Monday, November 24, 2014

Baby Storytime Top Five

Done right, storytime is more fun than a barrel of monkeys 
When I started as Youth Services Director at Columbus Public Library in early 2013, we lacked programs for ages 0-2. I worked to develop and implement a weekly baby storytime, and having never done a baby storytime before, I had my work cut out for me! So here are…

Five things I want to share about baby storytime
  1. Gettin’ jiggy with … research. I spent a lot of time reading information about how to create baby storytimes, best practices, early literacy information, and good rhymes/songs/bounces. Pretty much all of my research was online. The South Central Library System’s resources, Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy, and storytime blogs (especially Mel’s Desk) were helpful places to start.
  2. Repetition is key! I read that one librarian uses the same storytime three weeks in a row, and decided to follow suit. The repetition is fantastic for little ones, but I learned it’s also a wonderful way to help caregivers get to know and feel comfortable with the songs and rhymes we sing. Plus, as the only full-time dedicated YS person, it made the workload very manageable.
  3. Pay attention to what’s right for your families, and make changes accordingly. Initially I imposed a rule that storytime wouldn’t allow siblings, but quickly (like, after the first week) realized no siblings = no attendance. Many interested patrons had more than one child, and needed to bring siblings along.
    Adapt storytime to work for children and families
     I changed the rules, and started keeping extra puppets on hand so older siblings could participate. This provided a super fun opportunity for older brothers and sisters to role model. Eventually, the older ones just expected a puppet and adored the chance to show off their storytime skills.
  4. Get system support. I already mentioned that SCLS has great informational resources, but they also offer board book kits to member libraries. The kits consist of 10-20 copies of the same book – an excellent opportunity for weekly group read-alouds. What materials, ideas, information, or moral support does your system supply?
  5. Look silly, make mistakes, and know it’s okay. As a new librarian, I felt especially nervous about doing things “wrong” or looking silly (or worse, clueless) in front of parents. What if I messed up words to a song? What if I accidentally skipped a page during our group-read aloud and confused everyone?

    Both of those and more happened, and of course, everyone was kind and gracious and did not give me mean looks (a true fear). I became comfortable with bloopers and quickly saw that if I just laughed them off, so did everyone else.

Baby Storytime became one of my most fulfilling library activities, and I’m happy to say it has continued to thrive. Good luck and great work to all of you out there working to support early literacy in any way you can, whether that’s storytime or something else!

Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, Youth Services Librarian
LaCrosse Public Library, La Crosse, WI
(formerly Youth Services Director at Columbus Public Library in Columbus, WI)

Photos provided by the author