For my first Extended Play Storytime Posts, I am just going to talk about the basics of how we do storytime at my library district. Every library is different, but each library often has the same types of problems (registration, arranging space, prep time, etc), and it’s always good to look around and see other ways of resolving those issues. I hope you will share in the comments your thoughts and experience!
Who Provides Storytime?
At our district, storytime is offered primarily by paraprofessionals. We have between 30 and 40 staff who provide storytime on a regular basis. Some of them have been doing storytime for 20 years, some just for a few months!
All of them, regardless of experience levels, have taken our required one-time full-day training in storytime techniques, philosophy, and early literacy skills. This class was developed in-house by experienced storytime staff and our literacy librarian. We offer it three times a year, so that supervisors always have an opportunity to train any staff new to storytime before the next trimester begins. (Read more about how we schedule storytimes.)
Ongoing Optional Training
We also offer ongoing training to our storytime providers three times a year. These “practicums” are 2 hours long and are divided into two sections. For the first 45 minutes or so, we offer a short training session on some aspect of storytime. Once we discussed techniques for making up your own words to familiar tunes; once we did a quick tutorial on manipulating clip art images to personalize flannelboards. Then we highlight a few great new books for storytime and take a quick break. When we return, we spend the rest of our time together sharing ideas for storytime: new songs, fun books, sure-fire group activities, whatever staff have discovered to be enjoyable in their storytimes.
These are great sessions! Because the content changes, staff are encouraged to attend as often as their schedules and supervisors can permit. It’s a wonderful way to elevate everyone’s motivation and energy and provide peer-to-peer coaching and networking.
Once or twice a year, we also offer a 2-hour class on Baby Storytimes. These storytimes can be very different than those for older kids, and we can provide tips and tricks for group management, book selection, storytime planning, and adapting early literacy tips for this age group.
We also have begun annual observations of all storytime providers. Once a year, one of our youth librarians observes one storytime from each provider. This gives us a chance to see a snapshot of how storytimes look across the district, as well as offers each provider a chance to receive some one-on-one feedback and to offer us input from the floor.
Who does storytime at your library: librarians, paraprofessional staff, or volunteers? What kind of training do you have for your storytime staff? What training do you wish you could have?