We have one youth services librarian at my branch — a wonderful, energetic, creative woman who does toddler, preschool, and family storytimes every week, as well as teen activities, tween book clubs and a bunch of other things, too. She’s really just amazing, but she can’t be there absolutely every time, so occasionally I fill in for her at storytime. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s just the right frequency to remind me how stunningly good she is at her job and how much I like seeing kids light up about stories. It’s not something I’d love as much if I had to do it all the time, I don’t think, but it’s almost always fun in the moment. So in honor of my most recent, slightly disorganized family storytime, here are 5 things I love about it all:
- Chaos! At family storytime, you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes, like the other day, there are infants, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary kids, and adults of all ages, too. I don’t mind the babies who get a little fussy except when the music’s on or the toddlers who spend most of the storytime wandering around the room. Even the older kids might spend a few minutes staring at the walls instead of following what I’m doing. I remind myself that there are all kinds of learning going on there, and learning how to be in storytime and participate is one of them. Not everyone arrives with the same skill set, but everyone can still find something to enjoy.
- Music! Will I ever get tired of Laurie Berkner? I don’t think so. I am amused by These are my glasses every single time I use it with kids. There is so much great kid music out there – Dan Zanes, Justin Roberts, Elizabeth Mitchell, and pretty much anything from the Putumayo Kids collection. I’m a fan of traditional songs, too. Although not all parents and grandparents remember them, enough do that it works out. Singing and music are great for your brain, whatever age you are.
- Classic stories and nursery rhymes! I don’t do it every time, but I like to include classic stories or nursery rhymes, especially when there are actions that go with them. If you’re comfortable with storytelling without the book in front of you, kids also love stories without the pictures if you have puppets – even stick ones are fine – or flannelboard figures or even simple figures drawn on a whiteboard. While they might not realize it, kids start picking up the verbal cues for transitions and building excitement in stories, and they also develop their listening skills.
- Drawing! Cutting! I love doing draw-and-tell stories like the ones you can find in Richard Thompson’s books and at https://mdfbooks.wordpress.com/richard-thompson-draw-tell-stories/. There are also some fun cut-and-tell stories out there. Once you’ve done a few of them, you might even start creating your own!
- Parents and Grandparents! Sure, the kids are great – funny, silly, shy and all. But I also love seeing the parents and grandparents who come to storytime. After all, the little ones can’t get there without them. And it could be a great way to talk about our adult programs or some of our online options with them while they’re trapped in the meeting room. (I don’t usually remember to actually do it, but it’s a thought!) Sometimes we can connect for a few minutes over a story or the weather or some odd thing their kid is doing right now. Sometimes they are more focused on their phone or checking their email. It’s nice if they are interactive, too, and some are, but I try to remember that they also might need a mental break from that little one for a few minutes, and having some goofy lady tell stories, sing songs, and dance completely out of rhythm might give them that. So it’s all good.