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Adventures in early literacy

Toddler Storytime: Expectations and Tips

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“I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate what you are doing with this program. I like that you set expectations and let us know what our kids should be doing and reassure us that what they are doing is okay.” This is what a mom said to me (this is as close to verbatim as I could remember!) after Toddler Storytime on Wednesday. THIS is why we do what we do. It’s also why it IS important to include those parent messages during storytime. After she told me this we continued to talk about her daughter and how she has blossomed from a shy, stock still, girl 3 months ago to a must-be-in-the-middle-of-it-all kind of girl now. She smiles, moves, squeals, and obviously enjoys storytime. And so does Mom. Turns out, all those tips I work in to storytime have been listened to by at least one parent and put to use at home. She especially liked the one I gave this week about singing a book. “Books like this one (Itsy Bisty Spider by Richard Egielski) are great for sharing with toddlers. If they wander away just keep singing the song with the book in your lap. They will be listening to you even though it might not seem like it and they might even wander back for a verse or two.”

She has struggled with sharing books because her daughter walks off and she feels silly reading the book out loud to herself. Singing a book was perfect for her because she wouldn’t feel silly singing a song. Of course, I assured her no one would think she was silly for reading a book aloud “to herself” but that I was glad my tip was helpful.

As far as expectations go, I’m glad she appreciates mine. In the past I’ve had some difficulty with this, as some of you know, so it was great to hear that someone appreciates them. Storytime has certainly been running more smoothly (thank goodness because with 60 people in the room each time its awful when it doesn’t) and I think it’s because people are getting used to the expectations. They know I’ll bust them by staring them down until they stop talking (but they clearly don’t get upset if I do-I’m always smiling). They know I’ll praise them when the whole room is singing together (it’s beautiful!).  To my knowledge I haven’t had a complaint about storytime since spring (ok, besides the lady who thinks I’m blowing bubbles too close to the kids making it so they can’t see them-I can’t help it that the kids run in to the bubbles-they LOVE them).

So what has changed? I’ve always asked parents not to talk during storytime. I’ve always encouraged them to participate. I’ve always given parent messages/tips.

Here’s what I think: SELF CONFIDENCE

I was intimidated by taking over someone else’s storytime when we had such different styles. I let my insecurities show. I wasn’t confident when I gave tips. I was worried they wouldn’t like me and would stop coming.

But you know, what? I’ve got tons of training and experience, I keep up with new trends and research in the library world, I read Mel’s and Mary’s blogs (and so many others!) religiously. I’m a good librarian. A knowledgable librarian. Realizing/remembering this gave me that boost of confidence I needed to go out there and take back storytime. And it’s working.

My before storytime spiel:

Welcome to Toddler Storytime 9:30 (or 10:30) edition. My name is Kendra. If you have any questions after storytime, please don’t hesitate to ask. Before we get started, a couple of things: please turn off and put away your cell phones during storytime. If you’d like to snap an especially adorable picture, please do. Also, please hold any conversations with other grown ups until after storytime. It gets pretty loud in here if grown ups are talking to each other and we want to make sure the kids and you can hear the songs and stories. Lastly, it is OK if your children are up walking around. They might not seem like they’re paying attention but they are soaking it all up and moving around helps them do that. If your child has left you, you can just do what I do. Ok! Let’s get started with some bubbles!

It’s long, but everyone is getting settled in, anyway, so it gives them time to do that before starting the content of storytime and I think it’s all important for them to hear. Occasionally, I forget the last bit about moving toddlers and will add it when we begin the first book because that’s usually when they all pop out of laps to come get a closer look.

Do you set expectations in storytime? If so, what do you do and what do you expect? If not, why not? Does it work for you?

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Author: Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

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