Reid All About It: Eau Claire author’s latest book full of fun to spark kids’ learning

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Rob Reid
Rob Reid

At story time, even the most focused of youngsters will eventually tire of “This Little Piggy,” The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and “Five Little Monkeys.” If you’re a teacher, librarian, or parent – what then? Prolific author, librarian, educator, and rapper (more on that later) Rob Reid has the answers in his latest book, “200+ Original and Adapted Story Program Activities.” The book – Reid’s 20th overall and 13th with ALA Editions, the publishing arm of the American Library Association – is chockfull of fingerplays, poems, movement and musical activities, participation stories, and even library raps.

The book is something of a greatest-hits collection for Reid, a senior lecturer in the English Department at UW-Eau Claire. Reid’s long career includes stints at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library and the Indianhead Federated Library System as well as a parallel life as a traveling storyteller at libraries and a presenter at conferences for his peers.

“There’s just a handful of people of people writing this stuff,” he explains of the fingerplays and other activities he’s developed over the years, most of them aimed at preschool and early elementary-aged audiences. “It was finding that niche in publication that allowed me to write and publish so much.”

Reid studied English education and speech and theater education as an undergraduate before getting a master’s degree in library science. This background, combined with becoming a father of four (and now a grandfather of four), helped spark an interest in entertaining youngsters. It was the mid-1980s, and hip-hop was just hitting the mainstream. “I said in my naivete, ‘I should do a library rap,’ ” he recalls. He wrote several raps – which were updated to add current children’s book titles – and for years toured libraries as “Rappin’ Rob Reid,” complete with fedora, black jacket and jeans, and sunglasses. These days, he tests out new material on his wife, Jayne (“She’s very patient,” he says) as well as his grandkids.

While Reid’s new book is aimed at professionals such as children’s librarians and early childhood teachers, it’s accessible enough for parents and other caregivers looking for fun activities that keep kids away from screens. Some of the material in the book is new, while the rest was previously published in his earlier books and columns in Library Sparks magazine. However, because many of the children’s books recommended in Reid’s previous works are now out of print, the new book suggests newly published (2012-17) books to go along with the fingerplays, poems, and activities. For example, one musical activity is a ditty called “Mary Had a Little Cold” that is sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and is paired with the hilarious children’s book, “Bob, Not Bob!,” in which a little boy’s cold gets in the way of effective communication, with comic results.

In addition to providing squirrelly preschoolers with an opportunity to move, fingerplays and other kinds of active games help young kids develop their literacy skills and become storytellers themselves. Over his many years of conducting library programs, Reid said he learned that simply telling or reading one story after another is an easy way to lose a young audience, while alternating between stories and activities engages both their bodies and their minds.

And keeping children engaged in learning is a way that librarians can remain relevant in an era of ubiquitous on-screen entertainment. “Libraries have adapted over the years to remain relevant, and one way is through programming,” Reid says. “Free programming and live storytelling, reading, (and) musical activities are great options for families in promoting literacy to their young ones.”

Find Rob Reid’s books online at alastore.ala.org.

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