Friday, May 30, 2014

100th Post! Our Top Tips for Story Time Success!

Three Youth Librarians started a blog late last summer.  With trepidation we launched Library Village thinking, "Will people read it?  Will anyone care?"  We are pleased to announce that just a little over 9 months later, we are at our 100th post, with over 38,000 views to our blog!!!  What?  Hold on a minute while we have a Sally Fields moment......

To celebrate, the three of us here at Library Village would like to do something a little different.  We would like to offer our top tips for new youth librarians.  I am sure many of these tips were given to us when we started, but we thought we would put what we learned for any others starting out.

So wave your pompoms and celebrate with us.  Here, in no particular order:

- Always read your longest book first! Small children have a very limited attention span, and they'll be paying the most attention right at the beginning.  As you go along through your program, the books you read should be getting shorter and shorter.  You may want to save something special for last, such as a pop-up book, to really help keep them with you right to the end.

- Don't get too hung up on a theme. As tempting as it is to scour the internet searching for every single rhyme and song you can find about (insert theme here), the truth is your families really don't care if every week is all new.  You'll feel more confident going in using some of your favorite songs and rhymes, rather than trying to memorize a million new ones every week, and your regular parents will also appreciate your using what they know.  I had a professor in college who used to say, "Beware the cute idea."  Just because you stumble upon a website that lists every single song and rhyme ever invented on your chosen weekly theme does not mean that they are all quality rhymes, or that they'll really add anything to your program. Trying new things is great, but don't overdo it - always have those old standbys at the ready to keep your program running smoothly.

- Preschoolers like predictability.  To go along with the above tip, it is totally OK to do some things exactly the same week after week. Starting with the same fingerplay or having a set half-time song goes a long way to getting those shy ones comfortable in story time.  Even if it is something you do once a month, the kids will recognize when a certain puppet or prop appears, that means it's time for that song they love.

- Try before you buy.  An old cliche, it's important to remember that until you actually read a book out loud, try those fingerplays without looking at the paper, or sing the new lyrics to 'If You're Happy and You Know it', you wont know if it will work for you.  Especially if it is a book with rhythm, you'll want to read it once or twice out loud before you do it in story time.

Make it your own.  So you are taking over for a much loved storyteller, and your first reaction is to do EXACTLY what that librarian did because you are afraid to lose your audience.  Every story teller has their own style.  Trying to shoe-horn yourself into someone else's style is like wearing a dress that won't fit.  It is noticeable. Do what you love and the kids will love what you do.  Sure, some families will go away but others will discover you.  Be yourself and that will shine though.

- Spice it up.  After a year or two, you will be well nestled into your groove.  It might be time to try something new.  Everyone has something they do really well in story time, and everyone has an area where they wish they were better.  Observe a story time where someone is great at music, or puppetry, or felt, and ask how to start small.  Or expand on something you already do well.  Do you like to sing?  How about trying to learn an instrument?  Do you like classic tales?  How about retelling them with puppets or felt without the book?  Not only will the kids love it, but you will be adding to your portfolio.

- It's okay to stop and change activities.  Sometimes books or activities just don't go the way we think they will.  Or a group of kids might be extra fidgety one morning.  It is okay to stop reading if no one is listening and move on to another activity.  No one will mind!  Jump into a fun fingerplay or start singing a familiar song to regain the kids' attention.

- Toddlers can listen and run around at the same time.  Toddlers are definitely unique!  They aren't babies that sit in their caregivers' laps and they aren't preschoolers that understand about sitting on your story rug.  They are learning to become independent and where their boundaries are.  This means that some will come to story time and want to explore.  I have learned that these kids are still listening and learning from story time even when they appear to be busy doing other things (like having their mommy chase them!).  So don't get discouraged if some are moving about.  Just keep doing your thing!

-Love what you do! Story times can be cumbersome to plan, but it is so worth it to put your heart into them.  Even if you're busy, try not to just grab any old book or rhyme or song you come across and slap it together.  You'll discover that if you aren't crazy about the book you're reading, the kids won't be either! As children's librarians, it is so important to be passionate about what we do, so let that passion shine through in your story times, and your patrons will love you for it!

Most importantly, learn from each other.  We have a great time bouncing ideas off of each other, but we also spend a great deal of time learning from other bloggers, looking on Pinterest, and following other youth librarians on social networks.  We have gotten so much inspiration from our large network of colleagues, who have inspired us to work hard and improve our skills.  We have LOVED sharing our work with all of you.  So THANK YOU for reading our blog, commenting, and encouraging us.  It has meant so much!

Miss Kristen, Miss Sue, and Miss Kristie.....the Library Village.


  1. Absolute gold- a year into the game these tips are extremely helpful to remember. Thanks for all you do and congratulations!

  2. Thanks, Jbrary! We are big fans of yours! :o)