My storytimes follow a formula. I’ve been doing it on and off for 16 years and it has been working really well so far. If it ain’t broke….
So what is the scaffold of my storytime?
Here we go.
The start before we start:
I have music playing before the program starts and I encourage patrons to come into the room and look at the books displayed on the tables. I use CDs because our library does not have mp3 players. So I burn compilations of music that I like. Some kid specific music makes it on there but most of the songs are from the Sony Music 100 Year: Soundtrack for a Century. So the kids hear old Broadway tunes, some 70’s funk, some 80’s pop, some swing, some blues – all suitable for little ears. And all stuff that we have in our collection so that is another chance to highlight the library.
Once starting time comes, I make housekeeping announcements. I cover the standard things, “That is our emergency exit…” “Pick up a branch calendar on the back table.” “Fill out a ‘How are We Doing’ card, please” etc. And then I launch into expectations. My usual spiel goes something like this:
“Good Morning! Welcome to (Toddler/Preschool) Storytime! My name is Ann and I am the Children’s Librarian here at the branch. (T/P) Storytime is meant for children (18m-3/3-5 years) but we love kids of all ages. If you have kids outside of that range that have a hard time being here and become disruptive, please take them out of the room until they calm down. Then come back in! Storytime is a learned behavior and if your little one needs to be up and moving around, please stay to the back of the room.
Parents, your children will get more out of storytime if you participate with them. So, I expect you to sing along, listen to the stories, and interact with your child. Please keep your conversations with each other outside of storytime.
(This is where I insert emergency exit location, branch calendars, seasonal breaks, feedback, etc.)
Please turn off your cell phones, put away snacks and noisy toys, and let’s have some fun!
At storytime we sit on our bottoms, open our ears thiiiiiiiiiiiis wide (hands move out from ears), and close our mouths very gently like this (cover mouth), until we are ready to sing (muffled). Are you ready to sing? (muffled)”
We always sing the same opening song:
If You Want to Hear a Story (tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It)
clap your hands, stomp your feet, nod your head, sit very still.
I think it’s important to get them engaged as a group but also to finish on “sit very still” so they know it is time to try to listen.
I introduce the theme:
Most of the time, I’ll talk for a few seconds about what we are going to read about. Sometimes the kids can guess from the books on the cart. If it is a big theme, like Farms, I’ll have the kids help me list things that are connected. ie. What other animals live on the farm? What else goes on at the farm?
My beatnik orangutan puppet, Ozum, reads a poem to the crowd that is connected to the theme. Usually it is short and silly. I like it because he is reading, rhyming, and ready to listen.
Getting to the meat:
I read the first book. Usually my longest or most complicated.
Clap your hands,
touch your toes,
and touch your nose.
Flap your arms,
jump up high,
wiggle your fingers
and reach for the sky.
We stand up and do it twice for Toddlers and three times for Preschoolers – getting faster and faster as we go. This helps get their wiggles out and give them some gross motor skill practice. I make all of the parents/caregivers get up and do it, too. They are modeling behavior for their little ones, after all.
We sing the ABCs, all together and at a slow enough pace that all of the letters are pronounced separately (but no need to drag). No elementos here! I sing this with both Toddler and Preschool and drop in the early literacy note to parents that they should sing this often so their kids are sure to know it by Kindergarten.
The flannel board goodness:
I usually throw in a flannel at this point. I set up the first flannel before we start so I can turn the easel board around for the big reveal! I do some variation on 5 Little somethings according to the theme.
The back and forth:
At this point, I read the second book. Maybe a rhyming story or something quirky.
Then I alternate back and forth doing a fingerplay or song and then perhaps a prop of some kind (magic bag, silly hat, something). We might play a game or stand up to march around the room. In short, at this point, I do two or three things to engage them, get some wiggles out, and to refocus their attention.
I read a third book – or a variation on a book (ie. a big book or a flannel based on a book) if the crowd is hanging in. They usually are but I have to take stock at this point in each program.
Again with the back and forth (see above)
I read a fourth book. Usually my shortest, funniest, most memorable.
The closing routine:
My closing song is called Ran Sam Sam and there are several variations out there. We roll our hands, wiggle our fingers, and raise our arms up high. It is the most participation I get because it is familiar. It’s also a fun song.
I have a mascot puppet – Chick. He is a white mouse with a high squeaky voice and he comes to visit after every storytime. He’ll usually repeat any important news (“Next week is our last storytime of the season!”) and he throws kisses. He also gets lots of birthday invitations from kids. And just how do they think he’ll get there, hmmmm?
Our final chant is Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn around
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear touch the ground
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear show me your shoe
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear I love you.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear climb up the stairs
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear brush your hair
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn out that light
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear wave good-bye!
The Toddlers approach me for a stamp on their arm (or 2). I started putting the stamp on arms because they would disappear when the kids washed their hands. This way, they stay a little longer.
The Preschoolers settle in for a craft.
I do crafts at Preschool Time but not at Toddler Time. The little littles just aren’t ready. I usually pick crafts that go with the theme but the more important thing is to practice some skills. Fine motor skills with giant crayons, glue stick, safety scissors, threading yarn – all of these are helpful for little hands and brains. The final product does not matter as much as the trial and error to get there.
I let the Preschoolers give themselves a stamp while I hold the inkpad. It is amazing to watch them figure out how to switch hands so they can do a second stamp.
So that is the outline for my weekly storytimes. There is some flexibility built into the plan so I’m not doing the same games/flannels/fingerplays every week. I do repeat things a lot (right now we are singing Zoom Zoom Zoom every week) but I can also throw in new things. This setup is conducive to catering to the crowd. If they are hanging in and can stand a 4th book – great! If not, let’s wrap this up!
And so I wrap it up.