Three Principles for Intentional Movement in Storytime

The word “intentionality” has taken on greater meaning within the world of library service to the very young in recent years, following the publication of Project VIEWS2 and Supercharged Storytimes: An Early Literacy Planning and Assessment Guide.[1] Storytime presenters are thinking more about how they want to support early literacy development through their programming in the materials they select and-more crucially—the way that they use those materials and engage with children and families throughout the storytime experience. Another critical domain of school readiness, however, remains less well understood: physical development.

Most storytimes in 2019 incorporate movement to some degree. However, that movement is typically used for the purpose of “getting the wiggles out” so that children are having fun and can become settled for the next reading or rhyming portion of the program. When we understand a few basic principles of physical development, we can begin to apply the same intentionality to our movement choices as we utilize when we share books and songs.

Automation. The brain prioritizes physical development above other kinds of learning in the early years of life.[2] Imagine a child who is just learning to walk. This effort requires the full force of their concentration. As the child refines this skill, it becomes automated, meaning they can perform it without having to think about it. Once the body is capable of moving in a variety of automated ways, the brain is able to direct more attention to other kinds of learning, such as reading and writing. Principle #1: Providing a variety of common and novel movement opportunities in storytime directly supports all other domains of early learning.

Cross-lateral Movement. We understand that our brains are not done growing when we are born. Part of the continued growth that takes place in those early years is building the connections that allow the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate with one another. We build those connections by crossing all three of the body’s midlines: sagittal, coronal, and horizontal. These connections between the left and right hemispheres are crucial for later learning, such as learning to read. Principle #2: Moving across all three of the body’s midlines supports the development of neural connections necessary for other kinds of early learning.

Synergy. Emerging research indicates that when we combine early literacy practices—such as singing—with movement activities—such as twisting, core engagement, and balancing—the effects on both the physical gains and the early literacy gains are greater than when those activities are implemented in isolation.[3] If, as a profession, we care about early literacy, we must also care about physical development. Principle #3: Combing early literacy practices with movement derives greater gains than engaging in those practices alone.

Forgive the pun, but let’s start a movement of applying the same intentionality that imbues our storytime choices of books, songs, and stories to the way we use movement in our programming. In doing so we take the helm as essential community partners in preparing young children for school success. How will the understanding of these principles impact your storytime planning going forward?

[1] https://journals.ala.org/index.php/cal/article/view/5925/7510

[2] https://www.freespirit.com/teaching-strategies-and-professional-development/moving-child-is-a-learning-child-gill-connell-cheryl-mccarthy/

[3] https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1055702

Katie Scherrer, MLIS, RYT is a consultant and the founder of Stories, Songs, and Stretches!®, an early learning start-up dedicated to the enhancement of school readiness through mindful movement and stillness. Scherrer wrote this piece as a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services committee. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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