Friday, April 1, 2016

Many Years of Storytimes

I haven't written here in a while--I've been so busy DOING story times I seldom have the energy to write about them.

But the ever wonderful Mel of "Mel's Desk" wrote about 20 years of story times. And in starting a reply to her post, I realized I was writing one of my own.

I've done story times for 30+ years. The first few in New York were hampered by the well meaning but inhibiting teachings of the the NYPL training.

Then I came south, and began to work with Guitar Lady, a charismatic performer for preschoolers. She was a total pain to share an office with, had ego issues, but she KNEW how to work with small children, and working with her made me grow amazingly as a librarian.

And then she left, and I had to do all her programs, and was left to try to match what she's done.
I couldn't do what she did--not exactly, but in starting with what I knew, I found my voice.

Now 20 years later, I have an assistant now for the first time in 8 years, and I am teaching her to do story times. Now she's the one having the issue of trying to deal with MY popularity, because people are used to how I do things! 

She's not at all like me, she's quiet :D and restrained. But there are kids who may like that more than they like my bouncy style, and I try to remind her of that.

 Beginning story time people usually begin with simple stories and fingerplays/rhymes. If they are working in a place with an established routine, there may be opening and closing songs, or other program rituals that they will adapt. Guitar Lady hasn't worked with me in 20 years, but I still open story times by lighting a candle and saying a rhyme, and sing "Teddy Bear" as my final closing song, just as she used to do.

Then perhaps--flannel boards? I've talked about them before here. They're a good way of starting to get away from all book storytelling, though I wince at people "flannelizing" stories that can well be used on their own as books.

 Flannels can be a first step. Telling a story with props (and sometimes combined with flannels) or puppets goes further. And sometimes, it can even lead towards full storytelling. No props, just you and the audience, usually with something participatory if you're doing it for young children!

Music!  From playing a recording to singing acapella. Using rhythm instruments. Using scarves.
Getting up and moving--maybe even real dancing.

Bit by bit, you can go from a book and fingerplay old fashioned story time to something that incorporates so much stuff that your storage closet or room overflows with puppets, props and all sorts of tchotchkes that you keep stored away, waiting for their next turn in story time!

But beyond this is something far more important, and that's connecting with the families and  caregivers and making it a joyous experience for both yourself and your listeners.

Because that's what this is truly about. When a program is done with love and caring, it's bound to work.

With or without the bells and whistles.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

No, Little Piggy: On Piggyback Songs and Program Themes

 Note: This is an updated post. I wrote this a month ago, but after seeing some discussion on Story Time Underground's Facebook page, I realized I had a few things to add.  :D

There are few things more pathetic to me in children's librarianship than the earnest souls making up piggyback songs and using bad books because they've come up with a theme and feel everything needs to match.

News flash: No kid has ever said to me "Miss L, we're doing isosceles triangles today, so why are you doing a song about squares?"

Yes, this is an exaggeration--but my point is that you can do a story about shapes, then note that there were mice in the story and do a mouse rhyme.


I am not knocking themes. Quite the opposite. I LOVE THEMES!

I see a lot of people cheering on "no theme" story times, and I don't think that they get it.
Themes help me plan months work of programs.  I love keeping track of my themes, pulling them back out, changing up a few things and having a program ready to do. And looking for new material leads me to new songs, new games--sometimes all new themes!

My guess is that the "no theme" crowd have been doing earnest, perfectly matching programs that bore even them.  But the whole point of story times is to provide great educational experiences for kids. And that means using great books, great music, great finger plays and/or games. The best of the best.

And the sad fact is that most of the piggyback rhymes people make up to match their themes suck.

There ARE good piggyback songs. But generally, they're baby/toddler games to which you've added a tune. Good words can be turned into good songs. More about that in another post. 
Just use popular kids music that works well with your goals, even if it doesn't match. Grab at a vaguely relevant straw to lead into a game you've played before--and will play again.

They'll never sing that song about "service animals" again.
But they'll sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" or "Head,Shoulders, Knees and Toes," or "The Wheels on the Bus," at your library, and then later they might sing it at preschool, at home with their parents.

Over and over again, loving it every time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Yet Another Example of What Happens When You Don't Make "Model" Crafts

Here is another example of what happens when you don't give directions, and let the child lead the craft.

This is the original craft as shown on a website, everything neatly glued in the right place. It's very attractive:
What we did was to make a template of the tree trunk--it's here on the original website.

We put the template into the take home bag, along with a ziplock bag containing a handful of shapes. I sliced assorted colored construction paper into squares and rectangles  with our paper cutter, made circles and triangles with my wonderful Sizzix Big Shot.

And the instructions suggested gluing them onto the tree, and perhaps adding your own things with markers or crayons. We did NOT include a picture example.

This afternoon a mom sent me an email with a photo of her daughter's creation. Another mom sent me a picture of her son's tree:

Their own work using their own imaginations. Pure creativity.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Rainbow Round Me"

I love this song, which has a family history, and I have finally learned to play it on my ukulele.
In the video, I show you how to play it in the key of C, much easier than the original version, but if you want the real Ruth Pelham version, the music is here.  And there are several downloadable versions of the song on Amazon and elsewhere.

As noted, I sang this song with every group I had last week, and I've done the same this week. And it is amazing to hear not only parents singing along, but the kids! Enjoy.....

Thursday, February 5, 2015

No Two Snowflakes Are Alike. And Neither Are These Crafts

This is a very simple craft. All we did was cut up some qtips and toss them, plus some uncut qtips on the tables, along with a container with some glue. We gave each child a sheet of construction paper.

We showed them how to hold the qtip by the cotton end and dip it in glue.
And then we let them do whatever they liked.

No models. No instructions. No "that's not a snowflake."

We had 21 kids, ages 3-6, who had just come out of a wiggly, rowdy storytime (only kind I do), sitting quietly and working on their crafts. My assistant was AMAZED at their concentration and hard work.

Here's some of their work. It's beautiful. It's individual. It's THEIRS.

Next time you're planning one of those damned cookie cutter crafts with 12 million little pieces to cut out so the kids can reassemble them, stop!  And remember this.

No two snowflakes are alike. And no 2 crafts should be alike either.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Adult Patrons Used To Be Kids Too

I am really tired of elitist asshole librarians who clearly don't get that working in a public library means working with the PUBLIC.

And while I firmly believe that reference librarians more often than not cannot deal well with children, I cannot simply fathom how a children's librarian, who has to work with parents, teachers and caregivers, can have a piss poor attitude towards adults who have the nerve to need help when they come to the library.

My full rant on this subject is here.

Happy New Year.

Friday, November 21, 2014

On "Teaching Moments"

One of the responses on Facebook to my post of yesterday was a nice lady who recounted how during an owl making craft she had talked with one little girl who was making an orange and yellow  "explained to her that owls are not that color in real life, but she could color it however she wanted."
She was proud of having created a "learning opportunity."

I'm very, very glad she let the child do as she wished, but, as I've ranted before, sometimes why can't we just read the story, make the craft, and let things happen as they will?

Why don't parents, caregivers, teachers and librarians realize that creativity will take these kids further into the world than learning to do things as they are in "real life"? They'll get their fill of that soon enough!!

I could go on, but instead I will refer you to the late, great Harry Chapin and his immortal song,
"Flowers Are Red." I've wanted to sing that for every parent, every nanny, every teacher I've ever deal with.

This is especially appropriate as on a CD which we often listened to with our daughters in the car, Harry starts this song with a chorus of "Rant, Rant, Rant, Rant."And I'll add that both of my daughters are creative souls who "march to their own drummers."
I hope that they always will.

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