Blogger Managing Children's Services Committee

Developing Storytime for the Whole Child

As Children’s Librarians, updating our approach to storytime can be scary.

Storytime is often the core programming service provided and the first thing families think of when they think of library youth programming.

In 2021, inspired by the information in the book Sesame Street: Ready for School!: A Parent’s Guide to Playful Learning for Children Ages 2 to 5 by  Rosemarie T. Truglio PhD , Pamela ThomasKyle D. Pruett MD, my team and I took on the challenge of updating storytime curriculum and staff training.

The primary focus of storytime programming continues to be the six early literacy skills[CMB1]  that children need to have in place to enter school ready to learn to read based on ALA’s “Every Child Ready to Read.” In addition to these six early literacy skills, concepts focusing on the “whole child” and other areas vital to a child’s development are now more purposefully included in storytime planning. These areas include early math, early science, problem-solving, feelings, friendships, building healthy bodies, making smart choices, and creating and appreciating the arts.

Creating programs for the whole child supports social and emotional development, small/large motor development, conceptual and critical thinking, as well as cognitive development in language, math, and science.

For example, when children experience holding sheep finger puppets and moving them to Baa, Baa Black Sheep, they are learning about language through rhyme, are practicing small motor skills by manipulating the puppet, experiencing social and emotional interaction by singing with others, as well as building self-esteem. By interacting with the puppet, the rhyme, and the people around them, children are learning holistically – with their whole selves.

At the heart of this update is a change in philosophy and approach to planning. Storytime presenters have been tasked with changing the ways in which they think about the elements included in their storytimes. Planning now included questions like…

“Does this book have a science concept we can discuss in more detail?”

“Is there a small motor skill game we can play as an extension activity?”

“Should I begin each storytime with a weather wheel activity?”

“What simple math activities can we demonstrate to caregivers to continue the learning at home?”

This approach to developing children’s programming isn’t new. However, the focus on purposeful inclusion of whole child elements ensures that we are working to support school readiness in addition to early literacy. Preschoolers whose only group learning experience is found in their local library’s storytime room can benefit from the purposeful and thoughtful inclusion of whole child elements, which better supports their transition to kindergarten.

Today’s blog post was written by Katie Cerqua, Programming and Community Outreach Manager at Virginia Beach Public Library in Virginia Beach, VA, on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at 

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of I4, I5, III3, III6.

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