Friday, January 20, 2006

Tippy-Top Secret Storytelling Formula

At the moment, I'm working on a presentation for an in-service program next Thursday at Lucia's school. What I've decided to do is to present my library storytime formula in as simple a format as possible, and demonstrate how I plug in different songs and stories.

A lot of people like to do storytimes with specific themes, i.e. “Farm Animals” or “Cars and Trucks.” I have found that when I do themes, I feel locked into reading stories that I don’t necessarily like (or rather, stories that I think are boring). I will often pair a story with a rhyme or song. Regarding transitions, I often take a cue from Monty Python, and say, “And now for something completely different…”

Here is the basic format:

Preamble: Secret warm-up rhyme or song that rewards the people who've come on time and makes the late-comers think that the storytime has already begun, without them actually missing the first story.

* Opening rhyme

*Warm-up rhyme or song

Before starting first story, remind everyone to silence their cell-phones. Every single time I forget to make this announcement, someone’s cell phone goes off.

*First Story (usually the longest book of the batch)

*Rhyme or song

*Second Story (usually another book, but could be a flannel board or puppet-play)

*Gross-motor activity/song: involves standing up or a lot of arm and leg action

*Calming down rhyme or song ("Eensy Weensy Spider" is great for this kind of activity)

*Third story (shortest book of the batch, or a very short oral tale)

*Closing Rhyme

For the younger audience members, I tend to share a lot more rhymes and songs than I do actual books compared to a lot of my colleagues. Books that are great for grown-up and child to share together one-on-one don't necessarily translate well to large audiences. Also, the larger the audience, the harder it will be for everyone to see the pictures in the books. I'm spoiled (but a little bit vain about it, too) in that I have to enjoy the book in order to share it with the audience in a storytime setting. Also, it's hard for people to sit still for a long time. No matter how much I may reminisce about the golden days that never were (when people had such long attention-spans that I could recite the entire book of Beowulf twice* before the children would begin to think of getting restless), I have to be pragmatic about what I'm dealing with now, today. If I can gain the trust of the audience in increments through a 5 week storytime series, then I can offer longer stories that stretch attention spans a bit.

Now you know my secrets. Thank you for joining me, and don't forget to get your hand rubber-stamped on your way out of the storytime room.

*I'm kidding.


Lesa said...

Thank you for this post. As the mom of an almost-three-year-old, I have to ask: is it normal to expect a child my son's age to remain seated and quiet throughout a library storytime? He has a hard time with this, and it appears to annoy our local librarian. He loves to read books with us at home, but is pretty excitable around other kids.

Also, I love your storytelling posts. I aspire to be a better bedtime storyteller for Zinn, and learn a lot from your blog. :-)

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Thank you, Lesa!
Regarding Zinn and his restlessness, it is normal to expect some hopping up and down (and coming up to grab the flannel board pieces), but while running around and being silly is "normal," it's not really practical for the storytime overall. Does Zinn want to go to storytime at the library, or is it more that you want him to have the storytime experience? Is he the only (or one of the only) exciteable kids, or is storytime generally a house of monkeys?! Or is the librarian perhaps still learning to deal with crowd control?

We expect a certain amount of hubbub and excitment with the toddlers, but we also hope that as time goes on, the children do learn to sit still when appropriate, and jump up when appropriate. One of the big reasons I read as many books aloud as some of my colleagues is that the noise level goes up, way up, when I open the book. I'm not just talking about the kids-- I've had to remind adults to help the children listen to the stories, too. I really try to make the stories appealing to the caregivers as well as the children (though the children are the primary focus).

All this is to say that it might be best to try different storytimes, wait a few weeks between storytimes, and observe what works best with your son (as you are doing now). It's great that he sits with you when you read. That, to me, is more important to focus on at this time.

Please email me if you want to talk about this more (i.e. give details that are not appropriate in a public forum), and I will be glad to work with you.:)

Lady K said...

Akelda, once again, I am left speachless. You are an amazing person. I might add, too, that you must have the patience of Job to do what you do. Kudos!

Lone Star Ma said...

The Lone Star Baby just adores those stamps. Our librarian gives her one on each hand and the baby can be heard days later looking at her clean-washed hands, muttering "stamp, story, story, stamp".

galetea said...

I loved the "Miss Nelson" books when I was a kid and was particularly fond of Miss Viola Swamp. :)

HitManJ said...

Ramona Quimby, Sideways stories from Wayside High, and the Hardy Boys.

That image looks familiar, I must've read some of the Miss Nelsons, too.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Lady Hearteater: Thank you! I must say I'm a lot better at what I do, now that I'm a parent. There's a little less adherence to how things are supposed to be, and more recognition of how things actually are. In other words: go with the flow.

Lone Star Ma: I love it! LSB has distilled the whole library experience into the two things that really matter.

<Galetea and Hitman J: Those are all stories I love, too. I must say it's a pity I didn't learn about George and Martha until I was a grownup. Better late than never, though.

By the way, Lone Star Ma, did you know that James Marshall (of Miss Nelson, George & Martha, etc.) was a native Texan? You'll find little references to the Lone Star State in many of his picturebooks.

Lesa said...

Thanks for your comments about Zinn and storytime. It was his first two experiences with storytime, so he was *really* excited. Trying again after a period of time is probably a great idea; now I have to convince Chris, since he's the guy who takes him. :-)

abcgirl said...

as a fellow children's librarian, would it be appropriate for me to add here that my only frustration with rambunctious storytime participants is when they are so active as to be a distraction and the parent does nothing--am i supposed to deal with the kid while the parent is right there in the room? that seems like i'm usurping their role. i always try to let parents (especially those who are concerned that their child might be distracting) know that it's perfectly ok to come to storytime for five minutes and then leave if they have to. usually, the kid can stay longer and longer each time they come. it's much less distracting to have someone leave than to have someone forced to stay when they're not really interested. that being said, i realize that storytime is a wonderful opportunity to get together with other kids and parents--especially for stay-at-home moms and their kids who don't get lots of other "socialization" so i also usually suggest that parents simply take their kids into the library to find books to read together so they can still be around when storytime is over and hang out with the other kids then.

p.s. not being a parent yet myself, i apologize if any of my comments are ignorant of the reality of having a kid. feedback is welcome!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

ABCGirl, it's totally appropriate. Thank you. I would like to attend some sort of practical seminar on how to deal appropriately with discipline in storytime. So much of it is experienced-based, but that leaves a lot (too much, I think) of room for a variety of responses, many of which are ineffective. If you scoop a child up on your lap, the caregiver could flip out. If you are stern, you could alienate a number of people, but if you're not, ditto. I often take the safety tactic with rambunctiousness, and if the child is fussy, I will first address the general audience, and then the specific parent. Still, I subbed one week for someone else's storytime, and the responses the librarian (my boss!) got the next week were, "Alkelda was great, she was just a bit unreasonable with wanting the kids to be still."

Lone Star Ma said...

I did not know he was a Texan! I need to re-read!

As a parent, I prefer a librarian who does not mind wandering, wiggling toddlers to one who tries to get them to sit down and not come touch the felt. I do not think toddlers find the wandering of their friends any more distracting than anything is their way, and they can be quite engaged but still like that. Older threes and up are different, of course, as most of them can sit still if they want to. Biting toddlers who are throwing things or doing anything dangerous are disruptive, of course (and I can say that, because my toddler bites, though not during storytime!)

Lone Star Ma said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lone Star Ma said...

Sorry- double post!