It’s Okay to Mess Up

Some days my storytimes run smoothly. Other days I think things are going great and then there’s a wrench in my plans-my books don’t arrive in time, I’m out of a craft supply I need, I need to switch my storytime because I’ve ended up with the opposite age group than I was expecting. And while it’s always great when a storytime goes wonderfully. it’s also okay to mess up.

I was recently reading Hello, Day by Anita Lobel to my preschool storytime group. I had already read it earlier in the morning for toddlers and was glancing down at each page to see what animal it was, but was most reciting the book from memory. I turned the page and said “the pig said, ‘oink, oink, oink” to which my preschoolers excitedly oinked right along with me. Then a grandma called out, “Miss Sarah, that’s a cow!” I looked down at the page, laughed and said “well, that’s why Miss Sarah shouldn’t read upside down!” The kids went right along with my mistake and the adults laughed along with me.

Or there was the time I was singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to my toddler crowd and was happily singing and leading the group, only to realize I had mixed up the words! I laughed it off and started over and told the group, “see, even librarians mess up sometimes!”

And that’s why I think it’s okay and maybe even important to let our mistakes happen. It shows that we’re not perfect, that we too can mess up the words to a book we’ve read a dozen times, or a song we’ve known since childhood. It’s okay to mess up-it shows our kids that mistakes can happen and we can move on. It shows our parents that they don’t have to be perfect at singing or reading aloud.

So go ahead and smile, laugh and move on and remember it’s all good.


  1. Renee Perron

    Every once in a while I take out the LCD projector at my preschool story class and share a TumbleBook with the families. Its nice to show the families about this great resource we have available through our library’s website.

    One day I had all the equipment set up and ready to go. (or so I thought!) As I began the e-story, I found out that I didn’t have the speakers hooked up correctly and the only sound I was getting was from the laptop, not very loud at all. So during the middle of the story, I tried to connect the speakers and failed. I tried to just turn off the sound and read the book aloud myself and failed. It was a bilingual book and I couldn’t correctly pronounce some of the Spanish words! And when I tried to skip back to a page, I got all jumbled up and ended up on the wrong page.

    It was so embarassing. Here, I’m supposed to be the librarian who understands and can use technology, and I can’t get this right. So I had to end the e-story half way through because it was a big mess and just went right into my other (physical) books for the class.

    But a comment from one of my regular story class children made me feel better. “That’s okay. I like the real books better.”

  2. Heather Webb

    I have two story time mistakes that haunt me a good ten years later. The first was the time I cheerily launched into “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” singing the correct words, but doing the motions entirely backwards. I laughed it off, started over and DID THE SAME THING again! We switched to a different song then. On the up side, all the parents had a great laugh about it.

    The other one wasn’t quite as amusing as it was mortifying. Let’s just say I learned the hard way not to read “Sheep in a Ship” out loud.

  3. Abby Johnson

    I think you’re right that it’s okay (and even important!) to show parents and caregivers that we make mistakes. They’re getting the message: you don’t have to be a perfect reader/singer/etc. to share books/songs/etc. with your child! And they love to help us out, too. 🙂

    (This happened to me last week – I was singing the closing song in baby storytime and I looked over to see a HUGE BUG on the wall of our storytime room. It distracted me so much that I totally forgot the words to the last verse and had to start it over! And then after I put the toys out, I killed that bug with my shoe. So there.)

  4. Kelly Doolittle

    Thankyou so much for this one! It’s such a relief to know others mess up. Thanks especially to Heather Webb – I can so relate! Here’s [one of!] my worst: I had worked so hard on a song about recycling (that I made up & played my guitar with) and got through it perfectly, but then, the next song was our closing song & I played the chord, waited for it to come to me….and waited…! I finally said, oh my gosh! Somebody give me the first three words, please! That triggered it, thank goodness. This on a song we’ve sung EVERY storytime for 6 years! I especially get freaked out because I’m 55, (not a spring chicken anymore:), not that I haven’t always had the worst memory!) but I also laughed at the time (somewhat hysterically!) & so did the grownups and it was totally O.K.!

    I’ve long been an advocate of humor as an aid in getting through messy storytime situations of all varieties! Chins up, programmers!

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