Blogger Kary Henry

Reimagining Preschool Outreach

I’ve been offering preschool outreach for 14 of the almost 15 years that I’ve worked in the library field. For the last few years, I’ve appreciated the challenge of reimagining what preschool outreach could look like. Although I still provide traditional storytimes, the different approaches I added have reinvigorated me and captivated the preschoolers I serve.

For the majority of my preschool outreach, I relied on traditional storytimes. Carefully selected picture books and non-fiction were the foundation and supported the monthly themes I chose. Songs, fingerplays, and activities rounded out my time in the preschool classrooms. It was good. Comfortable. Easy. But is easy always good? At some point along the way, I knew I needed to offer the preschoolers I served more…and less. More them. Less me.

Math

I remember the first time we created a bar graph together during a storytime. I drew columns on a portable whiteboard and labeled each with types of pets to go along with my animal-themed storytime. Next I handed a sticky note to each child. Sticky notes are great for bar graphs since each is the same size, making comparisons easier. The children voted for their favorite pets. Then, using the columns of sticky notes, we could easily determine which pet was the most popular. Another approach to bar graphs is to create blank graphs on 11×17″ paper and make Xs as the children vote. We talked about how easy it is to determine the most popular. You don’t even need to count! Just compare the height of the columns. I would keep the graph turned toward me throughout the entire voting process and save the big reveal for the end! Unifix® cubes (interlocking cubes) or LEGO® bricks are great for making 3-D column graphs.

bar graph showing votes for favorite animal between giraffe, elephant, and lion
Bar graph showing votes between giraffe, elephant, and lion.
Image courtesy of author.

I started incorporating what I called a “Math Minute.” I would announce a topic (ways to move your body, food you like to eat, etc.). Then I would set a timer for 60 seconds. The children called out responses, which I would write on the whiteboard. At the end, we would count up all of the responses to see how many we had brainstormed.

There are so many other ways to incorporate math into storytimes, and I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Movement and Mindfulness

Another way I was able to reimagine preschool outreach was by incorporating movement and mindfulness into my storytimes. I was fortunate enough to be certified as a Stories, Songs, and Stretches!® facilitator. The pandemic hit during my group’s certification process, but it didn’t stop me from using what I learned from Katie Scherrer.

My training allowed me to offer a different type of storytime to the preschools I served. These mindfulness and movement storytimes even worked over Zoom! Although I was already encouraging movement during my storytimes, the Stories, Songs, and Stretches!® training took my planning to a new level. I addressed the whole child: “body, mind, and heart,” as Katie’s website states. Although a severe, chronic illness has prevented Katie from offering training right now, her website is full of wonderful, free resources.

What are some of your favorite movement activities with preschoolers? Do you incorporate any mindfulness techniques? Please share in the comments!

Switch It Up!

A third way that I reimagined my preschool outreach was by switching from storytimes to STEM programs. Inspired by an esteemed colleague from another area library, who offered STEM outreach programs, I began doing the same. I started with three topics: pre-algebra, physics, and symmetry. Next month, I will share specific details about those programs. I can say, though, that these were very well-received by the preschool teachers and students alike! From forming hypotheses to conducting the experiment to sharing observations and conclusions, these programs, again, allowed more them, less me. Whether it was rolling balls down ramps or weighing plastic teddy bears on a scale, this reimagination of preschool outreach may have been my most popular!

Do you offer preschool outreach programs instead of storytimes? Share your ideas in the comments below.


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.

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