball, and suspended with fishing line from the ceiling.

I’ll leave it to you to guess whether I deleted the Angry Bird game from my phone when I  finished with my “research.”