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.

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