Their eyes were bright and twinkling. Their faces were tilted up from their place on the carpeted floor! All fifteen of the four-year-old children sat transfixed in their places and thoroughly enthralled with the speaker as she shared the poem, The Three Little Kittens! It was her expressions and the nuances of her voice that captured their full attention. As I watched the children’s faces, I mentally made a note to plan some follow-up activities. At that moment, I discovered the love of storytelling and the magic of holding children’s interest. I heard Ms. Carol Reinhardt, the librarian; introduce the book, The Snowy Day. As I look back, I realize that those memories were over twenty years ago when I owned a preschool center. Yet, it seems like yesterday as I reflect on the importance of storytime.
As part of the weekly curriculum, the children’s teacher and I took them to the local library for storytime. The parents provided a library card that I kept in my office. Each Tuesday, we headed to the library in the center’s van. The children learned the routine quickly. First, they experienced stories and activities and then they selected books to check out.
The library had a designated room for storytime. It was attractive and equipped with easels, puppets, sentence strips, flannel board, etc. Upon entering this special room, the children found a space on the floor and quietly sat with their legs crossed anticipating the arrival of Ms. Reinhardt. Usually, she planned a theme-based assembly. During one of the weeks in February, she selected snow as her topic. On this particular day, she entered the room in a toboggan, scarf, and mittens. The children were mesmerized by her appearance! Once she began reading, her intonation and excitement kept the children fixed on the pages of her book. At the end of the first story, Ms. Reinhardt involved the children in a song, a movement activity, and a finger play. I’m sure that she kept this pace to keep even the most hyper-active child from becoming restless. I can almost hear her reading, “crunch, crunch, crunch, his feet sank in the snow.”
After storytime ended each week, the children went into the larger area where the books are stored. With fifteen four-year-old children, it did not take long for us to decide that we could not turn them loose in an organized library. Ms. Reinhardt’s solution was to gather around fifty books to display on several tables. The hands-on approach worked. I wish you could have seen the children turning pages and studying the illustrations. However, some children became more discriminatory about their needs. “I want a dinosaur book,” Carson indicated. We made every effort to accommodate. The children walked out of the library each Tuesday with their books in hand and a satisfactory smile on their faces.
The library visits were much more than a great activity each week. It provided ongoing benefits that rippled through the entire center and beyond. The rewards were immeasurable! The children began displaying many school readiness skills such as improving their vocabulary, pointing out words and letters, developing fine and large motor skills, decision making, following directions, taking care of borrowed property, and many more. Through their experiences, they became more consciousness of print. They began pointing out new words that they recognized each week. And more importantly, they developed a love for books.
With the library’s influence, the children’s interest in books catapulted the teachers, and family members to ramp-up their literacy practices. The preschool center became saturated with literacy experiences. The teachers began discussing authors, illustrators, genres, and ways to better share books. Their deliveries were more animated with modulated voices. I could clearly see the influence that Ms. Reinhardt’s storytime was making on the teachers.
With two new books going home each week, parents, grandparents, and guardians were reading books over and over. “How many times am I going to have to read Owl Moon,” one parent asked, jokingly?
It’s been years since that special time working directly with young children. The majority of my career was spent teaching early childhood education at the college level. While I can cite theories on literacy, I know first-hand that librarians, teachers, and parents that read books aloud to young children are encouraging them to get hooked on the enjoyment of reading. Book exposure enables young children to develop a love of books. Therefore, these children become good readers which are one of the keys to a successful student. Beyond that, loving books and reading are the attributes of life-long learning.
Our guest blogger today is Wanda Wyont. Wanda has worked in the field of education over twenty five years in many diverse backgrounds. Her teaching experiences range from preschool to college age. She has written and published numerous articles and papers on children’s issues. As an experienced storyteller, Wanda encourages children to become good readers and writers. Wanda Wyont is the author of the recently published book, Barkley’s Great Escape.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.
Yay! It’s always good to be reminded of the benefits of Storytimes for young children – and of the importance of emoting while reading out loud! When you are excited about a book and you show it with your voice, kids respond to that. As a storytime host, it never hurts to look again at my own techniques and ask myself, am I doing the best I can?
Thank you for sharing! I’m feeling refreshed and ready to go again!
Thank you for your kind comments!