I’ve been wanting to try doing spontaneous storytimes in our children’s area for a while now and I finally decided to just do it! I’ve been reading with children one-on-one or with maybe 2 or 3 siblings at a time since I started at the library. Not only do I love doing it, but the children are always enthusiastic about it and literally every time I have done it, their parents thank me for taking an interest in their child. They always ask my name and say thank you. So it’s really a feel good thing for me, but it’s also something that I think fosters good feelings about coming to the library in both the parent and the child.
For so many of the kids that I read to, the library is about their parent getting on the computer to look for a job or do classwork, while the child gets increasingly bored. I want the kids to know that the library has all of these amazing stories in it and librarians who care about them, and I want the parent, who may or may not already read to their kid, to see how much their child enjoys being read to and how much fun it can be for the adult doing the reading.
What I want to do for Spontaneous Storytimes are versions of the scheduled storytimes we do on a weekly basis, but bring them into the children’s area when there are already children present who may or may not have ever attended a scheduled storytime program. My reasoning behind doing this is that, at my library, I’ve been told one of the biggest reasons we don’t do regularly scheduled evening storytimes or after school programs is that we just haven’t had any attendance in the past when we’ve tried. I’m sure that’s true – I know my co-workers and supervisor would love to be providing those programs if they worked for us. So after mulling this over for a while and seeing this post on Storytime Underground, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to bring that programming to where and when our patrons already are? Which is what I have been doing on my Saturday and evening shifts with Pop-up Craft Times – I’m know this isn’t anything new or earth shattering, but it’s new for me and I’m really excited about giving it a shot to serve my community better. (Also, I love, love, love the idea of wearing a sign, like Rebecca at Sturdy For Common Things did and I may try that in the future, too – it looks like fun!)
So this past Tuesday, when there were several families in the library, I put up a little sign announcing a storytime for that morning at 10:30. My plan is to do these storytimes weekly (and possibly multiple times), but at different times, depending on how many people are in the library at a given time. Here’s how my first one went:
Opening song: The More We Get Together
Book #1: Summer Is Summer by Phillis Gershator
This is such a lovely book in verse about the joys of a summer day as seen through the experiences of four friends. I just want to say that reading this book to this group of children was as much of a direct endorsement for diverse books as I will ever need. One of the children in the group I read to was a little girl who was about 2 years old. She kept pointing to the little girl in the illustrations and saying, “black” and touching own her hair and the hair of the girl in the pictures. I was so glad I included this book because she obviously saw something that resonated with her. I was already on board for providing windows and mirrors for all children, but witnessing this child’s specific experience really imprinted it on me.
Next we talked about what things we all like to do in the summertime. I made a flannelboard for our play area a while ago and right now we have beach and summer themed pieces on it, so we talked about the beach ball, the waves, and the children swimming in the ocean. I didn’t plan a flannelboard for this storytime, but I may do that next time since I do have the board available to me.
We sang If You’re Happy and You Know It, but whispered “Hooray”instead of shouting since we were in the library, haha! Then we sang Open, Shut Them and got ready to read our second book.
Book #2: Chu’s Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman
Poor Chu gets into trouble when he sneezes and nearly ruins the beach day for everyone. Luckily, he gets a little help setting it all right again! This one was maybe too long for the ages I had in this group, but they still thought it was funny when I pretended to start to sneeze and then stopped, “Ahhh, ahhh, ahhhhh…. No.”
We rounded out our little storytime by singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Where Is Thumbkin?, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
This was a lot of fun to do and not only did I have 9 people in my little group, but I also had not 1, but 2 adults come over to thank me for doing it afterward. One who brings her grand-daughter regularly to Mother Goose storytime and one who comes in a lot with two little girls to work on assignments for a course she is taking and to apply for jobs, but who I’ve never seen at a storytime. She came up afterwards and asked me my name. When I told her, she said, “Miss Becca, I really appreciate you today.” And that makes it totally worth doing!