OK, this extremely goofy picture is of me in the middle of baby storytime last year. My brother-in-law posted it on Facebook with the caption, “This is what my son’s therapists call ‘high-affect’.” So I said back, “But Max had purple grape juice AND orange sherbet in his bath water!* What OTHER facial expression would be appropriate?”
Well, we all know that there are MANY appropriate ways to present storytime! I do a pretty high-energy show, it’s true. I hope everyone has a good time and leaves feeling great. But it’s not the only way to go. I’ve been to storytimes that are so Zen and calm it’s like getting a spa treatment…but you still have a good time and still leave feeling great.
I’m a storytime mentor and trainer for my district, and for the last few weeks of the year my department is observing every storytime provider in storytime. I am seeing a lot of super storytimes, and they are ALL different. For our feedback sessions with the providers, we hope to celebrate what they are doing well and give them some pointers for what they might improve.
Here’s my big question…what aspects of storytime fall under “personal style” and what fall under “best practices”? What aspects of storytime should we leave up to each individual to decide how to present? And about what aspects of storytime, if any, can we say, “Here’s how you should do it, because this really is the best way.”
Here’s an example: You might be a great maker-upper-of-voices for your book characters. Or, maybe nobody can tell the difference between your “baby bear” and “papa bear” voices. “Doing voices” seems to me an element of personal style: Nice if you’ve got it going on, but not essential for a quality storytime. However, whether you do voices or not, I feel you should be able to project your voice to comfortably fill your storytime space. Having everybody in your audience be able to hear you seems to me to be an essential for a quality storytime.
But maybe you disagree! Maybe a soft, quiet voice is one that draws the children closer to you for a more intimate experience?
So where do YOU draw the line? What do you think are storytime presentation essentials, and what do you think should be left to artistic license?
*Max’s Bath, by Rosemary Wells. This is my home-made big book.