Programming Ideas

Incorporating Intellectual Freedom into Programming: Storytime

The ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee continues a series of blog posts on incorporating intellectual freedom and information literacy into cornerstone, everyday library programs. These techniques enrich the work you already do as a librarian without disrupting your programming routine. For this post, we’ll focus on tips for including intellectual freedom concepts into storytimes for children ages 3 – 5.

Tip 1: Informally chat with parents and caregivers at the end of storytime about choosing books for and with their children. Not every book is for every reader or family, and that’s OK!

Tip 2: Pair fiction books with non-fiction books to offer a choice between reading for knowledge and reading for pleasure.

Tip 3: Allow child to choose a book that may, on its face, be considered too “difficult” for the child to read. Use this opportunity to incorporate literacy by doing a picture walk, which encourages readers to use pictures as clues to understand the story. Begin with looking at the front cover and asking what they think the story will be about. As you flip through the pages, prompt a discussion by using guided questions like, “What is happening in this picture?” and “How do you think the character feels?” Allow children to use their imagination as they narrate the story.

Sample Programs

Pick and choose the parts that work for you!

Theme: Free to Choose

Rationale: It’s important to recognize and respect children’s independence and autonomy. While you can apply this concept to any storytime (we went with a Books/Reading theme for this sample), you may wish to start with a “Librarian’s Favorites” so you will be comfortable, confident and enjoy reading any of the books the children choose.
Introduce the topic:
Start storytime by saying: “Grown-ups make choices for you every day. Wouldn’t it be fun if you were in charge at storytime? You all get to pick what books we read and what songs we sing today!” Make song cards for popular storytime songs and put them on a felt board. Select a volunteer to pick a song from the board, or have children vote. Include a display of 3 to 5 books, briefly tell the children about each of the books, then let them decide which book you will read.

Read: Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr; This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne; We Are in A Book by Mo Willems.

Alternate Titles: The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone; A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell; Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Brown.

Extension Activity: Create a Mad Libs version of a well-known story. Since young children will not be familiar with concepts like verb and adjective, create a color-coded grab bag of words (yellow for verbs, green for adjectives, etc.) for children to randomly select words to complete the Mad Libs.

Theme: True Story?

Rationale: Information literacy – the ability to gauge truth from fiction, reality from hyperbole – is a key component of intellectual freedom.

Introduce the topic: Show pictures or have an examples of real objects versus a pretend object. For example, bring in a real apple and a toy apple. Pass around the objects and discuss the differences.

Read: Before reading the book, ask children if they know the story of Sleeping Beauty. Listen to their responses, then read Waking Beauty by Leah Wilcox. Afterwards, talk about how the story differs from the version they knew. Repeat the process for Huff and Puff by Claudia Rueda.

Alternate Titles: Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox; Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale; Snoring Beauty by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.

Extension Activity: Let kids examine “Model Magic”, an air-drying modeling clay. Look at the pictures on the box and discuss the word “magic” and expectations of the clay. As participants play with the clay, ask them “Is the clay magic” “Why do (or don’t) you think so?” “Does it work the way you thought it would?”

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: Programming Skills

Our guest bloggers today are Meagan Albright ( and Kristen Rodriguez (, Youth Services Librarians at the Nova Southeastern University Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center in Fort Lauderdale, FL and Ashely Brown ( Engagement and Outreach Librarian at Auburn Public Library. 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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