Behind the scenes of a library storytime


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I love sharing stories with children. One of my favorite parts of being a children’s librarian is the preschool storytimes every week. But putting on a library storytime is not as easy as you might think. Here’s a snapshot of how I prepare for a weekly storytime:

Years, months and weeks before…

Thanks to a grant from the Alaska State Library, Anchorage Public Library has a supply of READ IT, READ IT Storypackets. The packets include eight books, a puppet or prop, a related CD, and suggested fingerplays and songs that are all based on a theme – like fish or snakes or winter - and stored in a green bag. These bags, the same ones you can check out and bring home to share with your kids, are the foundation for weekly storytimes.

In the months before a storytime series begins, librarians review the packets, adding newer books, and supplementing flannel board and magnetic board stories. Then the packets are checked out by APL youth services staff, so they can be routed around to the various neighborhood libraries for weekly programs.

Days and hours before…

The first thing I do each week is review the books and supplementary materials inside the bag. I decide which titles I want to share and practice reading the books silently. As I read, I think about ways to get the kids to join in. Maybe they can repeat a rhythmic phrase with me. Or roar when I ask, “What does the lion say?” Or make an imaginary snowball to toss or place in their pocket, like Peter in The Snowy Day. If there are any particularly challenging, tongue-tying sections, I practice reading them aloud.

Preschoolers love routine so I keep the same beginning, middle and end storytime structure for familiarity. But I also like to incorporate a new fingerplay or song each week. And I am not tied to matching the theme. Sometimes the weather that week will strike a chord, or a holiday on the horizon brings to mind a particular song or stretch.

I think of myself as a choreographer of the storytime. If a particular story arouses rowdiness, I may follow with a lively song and stretch, and then choose a quieting fingerplay to transition into the next book. While I have a general sense of what I am going to do, I don’t follow a rigid outline. I prefer to respond to the energy of the group. After several decades as a children’s librarian, I have quite a large “bag of tricks” with lots of songs and fingerplays that I can draw from memory on a moment’s notice.

I like to close the reading portion of the storytime by telling a story or sharing a song with the use of a flannel board, magnetic board, or a prop of some kind. Almost always, these are interactive in nature to encourage children and families to sing and tell stories at home. Moving away from the pages of a book to tell a story is unfamiliar and a little uncomfortable for some. However, we are all storytellers at heart. A little encouragement can yield some amazing stories.

Minutes before…

I set up the room with my selection of stories in a woven bag. I turn on the lights and check the outlets for outlet covers. I turn on some welcoming music on the CD player. Then, with my greeting puppet, Gerri the Giraffe, on hand, I open the door to welcome you to another fun-filled storytime. I’ll see you there!

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