Mentor Me! Assistance for Young Readers in the Library


Mentor Me

Before arriving in Chattanooga I polled several local parent Facebook groups and asked what program or services they wished their public library provided. The dominate response was “free tutoring”, specifically for beginning readers, Or, a program to help their child learn how to read. It was also a common response after I started working and casually polled parents. Since University of Tennessee – Chattanooga (UTC) is only several blocks away from the downtown library branch, I decided to create a program where future teachers working towards their undergraduate or graduate degree in education and a teaching license could receive volunteer hours for assisting beginning readers and writers. One day a week, kids ages 5 & up could come in and seek assistance with either a book or assignment they were working on in class, or choose from books in the library to read aloud from with their mentor. Sessions were 30 minutes, and covered a two hour time period after school hours. Mentor Me! was designed to be a walk-in program so that every minute was being utilized and no-shows wouldn’t be an issue.  Young patrons could gain the helping hand and confidence they needed for zero cost, and the student teachers would gain valuable in-the-field work experience. Win-win!

Mentor Me library program

Before the program started, I called elementary schools near the library and emailed a PDF of the flyer. I dropped off a stack of flyers at several nearby schools, too. I posted the program on the Facebook groups too which I had originally reached out. I talked with teachers who visit the library. Everyone was very enthusiastic about it! I was nervous I was going to have way more kids than mentors, but a funny thing happened… Hardly anyone showed. Week after week there were 2-3 regulars and a handful of kids that were there already doing homework and took advantage of the program and that’s it. When evaluating a programs worth, it isn’t about the number of attendees, but I was surprised at the turnout after receiving so many remarks about this public need. The UTC student teachers were terrific and would often engage the kids regardless if they didn’t have scheduled mentoring sessions.

The 10-week episode of Mentor Me! in the library has ended and I’m left to my thoughts. Why would a program that was championed by so many caregivers and educators have such little turnout?

Do you offer tutoring or some type of academic assistance program in your library? What is your experience with this type of program and how does it work?

I would be interested to recieve and appreciate any feedback you have!




Flashlight Review + Activity


Ahh… Lizi Boyd. You’re a wordless picture book illustrating wizard. You’ve done it again.

I fell hard for Lizi Boyd’s Inside Outside, and the love affair continues with her latest, Flashlight. A child spends an evening exploring the yard shining a flashlight and revealing surprises the nighttime darkness hides. In the same style as Inside Outside, little peek-a-book cutouts are sprinkled throughout the pages. Hello whimsey!


flashlight lizi boyd





Back in August when I received this book, I immediately took it to the library to share with the kids for Spontaneous Storytime. Lately, I’ve been creating little extension activities for books I’ve been reading for Spontaneous Storytime and Flashlight presented the perfect opportunity do so. I found images of the animals depicted in the book, printed them out, and pasted them around the storytime room. I also made a tibetan flag using colored copy paper and yarn.




For Spontaneous Storytime throughout that week, small groups of 1-5 children were each given a flashlight, and we read Flashlight in the dim room with the flashlights. They loved shining their flashlights on the book so I could “read”. I explained that this was a book that didn’t have words which means we get to make up the story as we go. The storytimers loved this idea. Some contributed to the story and some took a listening role. After reading, we went on a flashlight hunt where we were sitting to see what animals we might find with our flashlights just like the child in the story. 




If you have kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews this is also a fun activity to do on a rainy or snowy day inside. You don’t even have to print out animals! What can you spy in the dark? How does it look different with a flashlight? Or if it’s a nice day, explore the outdoors with a flashlight… What can you see? How does it look different than day time? What animals do you see? Flashlight is a wonderful way to spark investigation and imagination!


More flahslight activities for kids:

3 creative flashlight activities via My Kids Adventures

These flashlight games for kids via Kids Activity Blog


More storytime ideas:

Night and Day Storytime via Storytime Kate

Flashlights in Story Time via Seattle Science Story Times

Shadow Storytime via So Tomorrow

Glow in the Dark Storytime via NYPL

Nocturnal Animals  via Fun with Friends at Storytime


Source of book reviewed: The fabulous folks at Chronicle Books.



The Beedle Society

Beedle Society

Ever since reading A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, I’ve been inspired by the mysterious “Beedle” character to create a club or secret society of kids that perform random acts of kindness. It isn’t a program or an event. It’s a small effort to encourage positive vibrations, giving without reward, a connection with one another, and the simple act of making someone smile. Thus, The Beedle Society was born!

The Beedle Society

Shhh… Can you keep a secret???

The Beedle Society is inspired by a secret do-gooder named “the Beedle” from the book A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd (a Chattanooga local!). The Beedle performs random acts of kindness around his/her town and no one seems to know who it is! It’s a mystery!

We would like to inspire a society of young do-gooders here at the Chattanooga Public Library. When you visit the 2nd Floor, say “Beedle” to the librarian and they will give you a BEEDLE SOCIETY TOP SECRET MISSION. If we all do one random act of kindness, we can change the world! 

The above proclamation is printed on little slips of paper that can be found around kids’ area in the library and at the service desk. I’ve taken to recruiting members with kid-friendly guerrilla marketing by slipping these slips in the books on display or leaving them in play areas.



Also, I made a couple badges that can be worn around by staff members to encourage conversations about The Beedle Society with kids and adults. Like any good (not-so-secret) society, you have to scout out good candidates and hope they spread the word to others! If a kid seems interested, I whisper-ask if they would like to be a part of a secret club? And if the answer is “Yes” I pretend scold them for answering so loudly and slip them a BEEDLE SOCIETY TOP SECRET MISSION.

Top Secret Missions

A few library teen volunteers and a community service helper created a variety of colorful, anonymous envelopes out of magazines and colored paper. Inside these envelopes are BEEDLE SOCIETY TOP SECRET MISSIONS. So far, there are only 6, but I plan on adding more and more as time goes on….


Beedle Mission 1

Beedle Mission 2

Beedle Society Mission



The envelopes are discretely numbered on the outside for kids who may or may not want to do the same mission twice. The Beedle Society has been up and running for a week and so far the response has been good. The day before Thanksgiving, I was busy giving missions to kids and a grandmother remarked that that they (her twin 7-year-old grandchildren and the other children in the library at the time) are at the perfect age to fully embrace an air of mystery as well as the weight of their actions. I absolutely agree!

Beedle Society Sightings

Evidence of Beedle Society members at work are already popping up around the library:




Remains of a Beedle chalk drawing outside the library after a couple days of rain.

Remains of a Beedle chalk drawing outside the library after a couple days of rain.


If anything, my hope is that this will be an exercise of how one small action can make an impression in someone’s life, big or small.  Human kindness in itself is absolute magic.




Farm Stand Storytime: Thanks & Giving

thankful leaves craft

Friday was the last Farm Stand Storytime of the season and also the last day the farm stand was open before shutting down for the winter. There was a request to do a Thanksgiving storytime, which I decided to shift to a storytime about gratitude instead of the expected turkeys and pilgrim routine. In the past, I’ve performed Thanksgiving storytimes mindfully, but the truth is we don’t celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving in my own home. It’s a holiday I’m not especially fond of that I feel deserves to be looked at critically when discussing with children (perspective on that HERE).


The theme for this storytime was “Thanks & Giving” (borrowed title from Mel’s Desk, because Mel is wonderfully wonderful and am so thankful for her early literacy brain). It was a chilly morning (low 40’s), but luckily Crabtree Farm’s new education facility was open and I sat next to a warm stove throughout the storytime. Afterwards, we made “thankful leaves” for our post-storytime extension activity. It was a good November-y time! Here’s the rundown:

Thanks & Giving Storytime

First, I welcomed everyone and we opened with the rhyme I’ve been using for each Farm Stand Storytime session:

I wiggle my fingers
I wiggle my toes
I wiggle my shoulders
I wiggle my nose
I give my hands a clap
I put them in my lap.

wondering box

Wondering Box: Then I asked the audience if we should look inside the wondering box to see what we were going to be talking about during stortyime. I did my regular routine of peeking inside and then closing the box shut a few times and then opening for all to see. This month it was a picture of my family. I showed the audience and then looked at the picture and said: “It’s a picture of my family. My family makes me feel happy. I am thankful for my family and the way they make me feel inside and out.”

What is “gratitude”? I held up a sign with the word gratitude I said the word and then sounded it out running my finger under the letters.  We discussed how “gratitude” means to “be thankful, feel thankful, to show thankfulness”.  A person can be thankful for a lot of things… Their family, the farm that grows food, food that gives us energy to grow big and strong, or stories that prod us to think and use our imaginations. You can feel gratitude for many things and there are many ways to show it as well. The songs and stories shared today are about feeling gratitude and showing gratitude.

Thanks to the Animals

Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin, illustrated by Rebekah Raye

I started with a beautiful story by a Passamaquoddy storyteller about a family that is migrating for the winter, an accident, and how the forest animals come to the rescue. While traveling inland for the winter, Baby Zoo Sap falls off the sled while his family is sleeping. After hearing the baby’s cry of distress, one by one the animals of the woods come keep him warm and safe. It is a story that represents “an offering of thanks to the animals that sustained the Passamoquoddy people through the generations”. I love this beautiful book and thought it would pair nicely with a flannel board prop, so I printed pictures of all the animals, drew baby Zoo Sap to the best of my ability (and am pretty proud of how he turned out!), laminated them, and stuck magnets to the back. They worked perfectly with my husband’s old white board!

thanks for the animals prop


thanks for the animals flannel board

I started with a blank white board and when Zoo Sap falls off the sled in the story, I placed him on the board. After reading each page, I added the animals mentioned on that page. The kids really enjoyed seeing photographs of real animals illustrated in the book! After reading we transitioned into a song about being thankful.


“If You’re Thankful and You Know It”
Adaption of traditional song to the tune” “If You’re Happy and You Know It” as seen on ALSC Blog

If you’re thankful and you know it,
clap your hands.
If you’re thankful and you know it,
clap your hands.
If you’re thankful and you know it,
Then your face will surely show it,
If you’re thankful and you know it,
clap your hands.

Continue using these verses:

..Stomp your feet
….Shout “I am!”
……..Do all three! (clap, clap, stomp, stomp, “I am!”)


Bear Says Thanks

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

Bear Says Thanks is a celebration of giving, friendship, being thankful, and showing gratitude by saying, “THANKS”. After reading this story I asked the kids turn to their neighbor whether it be a parent, or sibling, or friend and tell them “THANKS for being my ________” or “Thank you” for anything they felt thankful about that particular person.


“The More We Get Together”
Adaptation of traditional song.

The more we get together,
Together, together,
The more we get together,
The happier we’ll be.
Cause your friends
Are my friends,
And my friends,
Are your friends.
The more we get together,
The happier we’ll be.

The more we read together
Together, together,
The more we read together,
The happier we’ll be.
Cause caring is sharing,
And sharing is caring.
The more we read together,
The happier we’ll be.

I’m not sure where this adaptation came from, but I learned it from the librarians I worked with at Lawrence Public Library. And the idea to use this song for storytime came from Mel’s Desk as well as the next book and song.


day by day

Day by Day by Susan Gal

I love this story and was reminded about it reading this list of picture books about gratitude. And it was perfect for Farm Stand Storytime, because it talked about food harvested (a former Farm Stand Storytime theme), being thankful for friends and family, for the days gone by, the change of seasons, and transitions.


thanks a lot flannel

“Thanks a Lot”
by Raffi

The very last song of storytime was a flannel board that came from Mel’s Desk (Mel has all the ideas! I know!!). I made it the night before using this template provided on her blog. I also had families sit close and hug and sway if they liked. I sang and placed the flannel pieces up as the song played (lyrics can be found HERE). It was a sweet, quiet ending to storytime.

After “Thanks a Lot”,  I asked the children what they were thankful for. I said I was thankful for them and how special each one of them are, for sharing stories together, and for the time we have had together on the farm that morning. There is so much to be thankful for. I then invited them to write what they were thankful for on a leaf and decorate the leaf to be hung from the farm stand.


Thankful Leaves

thankful leaves project for kids

Using collected fall leaves, these metallic markers my daughter is a huge fan of, and gel markers, the kids decorated leaves and wrote what they were thankful for on the back of them. It’s a simple craft inspired by this projectan old recycled storytime project of mine, and the “Leaf Poem and Memories” project from a new favorite book, Make It Wild!:101 Things to Make and Do Outdoors by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield. I dumped a bag of leaves I collected the day before on the table along with several sets of markers and the kids went to work. Once they were done, they gave me their leaf that I attached to fishing line and hung from the farm stand.





thankful leaves craft

thankful leaf



thankful leaves 1


farm stand storytime thanks and giving

The leaves were adorned with names of friends and family members as well as “family”,  “mommy”, “daddy”, “my cats”, “nature”, and “storytime” were the the few of the thankful messages. By the time the leaves were all hung, the storytimers had left, the farm was quiet, and the thankful leaves danced around on the breeze and sunbeams.  It was a happy ending. I’m grateful for this collaboration with Crabtree Farms, for the storytime kids, and for all the librarians, educators, and kid lit lovers near and far who share their smarty ideas and wisdom. Thank you!



Pages to Projects: Weaving a Tale

Weaving a Tale

kids nature weaving

Nature Weaving for Kids

I invite you to head on over to Library as Incubator Project for the latest Pages to Projects post, “Weaving a Tale”. This month, Thanks for the Animals, a picture book about gratitude and migration is the inspiration for a nature weaving extension activity. This weekend, I’ll post a flannel board I haven’t quite finished yet to go along with this beautiful picture book!

Pages to Projects: Weaving a Tale 

Also, be sure to check out the Pages to Projects pinboard for storytime book recommendations and projects!



Trick-or-Read: A Halloween Storywalk Exhibit

trick or read

For a fun twist to trick-or-treating, the Wednesday before Halloween my coworkers and I created an interactive storywalk experience inside the library using five favorite Halloween tales. If you’re not familiar with storywalks, typically outside, they’re replicated picture books taken apart and plotted along a path for kids and their families to read. I thought it might be fun for Halloween to use this storywalk concept, in more of a gallery style walk inside the library’s Kids Room with FIVE Halloween favorites:

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Mystery Vine by Cathryn Falwell

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman, illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Little Goblins Ten by Pamela Jane, illustrated by Jane Manning.

These books were replicated and hung around the room for patrons to walk and read through, while also enjoying a variety of extension activities related to the books.


trick or read library Halloween storywalk

The opening storywalk reveal, “Trick-or-Read”, was a 3-hour drop-in evening program and the kids were encouraged to dress up in their costumes— And they did! They could read the stories with their families and after they were finished, come up to me, say “trick-or-read”, and receive a free book! The books given away were leftover books from various events or past summer reading programs. Macmillan Kids was awesome to send along library card holders with the artwork of Kazuno Kohara (Midnight Library, Ghosts in the House!) as an extra treat for kids.

midnight library cardholder

The exhibit stayed up after the event was over for library patrons to enjoy, which were counted in passive programming stats. It was a busy week, so I tried to snap pictures when I could the night before and immediately prior to the event start. Hopefully, you’ll get the idea. Here it is mapped out:

 The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

Little Old Lady


Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything library

Little old lady storywalk

Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

This story started with a door with the book cover on it (trick or treat!) and either starts with an activity or ends with one. This book ended with putting together the scarecrow in the book on a flannel board and doing the actions from the story. If you are interested in recreating this activity, I found this handy template via Toddler Approved.


Mystery Vine

Mystery Vine storywalk

mystery vine storywalk activity



I paired actual pictures of the various life cycle stages of a pumpkin with the illustrations in this book.


Ghosts in the House!

Ghosts in the House

Ghosts in the House activity

Ghosts in the HOuse extension activity

ghosts in the house storywalk


This storwalk started with making a little ghosty friend out of a coffee filter at a little self-serve station to take with while reading the story. Easy ghost craft credit via Blog Me Mom.


Big Pumpkin

Big Pumpkin

big pumpkin activity act out

big pumpkin storywalk

The activity for Big Pumpkin was an act out — Kids could choose what character to be using these fun costumes my co-worker, Emmy, made from this sequencing activity featured on Fun-a-Day.


Little Goblins Ten

little goblins ten storywalk

little goblins ten activity song

little goblins ten counting activity

Little Goblins Ten had a couple activities: Singing the tune “Over in the Meadow” to the text in the story and/or counting the Halloween creatures on each page.

Since there was interest in how this program was set up, I’ve outlined a short checklist of main items done in preparation. Nothing was purchased  for this event– Everything used was in our supply closet, but a bit of prep work was required.

  • Ask publishers for permission to photocopy. I was told you probably don’t have to do this because the copies are not being distributed and because of the nature of the event, but I went ahead and asked anyway, because having permission is the nice and legal thing to do.
  • Photocopy interiors of the books chosen, trim,  and mount to colorful construction paper or poster board using double stick tape. This took the majority of the prep time.
  • Create extension activities for each book.
  • Decorate as needed.
  • Host an opening event for families to view.
  • Maintain storywalk as needed. Keep posted for all to enjoy as long as you desire!

And that’s pretty much it! A lot of kids that visit the library walk or take the bus from the west side projects, and the goal was to create a unique, safe Halloween experience for everyone in the library. Plus, it promotes reading together! I had a couple families arrive who quickly realized that it wasn’t your everyday trick-or-treating experience, but instead of turning around and leaving participated in the storywalk and activities with their kids. 

trick or read 3

trick or read 1

trick or read 4


trick or read 2


This idea was intended for Halloween, but it could absolutely be used with any favorite story, holiday, season, or theme in the library! The patrons enjoyed it so much, that we’re already started talking about possibly doing something for the winter season that would stay up for several weeks at a time with one or two books. If you decide to do something like this in your library, let me know! I’d love hear about it!


** A big thanks to HarperCollins Children’s Books, Macmillan Kids, and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for permission to use these books!



Farm Stand Storytime: Pumpkins & Compost

pumpkin and compost storytime

Last Friday was the second installment of a new storytime series in collaboration with Crabtree Farms, highlighting stories, songs, and activities about the local food system and great outdoors. (You can read about the first one HERE.) Being the October month, it’s a given that pumpkins are a must. Crabtree Farms doesn’t grow pumpkins, BUT their big annual Pumpkin Smash the day after Halloween is fun alternative to recycling Jack-o-Lanterns. So, the theme for this month’s Farm Stand Storytime was “Pumpkins & Compost”.

Pumpkin & Compost Storytime

After welcoming the crowd to Farm Stand Storytime, we started with the same opening fingerplay rhyme from last month:

I wiggle my fingers,
I wiggle my toes.
I wriggle my shoulders,
I wiggle my nose.
I give my hands a clap,
I put them in my lap.

Wondering Box pumpkin

The Wondering Box: Then I brought out the Wondering Box. The box was as closed as it could be (my pie pumpkin was too big) and asked the kids, “I wonder what is in the Wondering Box? Shall we look inside?”. They all yelled back that we should! I faced the box towards me, peak inside and shut it. I do this again. And then I looked surprised, opened it all the way, and turn it around for all to see. As I do this, (and they all yell “pumpkin!”) I explain to the audience that it is a pumpkin and that today we are going to be sharing stories and learning about the life cycle of pumpkins as well as composting, which we will talk about later in the storytime. First, PUMPKINS!


Mystery Vine by Cathryn Falwell

First I read Mystery Vine, my absolute favorite book about pumpkins for all ages. It’s just the right amount of information about the life cycle of a pumpkin without being too long for the younger kids. It’s also a mystery and who doesn’t love a mystery?! At my old library, we had a prop for this book my former coworkers, Jenny and Linda, made (see HERE) based off of the author’s creation (see HERE), but since I’m at a new library I decided to make my own. It was a few late nights in the making when the kids were in bed, but was 110% worth it. As I read the book, every time there is mention of the vine growing, I pull a little of the vine out of the pot until it’s time to reveal what the vine is growing: pumpkins! I make a big deal, put down the book, and pull out the pumpkins. The kids love watching the vine grow before their eyes and they all gasped when the pumpkins came out.

mystery vine 1


msteryvine 3

mystery vine 4

I was a little nervous to attempt making this prop, because I can barely sew a button but it did the job. I made my Mystery Vine using green cording, flannel, thread, pipe cleaners, and lots of hot glue. The dirt is hot glued to a plastic pot that I purchased on clearance. The leaves were cut from various pumpkin leaf templates I found online and I made the pumpkins using this method stuffed with plastic bags. There is also a piece of velcro on the bottom interior that the vine can attach to. The pumpkins were both stiched and hot glued and everything else was hand-sewn onto the vine. Credit props to my husband for helping me cut the leaves, my mom, who was visiting for the weekend, for helping sew, and Cathryn Falwell for sending helpful hints and suggestions on how to make it!

Next we said the pumpkin chant which was written by my dear friend Jane Johnston and is delightfully fun! You say this chant/action rhyme to the rhythm of  PAT PAT, CLAP CLAP, PAT PAT so that it sounds like this: Pumpkin (pat pat), Pumpkin (clap clap), Pumpkin (pat pat) bread (action- hold hands flat in front)…..  

Pumpkin Chant
By Jane Willis Johnston

Pumpkin, pumpkin,
Pumpkin bread!
(Hold hands flat in front, palms up, on lying on top of the other)

Pumpkin, pumpkin,
Pumpkin head!
(Put hands on head)

Pumpkin, pumpkin,
Pumpkin pie!
(Hold hands in a big circle)

Pumpkin, pumpkin,
Pumpkin eye!
(Curve hands around eyes)

Pumpkin, pumpkin,
Pumpkin cake!
(Hold Hands flat, one palm up, one palm down five inches above the other)

Pumpkin, pumpkin,
Pumpkin shake!
(Hold fists up close to years and shake hard)

Pumpkin, pumpkin,
Pumpkin stew!
(Pretend to stir stew)

Pumpkin, pumpkin,
Pumpkin BOO!


  Pick a Circle, Gather Squares

Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, illustrated by Susan Swan This is a wonderful book about looking closely at one’s surroundings. One October day, two siblings notice shapes all around during their day on the farm. Below is a flannel board I made to use while reading this book. Every time a shape was mentioned in the story I would point to a shape on the flannel board and ask the crowd if that was the shape mentioned.  I always pointed to the wrong shape at first to make it a game.

pick a circle gather a square

The kids had a good ol’ time helping me pair the shapes in the story to the flannel shapes. When I finished reading I made a point to tell kids and their grownups that finding shapes is a game you can play on the farm, in a park, or at home. Shapes are everywhere!


pumpkin compost cards

What is “Compost”?: Next, I asked the kids again what shape a pumpkin is, if they have ever seen what happens to a Jack-o-Lantern that wasn’t thrown away in the trash, and then I showed them pictures of a decomposing pumpkin (photo credit: Gifts of Curiosity). The first picture I showed was a picture of a 1-week old Jack-o-Lantern and I asked them if the pumpkin looked like a circle to them. Then, I showed them the picture of a 2-week old Jack-o-Lantern and we made the observation that the top had fallen in and the insides were not orange anymore. I showed them the a picture of a 3-week old pumpkin and we talked about how it looks “squiggly” and “shrinking”. I explained that decomposition means the pumpkin is decaying, rotting into the ground. Last, I showed the picture of the same Jack-o-Lantern after 4 weeks. The pumpkin is almost flat! Then I told the audience that decomposing Jack-o-Lanterns are great items to use for composting. Composting is a cheap, effective and environmentally friendly method of producing compost from all different types of materials to create a fertilizer to help plants grow!


  compost stew book

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals, illustrated by Washley Wolff The last book we read is Compost Stew, a wonderful introduction to composting and all the items that can be used to make compost. Asked the kids to get out their imaginary pots, because they are going to help make compost stew! I had a real pot (that contained fresh items for compost inside… Shhhh) and pretended along with the kids everytime an item was mentioned in the book, throwing that item in the pot.

compost stew

Once we arrived to the end of the book, we stirred our pot (they pretended, I actually stirred with a wooden spoon), moistened with a watering can (pretend again), and then at the last line, “…Now open the pot and what have you got?” We all yelled “COMPOST STEW” and I showed them the real compost in my pot.

I told the kids they would have the chance to make compost stew after one last song and asked everyone to stand up. Since stortime was in a nice, grassy, open area we ended with a pumpkin version of “Ring Around the Rosie”. I placed the pumpkin from the Wondering Box in the middle and we all gathered around it, holding hands, singing:

Ring Around the Pumpkin 
via Everything Preschool

Ring around the Pumpkin,
Pocket full of nuts,
Leaves, leaves,
They all fall down.

We did this a couple times with these alternate actions:
..March …..
Tip-toe (whisper while tip-toeing)

Composting Activity


After ringing around the pumpkin a few times, we all walked over the Crabtree Farm’s compost piles for our post-storytime activity: composting aka making compost stew! Anna, the farm’s programs assistant talked a little about how they compost and then the kids tossed buckets of organic matter into the composting pile. Because smelly things, worms, and throwing things are superb ingredients for kid fun… 

That’s a wrap for the latest installment of the Farm Stand Storytime series.  If you have any Thanksgiving/being thankful/November season book suggestions, please let me know. Feast for 10 is a must, but am looking for some new material for the next Farm Stand Storytime.  It will be the last one until spring!




Farm Stand Storytime

Farm Stand Storytime

Farm Stand Storytime is a new outreach program created by myself and Anna Chill of Crabtree Farms as an outlet for children to foster a healthy curiosity of the natural world around them, as well as their place in the local food system. Back in August, I took my girls to Crabtree Farms to admire their sunflowers and found myself immediately attracted to the farm. It had the same intoxicating effect on my children. We were high on fresh air and blue skies for days.  Seeing all the joy that walking around the property brought to my family, I wanted to share that same experience with other families. Thus, Farm Stand Storytime was born with the inaugural storytime taking place last week. So far it is a monthly program scheduled for September, October, and November with themes dependent upon the crops and seasons. September’s theme was “Fall & Harvest” and it couldn’t have taken place on a more perfect day just after the autumnal equinox.

Farm Stand Storytime at Crabtree

Even with an extremely large population of homeschooled children in Chattanooga, the age of kids who attended was much younger than I had expected. I’m thankful I brought a variety of books and had to be flexible with my songs and activities.  I have a feeling I’m going to have to prepare for a wide age range each time until a regular following is established.

Here is the outline for the first Farm Stand Storytime “Fall & Harvest”:

Fall & Harvest Storytime

Welcome: Anna from Crabtree welcomed everyone and talked a little bit about the farm, the events, and how everyone is welcome to use it as a public park. After, I jumped in and introduced myself, welcomed everyone again and thanked them for joining us on such a beautiful day. I explained that after storytime kids will have the option to do an activity, run and play on the farm, or both, and then went into this “Wiggle My Fingers” rhyme, but modified it a bit to this:

I wiggle my fingers,
I wiggle my toes.
I wriggle my shoulders,
I wiggle my nose.
I give my hands a clap,
I put them in my lap.

The Wondering Box: Then I asked the kids if we should take a look inside “the wondering box” to see what we will be learning about that day. The wondering box is a prop I created inspired by the show Tumble Leaf and is my new favorite way to kick things off for a storytime. I first face the box towards me, look inside, and then close it very quickly to build intrigue. I do this a couple times and then open slowly open it and turn it to the group..

wondering storytime box

I talked about how inside the wondering box were seasonal vegetables freshly harvested from the farm, and how fall is a very important time of the year because it is a time when farms are gathering all the foods like these up before winter. We also talked about how Tuesday was the first day of fall, and that for storytime we’re going to talk a little bit about the fall season, growing food, and harvest.


Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley

As suggested by Anne Clark (So Tomorrow) and Cate Levinson (Storytiming), I read a fun fall favorite, Fall is Not Easy. I also made sure to create a flannel board to go along with it. I stared by asking the kids if they notice changes about the fall season and the leaves on the trees and that this is a rather silly book about one tree that has a difficult time with its leaves changing colors.

I read the book without using the flannel until the part in the story when the leaves change colors. I set the book down and kept putting up the different leaf scenes asking the kids if that was how fall is suppose to look. “Noooooooo!” they would say They laughed and laughed! By the time the (SPOILER) leaves begin to fall off, I picked the book up and started at that part and read from the book until the end. It was a hit. Thanks for the suggestion, Anne & Cate!


The Leaves on the Trees Are Falling Down By Irmagard Guertges, modified by Rebecca Z Dunn

(To the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”)

The leaves of the trees are orange and red
orange and red, orange and red.
The leaves of the trees are orange and red
All through the town.

The leaves on the trees are falling down,
falling down, falling down.
The leaves of the trees are falling down,
All through the town.

The leaves on the ground go swish, swish, swish
Swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish
The leaves on the ground go swish, swish, swish
All through the town.

What is “Harvest”? – After singing a song I held up a sign I made with the word “HARVEST” on it. I asked the the kids if they could say the letters in this word with me and then I said the word a couple times. The first time I slowly moved my finger over the word, and then went a little faster subsequent times. Then I explained that harvest is a process or period of time when crops, like the ones seen on the farm we were at, are gathered. That fall is a very important time for harvesting before the cold winter months come.


Growing Vegetable Soup

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert

Originally I was going to read How Groundhog’s Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry, but the crowd was younger, so I opted for this story instead about the growing, harvesting, and eating of vegetables. Not as in-depth as I would have preferred, but it did the job. As I read, I invited the kids pretend to do the activities that were being described in the book (plant seeds, pick vegetables, etc.).  After the book was finished we sang a few more songs/fingerplays about harvest:


Harvest Time by Unknown

(Sung to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”)

Harvest time is here again
In the garden we must dig
Carrots, radishes, onions too
All so fresh and yummy too.
Harvest time is here again
Won’t be long till you know when!! (Guess upcoming fall holidays)


Lunch Fingerplay By Jane Willis Johnston

Rabbits eat carrots with a crunch, crunch, crunch.
(Hold your hands on your head and make floppy rabbit ears, then make your hands into fists and hold one on top of the other in front of your mouth to make a carrot to crunch.)

Monkeys eat bananas by the bunch, bunch, bunch.
(Hold your fists over your ears too make monkey ears, then flop your hands, fingers down, in front of your mouth to make banana bunches.)

Raccoons eat sweet corn with a munch, munch, munch.
(Hold your hands like glasses over your eyes to make the raccoon’s mask, then shape your hands in a long ear of corn in front of your mouth and move it from left to right.)

And I eat ______________________ for my lunch, lunch, lunch!
(Point to yourself, then call out the name of a food you like to eat, hold your hands up to your mouth and pretend to eat your lunch!)

Rah, Rah, Radishes!

Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre

This was also a suggestion by the wonderful Cate from Storytiming and was so much fun to read and really was the perfect story for the storytime theme and location.


Leaf man

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Storytime concluded with a personal favorite, which was also the segue into the post-storytime extension activity. After reading it I talked about how you never know what you might find if you look closely at the world around, especially during a time when the seasons are in transition (a fancy word for changing). I thanked everyone for coming to storytime, and shared with them the optional activity, making ephemeral art.


Ephemeral Leaf Art

Ephemeral Leaf Art

As mentioned before, I have been deeply inspired by nature and the Reggio education pedagogy over the past several months. After storytime, I invited the kids and their caregivers to create pictures inspired by natural items found around the farm. Before storytime I had gathered leaves and acorns and such from my backyard, and Anna collected items found around the farm.

nature provocation

nature provocation

I laid out old picture frames and small mirrors purchased from Dollar Tree on picnic tables not far from where the storytime was held. Piles of nature’s treasures that Anna and I found earlier were grouped around on the ground near the tables, plus the kids could use whatever else they found around them. These are some of the images they created:

Ephemeral Leaf Art 1

Leaf Art 2

ephemeral leaf art 4

fall art 5

ephemeral leaf art 3

mirror fall art

fall ephemeral leaf art 6

leaf man art 7

It was a magical time. More details about this project are available HERE on Library as Incubator Project.

What would I have done differently? I wish I had time to make this wonderful fall time flannel from Mel’s Desk, but I ran out of time. It too would have been perfect for the age group! Next time! The upcoming theme for October is composting, and I plan on featuring songs and stories about pumpkins and how to compost just in time for jack-o-lantern season! 

For fun, I thought I’d leave you all with the Butternut Squash Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe Anna distributed to our storytime group. Because COOKIES!

Crabtree Farms Butternut Squash Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups maple syrup
  • 1 cup butternut squash puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white whole wheat pastry flour/unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and maple syrup till smooth and fluffy. Add squash, puree, egg, vanilla, and mix until blended. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another bowl, add the wet ingredients and stir to combine all ingredients. It will be a soft batter. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop using small ice cream scoop (generous tablespoon) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until toothpick comes out almost clean.




Pages to Projects: Ephemeral Leaf Art

Leaf Art 2

There is a new Pages to Projects up over on Library as Incubator Project! Check out how to make seasonal Ephemeral Leaf Art inspired by Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man HERE! I’ve also been busy updated the Pages to Projects Pinboard with more ideas for fall time stories and projects too. More about the storytime that inspired this project COMING SOON.



Shared Story Provocation: Bookmaking & Kids’ Library

bookmaking station and kids' library

The Bookmaking Station and Kids’ Library are two new provocations I have created that have become a popular fixture for kids of all ages (as well as adults). This idea stemmed from my daughter’s sudden interest in creating her own books. This is one of her earlier creations that is “for kids at the library, but they have to bring it back”:

After watching the process she goes through in making her own books several times and 6 weeks into conducting the The Picture Show, I thought it might be an interesting experiment to create a space where the sole purpose is creating stories that become permeant fixtures in the library. I started collecting items I found around the library that I thought the kids would enjoy using for their bookmaking. The local history department donated all kinds of old library equipment: due date cards, card catalogue cards, envelopes, lots of stamps, a book-mending stapler, and a stamp pad. I found an old paper file and a lot of odds and ends around my own department and set up shop in the kids’ room.

bookmaking station for kids

bookmaking station

Kids' LIbrary

  The idea behind the Kids’ Library is that it would be a place to share the books made with other library patrons. It’s a non-circulating (books cannot be checked out) library entirely of books created by patrons. So far, 100% of the books have been created in-house. The images are of the library when it first opened and boy, oh boy, has the collection grown!

patrons utilizing bookmaking station   bookmaking for kids


Like The Picture Show, the Bookmaking provocation has become a place for self expression and community storytelling. Kids too young to write their stories down in text draw illustrations to depict their tale, or dictate their stories to caregivers. Those old enough to write leave story after story in books that sometimes are all text and sometimes text paired with illustrations. They thumb through other handmade books in the Kids’ Library, curious of the stories held there. The concept of shared story, whether it be physical or oral, is innate and goes back in time to the earliest social interactions. What is your story? How do we learn for one another? How do we grow from one another?

Bookmaking station

book by child

the famalie

the lucky dog book

bookmaking station and kids' library provocation

The bookmaking station has reminded me a great deal of Lois Ehlert’s picture book autobiography, Scraps. She describes a time during her childhood when she had a space to grow creatively:

scraps by lois elhert

It doesn’t take much, but we all need space to grow. It is my hope that this little wooden table in the library’s children’s room serves as a safe space for their dreams and creative exploration for all who visit it.