Summer is always a busy time of year at the public library, especially for storytime.
This year we were faced with the possibility of an even busier summer schedule when one of our branches closed for remodeling. We knew we would end up absorbing a lot of that traffic as well making our attendance for storytime even higher than usual. We added additional time slots to help, but summer traffic is always high and we wanted to make sure we could accommodate everyone. We didn’t want to add registration or a ticketing system for storytime since we had never done that before. After brain storming with staff, we came up with a few ideas to make our summer storytimes work for everyone.
First, we cut out activity and craft time during storytime. Typically in storytime we have a craft and activity station time after our stories and songs. This can be very costly during summer with our large audiences. Since we have a early literacy play area in the department already and we had decided to put a focus on passive activities in the department during the summer, we decided to put our focus on all bounces, rhymes, stories, songs, scarves, parachute play, and instruments in storytime. I know this is pretty typical for many libraries, but this was a big change for us. Getting staff on board to let go of crafts took a bit of time and encouragement, but once they saw that they had the knowledge and capability they needed make a storytime like this work, I had more buy in from staff. We’ve had five weeks of summer storytimes so far and I haven’t had one parent tell me they miss craft time. It’s also been a great way to highlight our circulating toy collection as well as the early literacy play area.
Our average summer attendance is around 70 for storytime. In the past I’ve had parents mention they have trouble hearing storytime with our crowds. Even if I have a group of quiet kids, there’s still a rumble in the room that is hard to hear over. Staff work hard to project their voices and be heard over the noise, but we knew we needed something to help with summer. Our branch had just purchased a Hisonic Portable Sound System so we decided to incorporate into our storytimes when we had large groups. Our preschool storytimes have been especially large this summer and the sound system has helped so much! The kids can hear us as well as the parents and I’ve noticed I’ve had more parent involvement and interaction because they can hear my instructions, especially during parachute or instrument time. It’s not something we use all the time, but for large groups. it’s helped tremendously.
The last thing I implemented this summer was a do not cross line. I’ve wanted to implement something like this since I read Melissa Depper’s post on her “no fly zone” in storytime. At the time I had a branch manager who wasn’t sure she wanted to implement something like this, so we never did it. Now I have a new manager, plus a time when we really need to implement a signal of some sort and some storytime guidelines and the blue line was born. It was one of those last minute ideas and I didn’t have much one hand, so I grabbed some painter’s tape and taped a line down on the floor. As part of my storytime intro, I let parents know that kids all learn in different ways and that they are welcome to wander in the back of the room if needed. The only place I ask them not to go is past the blue line. This has helped give parents a guideline of where kids can go and it’s helped with my flannel boards, song lyrics, and other props from being grabbed because now parents come and get their kids before they cross the line.
These are all simple changes, but they’ve made a huge difference in our storytimes. Have you made any changes in your storytimes with help with summer reading?