Last week we got an email asking how to build confidence in delivering a storytime, especially if you’re new to the field or not used to working with young children. I wrote up these tips, and rather than having them disappear into the interwebs, I decided to share them here in case other people are looking for some ideas on how to become more confident in providing storytimes to children ages 0-5.
1. Find Songs You are Comfortable Singing
It takes some time to figure out what works for you. It may be worth spending an afternoon just listening to songs and picking out the ones you enjoy and that you think you’ll remember (don’t forget to factor in the nerves – I always forget things when I’m nervous). Other things I look for are the vocal range – it’s harder for me to sing lower pitched songs – and repetition of lyrics. Some of my favourites that kids and parents LOVE are Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, The Elevator Song, Roly Poly, and Open Shut Them. But everyone has their favourites. Our most popular video is Mmm, Ahh Went the Little Green Frog but I honestly hardly ever sing it in storytime! Having about 5-6 songs that you are really comfortable singing was very helpful to me when I first started. It’s also okay to rely on the classics – ABCs, Twinkle, Twinkle, etc. I also made a song cube and we roll it every week to determine a few songs.
2. Use the Same Hello and Goodbye Song Each Week
One of the things that keeps families coming back to my storytimes is the right mix of repetition and new material. One of the things they love is our hello and goodbye routine. I do Hello, Friends using sign language and the parents get so excited when their toddlers start signing. Having a set start and end to my storytime outline also made me feel more comfortable with storytime in general. On the same vein, I only introduce a one or two new songs a week – the kids need the repetition.
3. Choose Age Appropriate Materials
When you’re first getting to know a group of kids, it’s common to choose too long or too complicated books for storytime. I am a big fan of books you can sing or books that encourage participation. And I always, always practice reading the books out loud before storytime so that I know the plot, the words, and can think about any early literacy messages I want to sneak in. In terms of songs, we’ve got playlists for different ages: babies, toddlers, preschoolers.
4. Ask a Co-worker to Observe You (and Vice Versa)
This can be nerve wracking but getting someone to give you feedback can be a big confidence booster! They’ll let you know all the things you did awesome and things you can improve. If you’re not sure where you’re going wrong, having another set of eyes can shed some light (or simply let you know you already rock!). Ideally, this person would be someone who also does storytime and can look for things like book selection, pacing, interaction with kids, early literacy message, etc. On the flip side, try to observe as many other storytimers as possible. I’ve gotten so many good ideas from watching my colleagues, and it’s perfectly acceptable to take the things you like about their style and adapt it to yours.
Whether you prefer the hashtag #SRC or #SRP, children’s librarians across the world have been sweating over how to make reading over the summer fun for everyone. We wanted to throw together a quick post to show off some of the awesome we’re surrounded by and to say a huge congratulations to everyone for all the hard work! Our summer was full of Funny Business like An Afternoon of Disguise, Battle of the Funny Books and Silly Songs Dance Party and we’ve been reading all about the Fizzing, Booming and Reading going on from our neighbours down south.
During a presentation at ALA Annual in Vegas called What No Tchotskes? Creating an Experience Based Summer Program I was captured by Amber Creger’s images of ways in which she helped make the reading her young patrons did VISIBLE! As Arlington Heights Memorial Library (where Amber runs the Kids’ World!) moves away from incentive based Summer Reading, these hands-on displays celebrate reading or challenges completed and contribute to the larger community of library users. Check out the old school Reading Brick Road she shared too!
As I’ve mentioned before, our Summer Reading Club theme this year is Funny Business. What better excuse to throw a Silly Songs Dance Party! I was completely inspired by magnanimous Angie at Fat Girl Reading who shared her Baby Dance secrets including her playlist! A lot of these songs I stole from her, but the rest I either already knew or found by going through the Music CDs in my collection.
When creating this program outline, I knew I wanted to have a mix between recorded music and just us singing. I also knew I wanted a mix of high energy and low energy songs because let’s be real – 1 hour of dancing is a lot for both me and the kids! I definitely over planned – this outline is probably enough for two hours, but I’m glad I had lots of options to choose from because I wasn’t sure exactly how many kids would show up or how old they would be. We did advertise this as a family program, and I got kids ages 2-12 joining in.
Logistics wise, all I did was clear out a large space in our program room for the dancing part. I had two tables along the side with a display featuring Music CDs and books about dance and music. Then I had one table up front where I could put the CD player (yes, I’m old school), my water bottle, the egg shakers, and my program notes. Then I had a flip chart on an easel with the lyrics printed for all the oral songs. Easy peasy.
Here’s what we did! When possible, I’ve provided links that allow you to listen to the songs.
So a few weeks have passed since the glory that was #alaac14. We’re mostly surviving. I thought writing this post would help keep the magic alive. Well this post and this picture.
Words cannot capture how it was amazing to meet all these folks in real-deal life, these folks and so many more. We were also fortunate to attend some pretty amazing sessions and wanted to share the highlights for those of you at home. For other great ALAAC 2014 recap posts be sure to check out Storytime Underground’s full recaps from all FOUR GUERRILLA STORYTIMES Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday as well as write ups by Amyhere and here, SLJ and SLJ Teen. One more glorious picture before I start session talking of Angela, our Mentor/Fairy Godmother and us. So much love!
Fall planning, you sneaky beast, you! The other week I was thinking about what to plan for the fall when school starts back up, so I asked my Twitter friends the following question:
And I have to say, ya’ll made it rain! There were so many ideas and blog posts thrown my way that I had to bring them all together in some way. But first, here’s why I think book character parties are a super awesome idea:
They bring the focus back to the books. I’m completely over one-off craft programs that require no creativity or innovation.
You can promote your collection – Read alikes, anyone? How about some non-fiction that would pair well with the book?
You can include literacy based activities and the kids won’t even care because it is SO FUN.
They draw on kid culture – What books are your kids interested in? What book won’t stay on your shelves? Start there.
So here is a round up of the amazing ideas everyone shared with me, plus some that I found on my own.
If I’ve missed a book character party you’ve written up somewhere, please leave a comment and I will add it in to this post. Or if you have any ideas for how to better organize the categories, let me know.
While so much has happened since we wrote this up (including meeting so many of these amazing folks!) we stand by the awesomeness of the work they do. Please check out our most recent round-up of Youth Services gold!
Awesome People Doing Awesome Things
We love discovering awesome storytimers and love it even more when we find out we’re practically neighbours. Leah, a Children’s and Family Literacy Librarian from Victoria, BC is both of these and therefore our Storytimer of the Season! You can check her out her blog Time for Storytime, or peruse her amazing Pinterest Boards like the one she created for our Summer Reading Club theme Funny Business.
When it comes to advocating for what we do one of the best tools is information. The folks at CLEL can always be counted on for great information like this series of posts on Developmental Milestones. It never hurts to have articles like this one on the benefits of investing in preschool and NPR’s look at what constitutes “high-quality” preschool when talking to caregivers or library administration.
Last spring my colleague, Tess Prendergast, let me borrow her collection of storytime scarves to use with my preschool storytime group. They were such a hit that I knew I wanted to film some scarf songs for Jbrary. The great thing about scarves is that you can use them with any age – babies, toddlers, preschoolers, even school age kids. If you’ve never tried using scarves with kids before, these videos are a great introduction. You can also follow our scarf playlist or Pinterest board to see new videos as we make them.
1. Popcorn Kernels
We learned this song from Anna at Future Librarian Superhero. The kids absolutely love throwing their scarves in the air, so I’m always looking for songs that incorporate this movement.
2. We Wave Our Scarves Together
Dana learned this song at a Mother Goose training, and I think it’s the perfect combination of a classic tune and a variety of actions (throwing, shaking, waving).
As someone fairly new to school-age programming I am really enjoying the opportunity the Summer Reading Club presents to learn from my colleagues (near and far!) and try a few things out on my own. Last week I put on a Battle of the Funny Books program to kick off the Summer Reading Club at my branch and had a blast!