Twice a year, my boss and I team up to offer our staff a training class specifically for baby storytime. We are very appreciative that our library has a strong committment to training and continuing education. The baby storytime class is in addition to our regular storytime training, and is designed to help staff become more comfortable with what is unique about baby storytimes. We have a routine worked out for these classes, and since we offered one today, I thought I’d share our outline.
The class is for two hours, and is always held on Monday mornings at one particular branch. We always hold the class at the same time and place because Monday mornings are when I present two baby storytimes! We have taken advantage of that and built the class around a live storytime experience.
The class begins at 8:30 in the branch meeting room, but I am there extra early so I can get completely set up for my storytime in the storytime room. Then to start the session, Lori, my supervisor, leads off with a brief discussion about brain development and how ready babies’ brains are to learn, and how baby storytime is designed to support early language development in an age-appropriate way. She talks about how we want babies to have a good time at storytime, but our main goal is to connect with and support the parents and caregivers. We want them to feel comfortable bringing their babies and young children to the library, and to know that we are here to support them as they support their babies.
Then I talk about the components of baby storytime, and what to expect babies and young toddlers to be able to do in terms of motor skills and attention spans. I let them know that at our library, our primary focus is on an oral language experience, so we include lots of songs and bounces and rhymes. Even though this is our focus, we do share books too! We want to model to the parents how it looks to read to a wiggly baby or a walking toddler, and to show them what a good book for very young children looks like. So I also talk about how to choose good books for baby storytime, looking for very short stories, with bright colors, simple pictures, and large pages.
Then the class takes a break, and I run to the storytime room to greet my families and get ready for storytime. Because this is the best part–the staff who are taking the class come and observe me presenting a real storytime with real wiggly, walky, noisy babies! Isn’t that cool? There are never more than a few staff in the class, so they don’t overwhelm the storytime group, and I introduce them to the families when we do our own introductions at the start of storytime. My moms and dads get a kick out of it when I say, “Now, just because they are observing us, I don’t want you to do anything different than usual. They need to see exactly what they are getting into, so let’s show them what baby storytime really looks like!”
I do a full storytime, and while I get my families started on our free play time, Lori takes the class back to the meeting room and starts a discussion about what they observed. How is it different than a toddler or preschool storytime? What are the challenges? What are the extra fun parts? After my families are settled, I come and join the class again and they have a chance to ask me specific questions about what I did and why or the things that they observed. I talk a little bit about my planning process, and share some baby storytime resources with them. Then Lori takes over the conversation again, because I need to get back to the storytime room for storytime number two! Once Lori and the class finish up, the staff head to their home branches and we are done with another baby storytime class.
Lori and I look forward to these classes and feel very fortunate we are able to provide our staff with a little extra support for such an important storytime.
Resources we provide to the class include links to child developmental milestones, this handout* connecting the 6 early literacy skills to age-appropriate books for babies, and the link to the CLEL Baby Storytime pages (which I am astonished to realize I put together over three years ago already–must update!).
I made this handout for a presi in 2009, but the archives for the conference aren’t available that far back anymore. However, someone apparently nabbed it and put it on their wiki, so I linked to that instead. 4/9/13: I finally got a clean pdf of the updated handout uploaded.
What essential messages would you include in a baby storytime class?