Why do you offer storytime at your library?
Is it just for entertainment? Is it to give kids and parents something to do? Is it to get them to step inside the library? Is it just because you’ve always offered storytime? Is it because storytime is what libraries have?
I really try to remain nonjudgmental about everyone’s library offerings for youth. Every community is different and libraries need to be doing what’s right for their community. It means that not every library will or should offer the same programs and services.
But the purposefulness of storytime is where I draw the line.
Every community with young children needs programs to help them succeed in school. And that’s exactly what storytime brings to the table.
I cringe when I hear a librarian say that his or her storytimes are for entertainment.
Yes, storytimes are entertaining. Yes, they give kids and parents something to do. Yes, they are generally something public libraries are expected to offer. But storytimes are so much more. And we need to be saying that at every opportunity to everyone who asks.
As I have educated myself and my staff about early literacy and child development, it’s become imperative that every early childhood program we’re offering at the library is based on developing early literacy and school readiness skills. Every activity we include is there for a reason and if a parent asked why we chose that activity, we could tell him or her what skill we’re learning or practicing.
We are professionals. You are a professional. Don’t sell yourself short.
And the best thing? The very best thing?? You’re already providing these skill-building activities in your storytimes. I guarantee it.
Singing? You’re developing phonological awareness – helping children hear that words are made up of smaller sounds. Teaching rhythm helps children learn to think spatially (math skills!).
Reading stories? You’re encouraging print motivation – getting kids excited to read by sharing fun stories with them. You’re demonstrating how a book works: how you open it, how you turn the pages.
Doing a craft? You’re helping young children practice fine motor skills that they will use when they learn to write. Maybe they’re practicing following directions. Maybe they’re unleashing their creativity.
Bringing out some toys for play time? Play is a wonderful learning activity for children. Playing with children encourages oral communication, which leads to children hearing and learning more and more words.
You’re already doing all these beneficial activities naturally in your early childhood programs. But many people (parents, community stakeholders, maybe your director, maybe your trustees) don’t know that having fun in storytime is actually an essential learning experience. It’s our job to tell them that. And that’s how we get to keep our jobs.
“Entertainment” can easily be found elsewhere. But free programs that build early literacy and school readiness skills don’t grow on trees.
We know we have the most fun in the library. But we’re not doing storytime just for the fun of it.
Not sure how to explain the cognitive benefits of your storytime program? Check out some of the following resources to get started:
- CLEL (Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy)
- Every Child Ready to Read
- The Magpie Librarian’s Little Reminders Everywhere
- Mel’s Desk – Melissa’s Tips for Delivering Early Literacy Messages
- Reading Rockets
- Storytime Underground
- Zero to Three
What do you say when someone asks you why you provide storytime? How do you spread the good word about early literacy and school readiness in your library?
— Abby Johnson, Children’s Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN