Blogger Kirsten Caldwell

Structuring Storytimes

There are so many different ways to plan and structure your storytimes! I have been using a theme and picking books and songs based on that theme. While that works well, I know there are other ways to structure a storytime. I did some internet sleuthing to find ways that other librarians create their storytimes.


I am relatively new to storytimes and have been using a theme-based planning approach. I choose a theme like pumpkins and then choose books, songs, flannel boards, and maybe a craft that fit that theme. This is an easy way to plan because it helps in narrowing down options for all of the books and songs, but it can be limiting. If there is a good book that doesn’t fit into the theme, I won’t read it. There have been a couple of situations where I read a book I didn’t fully love because it fit into the theme for the week. I also sometimes forget how important repetition is to children’s development because I had so much fun choosing songs that were theme-based.

Saroj Ghoting shares her method for planning a storytime based on books she likes. She starts with books she likes, what she thinks the children will like, and what will read well in storytime. After she chooses books, she can find a theme that fits all of the books she chose. This structure helps avoid choosing books only because they fit into a theme.

Jbrary wrote a post about themes vs. storytime flow. Storytime flow is based on choosing books you like and finding a way to flow one book from the next. That can be through a song or just an idea from the book that leads into the next. Using great books that you like and repeating songs throughout the weeks are easier with this flow method, though it may be a little harder to plan this way. This post is especially helpful in getting started with this method because she shares an example of a storytime she has given with her transitions.

Structuring Storytimes

An ALSC blog post by Katie Salo discusses the opening and closing routines that work for them. Starting and ending with the same song every time gives the children a sense of familiarity. Katie mentions that it allows parents to come in late without feeling like they missed something important which is a plus since being on time with a young child is difficult. Ending with the same routine also helps children know that storytime is over. I also think that using the same opening and closing song is beneficial because the children will learn the words and be able to sing along, increasing interactivity. These routines can be personalized to you and your audience too.

Jbrary also wrote a post on planning a storytime where Lindsey discusses structured vs unstructured storytimes. She also includes examples of storytime planning sheets for both options. When everything in the storytime is planned in a certain order, it is structured. Unstructured storytimes have books, songs, and activities planned in no particular order. She mentions that unstructured can be helpful for a large group. I have been leaning more towards unstructured as well in my storytimes for babies and toddlers. It is helpful to have options of books and songs to choose from depending on the younger kids’ moods that day.

How do you structure your storytimes? Do you use a theme or a flow?

One comment

  1. Emily

    This post is so timely! Although I’ve only been doing story times for a few years I still feel very much like a beginner. I just wrapped up a couple of sessions where story time was very theme-based and I felt like that was too forced. I’m not burned out on it – it just didn’t flow the way I’d like it to. In writing the upcoming sessions, I’m giving myself some grace using many of the resources that branched off of the links posted in this post. Thank you Katie and the Jbrarians for their wealth of info to consider when planning a story time session. I’m hoping that change for the next few weeks makes me feel more confident. It’s also good to know this is an issue that many librarians grapple with!

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