When we talk about how to connect with underserved communities, one way is through programs for youth who may be looking for more than books. Instead, they may be looking for a place to belong, a space to develop confidence, or a time that works with their variety of learning styles.
I’m a librarian who loves movement in storytimes but also as part of programming for all youth. As a kinesthetic learner, I try to incorporate many different access points in my programs to connect with a variety of learners. As a Chinese martial artist, I like to bring what I have learned as well as acknowledge community members who may want to share.
Today, I’d like to focus on using movement as a way to enhance programs you already do or as inspiration to partner with others to authentically bring a new type of program to your community.
Yes, there are songs you can dance to and move with (cue Laurie Berkner Band’s, “This is How I Do It”). However, there are other ways to incorporate movement as well.
Shape Stretch – Show a shape and let your audience try to move their body into that shape. I do this with felts but I’m sure you can use pictures or draw them instead. Some kids who have done yoga may incorporate some of those poses. Some kids who like to dance may choose something freeform. Some kids like to focus on their hands and make all the shapes with their hands. All these options are valid and beautiful. You can connect this with early literacy too. For example, “Shape recognition leads to letter recognition. Let’s try making these shapes with our bodies.”
Mindful Breathing – There are many breathing techniques but there are also some books and resources specific for classroom use, like, Breathe Like a Bear, by Kira Willey. You can use breathing techniques both to get the audience excited or to calm the audience down for a story. Some are visualizations that are like mini stories. My personal favorites are flower breath, blowing on hot cocoa, or square (4×4) breath.
Tip: Start simple by incorporating breathing in the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It. For “sad,” try giving yourself a hug (breathe in as you spread your arms, and out as you curl your arms in). For “angry,” try taking a deep breath. Ask the kids how they deal with each of these emotions and incorporate it into the song!
Try Books with Built-in Movement – I use shortened movement sequences from tai chi and wushu for storytime. But if you don’t regularly practice in movement yourself, try these books to display how to do different movements. This is a great way to ensure you are incorporating movement thoughtfully and with informed intention.
- The Five Forms by Barbara McClintock
- A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu, illustrated by Christina Forshay
- Good Morning Yoga by Mariam Gates, illustrated by Sarah Jane Hinder
Open-ended Movement Programs – Not all movement programs have to be facilitated by a professional teacher. Try hosting an open dance party to popular music. Purchase a 30 second dance party button to get kids at Lego Club or art programs moving. A movement break can refresh the mind and help kids go back to a focus-heavy activity.
Hire a Professional – It can be great to invite teachers to teach yoga, martial arts, or dance for kids. Check with businesses and child care organizations, like the Boys and Girls club, to see if they have teachers who would be suitable. Providing these programs invites kids who may not normally frequent the library. After this introduction, they may find places in libraries where they feel like they belong but didn’t know existed (like anime clubs, access to online learning, etc).
Libraries are not one size fits all
Having a variety of programs, including movement programs can bring many of benefits. According to the American Psychological Association, exercise positively affects mental health, behavioral health, attention (which can lead to better academic performance), and cognitive development – goals your library may already have for programming.
Do you and your colleagues have creative ways of incorporating movement into your programs and outreach?
Works Cited: American Psychological Association. (2020). How and why to get children moving now. American Psychological Association. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/children-exercise-strategies
Melody Leung is a Youth Services Librarian at The Everett Public Library. She enjoys creating programs for kids to feel confident, welcomed, and seen. All views in this post are her own.
Photo permission provided by blogger.
This post fulfilled ALSC Competencies I, III, and V.
I love doing If You’re Happy and You Know It as all kinds of different things, but my favourite is “If It’s Winter and You Know It”, where we through throwing snowballs, putting on our hats, coats and boots, we go sledding, build a snowman, etc. Everyone has slightly different ways to do all these things, and it’s always a hit.
I’ve done other seasonal versions, and of course monster/dinosaur/bear versions, but winter is always the most popular (I live and work in the Toronto area, so we both really anticipate winter in November/December, and then really need something to remind us it can be fun in January/February/March).