Facing a group of two-year-olds and their parents can be scarier than a job interview. What can you do to make this a positive experience for you and your little patrons?
After over a decade of working in a kindergarten through eighth grade school I made a change in my life. I became the Coordinator of Public Services at MY public library. This position encompasses the youth programs. Great! No problem! I've worked with children for years.
Yet, when I faced that first group of two-year-olds and their mothers I was petrified. I did what all good educators do, I over planned. One of the books selected was too long and the kids lost interest. Okay, I needed to back-up and re-think my approach. Toddlers are not kindergartners.
Three-year-olds are not kindergartners. Many three-year-olds don't know how to use scissors and one activity became a nightmare of tears as they grew frustrated trying cut out simple shapes. I decided that it was best to pre-cut anything that we were going to be gluing. (In the future I may include basic on how to use scissors.)
Each community and story-time group is a bit different. Do you have a program that is highly populated with five-year-olds? You may be able to include longer stories and more complicated crafts. But, it is easier to add these activities to later storytime programs as you gauge the abilities of the group.
There is a basic format to storytime in a public library that varies from the 10-10-10 format of a school library. The time of the program lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. Unlike a school library there is no check-out time built in. Caregivers most often select books with children before or after storytime. Here is a general overview of storytime structure:
- Gathering--Are you going to have a formal gathering activity? I'm not a singer so I don't begin with a song. I prefer to have children come in and sit so that they can settle into a listening posture. I ask them to sit on their bottoms (our room isn't very large and doesn't have room for children to lay down) with their listening ears on. I ask them to hold anything they want to share in their hands until the stories are over. They will have time to talk to their friends during the craft. That's when they can talk about their dogs, toys, siblings, etc.
- The Stories! You may have time for one story or two. I know some children's librarians who read three stories. Often young children need to move around before you get to the third book.
- A craft or activity. This can be a coloring page related to the theme for the week or a craft. (I've been cutting out hand patterns so that children can create wreaths for our All About Me week.) You can also do an activity instead. When we had our Feelings theme we spent time dancing to music. There was fast, slow, and just silly music. It doesn't matter if you don't dance well, just move!
- Closing activity. This threw me off during my first week. I was used to lining children up to send them back to class. Sometimes if we had a few minutes we would play Simon Says or other simple games. At my library the tradition was to do the Hokey Pokey. Did I mention I don't sing? The first week threw me, but now I really enjoy it. There is an educational benefit to the Hokey Pokey that had never really hit me. Children are learning left from right, patterns, and working in a group. I have children who don't participate much during the first parts of storytime that come alive for the Hokey Pokey.
Storytime is fun! I love the children's reactions when they connect to a great story. We have fun as they draw on the sidewalk with chalk or lie on the carpet and wiggle to music. It is a marvelous way to help children learn from the earliest years that books are fun.