In November 2013 I began my transition from Promotions Assistant to Children’s Librarian at the Fayetteville Free Library. I was so excited, but also a little nervous. My predecessor was beloved by the community, especially by her regular storytime group, and I felt like I had big shoes to fill. Before November, I had never done a storytime before. To make the transition easier on our patrons, I started attending and observing sessions before we officially made the switch. I learned the hello and goodbye songs she used and tried to make the transition as seamless as possible. We offer five storytimes a week: “Cuddletime” for babies not yet walking; two sessions of “First Steps,” a program for toddlers who are good walkers; “Terrific 2’s and 3’s; and “Fabulous 4’s and 5’s”. After a few weeks, I felt much more confident and comfortable with the facilitation of these events, enough so that I began to think about what’s next. I didn’t want to do away with the wonderful songs and rhymes my predecessor used, but I did want to think about incorporating some new elements to storytime. Many librarians have been working to include STEM concepts and technology into their storytimes, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) is already a major focus of our programming. I did some research and thought a lot about what would fit the needs and expectations of our patrons. I came up with the following plan for new storytimes:
Keep the same:
- First, I decided to keep the names and times of the programs the same to maintain consistency for our patrons.
- I sing the same hello and goodbye songs the children know, and I use many of the same songs and rhymes in every storytime, because children learn from repetition.
- I committed to incorporating some combination of games, fingerplays, movement, play acting, flannel boards, puppets and props into every storytime.
- Instead of having each storytime session individually themed, I decided to create themed months, more like a unit in school. For example. January was “transportation,” and each week focused on a different aspect of that theme: cars/trucks, airplanes, trains, travel. The repitition of the theme and many (Look for a full post on what we did for transportation month, soon.)
- Then, each week of the theme is a different concentration. I chose music, STEM, art, and digital storytimes to be regular parts of our rotation.
Week 1 might be a”transportation” with a music focus where we play songs on the iPod and use instruments.
Week 2 might be “transportation” and STEM where we incorporate math, counting, building with blocks, identifying shapes and more.
For art week we do a craft or maker activity.
And finally, in digital storytime we incorporate an app or read an interactive ebook.
We have always ended storytime with time for “free play,” but with the new format, I am trying to include more playing during storytime, since this is how children learn.
Gamification For Parents:
Every seasoned storytime librarian knows that it’s not only the kids you have to impress; you also have to appeal to their parents and caregivers who bring them to the library! As a fun way to encourage parents to come to storytime every week AND to promote early literacy at home, I have started giving out rhyme cards in storytime. I got the idea from Storytime Katie on the ALSC Blog. I make a different card for each week that includes a rhyme we did in storytime and an extension activity (or a song, or an app) on the font and an early literacy tip on the back!