Drop-In Social Justice Storytime


The Union for Academic Student Employees at the University of Washington (UAW 4121) invited iYouth to participate in its January 20 Community Day of Action and Resistance. We hoped to provide a peaceful space for parents and children to explore their political voices, facilitated by stories and crafts. Although no children attended this event held in UW’s beautiful wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ / Intellectual House, we were able to have several fruitful conversations with parents about the use of books to introduce their young children to issues of inequality, race, and migration.

Having developed a template for a Drop-In Social Justice Storytime, iYouth will be able to easily replicate this program in the future.

We developed a (non-exhaustive) list of fabulous American social justice-themed picture books for children ages 2-middle school and displayed them for children and parents to peruse. We were prepared to hold impromptu one-on-one storytimes as appropriate.


We also prepared two crafts for children: a larger mural-style banner for free expression (not pictured), and intention statement Chinese-style drums. One side of the drums bore the words: “I am powerful because,” allowing children to fill-in their own statements. We hoped that this would lead to conversations about the importance of children’s voices in political, social, and family environments, as well as creating a safe space for children to voice their fears and concerns about the recent political activity in the United States.


To make the drums, decorate the “table side” of two paper plates and tape a popsicle stick to the bottom of one plate like the tail of a Q. Staple the two plates together and punch two holes through the margins of the plate. If the popsicle stick is at 6 o’clock, the holes should be at 9 and 3 o’clock. String a bead through about six inches of yarn and loop it through the hole. Tie it off and repeat on the other side. Here’s a link to a video showing a real Chinese drum in action.

Below is a list of the books which we were able to borrow from the Sno-Isle, Seattle Public, and UW Library Systems. Many thanks to Elizabeth Myers for compiling the list of titles!

Two White Rabbits Jairo Buitrago

Smoky Night Eve Bunting

Miss Rumphius Barbara Cooney

Last Stop On Market Street Matt de la Peña

Grace For President Kelly S. DiPucchio

We March Shane W. Evans

I am Jazz Jessica Herthel

A Sweet Smell of Roses Angela Johnson

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark Debbie Levy

Let’s Talk About Race Julius Lester

Frog and Toad are Friends Arnold Lobel

Brave girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 Michelle Markel

A is for Activist Innosanto Nagara

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Heather Has Two Mommies Lesléa Newman

Of Thee I Sing Barack Obama

A Family is a Family is a Family Sarah O’Leary

Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down Andrea Davis Pinkney

And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson Pam Munoz Ryan

Rad American Women Kate Schatz

Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters Laurie Thompson

Separate is Never Equal Duncan Tonatiuh

Yoko Rosemary Wells

Yoko’s Paper Cranes Rosemary Wells

Yoko Writes Her Name Rosemary Wells

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Jonah Winter

Ellie Newell is a first-year ambassador to iYouth and an MLIS candidate. 

Youth Librarian Insights: Happy Hour Recap

Welcome to Winter Quarter!

For some us, this is our last year. For others, there is at least one more ahead of us. No matter if you are just starting the MLIS program or you are finishing, it’s important to know as much about the field as possible.

What’s a better way to learn about the field than by eating cheesy fries alongside practicing Librarians?

Thank you so much to Dawn Rutherford and Kristin Piepho for coming out to talk to us about the job process, what it’s like in the field, and what we can do to better prepare ourselves.

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Here are some takeaways from some of us who attended the event:

Continue reading “Youth Librarian Insights: Happy Hour Recap”

Tails & Tales: How to build a therapy animal reading program

Welcome to December, folks! Let’s close out fall quarter with some puppies.

Jobie reads one of her favorite books
Jobie reads one of her favorite books

Reading with a therapy animal can help reluctant readers, disabled readers, new language learners, and anxious readers gain confidence and develop a love of reading. Animals have no judgement, speak every language, and possess the patience to sit through the 10,000th rendition of Eastman’s Go Dog Go. I’ve seen kids initially dragged into the library by their parents barely notice their halting slog through Frog and Toad (Lobel) transform into confident sailing through Dragon Masters (West) as they bond with their therapy animal. Here are my tips for setting up a therapy animal reading program at your library.

Develop a relationship with your local therapy animal organization. I’ve worked with Intermountain Therapy Animals’ READing Paws, one of many organizations that provide the training, certification or registration, and insurance for the hundreds of volunteer handlers and animals who work in schools, hospitals, and libraries. Training requirements vary between organizations, so look for an organization with clearly defined proficiency requirements for both animals and their handlers. Check with your library’s director or legal team and work out a liability agreement between the library and the therapy animal organization. Most of these organizations carry liability insurance for the animals on its registry. Your library may require all volunteers who work with children to undergo a background check. It’s common practice to have parents and caregivers sign a waiver before their child reads with a therapy animal.

Promotional handout for the Douglas County Public Library's READing Paws program, created by DCPL staff
Promotional handout for the Douglas County Public Library’s READing Paws program featuring Tony, the World’s Cutest Pit Bull, created by DCPL staff

Create a schedule that works for your community. If you have a large number of homeschool families, go ahead and schedule that Tuesday mid-morning slot. Traditional schoolchildren may do best swinging by the library after school or on Saturday mornings. The lesson here is know your patrons. Once you do establish a schedule, stick to it. Families need time to add a new program to their schedules, and like any literacy program, consistent practice is key. This may mean seeing if your handler volunteers are available to substitute for each other should a schedule conflict pop up.

Respect and love your volunteer handlers. Therapy animal handlers undergo expensive and time-consuming training alongside their animal partners to learn how to support young readers. Most animals need to be bathed, brushed, and have their nails trimmed and teeth brushed before working in a library. All the time handlers spend coordinating with library staff and their fellow volunteers is also unpaid, and all of this happens before even a single child snuggles up to their poodle with a copy of Hop on Pop (Seuss). As with all relationships you have with library volunteers, be respectful of their time and talents, and express your gratitude for the gift they give your patrons. Accommodate the needs of their critters, too, perhaps by providing a water dish and built-in potty breaks. Check in frequently with your handlers to see how they feel the program is running, and adjust as necessary.

Tony, Trace, and Jobie: Good Dogs
Tony, Trace, and Jobie: Good Dogs

Market the heck out of your program. In addition to your library’s usual barrage of press releases, posters, and event calendars, ask your local elementary schools if you can include flyers in their weekly PeeChee folder take home. Work with your school librarians to identify readers who may benefit from reading with an animal. If your community has an English as a Second Language (ESL) program, talk to those folks. Give a five-minute shout out at an immigrant or refugee community organization program. Get creative, and remember: cute pictures of puppies basically sell themselves.

Develop a day-of coordination plan. Work with your handlers to develop how the program should work for your patrons. One model is first come, first serve, with readers signing up at the reference, circulation, or children’s service desk as they arrive. This model allows readers to browse, read, and play until their turn. Other libraries invite readers to sign-up for a time slot ahead of time. Most therapy animal sessions last about 15 minutes, a good length of time for squirmy kiddos and animals alike. Handlers may have preferences, but most programs ask that parents and caregivers give their kids space and privacy to read. It can be helpful to have a staff member or library volunteer monitoring the sign-in sheet to keep the readers to their allotted time, ensuring that all interested readers get a chance to read with an animal.

Promotional bookmark
Promotional bookmark: read with a dog eight times to earn a free book!
Handlers use paw print stamps to mark a reader’s attendance

Support your readers. Therapy animal reading programs are meant for kids who may have anxieties surrounding reading and libraries and have not yet fallen in love with reading. Greet these readers as they come into your library and make the sign-in process easy for them. Provide readers’ advisory to help them find engaging books at their reading level. Make these children feel like they help these animals by reading with them. The reading area itself should be semi-private so that kids don’t have an audience besides the animal and her handler. Most kids like to lounge on a blanket or beanbag chair, snuggled up close to the therapy animal. Kids will often smoke through a single book and have leftover time in their session. Allow them to pick a second story by stashing a basket of books in the reading area in a variety of reading levels and languages for these patrons, perhaps on an animal theme.

Now go forth and develop your own therapy animal reading programs!


Ellie Newell is an MLIS Candidate at the University of Washington’s iSchool and an iYouth first year ambassador. She is grateful to Terry Cuyler and all the other fantastic READing Paws handlers and to their beautiful, wise, and precious doggies: Jobie, Trace, Tony, Nemo, and Grizzly. Many thanks also to the wonderful staff at the Douglas County Public Library in Minden and Zephyr Cove, NV.

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Resource: AAP’s Family Media Use Planner

Hello, all!  In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new set of guidelines for children’s media use.  Along with these recommendations, the AAP also launched a Family Media Plan tool on their Healthy Children website.  This planner is designed to help parents and caregivers talk with their children about how to use technology in responsible, creative, and age-appropriate ways.  It’s also a great resource for librarians to share with their patrons and incorporate into their practice.

AAP Family Media Use Planner

Available in Spanish and English, the planner prompts families to identify screen-free zones within the home as well as screen-free times and device curfews for each child under the age of eighteen.  In addition to providing a platform for families to discuss the more cut and dry elements of their tech usage, like internet safety and etiquette, the Family Media Use Planner also uses prompts to facilitate a dialogue about media mindfulness.

The AAP encourages parents and caregivers to have discussions with their children about how to balance screen time with other favorite activities, how to make informed decisions about media consumption, and how to be a good digital citizen.  By opening up a dialogue with kids about their use of media, parents and caregivers (and librarians!) can help them to make more informed choices and engage in critical self-reflection.  Children who actively learn how to be thoughtful about the way they participate in our media culture practice the skills and awareness they need to develop into mindful adults.  

If you have children in your family or work with kids in any capacity, consider taking some time to familiarize yourself with the AAP’s media guidelines.  You may find that the long holiday weekend is the perfect time to use the Family Media Plan to set achievable goals and intentions for your family or the children you serve.

Looking for more resources?  Here are a few suggestions…

  • For Librarians
    • Consider adding resources like Tumblebooks (animated/talking ebooks) or Beanstack (customized reader’s advisory) to your library’s digital offerings.
    • Get inspired by the STEM and mindfulness themes other librarians are using in their programming and brainstorm your own ideas.
    • Incorporate Media Mentorship into your work with children and families.

This blog post was written by Elizabeth Myers.  She is a first-year residential MLIS student interested in youth librarianship and issues of information access.

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What American Youth Librarians can Learn from the Danish Library System: Fun as a First Priority

Happy November, readers! Although summer is now just a glittering memory for most of us as fall settles in, I remain excited and inspired by the experiences I had while visiting Copenhagen, Denmark in late August and September.

Our travel group!

One of the most exciting and important portions of the trip was a visit to the city of Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark and the home of Dokk1, the most innovative and unique library I have had the fortune to visit. Dokk1 (pronounced DOC-EN if you’re Danish, or DOC-ONE if you’re American – it means “the Dock” because of the building’s location on the harbor) perfectly represents the Danish value of fun and “hyyge” – coziness. The library, completed in 2015, was built to be the living room of the city, and they accomplish this particularly well with respect to their children’s collections and spaces.


Dokk1 at night on the harbor.

The children’s area in Dokk1 is imaginative, fun, spirited, and completely different from every American library I’ve visited. The area has dress-up clothes (not just in children’s sizes either!), climbing gyms, and video games. The library was relatively quiet when I visited, but the tour guide assured us that it can get quite loud, and they actually encourage that! The library is surrounded on all sides by a globally inspired playground, with different areas representing various countries of the world: a bear slide stands for Russia while a climbable eagle points toward the USA.



The bear of Russia, surrounded by happy Danes!


The space in Dokk1 works hard to be there for all the members of the Aarhus community, and they fully include children in that ideology. Children feel, from the cradle into adolescence, that they are accepted and welcomed into community spaces.  This is in contrast to what can often feel like repressive, quiet spaces in American public libraries.

So what can we learn as future children’s librarians – we may not have the benefit of working in Dokk1 or a similarly family- or children-friendly facility, but I believe that we can all incorporate the welcoming spirit, openness, and creative use of community space that Dokk1 has made so central to their mission. If we can take even just a small piece of that Danish ability to welcome noise and chaos into our otherwise orderly library lives, I think we can create a whole new generation of library-loving kids.