Recently, I had a visitor in storytime. A nurse from a local children’s hospital wants to start running a storytime for his prek patients. He sat in on a few storytime, and then stayed afterwards to ask me for some general tips. I may have given him more than he bargained for because the moment I opened my mouth, it was like a dam burst. It all just came pouring out of me in a wwooooossshhhh: “storytimeroutinesareimportant-participationsstories-pros/consofthemes…. etc.” Suddenly I realized he was starting to sweat from furious note-taking.
I reeled it in, took a breath, and apologized for being such a librarian. I found a few of my storytime outlines (including a blank version he can copy and use), and picked some of my favorite read-alouds based on a theme (colors).
Finally, I gave him the one piece of honest-to-goodness wisdom I have, “Always find a way to say yes to your storytimers.” Here’s an example: Snip, Snap What’s That, is one of my favorite storytime books. One of my regulars has been in the room several times when I have read it at storytime. Every time I show the cover, where the alligator is sticking his eyes out of the sewer, he shouts, “It’s a frog! It’s a frog! IT’S A FROG!!!”
The first time, my instinct (sort of a reflex) was to correct him, “no, it’s an alligator.” It’s not that he seemed wounded, but he did seem a little less effervescent. The second time it happened I thought it was so funny, I just had to ask, “Gabe, why a frog? Show me what you see.” He came up to the book, and showed (first he pointed, and then he squatted down and showed me how he thought the frog would be sitting). It all made perfect sense! I said, “you’re right, when you look at it that way it totally looks froggy. The illustrator–the person who drew the pictures for this book–must see similarities between frog and alligator. After storytime, wanna look help me find a bunch of other stories that have frogs and alligators and see how other illustrators draw them?” It turned into a sort-of impromptu scavenger hunt. Actually, a whole bunch of kids joined us, and it was super-fun.
It revolutionized my approach to kids in storytime and beyond. Joyce Grant, who writes Getting Kids Reading, wrote this thoughful post discussing a similar topic from a parent’s perspective: Bubbles are Fragile Things