Snakes

Aw spring in Oklahoma, what a wonderful time of year. The trees are turning green, the flowers are blooming, tornado season is in full swing and all the critters are waking up.

Which is, essentially,  why I decided that every spring I’m going to do a Snake themed storytime to educate my kids about snakes, and in particular the venomous snakes that are native to Oklahoma.

In May, when I did Snake storytime, I read two (2) fiction books: Boa’s Bad Birthday and Baby Rattlesnake. I also wanted to include a nonfiction book; sadly, I came to realize upon planning this storytime that we had NO books that covered snakes in Oklahoma.

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Sure we had some Scary Snakes and Amazing Snakes of the Midwest type books, but they mostly covered rattlers. We had an adult field guide to Oklahoma reptiles and amphibians…. but the pictures in that were to small. I couldn’t show those to a six year old and say ‘now this is copperhead, see the patterns? What do if we see a snake like this?’

No! I needed big, bold, full color pictures so these kids could get a good look at what these reptiles look like. Who knows, one day they might have to tell mommy or daddy what type of snake bit Johnny.

But, I digress. Anyway, I was sorely disappointed in our snake books to say the least. I ended up combining several different books to cover the main venomous snakes of Oklahoma: the copperhead, the water moccasin and the rattlesnake (which there are several different varieties here in Oklahoma).

I also decided to create what I called a ‘Quick Guide to Venomous Snakes of Oklahoma’; where I provided pictures and basic information about the poisonous snakes of our state.  I gave this quick guide out to all the families who came to my storytime so they could take it home and have it on hand. I got all my information from Oksnakes.org

My library caters to a very rural community; it was definitely a good thing to have. Half the adults who came into storytime with their children couldn’t tell a copperhead apart from a garter snake.

I also had a show-and-tell where I brought in the snake head keychain my husband’s friend made him. The story goes that while on a job in Texas, my husband came out of his van and nearly stepped on this rattlesnake that was curled up under the stairs. They had to close this site down for 2-3 hours every afternoon just to clear the rattlers off the pad so the guys could go back to work. Anyway, this snake sadly did not survive the encounter. One of my husband’s coworkers skinned it, dried out the skin and actually cooked up the meat right there on site. The head was saved and, being as this guy apparently was also a taxidermist, he stuffed the head and turned it into a keychain for my son.

How much of that is true, its hard to say. But it certainly makes a good story. And the kids LOVED touching and exploring what a ‘real’ snake felt like. Many were amazed that the scales weren’t slimy; and they were full of questions about snakes…. it was almost pointless to even attempt to read any of the picture books, because all the kids wanted to do was to talk about REAL snakes.

For the ‘game’ portion of my storytime, I had a Match the Snake game. The main point of this storytime was to familiarize the children with Oklahoma’s venomous snakes. So I put on the board a picture of a copperhead, a water moccasin and a rattlesnake. Then I passed out a bunch of different pictures of these three snakes, everything from babies to juveniles to adults. And the kids had to bring their snake up and put it under the correct picture.

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*You can also see an example of my Kaa craft and the key chain I used during the show-and-tell portion*

Afterwards, we had a snake wind mobile that I got here from Disney. Yep, that’s  Kaa, from the Jungle Book.

So next year, I think when I do this theme, I’ll put this in my ‘Science Storytime’ section and just do nonfiction books.

*UPDATE 2016*

Did my second Snake storytime. Initially I had planned on making it a complete nonfiction storytime; but after gauging my audience, I realized that the kids that come to my storytimes now are a lot younger then those who came last year.

So this year I went with:

The Snake Who Said Shhhhhhh by Jodie Parachini
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A very cute story about a baby snake who can’t hiss properly and just wants some peace and quiet for his birthday.

The nonfiction book I read was Slinky, Scaly, Snakes
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Which is an Easy Reader, so it was a nice introduction into snakes for a younger crowd.

The last book I read was <em,Can I play too? by Mo Willem

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Because who doesn’t like Elephant and Piggie?

I again played the Oklahoma Venomous Snake match up game. Next year, I think I might get some non-venomous species and see if the kiddo can identify a venomous from non-venomous species.

As for the craft, I decided to go with something different. This year, we did Wooden Snake Bookmarks
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Which required very little prep and were super easy to do.

I also made some models to illustrate how a snakes fangs worked…

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But ended up skipping that as my lil kiddos were getting a wee bit twitchy.

I did have the snake head keychain that I showed the kids last year and passed it around again.
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I had hoped to have a snake skin to show them too, but alas, it was gone by the time my boss went back for it.

And of course, I had a cart of books available for parents and kids to look at and check out.

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Plus I had my Oklahoma Venomous Snake booklet I printed off again for parents to take him. This year, I also added a ‘Quick Glance Identification’ guide, which just pointed out some of the more defining characteristics of our local venomous snakes. As well as a ‘What to do if you get bitten’ section too.
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You’d be surprised how many people have no idea what to do if they’re bitten by a snake.

I ended up not having an afternoon session as the weather turned severe and we closed early. Ever since Moore got hit a couple years ago, they don’t play around with those closings anymore. Yay!

Until next time! Chow!

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