March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Step Up Your Storytime, Role-Playing Games 101, and a Primer on Early Learning Spaces | Professional Reading

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SLJ1504-ProfessionalBang-Jensen, Valerie & Mark Lubkowitz. Books in Bloom: Discovering the Plant Biology in Great Children’s Literature. 128p. National Gardening Association. 2014. pap. $29.95. ISBN 9780615936802. LC 2014931828.

A fine resource for libraries looking to expand their collections of biology-based books. The authors offer interesting science facts paired with educational lesson plans and activities which can be used inside and outside the classroom. Well organized with clearly defined sections and appropriate grade levels, the text provides an ideal opportunity for collaboration between librarian and classroom teacher. Further, the included list of complimentary books and standards make this an especially useful tool. VERDICT A valuable resource for classroom teachers and school librarians with great appeal for parents and public librarians as well.–Elizabeth Speer, Cisco College, TX

Baumann, Nancy L. For the Love of Reading: Guide to K-8 Reading Promotions. 182p. Teacher Ideas Press/Libraries Unlimited. 2014. Tr $45. ISBN 9781610691895; ebk. $45. ISBN 9781610691901. LC 2013025863.

In this era of increasing digital distractions, this timely and helpful how-to book provides a useful manual for starting promotional book programs at K-8 school libraries. Baumann, who teaches at the University of Missouri School of Information Science and Technology, provides detailed, step-by-step instructions for each promotional activity. Her book is split up into categories broadly based on the target age demographic, such as the “Beary Special Readers Program” for young children, and “Mock Newbery Club” or “Battle of the Books” for slightly older readers. Although specifically aimed towards school libraries, many of the programs can be adapted easily for public libraries, such as the “Book Swap” program or the “One Book One School Community Read” program. Each category provides a brief overview of the project’s purpose and goals (helpful when seeking administrative approval or professional evaluation), materials list, and most importantly, step-by-step schedules and planning, including actual handouts and samples that can be copied and used. Even if some of the program ideas aren’t completely new, Baumann’s presentation of specific lesson plans, fliers, and possible pitfalls is useful for the school librarian or public library practitioner. The only flaw would be the lack of programs for the high school level. Although the title of this book gears it towards K-8th, the book’s introduction, which emphasized the decrease in the number of teenagers reading for pleasure, seems to indicate that this book addresses, at least partially, certain programs designed for high school libraries as well. VERDICT This is an excellent resource for elementary and middle school librarians who want ideas for their day-to-day running of the library. –Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Hamilton, Matthew & Dara Hanke Schmidt. Make It Here: Inciting Creativity and Innovation in Your Library. 130p. ebook available. Teacher Ideas Press/Libraries Unlimited. 2014. Tr $45. ISBN 9781610695541. LC 2014027545.

This resource will enable librarians interested in offering maker programming or creating a maker space for adults or children to make informed decisions, convince stakeholders of the value, and create the perfect program or space for their unique community. Topics include: why maker programming is important, definitions of maker spaces, how to create the right maker space for your community, funding, staffing, planning, marketing, policies, programs, and evaluation. Some program ideas are just short descriptions while others are thorough program plans, from low tech (needle and thread) to high tech (3D printers & Arduino), with target ages ranging from children to adults. Each chapter concludes with one or two “Makerspace Profiles” which provide a glimpse of spaces and programs at libraries across the country. Varying in detail and usefulness, the profiles are nonetheless insightful. The black-and-white photos are often too dark or out of focus and the book could have used a bit more editing, but overall this is a solid resource. VERDICT The value of the information, sample publicity, grant proposals, resources, and shopping lists make this a useful guide.–Heather Acerro, Rochester Public Library, MN

Reid, Rob. Animal Shenanigans: Twenty-four Creative, Interactive Story Programs for Preschoolers. 248p. ALA Editions. 2015. pap. $50. ISBN 9780838912713. LC 2014031541.

There are many books and other resources available to lead librarians through a storytime. Many veteran librarians have ready to-go storytime plans that have worked well in the past and are always a hit. Here, Reid offers 24 themed storytimes involving; colors, transportation, prehistoric friends, water, etc. It just so happens that the recommended books feature animals. Reid offers storytelling tips that follow nearly every book annotation. These tips suggest alternating your voice to represent the different characters in the story, asking your audience to participate in a variety of ways such as calling back a certain phrase or making animals sounds, or for the reader to use facial expressions to help convey the story. What makes this offering unique is that Reid includes activities in each of his chapters. While most of these activities are movement based, also suggested are fingerplays, sound effects, and songs. Many of the songs offered are traditional storytime songs that Reid has adapted; a few are songs that Reid has written himself. The suggested storytimes are definitely geared to an older preschool audience, or even early elementary school. Most of the titles included have a more sophisticated plot and many of the songs and movement activities require children of a certain age and skill level to achieve their desired effect. Some children may know the melody of a traditional song but could find Reid’s lengthy translations daunting unless the lyrics were on display. The storytelling tips will prove may prove useful to only the most inexperienced storytellers. VERDICT For those who are veterans at leading storytime programs, these tips are redundant.–Allison Santos, Princeton Public Library, NJ

someone who is new to presenting storytimes and they may bolster confidence and give reassurance to those just starting out. Stoltz, Dorothy, Marisa Conner, & James Bradberry. The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces. 224p. ALA Editions. 2015. pap. $55. ISBN 9780838912553. LC 2014021159.

By now, most people who are involved in early childhood development know about the importance of play. Research has confirmed that play is vital for a child’s healthy growth and development. Traveling around a community, one sees more and more play areas designed specifically for very young children. However, for librarians, incorporating play areas into an existing library or, if you’re lucky enough, a renovation or new building project, is not something that comes easily. What kinds of materials should you buy? What furniture will work best? How will you designate and support the different ages and stages of a child’s life? And how, most importantly, do you design a space aligned to your specific library size, funding, and staff? These and other hefty questions are answered in this important text. It’s hard not to get a serious case of library envy as the authors highlight some wonderful “Play-and-Learn Destinations.” Librarians may even be inspired to take a road trip and visit some of the sites. The authors describe how the various libraries maintain their areas to keep it exciting and fun for the children that visit. Especially useful are the appendices that include sample floor plans, surveys, activity plans, logic models, evaluation plans, and guidelines for cleaning. VERDICT For librarians thinking about incorporating any kind of play area into the children’s library, this is an essential purchase.–Renee McGrath, Nassau Library System, Uniondale, NY

Torres-Roman, Steven A. & Cason E. Snow. Dragons in the Stacks: A Teen Librarian’s Guide to Tabletop Role-Playing. 212p. appendix. glossary. Teacher Ideas Press/Libraries Unlimited. 2014. pap. $45. ISBN 9781610692618; ebk. $45. ISBN 9781610692625. LC 2014024062.

In this professional resource for both public and school librarians, Torres-Roman and Snow give a concise, yet thorough, look at tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) and their role in library collections and programming. Starting with a gentle introduction to old school tabletop RPGs by way of their history and a rundown of the most popular titles, the authors walk librarians through the complete process of adding these games to their collection: discussing the qualities one should look for when considering what games to select, the technical aspects of cataloging them, and cementing RPGs as a bonafide resource in the library’s collection and not just a bait-and-switch diversion. Their advice on programming has been covered before, but Torres-Roman and Snow aren’t afraid to give real, practical advice about dealing with problem patrons, acknowledging the emotional environment gaming can be, and recommending no-nonsense tools on how to tame it. Appendices include a guide to current games, with an easy-to-understand ratings system that allows review of the game’s key parameters at a glance, and a list of games tagged by genre. VERDICT Librarians who have been successfully integrating role-playing games into their programs for some time won’t find much new here, but those who are just experimenting with the medium will see that as an invaluable guide, and even those seasoned pros could use it as a handy desk reference.–M. Brandon Robbins, Goldsboro H.S., NC

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.