…from those who aren’t so new at it.
Last week we taught one of our regular “storytime basics” classes to staff at my library who are preparing to do storytimes for the first time. The day before the class, I sent this plea to Twitter and the Flannel Friday Facebook page:
“Teaching a class to 9 newbie storytime peeps tomorrow! What’s your ONE PIECE OF ESSENTIAL ADVICE to someone just starting out?”
Boy, did I get some great stuff. In no particular order, here’s what everyone had to say.
(When I knew Twitter handles and blogs off the top of my head, I included them. If I haven’t made all the connections among your online personas here, let me know, and I will add them in!)
My advice–be flexible, if it’s not working, move on! Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!
–Tracey | Twitter: @tcy28 Blog: 1234morestorytimes.wordpress.com
Storytime themes are a tool, not a prison. Early on, themes helped [me] discover material, now I use what works whether it fits or not. [Also,] allow yourself AND your [storytime] plan to be FLEXIBLE. When I was new I did a lot of “This or This” in my plans so I could adjust.
–Anna | Twitter: @opinionsbyanna Blog: futurelibrariansuperhero.blogspot.com
Love what you do. If you love your material, you’ll love using it. And just as importantly, you have to LOVE your audience. When you connect with them, it’s one of the great highs in life!!!
–Lisa | Twitter: @librarylady61
Don’t try to imitate or be another storyteller. Let your personality shine through, bring something diff[erent], and be yourself!
–Tera | Twitter: @teramichelle
Go with the flow! Sometimes a storytime works, and sometimes it flops. Don’t beat yourself up when the flops do happen!
–Michelle | Twitter: @michelleannlib
If the book’s not working, ditch it and move on.
–Marfita | Twitter: @marfita
If I may add another: mentally or physically, mark out places where you should not break the author’s spell. e.g. “See, the duck is here,” is fine at some places, but when story and prosody are in full swing, keep reading, THEN go back to point out, clarify, etc. as needed.
–John | Twitter: @JohnBarnesSF
Movement – do some activities that make movement – when your crowd gets restless have something silly to do that will hold their attention for a moment and they can settle down for the rest of the activity.
–Deborah | Flannel Friday Facebook group
My advice is be yourself! I know it sounds cheesy, but when I started out, I had people trying to convince me that their way of doing story time is the only way, and I went home in tears because I couldn’t fit that mold. Sure, you’ll want some of the basics to be the same no matter who is doing the program, but the most valuable thing I’ve learned in my year of doing story times is that you should do what makes you comfortable, what you like, and what makes you feel confident in front of an audience. Because what people really fall in love with, as much as the stories and activities, is the human connection they make with the story time provider.
–Katie | Twitter: @sharingsoda Blog: storytimesecrets.blogspot.com
If a book has a great story but is too long, don’t be afraid to paperclip pages together. It’s not a crime to skip pages!!
–Jen | Twitter: @happylilcloud
No matter how awesomely fun you prepared your storytime to be, there are going to be days when you have to abandon ship and come up with a new plan on the spot to adapt to the group you have. It’s a lot easier to change your plans than to desperately try to get the group you have on board. You’ll have more fun and they will too.
–Amy | Flannel Friday Facebook group
Gentle and quiet or Let’s put on a show — either style is right, if it’s right for you. Observe different storytellers to settle on what works for you! [Also], it’s about the joy of the literature. Remember that!
–Sharon | Twitter: @ReadingChick Blog: storytime.readingchick.com
Connect with your audience & get to know them. Be relatable. If you make a mistake, laugh. And keep going.
–Anne | Twitter: @sotomorrow Blog: sotomorrowblog.com
Everyone has their own style and the trick is to find yours. Choose books that you really like and that will shine through. If you’re lukewarm about a book, the kids can tell! Try and be silly if you can – the kids do NOT judge and will love you if you are!
–Mary | Twitter: @daisycakes Blog: missmaryliberry.wordpress.com
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have high attendance at first. You’ll build a following the more you do storytime, and before you know it, your classes will be well attended.
–Mollie | Twitter: @molliekay Blog: storytimewithmissmollie.blogspot.com
If you mess up, no one cares! They don’t know that you forgot a line of the fingerplay, they don’t know that you skipped an activity because everyone was restless. In one of my first groups, I turned too many pages, I said “Whoops!” and went back. One of my kids replied, “I do that all the time, Miss Katie.”
–Katie | Twitter: @katietweetsya Blog: storytimekatie.com
Don’t be wedded to a theme. When I was a newbie, I’d pick my theme first and then try to find stuff to fit it. Some themes are cute or clever, but too hard to find age-appropriate books for. My storytimes got much better when I started with a really excellent book and built a storytime around it. MUCH better than picking a mediocre book or one that’s not well-suited to the age group just because it fits.
—Andrea | Flannel Friday Facebook group
Love the books. that’s what they will pick up on, I think this has been said already in several ways. And read loud enough for all to hear but don’t shout at them.
–Angela | Flannel Friday Facebook group
Only use books you love, love, LOVE!
–Holly | Twitter: @codykidsread