How to rock an entire elementary school

A few weeks ago, I picked up a distress call from a co-worker. An elementary school in my community had asked her to present Summer Reading to each grade, but then needed to reschedule, leaving her unable to cover the new date. I told her I would do it and together, we tried to piece together clues on what the school librarian could have meant by “present to each grade.” She’d given us a block schedule, showing 40 minutes for each grade level, but what would that look like? Would I be in the library with an activity, ready to talk while they browsed? Would I be going to each classroom and giving a brief chat in each? I finally got some clarity a day before the event, when the school librarian returned a frantic and confused phone call. “Uh, so, it’s the day before the event and I’m still not sure exactly what’s expected of me…help????”

Turned out, I was meant to present for 40 minutes to an entire grade level, seated and prepared to be amused.

I was going to present a 40 minute SOMETHING 6 times back to back.

Final Exams According To "Parks And Recreation"


So, naturally, I banged my head on the desk and went to my supply closet/office and stared into the shelving, hoping that an idea would come to me.

My inner pep talk went something like this:

“Okay. One of two things is going to happen. You’re either going to be the winningest librarian that ever lived tomorrow, or you’re going to fail miserably. If you’re a hit, your summer reading stats should be amazing. If you fail, so what? You’ve failed before and you’ll fail again and you always learn the most from blowing it. Either way, you’re going to Coldstone on the way home and ingesting an outrageous amount of calories. I’m talking UNGODLY calories.”

Then I made some plans. K-2? Walk in the park. I picked some popular picture books and planned a storytime that could be done a cappella.


Here’s what I wound up with for K-2:

Talk briefly about summer reading–the goals, the prizes, the programs

If You’re Ready for a Story song

Pete the Cat: Rocking in my School Shoes

When Cows Wake Up song

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late

Bananas Unite dance

Open, Shut Them (fast, faster, super sonic speed)

Splish, Splash, Splat

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (fast, slow, fast)

(After Kindergarten came through, we figured out we needed another book. I dashed into the library and grabbed Pirates Love Underpants, then we added a round of Simon Says to lengthen the presentation.)


Grades 3-5 were much harder. I decided to focus on booktalks, read-alouds, and games.

Here’s 3-5:

Grade 3: 

Talk about SRP
BOB (Battle of the Books)
Booktalk Nancy Clancy, Zeke Meeks, and 13 Story Treehouse
Read aloud from 13 Story Treehouse
Simon Says
Half-Minute Horrors
story cubes
Grade 4: 
Talk SRP 
Booktalk Bobby vs. the Girls, Floors, The Classroom
Read aloud from 13 Story Treehouse
Simon Says
Read aloud from Half-Minute Horrors
story cubes 
Grade 5: 
Talk SRP 
Booktalk Among the Hidden, Floors, and The Book of Elsewhere
Read aloud from 13 Story Treehouse
Simon Says
Read aloud from Half-Minute Horrors
story cubes
If you’re wondering what the story cubes activity is, here’s the skinny. It’s a game where you roll a series of dice with symbols and combine them to make a story for the pictures.
While I was staring into the storage shelving, I saw the game and realized that I have a giant inflatable die. I taped clipart symbols to each side of that giant die and tossed it into different parts of the crowd to make an interactive story-building activity. The kids LOVED this. I was so worried that they would fight over the die, but they did great. To control the chaos, I controlled the narrative. They would show me what was on top of the die when they caught it, and I would make up the next segment of the story from that. If I got stuck, I’d ask what should happen and they’d raise their hands to help me out. There was some shouting, but it was under control.

I’m kind of proud for pulling that out of the air. 😉

The day of was exhausting. If there was a word that could describe the feeling of imminent death and the serious case of lock jaw that ensued, I’d use it. Speech-doom? Introverts’ peril? Here’s what I appreciated about the experience, though. I got to learn all about the struggles of a local school librarian and I think that connection was invaluable. It made me so much more confident in my ability to handle…just about anything libraryland can throw at me. (I mean, for librarians, this kind of event is the gauntlet. And I did it!) It also proved to my team that I can be trusted with big things and provided a model for having a huge impact with little concerns for staffing and branch coverage. I requested to have a partner if I was ever sent back for an event like this, but even sending two people to cover an entire elementary school is conservative for outreach, I think.
What I didn’t like as much? It’s been almost two weeks and I’ve only seen about 10 kids from the elementary school come in to sign up. Now, they could easily be going to other branches or just waiting for school to end. I can’t lie, though. I was expecting droves.
PS, 13 Story Treehouse is the PERFECT book to read aloud to a crowd because it can be done storytime-style with the book facing the kids and showing them all the great illustrations. Every kid I’ve seen from this school has asked for it.

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