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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Library Story Time Specifics...

A while back I wrote a post describing, and commenting on, a specific library story time I attended with my son. I received a great comment today on that post and wanted to use this post to respond to it. I'm hoping the commenter, Leslie, doesn't mind me sharing her comment in this post.

Hi! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on story time. I am a children's programmer in Wisconsin, and the "story hour lady" at a very lovely public library.
I found your shared experience very helpful, as I am continuously tweaking my story hour plans here at the library.
I just wanted to respond to a reply to a comment about librarians providing parents with a place to socialize with other parents - I am wondering if this misconception is what contributes (in some instances) to poor story hour experiences? I think what most libraries are attempting to do is promote early literacy with young children by introducing them to words, rhythms, music, and exploratory experiences. They are also trying to provide parents with a positive example of things to do at home with their children. Story hour should not be, in my opinion, a place to socialize with other parents, but rather a family learning experience and a place where parents can interact purposefully with their youngsters. One of my biggest challenges it seems is less with the behavior of children (I encourage interaction and movement)and more with the parents - parents who talk and whisper with other parents while I read, or parents who disengage and read a book in the back, or parents who ! choose not to step out when their child is clearly overstimulated, upset, and ill.
I also wonder at age-appropriateness of discussion. Songs, fingerplays, and crafts are all meant to take the place of discussion by offering children the opportunity to explore. I think questions should be encouraged, and I definitely do ask many questions of my 2 year olds and toddlers. I was wondering if you had a more specific example of the kind of pace, discussion, and observations you expect from a library story time. I also would LOVE to know what you think about the parent's role at Story Time and what ways I, or another librarian, might better embrace and guide parents toward more fruitful story hour interactivity, etc.
Again, lovely post. Thank you! :)

I completely agree with Leslie's thoughts about parents socializing during story hour. Unfortunately, I think socialization is often a big motivating factor that draws parents of little ones to these story hours. Not that parents socializing is bad. But it should be saved for before and after story time.

How can we expect our children to act appropriately during story time (being attentive and engaged) if we can't do the same ourselves? We need to be modeling and setting an example. Our focus should be on our children and our energy should be put into enhancing and making the story time lessons and activities accessible for them. If we want them to value and enjoy story time, let's value and enjoy story time too!

The kind of thing I look for and enjoy in a toddler story time are as follows:
- Discussion of the parts of the book. I like to see the librarian talk about (even briefly, in casual conversational way as she reads) the cover, the title, the pages, the author and illustrator and what they do, etc.

- Discussion of the text and illustrations. Nothing extremely in depth or too lengthy. I just like to see the librarian define a few new vocab words from the story, point out interesting things in the illustrations, make some connections between the story and the children's own lives... That kind of thing. Too much discussion distracts from the story, but discussion can be saved for before and/or after the story if the librarian is worried about that.

- If activities (crafts and such) are done, it's nice if they are age appropriate and are properly incorporated with the story or the theme of the story time. I attended a preschool story time once that had an age appropriate craft, but there was little to no connection made between the craft and the story. The story time simply ended and the parents were invited to help their children with the craft. I suppose in that situation, it's not unreasonable to expect the parents discuss the story with their children as they do the craft and make the connection, but many don't. And this kind of comes back to that whole idea of modeling; some parents need the librarian to model how to discuss the story and enhance a child's understanding of it through a craft or activity. I believe that in many cases, it's the parents that should be learning from the story time just as much as their child is (just in a different).

- A laid back, leisurely pace is always nice for any story time. Librarians should be careful not to plan too much or try to squeeze too much into one story time session. Story times are held on such a regular basis, seems like there would be plenty of time for various activities, songs, games, fingerplays, by simply varying the plan for each story time. I hate feeling rushed with my students, and I never feel like my students get as much out of our lessons when they are rushed. It ends up being stressful for all of us.

- As a parent, simply seeing the various stories (and book suggestions), rhymes, fingerplays, activities and how my child responds to them, this satisfies my appetite for literacy training and encouragement. Our librarian has thrown in info and instruction during story time by simply taking time to say things like, "Repetition is good at this age. It's O.K. to read your child their favorite story over and over again." She has taught some sign language and encouraged that. She advertises books, authors, programs coming up at the library, etc.

- I would love to see (or even do myself) a class with families on how to read a story with your child. I've heard of programs like this. The instructor/librarian/teacher teaches the parents how to maximize learning during lap reads with their children. I think the families often get to take the featured book home with them at the end of the class too.

Just some random thoughts. My two cents. Take from it what you will, and please add your two cents in the comments. What did I miss? What did I get wrong, in your opinion? Share!

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