Getting a Clue Over at the ALSC Blog

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be awarded my first grant, the ALSC/BWI Summer Reading Program Grant.  Today I’m over at the ALSC Blog, talking about some of the amazing mystery-themed programs we were able to do at my library this summer due to receiving this grant!  (This also just so happens to be my first post on the ALSC Blog as a guest contributor!)

Program: Spy Camp!

When I heard that our Summer Reading Theme would be “Get a Clue at the Library,” I knew that I had to include a Spy Camp program for the kids!  I spent a lot of time on Pinterest, finding ideas of what I could do…then I narrowed it all down to five stations:

Station #1:  Laser Field Station

We have a moveable wall in our program room.  Usually we just use it to hang posters and the like but, for this program, I pushed it close to a wall to create a narrow tunnel of sorts.  Then I taped a combination of red streamers and red yarn between the two walls to create a laser field.  This station was incredibly popular with the kids!  Many of them went through it then immediately ran to the back of the line to go through it again!  There were a few incidences where a child bumped into one of the yarn pieces enough to make it fall down, but my coworker just told the kids to tape it back up and continue on.  No harm done.

Station #2:  Diffuse the Bomb Station
This station involved playing hot potato with a prop I made out of a Styrofoam ball that I painted black, a white pipe cleaner and flame-colored tissue paper.  I downloaded the Pink Panther Theme from iTunes to use in the game.  For the most part, the children were good sports when they ended up holding the bomb when the music stopped.  However, there were quite a few incidences where two children where holding the bomb when the music stopped and we had to do a do over.

Station #3:  Mystery Drink Station
At this station, the kids got to sample two different sodas, and they had to try to guess which sodas they were sampling.  We decided to use soda for this station because we had a lot of Coke and Dr. Pepper left over from a program we did back in May.  However, I think Kool-Aid would have been cool to use too.  Once the kids made their guesses, we had them peek at the answers under the red paper on the table.  Also, we learned that it’s best to remove the caps, cap rims and labels completely from the bottles.

Station #4:  Decoding Station
For this station, I made a simple I SPY game for the younger kids and a secret coded message for the older kids.  The younger kids had to find certain mystery characters that were hidden around the room.  The older kids had to crack the code.  Both were able to claim their prize (little baggies full of candy) when they finished.

Station #5:  Disguise Station
This one wasn’t so much a station as it was a place for them to pick up a take-home craft.  Originally I planned to have them make the craft — paper plate masks — there, but decided against it to save time and space.  I still liked the idea of having a disguise station, so I put the materials in gallon sized bags and made it a take-home craft.

How it Went:

I could not have asked for a better program!  We had 114 attendees, and everything went smoothly.  I had one coworker at each station (except the take-home craft station), plus a greeter.  Children and parents both seemed to really enjoy all the stations, and for the rest of the week, I had patrons come up to me in the library to thank me for spy camp (and, in some cases, ask me when we’ll do it again!).

Celebrity Storytime

My library doesn’t believe in storytime breaks, nor do we do registration for storytime.  Storytime is presented in some shape or form every week of the year, and it’s available to every child who wishes to attend.

During our annual Summer Reading Program, our storytime numbers skyrocket from ~25 children to ~100 children!  The age range of the children also increases.  During the school year, the storytime crowd typically consists of 3 to 5-year-olds with the occasional toddler thrown in.  During the summer, the age range goes from babies all the way up to 8 or 9 years.

A massive amount of children who range in age from the very young to the early elementary level can be tricky for one person to handle.  Add in a children’s librarian who loves storytime but has been planning and presenting storytime every week for the past ten months, and things get even trickier.  This could lead to a massive Summer Reading disaster, but it doesn’t.

How do we keep things under control?  Two words:  Celebrity Storytime.

Celebrity Storytime is an old tradition at my library.  It started back before I even considered becoming a librarian, and it has continued, without fail, ever since.  Celebrity Storytime is exactly what it sounds:  we invite local celebrities (such as police officers, firemen, doctors, dentists, TV newscasters, etc.) to come into the library to read a few books to the children.  With another person reading the stories to the children, I am free to do crowd control and to make sure things don’t get out hand with 100+ people in the room (today we had 120 – most of them children).

It’s not a complete break from storytime for me.  I’m the one who schedules the Celebrity Storytime readers (I start asking around in February).  I also select the books.  However, I give up the themes during the summer, and I instead pick storytime favorites and books that work well.  I try to throw in books that deal with the Celebrity Storytime reader’s occupation; however, I do not make the storytime exclusively about that occupation.  For example, last week we had a police officer come in.  She read Officer Buckle and Gloria, but she also read Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Little Mouse’s Big Secret, and The Sunflower Sword.

Like all things, Celebrity storytime has both pros and cons.


  • It gives the children’s librarian a break from storytime without actually stopping storytime
  • It allows us to keep storytime open to any child who wishes to attend
  • It brings community leaders into the library and promotes outreach
  • It allows us to have someone devoted to crowd control during storytime without pulling another employee off of the desk


  • While most of our celebrity readers have been excellent, we do get the occasional few who are unsure of how to read to children
  • We keep the storytime strictly limited to books, which means no flannelboards or puppet shows or songs
  • Scheduling conflicts occur every year, which means I’m scrambling to find a replacement or switch at the last minute

While I admit that I miss presenting storytime during the summer, it does leave me refreshed and excited to start planning and presenting storytime again when Summer Reading ends.

P.S.  This summer we also have some wonderful sign language interpreters coming in to sign during storytime for the hearing impaired children of the community.