Blogger Katie Salo

A Storytime By Any Other Name…

A Wordle (wordle.net) created by the author.
A Wordle (wordle.net) created by the author.

Let’s talk about naming storytime, shall we?

This post started in my head after a parent thanked me for my new preschool storytime (that I’ve named Discovery!) and let me know that her son has developed an aversion to the word storytime. She went on to explain that he loves books and stories and the library, but that “storytime” tripped him up. And I began to think about how we name our programs.

My previous library struggled with translating “storytime” into Spanish. Ultimately the official translation that was approved was “hora de cuentos” which literally translates back to English as “storyhour”. Patrons were constantly asking what kinds of activities happened in our programs. We kept getting the question: “Do you really read to them for an hour straight?” Eventually our Spanish-speaking patrons learned to see past the name of our program. But I often wonder if re-branding or re-naming would have created less confusion.

Before I started at my new library, staff had worked to re-brand all storytime classes under a name: Little University. The idea was to make patrons more aware of the early literacy components and goals in a storytime. Our patrons take Little U classes very seriously — we have a registration start date and classes have a teacher-student ratio, just like a real university. Our brand emphasizes the learning aspects of storytime in a way that’s marketable to patrons.

I know of libraries who make make their storytime names clear and easily understood for patrons: “Wonderful Ones” and “Terrific Twos”; “Walkers, Wigglers, and Crawlers” and “Lapsit”; “Family Storytime” and “On Our Own Storytime” — these storytime names use ages or development milestones or the target audience in their names.

So, what’s in a name? I think the point that I’m trying to make is that the name of your storytime program needs to make sense to your patrons. And that it isn’t necessary to have a clever name, but is necessary to have a clear name. Don’t leave patrons guessing if your program is right for them. Educate them. Reach out to them and make sure that your message is being heard.

No matter the name, a program is successful if it’s reaching your patrons and teaching them to love the library and to love learning those valuable early literacy skills.

What do you call your storytimes and why? Have any interesting name stories to share? And, of course, now is the time to have the library debate of “storytime” vs. “story time” in the comments.

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Library
http://storytimekatie.com

10 comments

  1. Morgan Peltier

    I have reworked my Story Time format this year, moving away from grouping sessions by age to grouping them b activity level. In previous years, I’ve had a “Toddler Time” for 2-3 year olds, and a “Pre-School Time” for 3-5 year olds. My town has a very young demographic and high birthdate, with a lot of stay-at-home mothers with multiple young children–I was finding that I rarely had the age range that I’d prepared for, since a parent or caregiver would simply bring their infant, two y/old and 4 y/old to whichever day fit their schedule best. This year, we instead have “Mice” and “Lions.” The first is meant to be a bit more sedate, using more puppets, flannel board stories and art, and the second includes musical instruments, more physical movement and the occasional parachute party.

    So far, so fun!

    By the way, Katie…I spent a chunk of today making some matching socks for a flannel board next week…thanks for your great blog!

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Ohhhh, I love the idea of “Mice” and “Lions” to show storytime activity level. That is genius!

      Thank you for reading!

  2. Carrie Roer

    I asked the question about naming storytime in the Storytime Guerrilla Facebook group a couple months ago because I was looking at re-branding ours. We used to name them based on the day of the week they met (Wiggly Wednesday, Friday Friends) but were moving to putting both of our programs on the same day. I liked the idea of incorporating ages (Babytime, Terrific Twos, etc.), but we were also going to be combining ages. I settled on “Storytime for Littles” (age 0-2 yrs) and “Storytime for Bigs” (age 2-5 yrs). It works for this year. Not sure if I’ll keep it for the future. I’m torn between keeping the word storytime — because it’s what parents have come to look for — and dropping it, in case, as you mentioned, it may be keeping some kids away.

    I always write “storytime” and the computer annoyingly tries to correct me… In this comment alone there are tons of little red squiggly lines…

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      A great solution to combining ages!

      Sometimes I think the word “storytime” brings up a very sedate idea of sitting in a room and listening quietly. I’d be interested to hear what happens if you do decide to drop it.

      If I’m talking about a library program, I feel very strongly it works better as “storytime” and the little red squiggly lines make me annoyed too.

  3. Laura

    I LOVE the idea of Little University! It informs parents that what we do is not just about fun (which it usually is!), but that we are purposefully planning a program to engage children in early literacy skills. Right now we have the basic – “Infant, Toddler, Preschool” storytimes. Maybe I can open up a conversation about how to re-brand the program names… you’ve got me thinking!

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      I take absolutely no credit, but the re-branding was awesome. Patrons really responded to it!

      Our class names are Baby Brilliance, Talented Toddlers, Junior Genius for the storytimes you described.

      Good luck starting your conversation!

  4. Shannon Tyner

    This is such a timely post for me! I am constantly waging battle against renaming my story times with cutesy names (which is what library admin really wants me to do for some reason). I currently have Baby and Toddler Story Time (ages 0-2) and Preschool Story Time (ages 2-5). Straight to the point. No guessing what to expect. It works for me, and it works for my families. I regularly have 30-40 kids at Monday story time- we offer story time three mornings a week- so I don’t really see the point of a name change. Is it just me?

    But.

    I’m looking at Carrie’s comment, and I’m thinking I really like Story Time for Littles and Story Time for Bigs. So who knows. Maybe I’ll branch out next season after all!

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      I guess what I would try to do is ask admin why they want the change when you’re clearly reaching your patron base.

      I know — Carrie’s names are great! For Littles and For Bigs is definitely patron-friendly language. Good luck if you do decide to change it up, but no worries if you don’t since your numbers look great!

  5. Jan Connell

    Along the same lines: we’d like to rename our childcare/preschool/Head Start storytime. We’re using “Childcare Storytime,” but that sounds like we’re reading to an organization. Any ideas?

    1. Kathy Larson

      Big Group Storytime? Something that portrays you are expecting a group of kids with a caregiver. Stories for the Crowd, All Together Stories. . .

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