Magic Tree House Music Collaboration

School Age


Two years ago, on the first day of my job as a librarian, I met four of my local media specialists at a Battle of the Books practice event. One in particular was very eager to work with me. She, too, had just started a new job at an elementary school and confided in me that she could use all the help she could get. Her school system had shifted her there from a middle school and those teens were really everything to her. As our relationship grew, I also learned that on her first day, she came in to find a destroyed library. Over the winter break and during the transition period between media specialists, a flood put the entire media center under two feet of water. She lost hundreds of books.

I started building up our partnership, first by listening to what she struggled with and then providing resources to help. She needed more books, so I came to her with every suitable donated book and every weeded title that was still in good shape and interesting. She also needed help in connecting to her youngest kids, so I came in to do storytimes with kindergarten and first grade. Over time, it became a beneficial thing for me, as well. I have a standing invitation to come to staff meetings and parent nights, and I’ve provided training on using our digital resources to staff and students.

This year, the school became interested in pushing our partnership further. The principal and media specialist pulled me aside to discuss coming up with a project that they may be able to present at our state’s school library conference. They saw it as a way to set an example for the other schools in our state. We thought briefly on what we could do specifically for second graders to help them engage with this year’s grade level read, A Good Night for Ghosts from the Magic Tree House series. At first, we didn’t come up with much, so we decided to stew on it.

I had a very busy fall so my stewing went on for a few months before I came up with something very spectacular and sparkly to me. The Magic Tree House books take place in countries all over the world and during lots of periods of history so there are a hundred different directions you could go. The first thing that came to mind was history, but that’s not so sparkly to second graders. You need something else to jazz it up. The second thing that came to mind was cultural foods, but that would be a disaster when you’re talking 80 kids. The third thing was music.

Duh! Music! The main character in A Good Night for Ghosts is Louis Armstrong (or Dipper in the book). It was there for me the whole time.

I pitched my idea to the school administration first. “Hey guys, what if I brought in live performers to play music from the time periods and countries featured in three of the books? We’ll do jazz first to go with your grade level read, then African drumming, and then Irish music.” They fell all over themselves for it.

So I started sourcing performers. The most trusted place in town was a music factory that puts on lots of live events and also mentors youth. They also loved the idea, but when they provided me with the costs, I got very worried. It was much more than I’d hoped. I asked my director if there was anything we could do and she immediately responded that she’d cover it. Hooray for administrative support!

We all coordinated our schedules, settled on some dates, and then we divided our parts. I would do a little dramatic reading from the book first, their media specialist would talk about the history of New Orleans and introduce jazz, and then the performer would speak more on the history of jazz and play some songs for us.

We did our first in the series last week and it was perfect! The kids were so interested in the book afterward and couldn’t wait to get their own copy. Each of them will receive one from the school system to keep in the coming weeks. It couldn’t have worked out any better.




I’ll be back with more on this series after our African drumming program.


Did this post help you? It took around 2 hours of my personal time to share with you. If you would like to send me a dollar for my time, I would not be opposed. 


Community Building: More Than Programs for Teens


Community Building


My adventures in building up teen participation in my small-town library have been long and arduous. Honestly, I’ve never succeeded in having steady attendance for programs. I’ve attempted basically everything in the book and am having some success with partnering with schools (more on that ahead), but lately, I’ve given myself some permission to shift my focus.

Instead of focusing so heavily on getting more participation in programs, I focus on making the library a safe and engaging space for them. While programs are important and can help attract teens, I think that building a relationship with them doesn’t have to hinge on bringing them in for events. Making sure that they feel comfortable talking to you, asking you for information, help, or books, and helping them see that the library is for them is just as important as the shiny things we can put in our newsletters.

How do you do this? Here’s a few ways.

  1. Volunteers learn more than shelving or cleaning. Our schools require teens to volunteer in their communities for between 10-80 hours, depending on the school. That means that a lot of our local teens get introduced to us through volunteering. Giving them an orientation on their first day of helping us out is a great way to tell them about the mission of the library, show them all of our spiffy resources, walk them through the YA section and chat about our favorite titles, and sign them up for a library card. Before they leave, we ask them if they learned anything or if they’d be interested in giving us some feedback on what kinds of programs they’d like. For our routine volunteers, I sometimes approach them and say, “Hey, we’d really like to do something fun for you and your friends. Is there anything that you’d want to do? Pizza and movie or games, maybe?” I’ve had the most success with that approach.
  2. Make the most of your YA section. For us, this is pretty meager because our YA section is sandwiched pretty tightly between our kids’ collection and the adult materials. There’s not much room for displays, so instead, I might face out some titles and I also flag books with little bookmarks poking out of them. Some of the bookmarks are small and just have the genre on them (horror, romance…), but others are RA bookmarks and say things like, “Like this book? Try these…” So far, adding the genre bookmarks has significantly increased the popularity of those books and I’ve noticed some teens picking up other titles listed on the RA bookmarks.
  3. Make a poster of what you’re reading. My teammate and I have a poster in front of the YA section where we add pictures of the books we’re reading. The titles we read are all over the map, but around half of mine are YA. I haven’t had anyone come ask me about this so far (it’s been up for almost two months now), but I do think it helps them be aware that we read and we like some of the same things. Hey, maybe we’re not stuffy.
  4. Talk with teens around the library. I gauge this very carefully. If teens are in a cluster, I leave them be. There’s also lots of clear signs that someone wants to be left alone. Sometimes when I’m shelving or cleaning up, though, I might find myself near a teen who is alone, browsing or doing homework, and I might ask if I can help them pick something or just say that it’s nice to see them again and introduce myself. This has a big impact. Often after I take a moment to say, “I noticed you and I’m happy you’re here,” they start saying hello when they come in and it just builds from there.
  5.  Consider being more flexible about your services for teens. The biggest example I can give for this is that I have several teens who, after working on their homework for an hour or two, will come over to me and ask if I have any snacks. Now, they know I have snacks because they’ve been around for programs or know someone who volunteered with me. Teens only do this when they trust you and consider you a type of friend, so choose wisely when you respond to special requests from teens. I do allow teens that I know well to have a snack if they help me shelve some things. Same policy goes for allowing them access to my art supplies. A handful of my teens really like to draw together after they’re done with homework, so I let them use my markers and paints.


If you do these things, chances are that you will develop some really important relationships with teens. I’ve had teens confide in me about everything from how they feel like their best friend is dissing them to abuse in their home. I think you’ll also find that if you have a good relationship with a few teens, they’ll reward you by bringing friends and/or acting as your ambassador in the library. They’ll feel pride in “their” space and speak to other teens who are being disrespectful.

I do still offer programs when I have some teens who tell me about something they’re interested in or when I just want to do something nice for the teens I see routinely. Sometimes they come to those programs and sometimes they don’t. That’s just how teens are when they know you’ll always be there for them.


Fall Passive Programs

I really like to have passive craft activities in my library and fall is my favorite season for this! Here are a couple crafts that are easy to set up as passive programs.

Sticker pumpkins!

sticker pumpkin

So you don’t want pumpkin guts all over the library or stab wounds from carving mishaps? Try this activity instead. It’s perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, but older children can get really creative, too.

Just set out some adhesive foam sheets, some pre-made parts, and ideas to get kids going. Scissors are required for optimal creativity, but you can also just create a whole lot of pre-made pieces if you’re feeling cautious.

Watercolor pumpkins!


For this, kids need to scribble all over coffee filters, spray them with a little water, pat them dry, and then glue them to a pumpkin outline. It’s easiest if you leave the pumpkin outline on a whole sheet instead of pre-cutting them, because then you can trim off the excess coffee filter that will otherwise stick out behind your outline. You can hold on to a water bottle at the desk and even help young kids squirt their creations.

These activities were big hits on Halloween, but pumpkins easily flow into November.

From Lisa Shaia at Thrive After Three

Here’s a fabulous pumpkin game! And if you’re coming up on some cold weather (I still have another month or two), try her snowman scavenger hunt, too! Her book character scavenger hunts are my favorites.

From Sturdy For Common Things

Please check out this amazing series of storywalks! Doing one inside the library just makes so much sense, and this team even created extension activities for the stories. It would be easy to do one with stories about being thankful or pumpkins in the coming months.

From Hafuboti

If I live 100 years, I will never forget DINOVEMBER! I can’t even…

Okay, world! Go try some things!


Book Parties and Why They’re Amazing

Long time, no post. Amiright?

The past few months have been a really exciting time for me!

  • First, I made it through summer reading with all my limbs still attached. Ahhh!
  • Then, I became a new joint chief for Storytime Underground. EEEEE!
  • My husband started developing his own product for athletes and I became a partial business owner. (Did you know that writing for a patent is really, really hard?)
  • I went to my first national conference: ARSL 2015 in Little Rock, AR!
  • I presented for the first time ever at NCLA!

And before all this, my wonderful friend, Lisa Shaia, asked me to make a video for her class about one-off school-age programs. You may have seen a few of my book character parties floating around the internet. I am a big fan and advocate for them. Wanna know why? Watch my video!


Thrive Thursday- 9/3

Thrive Thursday Logo

You guys, it’s September! That means kids are back in schools. Stores are stocking Halloween decorations and pumpkin EVERYTHING. We can unpack our scarves again and look forward to boots! It also means a lot of us just came off a nice, relaxing break from programming. Never fear, though. We’ve still got some great content for everybody’s favorite school-age blog hop.

Over at In Short, I’m Busy, you can find some passive programs and displays to help you ease into the school year. I know I’ll be copying a couple now that things are slowing down.

Angie shared a simple, yet powerful paperbag theater program. I love the creative play and photo opportunities! Isn’t she a genius?

Are you looking for ideas for a makerspace for kids? Miss Meg is killing it, as usual, by sharing her program.

Ms. Kelly is showing us how it’s done with a cooking program that I can really get behind. Following directions and measuring are important skills!

At Literacious, there’s a whole list of wonderful programs begging to be used on early dismissal days and teacher workdays! Libraryland thanks you, Laura!

Finally, Kendra brings it home with the second program in her Meet the Art series! What kid doesn’t want to sling paint in the library?

Thanks for sharing everyone! Now go forth and be inspired.