The Simplest Lessons

When I started storytimes, I’d only ever seen one other person lead one. My example was wonderful, a member of a vibrant team in the library where I interned. Still, I had a lot of insecurities about doing one on my own. After a few months of doing storytime as an outreach, I moved into a new job where I did them in-house and also added other programs to my weekly duties. Here are some of the smallest things that no one thought to tell me.

Sit in a position where the whole crowd can see.

If you have a small group–small enough that everyone can sit in one or two rows–you probably won’t have any trouble with reading while sitting on the floor with them. More than that, though, and kids won’t be able to see over everyone in front. In that case, seek a chair. You might want to avoid standing, if at all possible, because at that height the pages can have a glare that’s only visible to the kids on the floor.

Remember to turn your body and the book as you read.

Kids will be quick to tell you that they can’t see if you hold the book in just one position. You need to move it from side to side as you read.

Reading from the side is easiest; but you can read upside down with a little practice. 

I usually read books by looking sideways at the pages, but sometimes I’m aware that my neck is getting a little stiff. Then I look for a page that doesn’t have much text and I read by just looking down. Pages with too much text still tend to be too hard for me to do this as it’s basically reading upside down.

If you’re having a long week and lacking energy, throw in something that’s your favorite–even if it doesn’t go with your theme.

I’ll make myself more enthusiastic by playing a favorite song, including a classic flannel story, or reading a really fun book. I look forward to those sunny spots in my routine and I bring more energy to storytime.

Never stop feeling proud of the small stuff.

When I come up with a great activity or craft or I try something new that goes really well, I can’t keep myself from sharing it. I love my job! it makes me feel like a rock star when I make something from nothing, and especially when that something works out. I go around to my co-workers like, “Look at this puppet I made! I’m a fracking genius!” Because, really, if no one is going to give me a trophy, I’ll settle for patting myself on the back, thank you very much.

The best way to be involved in a program (if it’s not something that you have to lead step-by-step) is to interact through joining the kids.

For awhile, I was doing programs just for babies and toddlers, and I felt super awkward. I don’t have children of my own, and since my programs almost never involve a lot of leadership on my part, I felt weird just going up to tables with parents and butting in. Slowly, I learned that planting myself at a station or with a group of people and just joining in with whatever the kids are doing gives me a natural “in.” Not only can I set an example for getting involved, but I can also talk about what the kids are doing and how they are learning or how amazing they seem. That gets the parents more connected to the experience and gives me something to do other than sitting around.

Never use Wal-Mart clothes pins.

They fall apart too easily for crafts or games.

Sing books.

Even if there isn’t an official tune. If there’s a rhyme-y cadence, you can sing it.

Also, pause for repetitive phrases in the book and let kids fill in the blank.

Oh, how they love it.

Give yourself more time than you think you need for set-up.

This could just be me, but I like to have things set-up at least 15 minutes early. That leaves me time to decompress and prepare for what’s about to happen. I can’t stand barely finishing set-up to be bum rushed by people.

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