Title: Show Me a Story: Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling
Author: Emily K. Neubuger
Publisher: Storey Publishing
We love to get kids writing and using their imaginations, but it can be a challenge to find ideas that don’t make library programs feel like homework. Show Me a Story has 40 activities to help make that happen.
The book is well organized and especially well suited to browsing. The projects are divided into an introduction and four sections: Story Starters, Story Evolution, Story Activities, and Story Play. The activities themselves each include recommended age, time to completion, number of participants, and a materials list.
Each project includes step-by-step instructions to make the project, directions on using the project with young storytellers, teaching tips, and ideas to expand the activities. The photographs are large, attractive, and instructive when necessary.
Nearly all of the 40 projects would work for libraries. Some of them would make great programs, while others are best done ahead and offered as activity centers. A few of my favorites:
- Story Disks: Small wooden disks decorated with pictures to inspire stories.
- Beginning, Middle, and End: A random story generator that encourages children to think about story structure.
- Story Mat: A fun and portable backdrop for telling stories with other objects or small toys from around the house (or the dollar store).
- Story City: Model buildings for children to build their own city and tell stories of what happens there.
I will be adding this book to my personal resource collection and I highly recommend it’s purchase for libraries.
Welcome to my new weekly feature: Writing Program Wednesdays. Every week I’ll be sharing a different idea to encourage writing. Some weeks will feature teen ideas, some weeks school-age, and some preschool.
Great First Lines
This week’s idea works great as a meeting for a regularly meeting writing club, but is fun for a standalone program too. This can work for middle grade readers and up.
1. Gather a collection of great first lines from books appropriate for your audience.
2. Share the first lines with the group and talk about what makes them great. Do they build suspense? Introduce a character? Set a mood? Establish a setting?
3. Have the group go and look for books they love with great first lines. Give them five or ten minutes and then share and discuss these with the group.
4. Give the group a set amount of time to come up with as many first lines for original stories as possible.
5. Share and discuss the results and have group members identify first lines they would like to turn into longer stories.
Big board games are nothing new for library programs, many of us have played RoseMary’s Live Clue or seen Abby’s CandyLand. I’ve been collecting some other ideas and I hope they inspire you like they inspire me!
There are a ton of tutorials for giant Jenga on the web. This one seems pretty easy to follow.
If you have someone with real DIY skills they can make you a giant Kerplunk game with directions from This Old House.
Photo: Room 5 Films
You could easily make your own sticks for a game of Giant Pick-Up Sticks
This youth ministry blog has a rather ambitious but amazing life-size Hungry Hungry Hungry Hippos game. This might work for large systems that will get multiple uses out of the equipment.
How about life-size Pac Man. Even better as part of an 80′s party!
One family made a giant Bananagrams game. Read the comments for tips on making your own. Half-sheets of poster board would work for a quick one.
Last week YALSA announced the list of Teens’ Top Ten nominations for this year. That got me thinking about how these kind of lists are really helpful to librarians. If you are not familiar with it Teens’ Top Ten is a really neat program that lets groups of teens around the country get books before they are released and vote on their favorites. The nominations are then put up for an online vote with winners announced for Teen Read Week. It’s a great example of youth participation and you can learn more about it here http://www.ala.org/yalsa/teenstopten.
No teen librarian worth their duct tape is going to stop reading professional reviews and ordering a diverse collection because they see what avid outspoken (and largely white and female) readers put on the list.
The value of the list to us is something a little different. Teens’ Top Ten is basically telling us what authors/books/series have a fandom, and that’s another another way for us to connect with teen readers. If John Green and Cassandra Clare’s fans can connect online to vote in an poll don’t you think at least a few of them in your community can be connected via the library?
Okay, so what now?
At the very least spend a little time online learning the basics so you can talk to teens about the titles. What do fans call themselves? What are the big ships? What are the big events for fans like cover reveals, new releases, movie announcements?
Reach Out With Social Media
Follow the authors and some of the bigger fan sites if they exist. Retweet or Reblog things of interest to fans with your library media accounts as appropriate. Post your events in the right places and you might even reach fans who aren’t already library users.
Talk about having a built in audience for a program. Here are just a few ideas:
- General fan meet-up
- Trivia Contest
- Fanart Contest
- Fanfiction Writing Group
- Cosplay Event
- Theme Party/Release Party
- Movie Marathon
- Book Discussion
- Tshirt or Button Making
- Fandom specific crafts (Try Pinterest!)
- Fandom related Summer Reading Prizes
- Watch fanmixes, parodies, and other related YouTube videos
These popular series can serve as benchmarks for reader’s advisory since they are so widely read. That means even if you don’t have time to read all of them, or your copies are never available, you should still familiarize yourself with the appeal factors. Lists and displays of similar titles are a great way to promote lesser known titles in your collection.
Why stop there? Once you are familiar with the book or series you can do character based reading lists as well. What would Hazel read? How about Prince Kai? What kind of books would Tris like?
Disclaimer: I no longer represent CPL in any capacity, and anything on this blog has always been my own opinion anyhow.
I worked at my last library for nine years and we were constantly trying to improve our Winter Reading Club. Usually it was very similar to summer in that children and teens would read a certain amount of books for a prize or a chance at a prize. Often we were able to offer admission to the Cleveland Zoo on a designated library day. For a few years we had classrooms across the city competing for a special prize in pursuit of a city-wide reading goal.
The program I’m most proud of being on the team for was our Cover to Cover: Reading, Writing, and the Art of the Book Winter Reading Club in 2010. Cover to Cover focused on the work of three authors with Ohio connections whose work we knew appealed to our patrons. The PS-3rd grade readers focused on Denise Fleming, the 4th-6th graders were encouraged to read Feathers by Jacqeline Woodson, and the teens read The First Part Last by Angela Johnson.
Thanks to a generous grant from Target we were able to buy hundreds of copies of both Feathers and The First Part Last to host book discussions of those titles across the city. Programs encouraging children to design a new cover for Feathers, or design a cover or write a “deleted scene” from The First Part Last gave patrons the chance to win a copy of the book to keep and have their work displayed at our Finale Party at the Morgan Paper Conservatory. Die-cuts in the shape of Ohio with the phrase “I Read an Ohio Author” and space for the readers’ name were provided for display in the branches.
Storytimes and class visits for younger students featured books by Denise Fleming who made multiple school and branch visits throughout the final week of the program and appeared at the finale. I would highly recommend her if you’re looking for an author to visit your library.
Why was this my favorite version of Winter Reading?
- We emphasized quality materials and literacy building activities over the quantity of books read.
- There were no prizes other than books for the cover designs and a shared experience for families at the finale where everyone was welcome.
- Programs and reading took place via the library not the school so not only were students visiting the library but it didn’t increase the workload for hardworking classroom teachers.
- It lasted only the month of January. Previous programs had run December – March, often with the finale in April. It was really hard to keep patron (and staff) enthusiasm going that long.
- Because of the Target grant we were able to provide supplies for the programs including new makers, crayons, and other art supplies that could be used by the branches after the program itself was over. Acquiring supplies was often a complicated and costly process when you are talking about 28 branches, Main Youth Services, and Mobile Services.