Saturday, December 5, 2009

On storytime

When I first moved from teen librarianship in Boston to children's librarianship here, the one thing that terrified me was... gulp... doing storytime. Getting up there in front of little kids and memorizing rhymes and singing? What if I did it wrong? What if the parents thought, "Ugh, what a horrible children's librarian, she doesn't know how to do a storytime!"

Of course, nothing of the sort happened. It turns out that three-year-olds and their parents are a pretty easygoing audience, and forgiving of occasional word-flubs in songs.

Now, storytime is my favorite part of the week. I love to play with it, and come up with crafts, and think of new things to do.

So, for the uninitiated, what is storytime? Isn't it just a librarian sitting there reading a book?

Well, I suppose in theory that it could be. Storytime will tend to be whatever the librarian in question decides on. At Cherry Hills, we have two storytime models, and beginning in January, there will be a third.

The first, Preschool Passport, is Wednesday and Thursday at 10:15--except during our break months in December and August--and is aimed at children three to five years old. This one is mine. I usually read three or four books, and we sing five songs, usually "The World is Big," "Old MacDonald," "Frere Jacques," "Bingo," and "If You're Happy and You Know It." Once a month, we have a storytime dedicated to a different part of the world (so far, we've done New Mexico, Spain, and China... Scandinavia is coming in January!). Because I like to let kids have some control, I let them choose what animals Old MacDonald has on his farm--we've had the standard cows and horses, but we've also had tigers (who say "grr-grr"), dinosaurs ("clomp-clomp"), dragons ("rahr-rahr"), camels ("spit-spit"), crocodiles ("snap-snap"), and even a shark ("chomp-chomp"). Thinking of noises is always great fun, and keeps me on my toes! For Frere Jacques, which is often already known in a non-English language (generally French), it seemed like a good time to take advantage of the natural preschool affinity for language. The children choose a language at random from my collection of sixteen (so far), and sing the song as well as learning a couple of fun facts about the country or countries where the language is spoken. Always amusing to me is how much better kids are at mimicking the sounds than we adults are. I have to practice for a long time to be able to say "Hoor de klokken luiden" (Flemish), but the kids just rattle it right off when they hear it! I'm currently on the hunt for new fun facts to let them in on. (And if you happen to know Frere Jacques in a non-English language, I'd love to hear it!)

Our second storytime is the popular Toddler Time lapsit, run by Miss Mercedes. There are three books, all on simple themes and with easy, rhythmic language and bright pictures. Between them, energetic toddlers get a chance to bounce, dance, sing, rhyme, and cuddle with Mommy or Daddy (or Grandma, babysitter, and so on). It's always fun to watch them coming in, greeting our huge teddy bear, Dewey, then waiting for Miss Mercedes to get them going with "Open them, close them," which lets them know it's time to start things up. About halfway through, they get to jump and wiggle to their hearts' delight when the toddler-time signature song, "Shake Your Sillies Out," comes up. There are also rhymes and fingerplays, like "Five Little Ducks," "Hickory Dickory Dock," and "Five Little Monkeys, " that parents can learn and do at home. Toddler Time is meant as an opportunity for parents and children to play together and sing together, and it's designed as much as possible around opportunities to interact--whether in the cuddle-friendly "Five Little Monkeys" or the lifting and motion-heavy "Wheels on the Bus"--and enjoy each other's company.

In January, after other Saturday, we're introducing a new storytime with Miss Simone--Music and Movement, which puts greater stress on dance and rhythm and melody, and will include a chance to play with blocks and drums and maracas, as well as dancing with streaming ribbons. The similar Music and Movement program at Juan Tabo has been popular among children and parents. The themed sessions will include things like "Manners" and "Bunnies," with songs and rhymes and stories and even dances inspired by that week's theme. Miss Simone has been working very hard to find fabulous music to share, and we're looking forward to the kickoff!

Storytime is a terrific way to spend time with kids, and I'll let you in on a secret... it's really fun for us big people, too.

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