More Books for Baby & Me

Two years ago I posted about my favorite books to read with the babies. I still use those regularly and love them just as much two years later. Here are a few more that have worked really great with my Baby & Me crowd.

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: My coworker shared this one at a youth services meeting and instantly I knew it was perfect for Baby & Me. The repeated refrain encourages parents to join in and the illustrations are just darling.

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn: I love to do this one at the beginning of a session. Leo attends Baby Time where they read stories, sing songs, bounce, and play with scarves. It is a lovely introduction to a lot of the same things we do in our program.

Clip Clop by Nicola Smee: This one has more ‘plot’ than the books I normally read, but I had caregivers bounce the babies as we read it and there was joy and laughter all around.

Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz: Of course we know that books by Karen Katz are baby-time gold. This one is no exception. It is a really fun counting book plus it has a great rhythm and rhyme and shows the babies doing everyday activities.

Duckie’s Rainbow by Frances Barry: I have yet to find a colors book I like more. This one is short and sweet and makes a rainbow as you turn the pages.

If You’re Happy and You Know it by Jane Cabrera: I love Cabrera’s sing-along picture books! The illustrations are so bright and cheerful. This one is especially fun because it adds lots of verses with different actions all the animals do.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Bill Martin Jr: I mostly don’t need to mention this beloved classic but I am so delighted by the way parents recite it along with me as I read that I will never fail to include this one. It’s a great way to remind parents that re-reading favorite books over and over increases print motivation.



What to do with Doc McStuffins? Increasing Circulation Part 1

My number one goal for 2016 is to increase our circulation. It seems that in libraryland that circulation of print books at most libraries has been trending slightly down. Now, on the flip side, circulation of ebooks and other electronice materials skyrocket as we devote more funding to them. (If you are really curious, check out this annual report from the Public Library Association to get into the nitty-gritty numbers of library statistics.)

When it comes to children, though, ebooks will never take the place of physical books. Kids need the tactical experience of holding the books in their hands, the page turns that add moments of suspense, and so on and so forth. This is why I am confident we can reverse our downward trend in the Children’s Room and bring circulation back up.

I am attacking this goal on four fronts: Weeding, Focused Selection, Displays and Booklists, and New Collections. In October we introduced our new collection: the Character Shelf.

26783333861_c8ec54ee65_zThere is nothing new about putting all the media-tie-in books together. Tons of libraries do this. But it was nothing short of revolutionary for our patrons and our staff. Previously, a good amount of staff time was taken up by searching for ‘Barbie books’  or ‘Thomas books.’ They were cataloged by author, they all have different authors, and were not even in the same collection (some are Easy Books, Easy Readers). Plus most are very thin paperbacks making them even trickier to find. It was really time consuming for staff and frustrating for kids because they couldn’t find books about their favorite characters on their own.

Now, voila! We have one place to go where all the Disney Princess books are next to each other, all the Superhero books are in one place and easy to find, etc. Needless 26756982152_7bf7b50d8b_zto say this has been great for our circulation. These books are flying off the shelves. All it took were some stickers and a new shelf location in the OPAC. This is only one part of  our “giving the patrons what they want” strategy and already we are seeing great results. It gives me a huge burst of pleasure every time a child comes in and says, “Where are the Dora books?” and I can walk them over to one shelf and say, “They are all right here!”

Baby & Me: Trying New Things

My baby storytime looks very different from the one I started with 4 years ago. I have had so much fun challenging myself by continually adding new elements to Baby & Me.


Jbrary’s post on parachutes in baby storytime gave me the courage to finally try something I have been contemplating doing for a long time. This felt really out of my comfort zone and the first week I was really nervous. Lindsey at Jbrary gives a really fantastic breakdown and explanation about how it works for her, which really helped me because a lot of the info I had found previously was about using the parachute with older kids so I wasn’t sure how my babies and caregivers would react.

The other thing that motivated me was that we had such a great group of babies and caregivers in our February-March session. Some had been coming for a year or more already so we were all familiar with each other. So one day I took the plunge and brought out the parachute!


And it went really well! Who knows what I was so nervous about. Several of the babies LOVED it. Little ones were sitting under the parachute as caregivers lifted it up and down. The walkers had a great time running under the parachute and back out. I did have one or two kiddos get overwhelmed by the new experience, so I recommend keeping it quiet and gentle at first while they get used to it. We sang the really Let’s Go Riding in an Elevator (by Jbrary of course!).

The second or third time we got the parachute out, we had a bit of a smaller group so I decided to try sitting the babies on top and  pulling the parachute around in a circle. The caregivers were skeptical, but it worked and they absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to do that again in our summer session!

Ball Pit


For a special surprise at the end of our last Baby & Me of the session, I brought out a ball pit! I was so excited to do this with my babies. I first saw the idea on Brooke Newberry’s fabulous blog, Reading With Red. She  wrote up a great post about her baby play groups. There are a ton of great ideas there, and when I saw the ball pit, I thought, I MUST do that! I was further motivated by her webinar with Kendra Jones, “Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers.” You can still view the archive, and I highly recommend that you do!

It was especially meaningful to bring the ball pit out when I did, because two of our longtime Baby & Me attendees had their second birthdays and were graduating. Since it was their last session, it was a wonderful way to say goodbye. It was such a hit, I added a Baby Play Day to my summer schedule based on Brooke and Kendra’s great ideas.


Booktalked Favorites

Twice a year, in the fall and spring, I do booktalks at a nearby middle school. This year I started visiting another middle school and their excitement about the books I brought was just thrilling! I have been doing this for three years now, and usually every time I end up with at least one or two duds in the group of books I bring. This spring was the first time there were kids wanting to read all ten books. There were no duds!

These are the books I shared with around 300 seventh and eighth grade students this month:

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose*

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Bradley

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

The Iron Trial by Holly Black

The Siren by Kiera Cass*

Illuminae by Amy Kaufman*

*book trailers

A week later, I am still having kids coming in and asking for these books! They are all great picks for middle school kids.

How the Fun Happens: My Baby & Me Outline

Today I am sharing the general outline I use each week as I plan Baby & Me. In the next few weeks I will put up some more specific storytime plans and information about parachutes and some of my other activities. Enjoy!


My welcome message goes something along the lines of: Welcome to Baby & Me! My name is Allison and we have a lot of songs, stories and more planned for today. It is perfectly normal for your child to crawl or wander the room, though if you do have an upset child, feel free to leave the room and come back when they are ready for more.  Everything we’ll do today is something you can do at home with your child every day! Read with your child, sing with your child, talk with your child and your child will be on their way to learning to read.

Bubbles and Music

I hand out bubbles to all the caregivers and we blow bubbles while families are entering the room and getting settled. I play a song or two from a CD as we play with the bubbles. The littles can’t get enough!

The More We Get Together

I play this song on the ukulele. We sing the song once through and on the second go around we add the children’s names to the song.

Open Them, Shut Them

I do a shortened version of this popular rhyme and we repeat it at least 3 times each week. By the end of the session, most of the one-year olds are doing the actions along with us and I love to see that!

Open them, shut them
Open them, shut them
Give a little clap

Open them, shut them
Open them, shut them
Lay them in your lap

Book 1

With our hands  in our laps we are ready for a story! I do use themes, though the books are usually some of the only elements that will fit the theme. I like having a little structure and direction when picking books. There are too many good ones to choose from otherwise.

Familiar Song

Flannelboard or Parachute

We have a lovely selection of flannel stories to choose from (really, they are magnet stories, but hey, tradition). This spring was my first time using the parachute and I’ll be blogging about that more later.

Go In and Out the Window

I added this one to my weekly routine thanks to the lovely ladies of Jbrary. Check out their video for a description of how it is done. We also do the second verse where you turn and face your partner. Occasionally I’ll think about putting something else here, but the delight on the babies’ faces keeps me doing this one every week.


We also do scarves every week. My co-worker had some she frugally made herself for a program a long time ago and I had been using those. This year we had some money to invest in some of these Rhythm Band Scarves. They’re so purty!



Book 2 or 1-on-1 Reading

Sometimes 2 books feels like too much for this crowd and I often end up cutting the second book short. But there are so many great books I find it hard to limit myself to just one.

Egg Shakers with Music

I’ll put the CD on and hand out the egg shakers. I alternate between “Alabama Mississippi” by Jim Gill and “I Know a Chicken” by Laurie Berkner because I can’t find any shakers songs I like as much as these two.

If You’re Happy and You Know it

The closing song is also played on my ukulele. I’ve got these two songs down!


After the closing song I’ll get out an activity and parents and babies are welcome to stay in the room as long as they want. Sometimes the activity is blocks and a big bag of toys and other times it is a craft or a sensory experience. I love trying new things for this portion of Baby & Me.

How We Went From Lapsit to Baby & Me

In the Fall of 2014 we made some changes to our baby storytime. Previously the program had been called Lapsit and it was held once a month. The program was for babies and toddlers from birth to 24 months. And no one was coming. I would generally only have 1-3 babies but I knew from talking to parents who came into the library that there was an audience for this type of program. Something had to change.

I took a good long look at how we were doing things. I ended up making only two changes. I changed the name of the program from Lapsit to Baby & Me. In our community no one knew what the word lapsit meant. It was library jargon. But Baby & Me makes it clear that it is a class for babies and caregivers and it sounds inviting and fun. The second change is that we went from monthly to weekly for 6-8 week sessions.

Now here we are, a year and a half later, and attendance at Baby & Me is through the roof! During the latest session we reached our room capacity almost every week. We are going to need a bigger room!


I think other libraries have noticed a similar trend. Our Preschool Storytime numbers seem to be dropping as more and more kids this age are in preschool or daycare. But there are a lot of caregivers looking for things to do outside the house with infants and one-year olds. I now know this from personal experience. Trust me, when you have a small baby you can go stir-crazy pretty quickly at home and there are limited things babies can do. Baby & Me is one of them, and of course parents love that its free too!

Stay tuned for an outline of how I plan Baby & Me and some examples of storytime plans. I have introduced lots of new props and activities with my Baby & Me crowd and I can’t wait to share them with you.


Allison’s Favorite Reads of 2015 (Part Two)

The Hired Girl bhiredy Laura Amy Schlitz. This book reminded me so much of the types I loved to read as a young girl. I loved to read historical fiction about smart, literary girls who go out into the world to make it on their own. You could also use the term Bildungsroman, if you wanted to sound really smart (look it up, you non-English majors!). I don’t read them so much anymore because my interests tend more towards fantasy and mysteries now that I’m older. But I still have a warm place in my heart for Laura Ingalls, Jo March, Jane Eyre, and the like. And so I loved this book about a young girl named Joan who runs away from her cruel father and the grueling work on his farm. She ends up as a maid in a wealthy Jewish household, and a lot of this book deals with the clash between Joan’s Catholicism and her Jewish employers. Joan wants to do what is right and struggles to understand what that is. There are a lot of interesting things in this book about religion and prejudice as well as fun moments with kittens and carousals.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I listened to this audiobook and was very pleased when my book club selected it as our next month’s pick. More historical fiction here, this book takes place during World War II. What I loved about it so much was that the two main characters had very different experiences than you generally read about. Marie-lightLaure is a blind girl who lives in Paris with her father, who is the key master at the National Museum. During the occupation, she and her father flee to her great uncle’s house. Her father is carrying the most prized gem in the Museum, either a decoy or the real thing. A Nazi collector is hunting for the same gem. Then we have a German boy, Werner, who is an orphan in a mining town. He is fascinated by radios and learns to fix them, a sought-after skill in the Hitler Youth. This story follows the two over the course of several years and at the end their lives intersect in beautiful ways.

warThe War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Another World War II book, and another audiobook. This one is for children. It tells the story of Ada and her brother Jamie. They live with their cruel mother in London. Because Ada was born with a clubfoot, her mother has never allowed her to leave their small apartment. When Ada and Jamie hear that they are sending children to the country they seize the opportunity to run away. They are placed with Susan, a reluctant guardian. I enjoyed seeing the development of Ada’s character as she learns about the world and learns to accept the love of Susan and the good changes that have happened in her life.

deepChallenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. This book is extremely hard to describe. Seriously, just read it! It is about a young man and his struggle with mental illness. The story is told in dual narratives and can be confusing at the start, but that is also kind of the point. If you stick with it it makes a lot more sense. Challenger Deep is a powerful book that doesn’t glamorize or sugar-coat mental illness. The voice is so realistic, which I am sure is in part due to the author’s personal experience with his son going through the mental illness described in the book.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman. I didn’t read as much nonfiction this year, but this was a book club pi12609ck and I am so glad it gave me a reason to read it. Sometimes when there is a book club book I’m not excited about, I’ll start reading fully intending never to finish the book. (I know, I’m terrible. But there are too many good books out there!) With this book, I was sucked in right away and knew it would be one to read to the very end. The nonfiction writing was just that good. And I learned, so, so much. I highly recommend this fascinating book.