Before I was born, my mom was a kindergarten teacher. When I was young, I remember her waking me up most mornings by singing “Good morning to you… good morning to you. We’re all in our places with sunshiny faces. Good morning to you… good morning to you.”
When I started my career as a Children’s Librarian, I decided to begin each storytime with this same song. It gave me a sense of familiarity and comfort in those early days of nervous storytime presentations.
In the subsequent months I began to notice the audience swaying back and forth as I sang, and it was only then that I realized I swayed as I sang too. It was our shared ritual- the singing, the swaying, the pointing at our “sunshiny” cheeks. Something we all looked forward to each week. I remember parents telling me how their child would “play” storytime at home, and it always began with the same good morning song. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery!
At my library, we would often have 100 attendees for Baby Storytime. With that many little ones and caregivers in a room, I found the only way to get everyone focused and engaged was to sing. The babies could be crawling all over, and the caregivers participating in dozens of separate side-conversations. But as soon as I started to sing they became a cohesive group, and we were sharing the moment together.
Some weeks when attendees were particularly rowdy, I would end up singing through the whole storytime, foregoing any books in favor of The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald, and The Wheels on the Bus. There were many families whose first language was not English, and they relied on storytimes to help them learn English words, songs, and traditional stories. A young Russian mother told me that her toddler could not yet speak a word of English, but she could sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star flawlessly.
One of my favorite storytimes I ever put together was “Sing-a-Book”- consisting entirely of books that are sung rather than read. We sang Old MacDonald’s Things that Go by Jane Clarke, This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera, Baby Beluga by Raffi, and The Whistle on the Train by Margaret McNamara. In between our singing books, we did a flannel board song (Hey Diddle Diddle), a movement break (Shake Your Sillies Out), and an action song (Zoom, Zoom, Zoom). And, of course, our storytime was bookended by “hello” and “goodbye” songs. So much singing, but so much fun- for all ages!
If you haven’t incorporated much singing into your storytimes, I encourage you to give it a try. I know that singing in front of people can be nerve-wracking, but once everyone joins in it gets much easier. Start with songs that nearly everyone knows. And with JBrary, YouTube, and so many other resources to help you learn the tunes, you are bound to succeed.
This post relates to the ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills