Again, this is a program I chose to offer because of the sheer popularity of the books. Perhaps you are noticing a trend! Perhaps this has helped get you started thinking about what series/characters are super popular at YOUR library that could be turned into a single day event/celebration! (that’s what I hope anyway…) So BESIDES the fact I think Elephant and Piggie are the perfect early reader series (honestly, perfect in every way!) they are enormously popular at our library and, again, are hardly ever actually on the shelves. Also one of the local elementary teacher recieved a grant to program around the series this school year, so they are ESPECIALLY in our patron’s popular imagination!
Also, just like the Ninjago party was kickstarted by thoughts from Sara, Elephant & Piggie was moved along thanks to inspiration from Abby. Abby is SO AMAZING and her blog about her library’s Elephant and Piggie event not only inspired one of my crafts (as you’ll see!) but inspired me to get around and do this event. She’s just got that kind of motivating mojo. She’s another librarian you should follow and adore!
I wanted to do this program to harness the popularity but also to have one of our single day events that was deliberately geared at a slightly younger audience. For one thing, I wanted to see how it went and how it differed. Of course we still expected a handful of 8-12 year olds – but we wanted Elephant & Piggie to be one for the youngest kids – an event celebrating a book and an author who is THEIRS. (and Mo Willems is THEIRS. All hail Mo Willems, king of the 2-7 year olds!)
Here’s how Elephant and Piggie happened.
15 Minutes of Intro & Story
With a younger crowd we didn’t really need a lot of intro: “Today we’re going to read a story about two best friends!” Again, we took benefit of focus: choose one book and program around that. I chose a personal favorite: There’s A Bird on Your Head.
Reading these books are a joy. And we approached it in a way I can’t recommend enough. Liz and I read it together, each one of us with a copy of the book, each one of us as a character. (Liz, mentioned in the Fancy Nancy post, is a substitute librarian for our library – she helps with programs when my regular staff is off or when I need extra hands. She’s also the last person who had my position! Yup, I am lucky enough to get to work with the person who had my job before me – and she’s AWE-SOME. She’s a wonderful storyteller, excellent at crowd control, always able to present and program. She’s a bad-ass, basically, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with her!)
I wore grey and was Gerald, Liz wore pink and was Piggie. The children…went…wild.
Rarely have I heard children laugh as uproariously as they did when I was running around and screaming or Liz was dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. This was such an engaging, dynamic way to read these books that are so reliant on their banter. If you can, I really encourage you to try a team-reading.
30 minutes of craft & activity
We made sure we had three stations this time, which helped, even though we found our younger crowd, not surprisingly, took longer and didn’t mind focusing on one station.
I loved Abby’s bird-on-your-head craft, but I was worried about the bowls and about our littler kids getting the paper cut out bird to stand up right in it. Instead, I modified the craft to fit on a single sheet of 11 x 17 paper. Ahead of time, we had volunteers punch holes in each page and string the yarn through. Then, using Abby’s genius idea of making the bird in question be OMG THE PIGEON we made copies of a Pigeon coloring page (page 12 of this event kit) and had those cut out too. Children colored Pigeon and then glued him to the paper. For the nest, I used a Dollar Store superstar product – natural shredded paper. The shredded paper is a great sensory experience for younger kids and there’s a TON of it. It’s easy to pull apart and glue down. We used gluesticks, of course, and I told everyone to make sure they gave it at least 20 minutes to dry … that way more actually stuck on and, best of all, it left the “tying it on a kid’s head” part all up to parents! Kids did love this activity – they loved seeing Pigeon, they loved the feel of the shredded paper and the chance to squish it down and use the gluesticks. And, yes, they loved the way it looked.
I also wanted to make some puppets because, again, these books are so great for learning about dialogue and conversation and it’s a perfect chance to encourage play and creativity. Also, we have a billion paper bags, so let’s get those things used!
While Pinterest’ing for a pattern, I found a mom who had a great Elephant & Piggie party for her kid and had made really cool templates for puppets. The only problem was she didn’t seem to have ever actually turned them into a .PDF as she said she would. So I did what children’s librarians do best. I winged it!
I saved the images on her blog and then saved them as 8.5 x 11 Word documents. I printed them out and decided the size was good enough. (Piggie’s head could have been slightly larger, but kids didn’t mind!) But they printed out in color, see. SO! Then I traced the shapes onto a white piece of paper and used THAT as a template for my student workers to run off on colored paper. I was so, so proud of this hack! And it worked really well – they were easy enough to cut and assemble and paper bag puppets are always a big hit. If you want a copy of MY template, please let me know!
Our third station was an activity but, fitting with the target age of the program, it was a little scaled down from our others. It was an egg relay! Kids had to carry plastic eggs over to buckets and drop them in. We let them work in teams, compete against each other, go at their own pace, whatever. This was really popular with all ages, from the littlest kids who went slow and steady (good for developing motor skills – I can see a lot of ways we could use modified relays in early literacy activities!) to the older ones who kept trying to go faster and faster without dropping their eggs. It was very adorable to watch, as you might imagine, and is a good reason for you to snap up tons of plastic eggs the next post Easter sale that rolls around!
15 minutes of snacks & wrap-up
You have, of course, guessed that we had our standard cookies, grapes, and lemonade as our snack! It was just as well-received as every other time. It’s a classic! :) We also had a hand-out for this time, which were coloring and activity pages from the official event kit. The children reacted as if they had been given small lumps of gold – again, these are books that encourage creativity and our crowd was itching for a chance to show theirs off. We also had all the steps you see covered in Mo Willems books and the stampede to get at them left me fearing for my bodily safety.
Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned
- Team reading is fun! Don’t be afraid to interpret a reading or a book in a new way. Give the books a chance to shine in the way that’s best for them. I wish we’d thought of this for Ninjago, for instance. This could have made the text a little less stilted. We brought Gerald and Piggie to life with this reading and that just added something special.
- Yes, a younger crowd WOULD be interested in an event like this: if we picked the right characters and if we made the activities and crafts on their skill level. Yes, a younger school age crowd of 2-7 year olds COULD start associating the library with this kind of programming and interactivity, just exactly the same as what we’re shooting for with these events geared at 8-12 year olds.
- Related to that, this was an event that required that participating children have a little more hands-on time with their grown-ups/caregivers. But we could start ADVERTISING it as such – we could have one of these events that was really targeted as a family event. That would make it something special from our other events AND it would let us build on family programming. I had a lot of chances at this program to really talk with parents about how Elephant and Piggie is great for their children’s emerging literacy skills and actually explain why AND WHAT EMERGING LITERARY SKILLS ARE.
That’s how we had our first Elephant & Piggie event. It was a big hit Total attendance was about 36 kids and 20 adults – a much different ratio as you can see. We’d definitely consider having this event again. Besides food the only real new cost we had was a few dollars on the bags of shredded paper and, really, that was just to save time and to give the kids a richer sensory experience.
Has anyone hosted an Elephant & Piggie event? Are your patrons as obsessed with these books as mine? What about a Mo Willems event? Mel hosted a great Mo Willems Day that definitely gave me lots of ideas after seeing how well THIS one went for us. Do you have any successful stand-alone, book-based programs for the 2-7 crowd? What strategies do you have for mixing those in with programs geared at older kids? Are there any questions or details about Elephant & Piggie I didn’t answer or that you want more info about? Let’s talk about it all! (Comment here or talk with me on Twitter)
On Monday I’ll wrap this series up with the long-awaited MINECRAFT IRL post. In the meantime, y’all, let me just thank you for sticking with me this week! I am so proud of myself for actually sticking to my “post every day” proposed schedule – and I could never have done it without your encouragement and interest. Special thanks to anyone who has commented, linked, or tweeted about any of my blogs this week. It really meant a lot to me since I’ve put in a lot of work on this week. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE. Thanks for reading along! Until Monday …