Bright Ideas | February 2022

Mindfulness Storytimes | Healing Library Kits | Virtual Field Trips at Orange County Library

Five Steps to Successful Mindfulness Storytimes

"Be Mindful" graphicIf you’re looking to introduce elements of mindfulness into your children’s programming, mindfulness storytimes are a great place to start!

Last spring, I offered a six-part virtual mindfulness storytime through the DC Public Library as a project of my mentorship within ALSC. Through this program, we introduced hundreds of students to concepts of mindfulness, great books, and breathing exercises! 

Here are five steps to ensuring that you have a successful mindfulness storytime, regardless of your amount of experience with yoga, meditation, or even storytime!

1. Know Your Reason. Why are you bringing mindfulness into the library? Are you trying to connect with a different audience or to introduce an existing audience to new concepts? Do you practice mindfulness? 

Knowing the reasoning behind your decision to have a mindfulness storytime can inform the choices you make about structuring your storytime, and will inform the books, songs, rhymes, and movements you use within those storytimes. 

For example, I wanted to offer a new concept to familiar audiences, so I incorporated familiar welcome rituals and kept a similar length for my program. 

2. Pick Your Audience. Mindfulness can be useful at any age but having a target audience in mind will inform your programming decisions. As we all know, older kids can sit for longer books, while younger kids might be more active during storytime. School-aged kids will also have a more robust vocabulary for talking about mindfulness than toddlers. 

Once you have your audience in mind, you’ll use that to decide the content of your storytimes, their length, and the time of day you offer them. 

Because my mindfulness storytimes were geared towards school-aged students, we held them virtually at 4 p.m.—right after school. This also informed the language I used around my programming—offering it as a respite after a long day of school, a chance to reconnect with the body, et cetera. 

3. Select the Right Book. The hardest part of storytime is finding the perfect book: one that is big enough to read, whose illustrations engage the reader, that thematically reaches the target audience, and that serves your goals. Mindfulness storytimes are no different. There are a lot of picture books these days about yoga and meditation, and even mindfulness explicitly, but don’t feel pigeonholed by this vocabulary. 

Not every book for these storytimes needs to explicitly use the word mindfulness to be a good fit. These books—like Yoga Bunny and Meditate with Me—are great ways to introduce concepts, but you don’t have to only choose those titles. For one of my storytimes, I used Carmela Full of Wishes, and talked about the ways Carmela paid attention to her environment, and how that represented an element of mindfulness. Books about gratitude and nature also lend themselves well to mindfulness storytimes. 

4. Incorporate Breath & Movement. The key, for me, to a mindfulness storytime, is incorporating breath and movement. Each of my mindfulness storytimes featured a breathing exercise and a yoga pose that I demonstrated. This took the place of a traditional transition song during storytime. Not every yoga pose or breathing exercise will connect with every person, so providing a different one each week gave everyone a chance to find something they enjoyed. 

For kids, finger breathing and breath balls are great. On the movement side of things, you can keep things simple with a butterfly pose, or introduce upward dog or reclined pigeon for more advanced audiences. 

5. Give Real-Life Examples. A mindfulness storytime is only as good as the lessons it gives its participants. Ending each storytime with a real way to practice mindfulness is a great way to make a lasting impact on everyone.

Some examples I like to use include: 

  • Tonight, before bed, close your eyes and see what’s the furthest thing away that you can hear. Then, what’s the closest thing you can hear?
  • After you get out of the bath or shower, try doing a body scan. Lay down and imagine sending rays of light into your hands, your feet, your knees, your shoulders, even your nose. 
  • Tonight, eat dinner in silence and savor every bite of your food. What does it feel like on your tongue? What sounds can you hear? Does it taste different?

I hope you’ll bring mindfulness into your libraries--and mindfulness storytimes are a great place to start!—Aryssa Damron, DC Public Library

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Healing Library Kits – A Valuable Resource in Troubled Times

The Children’s Department at the Stratford (CT) Library offers programs for children of all ages and provides valuable services to parents, caregivers, and teachers. 

Martha Simpson holding books from kitAt the 2018 New England Library Association Conference, Children’s Librarian Tess Beck learned about The Healing Library project, piloted by librarians at the Chattanooga (TN) Public Library and the Lewiston (ME) Public Library. Recognizing its value, Martha Simpson, head of children’s services, secured administration support, community partners, and funding to create kits that would provide resources and comfort to families coping with traumatic situations. 

The initial Healing Library kits, Death of a Loved One, Death of a Pet, and Alzheimer’s Disease & Your Family, became available for circulation in January 2019. Subsequent kits cover: Cancer & Your Family, Divorce & Step-Families, and Economic Hardship

Each Healing Library kit includes 8-10 theme-based picture books, plus a binder containing a discussion guide, healing activities, acts of kindness, community resources, discussion questions to go with the books, and a bibliography of other books available at the library. The kits also have consumable craft items and stress-reducing toys that are replaced as needed. The target audience is families with young children, but adults and older children can also benefit from the materials and resources.

When COVID-19 forced the library to adapt to new safety protocols in March 2020, Martha used the Healing Library model to create an online kit specifically to help families cope with the pandemic. She found a site that features a large assortment of books in various languages, curated by Patricia Sarles from the Brooklyn and Staten Island New York City Department of Education. Patricia graciously granted Martha permission to incorporate this resource in the virtual kit.  

Coping with the Coronavirus & COVID-19 was posted to the Stratford Library website in April 2020. In June, Martha created an online version of the Death of a Loved One kit that has everything from the physical kit except for the craft materials and toys. The virtual kits were promoted throughout Stratford, the Connecticut library system, and on national library discussion lists. 

As of December 2021, the Coping with Coronavirus & COVID-19 kit had been viewed over 800 times and the Death of a Loved One kit over 300 times. Several librarians in Connecticut and other states have replicated them for their own communities. It’s ironic that a worldwide pandemic enabled far greater recognition and use of these kits than there would have been otherwise.  

Per patron requests, Martha created a new kit in November 2021: Coping with Childhood Anxiety. All three virtual kits can be accessed on the Stratford Library website.
Stratford Library gratefully acknowledges all the creators of articles, books, videos, and other content that went into developing these kits. We hope that our Healing Library kits help families to manage during this stressful time, and encourage ALSC members to adapt these resources for use in your own communities.—Martha Simpson, Head of Children’s Services, Stratford (CT) Library

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Virtual Field Trips at Orange County Library 

Two presenters in pioneer clothing holding old-fashioned itemsCalling all pioneers! To meet the unique needs of students and teachers in the 2020-21 school year, The Orange County Library System (OCLS) created virtual, educational field trips for kindergarten and first-grade students. Both field trips have a pioneer theme and align with Florida State learning standards for English Language Arts, math, and social studies. In the kindergarten experience, students learn how to compare needs versus wants and apply that knowledge in interactive activities where they must decide what items they would take in a covered wagon if they traveled the frontier in the 1800s. First-grade students learn how to compare the lives of pioneer children to their own lives today and experience how children entertained themselves before electricity and the Internet. Each event includes a library talk to help participants learn more about OCLS events and services, a pioneer-themed mini-lesson, a storytime, a fun camp song and a hands-on craft. 

Young girl watching presentation on laptop screenIn the 2020-21 school year, over 50 virtual field trips were presented, reaching over 4,000 students learning from home and in the classroom. The library tripled the number of students it has served through its Virtual Field Trip program. The virtual format also allowed for increased accessibility and inclusion of students from Title I schools. Many educators expressed their thanks with one kindergarten teacher stating, “Thank you so much for the virtual field trip! We appreciate you keeping your field trip program going during this COVID time. We look forward to seeing you again next year!” OCLS was the proud recipient of the 2021 Betty Davis Miller Youth Services Award from the Florida Library Association for the Virtual Field Trip program and is delighted to be able to impact so many students in this way.—Noraliz Orengo, Youth Program Specialist, Orange County (FL) Library System

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