A new librarian must have a toolbox full of skills. One of these is the very important role of Story Time. From planning to execution, this important service teaches millions of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers the rudimentary skills for literacy. This page will deal with literacy goals, story time links, and resources. Not all librarians enjoy performing story time, for that is what it is. A performance requires planning, practice, and animation. We are actors acting out the pleasure of words. We enhance words with fingerplays, rhymes, songs, and activities that reinforce concepts.
Storytime programs are successful if they help parents/caregivers interact with the child and books and the act of reading. The librarian acts as a model for the parent. Babies from 0-24 months will learn print motivation, enjoying books as entertainment, learning to clap for the sheer joy of a story. Their vocabulary will increase as pictures are given words, objects are named and storylines are discussed. Small and large movement skills are encouraged through participatory finger plays and rhyming songs. Music can create a routine expectation and parent involvement is key. Using a puppet to be your baby each week helps model behavior in a visual way. Videos are not really used for babies, but playtimes are often adjunct to the storytime program, allowing parents and children to interact.
Toddlers are 2 and 3 year olds whose print motivation comes from the fun factor of reading books together. Pop ups, lift-the-flap, and flannel stories are good interactive storytime fun. Encourage print awareness by calling specific attention to the title of the book and tease them by inverting a book and asking if there is something wrong. Pointing to repeated words will help build vocabulary as the children repeat the same words over. Add words to pictures when doing flannel board stories. Toddlers typically add 9 words a day to their vocabulary. Now is the time to encourage narrative skills by asking who, what, and where questions. Letter knowledge begins at this age and storytimes can contain a component ABC section, where the children identify letters. Music is used to foster movements with fingers (small) and bodies (large). Encourage jumping, stomping, walking, turning, waving, and making animal sounds. When performing a rhyming book or song, have the children “fill-in” the blank to develop phonemic awareness.
Preschoolers from 4-6 years are ready for a variety of books, but still appreciate the physical bonding with parents during storytime. Books to use now will encourage participation, number awareness and counting. Answer questions that children pose to encourage them to talk and give them the opportunity to learn new words and concepts. Include books with challenging vocabulary and encourage narrative skills by asking “What do you think happens next?” At this age children may want to tell stories and make up silly words. These are all ways of presenting letter knowledge and phonological sensitivity.
Family storytimes can be challenging because they include a range of families with 2-6 year olds. Silly stories are popular as well as bedtime stories (particulary for evening storytimes). Print motivation can be applied with pop-up books and BIG books. Print awareness comes from identifying words on a page with a finger, and using flip charts to write the words to songs and finger plays. Family storytimes can also benefit from handouts with words to songs and fingerplays typed out for parents/caregivers. Explain the meanings of unfamiliar words before reading a challenging book. Acting out spatial directions (up and down) helps build vocabulary. Narrative skills can be taught in a more challenging way, asking the children to “correct” you when you mix up a story or name the wrong animal. Invite participation on all levels, from repeating a phrase to guessing the “theme” of a storytime,naming colors and counting out loud or naming the letters of an alphabet book as you turn the pages. When introducing a new fingerplay, do it twice, and always start the program with a song/fingerplay or two (to allow for latecomers). Between stories, encourage movement with action songs and music.
A basic storytime plan:
1. welcome song, which becomes familiar and expected
2. first book should be for settling in
3. three short fingerplays, rhymes, or songs
4. second book can be more challenging or longer
5. three short fingerplays, rhymes, or songs
6. a flannel board, or other 3-D kind of story (puppets, drawings, acting out)
7. three short fingerplays, rhymes, or songs
8. participatory story (fill in the blanks, guessing, or correcting)
9. action music with a goodbye fingerplay
10. handstamping or distributing stickers
As a special aid to all my librarian friends who may be faced with storytime performances, which benefit from several practice sessions, here are some websites that I have found helpful. Also helpful are YouTube videos of other storytime performances. Have fun, plan well, and be prepared to “wing it.”
Whatcom County Library System (105 page pdf)
Storytime Themes by Ashley Groff