Blogger Katie Salo

Unconventional Preparations for Storytime

Okay, fellow storytime librarians — you all know the lengthy preparations we take to ensure that our patrons attend the very best storytimes we can offer them. We choose books, songs, rhymes, and fingerplays. We make flannelboards and props. We create handouts and take-home information packets. We practice those literacy tips in the mirror until they sound natural and just roll off of our tongues.

Those are the expected practices.

But it’s time to talk about the unexpected preparations. The things you find yourself doing in the weeks, days, or minutes before your patrons get your undivided attention in your programming space. The untold stories of storytime prep.

The passenger seat of my car this past fall, full of storytime materials! [Photo courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]
The passenger seat of my car this past fall, full of storytime materials!

[Photo courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]

Like planning your storytime wardrobe the night before and singing your opening song in front of the mirror so you can make sure that your clothes will move in an appropriate manner.

Or keeping a new storytime CD in your car and switching to it the minute a commercial break hits the radio waves. And letting your fellow travelers watch your awesome hand motions while stopped at a train crossing or a red light.

And packing an extra sweater to change into once “the storytime sweat” hits you. Which is always around thirty minutes after your performance is over and you’ve finished your clean-up routine.

Or running to Michael’s and being the first customer in line because you read an amazing last-minute idea the night before and you just KNOW it’s going to make your storytime ever better.

And giving up your front passenger seat for storytime outreach. And the immediate apology to guests in your car, “Hang on, let me move all my things. Sorry about the portable flannelboard.”

Or testing out new action songs for your sister’s dog. If he wags his tail and tries to jump in, surely it will work for the toddlers, right?

So, let it out! This past week, I demonstrated my storytime outfit dance for my storytime moms and not only did it make them laugh, I also think it made them realize the care and thought that I put into storytime. It made the program all the more special.

What are your unconventional storytime preparations? Do you also schedule a bathroom break ten minutes before you get started? Let me know in the comments!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library


  1. Abby Johnson

    Practicing oral storytelling in front of my cat! (My Wolf voice scares him 😉

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      So far I haven’t scared my sister’s pup yet, but I imagine that day will come! At some point, he’s going to look at me with the eye of, “Auntie, I am done shaking my sillies out. You are nuts.”

  2. Lisa Mulvenna

    I always need to drink Vernors (ginger ale for you non Michiganders) before my performances to settle my stomach.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Ooooh. That’s a really good idea! I’m jotting that one down.

  3. Michelle Peltier

    Yes to the bathroom break (9:50 AM and 10:50 AM)!

    I have also said, “Oh, guess I need to get these craft supplies out of the truck before I go grocery shopping.”

    My kids hate when I sing storytime songs (MOOOM DON’T SINGGGG!), so my nephew gets the Miss Michelle treatment when I babysit. He’s a hardcore fan of “Open Shut Them.”

    I should buy Pepsi stock due to all the Mountain Dew consumption before/during/after storytimes.

    And wardrobe? I have a not-for-storytime section in my closet. True story.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Right? So necessary!

      I didn’t even talk about my trunk. It always have my travel flannelboard easel, my rolling cart…and right now? Two boxes of files from my last library that I still need to go through.

      Awesome, your nephew has good taste!

      And I should buy some Coke from the Diet Coke I immediately chug afterwards to prevent the “end of storytime” crash.

      HA! I love it. I may need to sort my clothes like that.

  4. Sarah Bean Thompson

    I make sure I grab a cup of water right before storytime-especially on days I’m doing back to back sessions with lots of singing.

    I should think more about the storytime wardrobe, but I usually don’t wear dresses and sometimes wear skirts on storytime days. I do plan my outfits and wear lighter clothing on storytime mornings because I know I’m going to have that storytime sweat and I know sweaters are not great for moving around, jumping and dancing, and setting up and tearing down.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Water is good!

      I am so glad whenever I hear someone else mention the storytime sweat. People might not think it’s true, but librarians know the truth. (Also, I almost always grab a cropped thin sweater from Old Navy for storytime days. Awesome for storytime!)

  5. Kelly Doolittle

    Absolutely pre-storytime bathroom breaks – numerous! Change of socks/shoes (my feet sweat when I’m a bit nervous!) Last minute Michaels, yes! Our business office maven is always saying, “Kelly, why can’t you just get everything you need all at once, at the beginning of your sessions??” HOW CAN I EXPLAIN? (Perhaps I’ll forward her this post!) and testing out the songs on my kids: 24 and 17. Years old. So now they’re old enough, sometimes they let me! Thanx for a wonderfully empathetic post, Katie!

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      You’re welcome!

      No one understands that! No matter HOW prepared you are, there’s always that wonderful spark of last minute inspiration that makes you run out to Michaels. Or someone makes a post and getting the kids that something special is all you can think about.

  6. Dianna Burt

    I find myself not able to go to sleep because I started writing a piggyback song in my head as soon as my head hit the pillow. For example an owl song to the tune of “Kookaburra.”
    Little Brown Owl
    (tune: Kookaburra)
    Little brown owl sits in her tree.
    Little brown owl watches — sees.
    Hoot brown owl,
    Hoot brown owl,
    Hoot just for me.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      And I have now copied that piggyback song down for Fall Storytimes. Thank you!

  7. Lauren

    I can definitely relate to the story time / not story time wardrobe. I do worry that I’ll accidentally end up wearing the same shirt every week, though. Also I sing to myself in the car because my kids can’t stand to hear the songs any more.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      I…have never thought about wearing the same shirt. I’m now concerned that perhaps my families have seen several weeks of the same shirt in a row.

      I sing very loudly in my car. You are not alone.

    2. Julie

      I’m coming to this conversation late thanks to the ALSC blog roundup, but after I once had a storytime mom comment how she liked the purple shirt I wear to storytime, I started keeping track of my storytime outfits on a piece of paper on my dresser so I don’t repeat. If only I had a bigger wardrobe of storytime clothes.

  8. Amy Seto Musser

    Yes to the bathroom break! I also take that as my time to fill up my water bottle!

    I always check to make sure my ukulele is in tune. And when I do baby time I like to have a CD of jazz, classical, or world music to play during the playtime that follows storytime. So I like to have a few minutes to browse the adult CDs.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Bathroom break! So glad to have such company with needing to do that!

      Excellent idea. I use our in-house storytime collection for music, so that’s easier to grab since it’s in the storytime space. But tuning — oh, yeah!

  9. Kary Henry

    Yes to the bathroom break!

    Cup of water? Check. Tissues in case of runny nose? Check.

    Practicing fingerplays while on desk? Having adult patrons look away in embarrassment (for me)? Check. Check.

    LOVE the phrase “storytime sweat” — so true! — I do consider that part of my job as equivalent to one workout! Thanks for this great post.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Oooh, tissues! I should definitely add tissues. (Though I do have a box for my storytime families to use, so I think I’m covered?)

      It feels like a workout, doesn’t it?

  10. Kate C

    No one has mentioned walking to an outreach visit (or to and from work, or for exercise) and singing or talking to themselves while practicing a new song, rhyme or flannelboard story. It’s one thing to be in the car, but another to be on the street where people can actually hear you 🙂

    Ditto to bathroom breaks, water, and layering clothing so you’re comfortable before, during and after storytimes.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      That would be another thing! Unfortunately, I live thirty minutes away from work, so I haven’t been able to have that experience yet!

      Layering is so important.

  11. Alex Byrne (@HeofHIshirts)

    Oh, the story time prep that includes my always listening to the pieces that the community band I’m in plays to see if there’s one that would work well for the segments where I want background music, you mean?

    Or making sure that I remember all the right things to say to the parents (shoes off is okay, pajamas are okay, no stigma if kids are wiggly, have fun!) and the time that gets taken into naming each of the stuffed animals that are my assistants for one session of my lapsit story time?

    Yeah, there’s a lot that goes on, a lot more than just picking out books.

    1. Katie Salo Post author


      I love how you worded your last line: “Yeah, there’s a lot that goes on, a lot more than just picking out books.” — I think that is something that we need to make clearer to our patrons and perhaps even some co-workers.

  12. Lisa Underwood

    I de-bling myself before storytime. Necklaces, bracelets, nametag on lanyard – they all have to go. I have been hit in the face one too many times to leave them on for my programs now. I do far too much moving in storytime!

  13. Anne

    First I have to decide what to wear. LAYERS that are easily removed. (I get warm and break into the ST Sweat usually around the bouncing rhyme break! I call it my Story Time Flash!) Pack my bag, bathroom, check bag, bathroom, check teeth, preemptive nose blow, bathroom, check books are in order. Load up the wagon and walk to the library, where I try the bathroom AGAIN. When you write it all out like that it looks a lot nuttier than it feels!

  14. Meg

    I can nurse a Starbucks grande iced coffee through two morning story times!

  15. Kyndra

    I love it all! I thought I was the only person who went through all of this to do her storytime, I’m so glad I’m not alone! I’ve learned to not wear slippery shoes, because our floor is very slippery, and I tend to jump around alot during storytime, so the two combined is very bad indeed. I always make sure all books are in order, check, flannels, check, jug of water, check, and stickers to hand out at the end. If I don’t have my stickers, a riot will be happening for sure! I love this blog, keep up the good work! God Bless!

  16. Natalie

    Singing in the shower, car, and while walking between the bookmobile and wherever the storytime is taking place to get those lyrics and movements memorized (I can’t do it in the bookmobile itself because it distracts the driver). Practicing the voices until I can’t actually do them because my voice is hoarse (only happened once, fortunately)! Most recently, sewing at 3in the morning (my wakeup call is at 7) because there are two little girls in one group who’re convinced I’m Elsa, and the look in their eyes when I came to do a Halloween storytime in a genuine Frozen dress was beyond worth it (one didn’t let go of the dress the entire time, and several other kids kept coming up and touching the glittery sleeves–and trying to prevent the flood of glitter was an entirely different bunch of crazy, and ultimately futile, preparations >.< Still, the kids were thrilled and thought it was just a sign of my awesome ice powers).

  17. Heather Henderson

    And, what about our poor coworkers who have to hear us sing that annoying line from a story time song over and over throughout the rest of the day…it just slips out until the ride home when the radio can finally rule!

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