Blogger Katie Salo

Tips for a Successful Music & Movement Program

2016 marks my third year of running the incredibly popular Music & Movement program “Shake, Shimmy, & Dance” during summer reading. This crowd-pleasing, high-energy program packs in 70-120 multi-generational participants each week. I’ve thought a lot this past week about what has made the program so successful and about some tips to pass on to other youth librarians looking to replicate this program.

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Music & Movement Program

  1. Know your music collection. If you’ve got a particular artist that your community knows and loves, pop them into your playlist. For my kiddos, it’s Jim Gill and Laurie Berkner. If they hear the beginning of The Goldfish Song anywhere, they squeal with joy.
  2. Empower your grown-ups to get involved. Don’t let them sit down on the sideline and help lead them by providing instructions or dance tips. I include a ton of dance tips on the back of my handouts (clap your hands, jump up and down, spin your child around, pretend to do an everyday activity like shopping). I also have a Powerpoint up with dance instructions or suggestions.
  3. Balance new with old. Try a few new songs mixed in with classics. I like to use Twist and Shout by Old Town School of Folk Music or the Fresh Beat Band to get a reaction from the grown-ups. Later this summer, I’m going to try to add Sweet Home Chicago by Laura Doherty in and see how that goes!
  4. Give the kids something to hold. Some Music and Movement programs have lots of props out for the children to choose from. I decided to focus on one kind of prop per program. I use shaker eggs, scarves, wrist ribbons, bells, and a giant parachute. I’m looking into getting a stretchy band soon!
  5. Get staff to buy-in. Since this is a large program, it’s important to have staff support. Everyone from Technical Services (who shares a wall with our large meeting room) to the Kids and Teens staff members know what days are Music & Movement days. My K&T staff members make sure I have off desk time to cool down afterwards and Circulation knows to expect a larger check-out rush after the program is over. Make it fun for them — I take music requests! Technical Services always asks for more Caspar Babypants Beatles covers.
  6. Hand out something tangible for grown-ups to take home with a playlist. Or post it online if you’re going green. This serves as word of mouth for the program and also promotes your library’s music collection.
  7. Market the program not only to grown-ups in youth services, but also to grandparents — this is a great program to spend time with the whole family.
  8. Task someone with getting pictures and video of the program. Another way to publicize the success of the event but also a good idea to use in board reports or to make your case on return of investment.
  9. Purchase a quality sound system. Make sure that you can hear the music and the presenter in all areas of the programming room.
  10. Have fun and don’t worry about looking silly while you dance. I’m a crazy spinning mess of a dancer who shakes and twirls and jumps and sweats a lot. And I don’t care because the kids are having the BEST TIME EVER.

If you need suggestions for recorded music and where to start picking artists, check out this ALSC post I wrote last year — Recorded Storytime Music: A Primer. And for examples of my playlists and write-ups, you can view all of those on my blog, Storytime Katie under the Shake, Shimmy, & Dance tag.

Music & Movement: LIVE at ALA Annual

Music & Movement: LIVE at ALA Annual 2016 [Picture courtesy of the author.]
Music & Movement: LIVE at ALA Annual 2016 [Picture courtesy of the author.]

And a bonus! If you’re heading to ALA Annual, come see Sarah Bean Thompson, Angie Manfredi, and I put on a Music & Movement: LIVE program in the Uncommons. We’ll be showing off our own unique approaches to Music & Movement, complete with audience participation and your questions answered! We’ll be in the Uncommons on Saturday, June 25th from 1-2 p.m. eager to meet you!

Do you do Music & Movement at your library? Have any tips to share? Let me know in the comments!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library


  1. Kathia Ibacache

    Hi Katie,

    Yes, I do “Dance Time” and “Music Time” as part of our storytimes.
    In Dance Time, I teach three to four dance steps to the children and then we dance to a tune that I use for a month. Caregiver are encourage to dance too and many do. Right now I am using the song “Under the Sea.”
    In Music Time, I teach rhythmic patterns to the children while they practice on different percussion instruments. Then we applied the patterns we learned to a simple song. I have been teaching rounds (canons) for awhile, and the caregivers are great help in supporting the two voices.
    I do have a doctoral degree in music, which helps me put together educational and fun Music Time activities. I am sorry I will miss Music & Movement: Live.
    Great pots.

  2. Teresa cain

    Great ideas! My library doesn’t offer a music and movement program, but I love to incorporate a broad range of notable music (usually adult music) in regular storytimes. It gets a very good response from kids and adults. I’ve found that anytime the parents/caregivers are engaged, participating, and having a good time, the kids will follow their lead because they don’t want to miss out. I’d be willing to bet that an underlying reason why your programs are so successful is because the grownups are having fun. The preschoolers won’t get to come to library programs unless an adult brings them, so keeping adults happy has to be part of the equation, too.

  3. child care Karana

    Children who attend quality childcare programs are often better prepared for formal schooling.

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