The program was a blast. 45 truck-loving toddlers and their parents congregated on the floor of a lovely large program room. While we waited for the room to fill I chatted with the children. "Who likes trucks?" was my first question. Several hands went up. "Trucks are my favorite vehicles," said one kid. "That's such a great word," I told him. "How old are you?" He was five. Others were three and a half, four and three-quarters, almost four. It was the perfect crowd for Truck Stuck. "What is this?" I asked as I held up my much-abused shoe box. "Rail-road tracks," said some, spotting the set of rails I'd drawn along the top of the box. "It's a bridge," said someone else. "It's a bridge for cars to go under train tracks," said one four year old. "We have a special word for that," I said. "Can you say 'Viaduct?'" Yes they could.
I had loaded the pages onto a powerpoint presentation and projecting them onto a big screen was a great way to share the wonderful details that Andy Robert Davies had created for the pictures. I pointed out details in the pictures while Aimee, (who works at the reference desk), clicked through the different slides of each page. I was able to ask kids what they saw, what they thought would happen next. The story was well-received.
Then I brought out my trucks. Reminding the children that these are my toys and I am sharing them, but want them back at the end of the program, I handed out all my trucks and vehicles. I had just enough trucks for every child there. Then I read the story and we acted it out, creating a long traffic jam on the row of tables set up in the front of the room. As I read the book again each child added his or her truck to the traffic jam as that vehicle was named. A few truck-loving kids had a hard time parting with their trucks and it was an experience in controlled chaos. Then I handed out the cardboard balloon cutouts and we marched around the room in a balloon parade, singing "The wheels on the truck are stuck, stuck, stuck... under the viaduct!" Lastly, while I signed books (book sales were provided by Nicola's Books) the children colored the truck page printed out from the Charlesbridge website.
Some things I learned: have a backup plan. The powerpoint I prepared at home would not work at the library, but the one I prepared on my niece's computer did work. Be prepared for any number. I was lucky to have so many kids attend, and I had just enough trucks to go around. And I had plans of how to use volunteers if even more kids had come. And I could have delivered the same energetic program to a much smaller group.
Arrive early and get familiar with the people at the library, the room, and the AV equipment you'll be using.
And most important of all, I began to get to know the kids and find out about them, their ages, the sports they play, what activities they've been doing, while letting them know a bit about me. I did not wait for the official start of the program. I kept the kids who came early entertained and engaged as we waited for the program to officially start. Getting related to your audience is the most important part of any program.