Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reading Under the Stars

This is a fun program idea that was inspired by a family literacy night that was held at Lake Park Elementary School in Addison, IL where I volunteer on occasion. This would make a great all ages family-friendly event or could be a fun program for a smaller targeted group!

Title: Reading Under the Stars! or Camp Read-A-Lot

Age: Children in grades K-5 and their families or this could be a program targeted towards a specific age range like children in grade K-3. I would recommend this program require registration due to the craft and outside bear hunt. Smaller groups are good for the outside bear hunt. 

Objective: Children will listen to some campfire tales while enjoying some s'mores, go on a bear hunt outside, and then complete a craft. Craft will be binoculars made out of toilet paper rolls. If you want, you can tell some more eerie tales (like stories from Alvin Schart’z book, In a Dark Dark Room) and have the program during for the week of Halloween!

Set up: Dim the lights and project an image of stars onto the ceiling using a projector and a laptop. If a projector isn’t available, use white Christmas lights behind a black see-through cloth and attach it to the wall. Set up the room to look like a campground – have chairs, maybe a tent, and pretend campfires made with paper towels and tissue paper.

 Lake Park Elementary School in Addison, IL projected an image of stars onto the ceiling for their "Camp Read-a-Lot" themed early literacy event!


  1. For mini campfires: paper towel rolls, red/orange/yellow tissue paper to make flames, and Christmas lights. What’s a camp out without a fire? Kathy over at Home Sweet Homebody has directions on making these cute mini campfires. Click here for directions. Looking for a full size blaze? Allie from No Time for Flashcards has easy to follow directions!
  2. Projector and laptop to project stars onto the wall (Basically projecting an HD quality image of space onto the wall, see image above) OR you can use a black semi-sheer cloth and hang Christmas lights behind it to make the room look starry.
  3. Binoculars craft items, instructions from All Kids Network
    • 2 toilet paper rolls
    • Construction paper
    • Glue
    • Scotch tape
    • Scissors
    • Stickers, crayons, etc.
    • Optional - yarn
  4. Portable PA system (if you have one) OR just a portable boombox to play sound effects
  5. CD or iPod with sound effects - Sound effects that coincide with the book We're Going on a Bear Hunt can be downloaded online (there are many websites where you can download free sound effects, like soundbible.com for example). Youtube also has some sound effects.
  6. Books: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, Camping Spree with Mr. Mcgee by Chris Van Dusen , and Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt.
  7. You can also sing the Sleeping Bag Chant song by Carole Peterson! Youth Services Librarian, Kelly, talks about how you can even turn that song into a flannel board, here.
  8. Optional ingredients for s'mores: graham crackers (Try to have gluten-free available as an option for patrons who may have an allergy), chocolate (I recommend dairy free chocolate in case of allergies. "Enjoy Life" is a great brand. They use rice milk), and marshmallows (I recommend gelatin-free "Dandies" marshmallows. I live in an area with a large Indian population and many patrons are vegetarian so for me, it's always good to be on the safe side and avoid food products with animal ingredients).
  9. Book cart with nonfiction books centered around camping, bears, owls, nature crafts, and campfire tales


  1. First children and families will create s'mores to eat while they enjoy the stories

  2. Next, the children will listen to the short storytime lasting around 15 to 20 minutes (Read 1st book, read flannel board story, read 2nd book, and end with the "Sleeping Bag Chant".)

  3. Afterwards, children will go outside for a Bear Hunt. This is going to a really fun and interactive storytelling experience that will take place on the perimeter of the library. Play sound effects for each scene in the book, like the sound of walking through slushy mud (Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch!), sounds of going through the river (Splash splosh! Splash splosh!), etc. The sound effects REALLY enhance the story! have children also repeat each phrase said in the book after you've said it, like “We’re not scared!”

    Early Literacy Tip: Encourage the children to take an active part in the book readings. They enjoy saying the words, just as if they were reading it. Be excited about the story even when you're reading it for the umpteenth time. Reading aloud involves much more than saying words and turning pages. When you show excitement about the pictures, story, setting, and characters, you will excite the children too. 


  4. After the storytelling event, children will go back inside and create binoculars (to be used to watch for bears, of course!)
  5. Encourage patrons to check out books from the cart that are centered around the camping theme! 

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