How to Do the Best Storytime Ever!

Am I overselling it a bit? Eh, who cares! Go big or go home, right? Let’s rock out storytimes!

There are several elements that are common and essential to storytimes:

Books

Music

Activities

These are the basics, the big things that we’re all doing. Everything else is extra. Over the next few weeks, I’ll break each of these down and talk about them more in detail but for now, just the big picture.

I bet we’ve all observed a storytime that felt routine or even totally dullsville. Ugh, those are the worst! Put me out of my misery with a swiftly thrown shaker egg to the head! What is it about those storytimes that makes you want to poke your eyes out with the rhythm sticks? What they have in common is a low level of energy. As in none.

 bored alan rickman boring galaxy quest editingandlayout GIF

via Giphy

The first thing that every storytime needs is an enthusiastic leader. There are different levels of this from low-key cool to bouncing off the walls perky. I’m usually closer to the bouncing off the walls end of the spectrum. Either way, you have to some amount of energy. A storytime really is like a performance for which you have to be ‘on.’ The more enthusiastic you are the more enthusiastic your audience will be because upbeat, positive energy is contagious.

Another common pitfall is a total lack of awareness. A successful storytime needs a leader with keen awareness of the group. Have you ever watched someone do a readaloud that wasn’t going over well but they kept going despite having lost the attention of the audience? Awareness is recognizing the book isn’t going over well and not being afraid to stop and move on. Awareness of when to change directions or move on is crucial because once you’ve lost a storytime audience it can be really hard to get them back.

Recently, someone on the Storytime Underground Facebook group asked, “What’s the one thing about storytimes you wish you knew when starting out?” So here’s my last piece of advice. Don’t take yourself or your storytime too seriously. We want to promote literacy, diversity, STEM, play, school readiness and a host of other developmental skills at every storytime. Those are wonderful things to promote and aim for. But sometimes. Sometimes no matter how good your lesson/activities/crafts are, how prepared you are, the takeaway is just going to be that they had a good time at the library. And no one had a meltdown. When you work with small children this is its own success! This is ok. You kept a group of young children entertained for 30 whole minutes! You’re awesome!

But maybe you didn’t. Maybe there were meltdowns. Maybe the books you chose flopped. Maybe the craft was an epic fail. (It worked when I tried it the day before!) Maybe you forgot the words to a song you’ve sung 574 times. (This gal right here.) Maybe you went through a whole storytime with blue paint down the front of your white pants and didn’t know it. (Yep, that happened. No one said a word!) This is also ok. Because here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter. The kids won’t care and you and the parents will have a good side laugh together. And even the worst storytime ever will quickly be forgotten by other perfectly good storytimes (thank you very much!). You’re still awesome.

Now go show that storytime who’s boss.

 

 

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What We Did in Storytime: Unicorns!

We’re taking August off from storytimes so as one last hurrah we did a unicorn theme. There are some really cute, readable unicorn books out there! We talked about the letter U and other things that start with that letter. Here’s what else we did…..

Theme:   Unicorns!                 Ages: 0-6               Early Literacy Focus: Letter Knowledge

Books

My favorite of the bunch. Hilarious and very readable.

 

Songs & Rhymes

Finger Poppin-Georgiana Stewart

Shake Your Sillies Out-The Wiggles

One and Two-Ella Jenkins

If You’re Happy and You Know It

5 Little Unicorns- adapted an idea I found here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activities

We made unicorns based on this craft I saw on Pinterest. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few parents freaked out about the mess of glitter. But you can’t do a unicorn storytime and not have glitter! Unicorns = glitter! I ain’t afraid of a mess!

What We Do in Storytime

I started this blog partly as a way to keep track of the storytimes I did and to share what I’d learned in almost 15 years of doing storytimes. It’s hard to get good photos of a storytime in action with littles moving all about! Anywho, enjoy these random shots from my most recent storytimes along with the answers to a couple of FAQs.

How do you setup storytime?

Like this. All the books that I might read. Our Ipad with my storytime playlist and a Beats Pill. Storytime stickers. Bins with scarves, ribbons and shaker eggs. My song cube. And a couple of props. Everything I need is in reach. I don’t have problems with anyone removing things from my table. Once in awhile kids want to get the Ipad or the buckets so I sit them at the back out of reach.

What do you in storytime?

STEM activities like fizzy concoctions.

Art/messy play like painting with shaving cream.

Sensory play.

Large motor play.

I have never seen kids working as hard at play as I did with this sensory table setup. Cardboard boxes I cut up and tubes crisscrossing through them. Kids surrounded this the entire time. Heads down, scooping, digging, pouring, figuring out what was happening to the beans they poured down a tube, catching the beans as they spilled out. The kids played easily with each other, sharing cups and space. I could’ve used a bigger table!

 

What do you do in storytime?

 

Until next time…….

Adventures in Storytime

It was our first week of summer storytimes and we had a full house and loads of fun! Kids, even the older ones, seemed to have a good time with this theme. Looking for more books? Check out my Construction/Building booklist.

Theme:   Construction/Building   Ages:    0-6                   Early Literacy Focus:  Vocabulary

Books

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Image result for macdonald had a truck

Image result for construction countdown

I’m going to try to include a visual element in every storytime so I made a magnet set of the vehicles in “Macdonald” and plopped them on a magnet board as I read the story. After stories, parents and kids talked about and played with the pieces again. Double bonus!

Songs & Rhymes

“Shake Your Sillies Out” by the Wiggles

“The Elevator Song”

Humpty Dumpty

“The More We Get Together

Activities

The most popular stations were the craft stick houses on foam core and the bean table. If I were doing it again I’d do a second table for the craft stick houses and make an even longer streamer/bubble wrap tunnel.

Got a favorite construction-themed readaloud or activity? Share it in the comments!

 

Until next time, Book Lovers!

Saw It On Pinterest: Ideas that worked

While my library takes a storytime break this month to do school summer reading visits, I thought I’d share a couple of recipes I found on Pinterest that I recently tried. Let me say that I love a messy storytime. I love creating activities where kids can get their hands dirty. I have never shied away from any potentially messy project. Not the cloud dough that ended up crumbled all over the new dark blue carpet in our meeting room. Not the water beads that rolled everywhere and got smushed into said new carpet. Not even the finger painting where I laid butcher paper on the floor and had kids sit on the floor to paint. (Don’t worry; there was a tarp underneath the paper!) I did cringe a little, though, while I watched (we all watched) as if in slow motion a little boy who, after mom cleaned his hands, promptly walked right back over to the butcher paper covered in paint and sat right down in the middle of it. I was sure that mom was never coming back but-whew- she did! Occasionally, parents will look at me like this…….

 tv reactions shocked threes company jaw drop GIF

via Giphy

when I say, “Don’t worry. That’s what vacuums are for!” I ain’t scared of no mess!

Anywho, I needed a new batch of my two favorite sensory concoctions: play dough and slime. We had a dozen canisters of cornstarch and no salt. All I had was rock salt so I used that. I went with my favorite go-to recipe, substituting rock salt for table salt.

dough2

The dough looks like it’s full of gemstones when you start mixing it.

dough3

As you knead it, the rock salt falls out. Don’t do this on a surface you don’t want scuffed.

 

dough4

dough5

It pulls together really well and there still are some rock salt crystals in it which the kids really enjoyed finding.  Next up was this water bead slime recipe.

slime1

This is the consistency and stretchiness you want.

Having made dozens of batches of slime, I can tell you that slime made with Borax holds up longer but slime made with liquid starch is faster and easier to make. I went with fast and easy. Make the slime then dump in some water beads.

slime2

 

slime3

How cool does that look? Don’t you just want to stick your hands in it? Me too.

slime5

The caveat here is that you will want to use this soon after making it. After a week or so it’s done. The extra moisture from the water beads causes the slime to break down and become very, very sticky. Once the water beads are fully plumped they will fall out of the slime and roll everywhere. The shelf life on this is probably a week, unless you go back and add more liquid starch to firm it up.

slime4

 

If you try these, I’d love to hear how it went!

What are your favorite concoctions?

 

 

 

Crafts Vs. No Crafts, The Great Storytime Debate

There’s been a lot of discussion about this in various circles. When it comes to arts & crafts, librarians often fall into one of two camps.

There’s the “We don’t do crafts in storytime!” bunch and the, “We love crafts! Glitter for everyone!” crowd.

This is how I feel when I hear about libraries that don’t do art or crafts.

no animated GIF

I should say, this is how I feel on the inside because, well, I work in a library. Continue reading

What We Did in Storytime, Bunnies!

We did a bunny storytime for spring.  Storytimers are the most fun!

Theme:   Bunnies         Age:  0-6         Literacy Focus:  Love Books

Books

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a group laugh so much to a book as this group did to the Easter Bunny’s AssistantEverybunny Dance! had a lot actions you could invite a group to do with you to make it more interactive. Continue reading