Ask a Storytime Ninja: Baby Storytime Opener

Oh boy, I bet lots of you have ideas to share with this week’s asker. Please do, in the comments. And don’t forget, you can earn badges just for asking and answering questions. Enroll in Storytime University and check out all the badges you can earn.



The Question:


I need a new group action rhyme to use for the start of my baby storytime! Right now we march in a circle to “The Grand Ol’ Duke of York” (raising and lowering the babies, moving left and right, etc.) and I really enjoy this rhyme, but one caregiver has been very vocal about her dislike of the activity because she has a hard time getting the child in her care to hold still long enough for it. (The baby is around 16 months old and is one of my “very busy babies” who is constantly in motion.) I really enjoy having everyone move together to a rhyme or song at the start of the storytime, but I don’t want the caregiver to feel that I’m ignoring her comments about how difficult it is for her to participate. While the reality is that any rhyme I do in this method will probably have the same results for that particular baby, I would love another action rhyme for my arsenal that we could do together so that we could still get that sense of community and let the babies say hello to one another!


The Answers:


From Abby:


I do the Mother Goose on the Loose storytime for babies at my library and we start every week with a couple of simple rhymes:

Old Mother Goose
When she wanted to wander
Would FLY! through the air
On her very fine gander
(I encourage grownups to lift their baby or lift their arms up on the word “fly”.)


Goosey Goosey Gander
Where do you wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber
(I encourage grownups to lift their baby up and down or lift their arms up and down on “upstairs” and “downstairs”.)


I also make sure to let everyone know before we get started that kids this age are not going to sit still and it’s okay with me if they’re up and walking around. I set a couple of ground rules – if they are at the felt board when it’s not their turn or if they’re getting into my materials, I ask them to get up and take baby back to their seat. Even if you are already making an announcement to the entire group, it may be worth reassuring her one on one that it doesn’t bother you if her child is up and walking around and that her child is still absorbing information even if it doesn’t look like he/she is paying attention.


I wonder if an action song/rhyme that gets right into the action would work better for this little one? Maybe The Elevator Song * if you cut out the verse at the beginning and just do the elevator parts. 


Or this one, which we do at my baby storytime sometimes:
Come Along and March With Me
(To the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”)
Come along and march with me
March with me, march with me
Come along and march with me
So early in the morning
(Repeat with hop, turn, clap, stomp, whatever you feel like doing!)


From Lindsay:


It sounds like you’ve established a good opening routine for the babies.  In addition to a rhyme, I like to start my baby storytimes with a song.  You could try “Alabama, Mississippi” by Jim Gill, a tradition I inherited at my first library.  We pat our knees then shake our hands as we sing along.  Or, you could give the babies shakers.  (I fade the song out after the third chorus.)  A song can sometimes work better than a rhyme because it allows for freer movement.  Some babies will follow along with the actions, and some babies will dance or walk around the room.  You could even introduce it as a transition song rather than your opening song.  “We do this song every week to let the babies know that storytime will be starting soon.”  Then, follow with your well-established “Grand Ol’ Duke of York.”  Then, also make it clear in your announcements that moving around is not only acceptable, but good! You could say, “We know that your baby might not sit still during storytime, and that’s totally fine with us because babies learn by moving, and we want them to move and to explore their world.”

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Mother’s Day/Father’s Day Storytime?

Here’s our next Ask a Storytime Ninja Lightning Round for the month of May! These questions are posed to all of our ninjas instead of just our featured monthly ones and are meant to be quick and efficient responses to some interesting inquiries. Here’s our question for this week:




The Question:


“Do you do Mother’s Day/Father’s Day storytime themes or is it better to avoid since so many kids may be from single-parent families, raised by grandparents, or have 2 moms/dads? My library serves an urban population so we see more single parents & grandparents raising kids than in suburban branches.”


The Answers:


From Tess P. (@tess1144,


Great question! My answer: it depends. For holidays like this Mother’s Day, I tend to not make a big deal out of it. If I feel like it, I might read, Mother, Mother I Want Another, Llama, Llama, Red Pajama or Hooray for Fish but that would be it I think and I don’t think I would ever advertise or announce it as a special Mother’s Day storytime. That being said, I read those stories at different times throughout the year too because I like them, not because they feature moms. Also, a whole lot of kids who come to my storytime are with their (wonderful) nannies, and I have several dads and grandparents and one aunt too so I honestly don’t see the need to give the moms any special recognition on this day more than any other day. They should all be commended for getting out the door and down to the library right? Of course we do have a display for people who want to take out the books about Mother’s Day (same goes for Valentines and all the other holidays, religious and secular).


From Abby J. (@abbylibrarian,


We do not do Mother’s Day/Father’s Day themes, but it may be because we take a programming break in May, so we’d only be able to do Father’s Day and that’s kind of one-sided. Maybe instead of Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, those weeks might be good times to do “Family” or “Love” or similar storytime themes.


From Meg S. (@theemegnificent,


I think you really have to gauge your community–if you see a lot of single parents or grandparents as main caregivers than maybe it is best to avoid it. I typically don’t do Mothers or Father’s Day stuff but was once asked to do a Mother’s Day theme at storytime. In that case (and because I knew most of my regulars) I decided to focus more on families than specifically moms or dads.


From Natalie K.:


We have programs for both holidays, but I make sure to talk about grandparents, aunts, and uncles in my storytimes. This way, no one feels too left out.


From Tabin C.:


I do both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and not simply because it’s two less themes I have to make up (yay!). It’s because I have no biological children, but I am a part-time parent. When something happens to a child’s parents, other people step up and step in. I’ve seen Shrek a gazillion times, have watched the most boring children’s sporting events ever, received calls asking, “Can I come over?” (translation: “Mom is making me do chores.”), figured out mission projects, state projects, and even famously enacted a whole house time out in which I screamed, “Everyone is going to their rooms, including me!!!”
In other words, I deserve acknowledgement. Matter of fact, I deserve more than that, which is why for Mother’s Day I asked for, and received, a 55 inch Samsung plasma TV. So, I figure a few nice stories like “Little Miss Spider” and “Froggy’s Day with Daddy” is not too much to ask out of the library. (Unless you want to send me a 3-D TV…)


Thanks for the responses everyone! Have any of your own? Comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Recap of Guerrilla Storytime at Kids First, by Erin Silva

On May 5, 2015, I hosted a Guerrilla Storytime at the Kids First conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The session began with a brief introduction of the Storytime Underground and Guerrilla Storytime movement. I read the “Meet the Corps” section of the website because I believe passionately that “Literacy is NOT a luxury” – and we’ve got to recognize and remind ourselves that the work we do is vital. Then we began with my favorite opener – “Clap your hands”:

Clap your hands,
Touch your toes,
Turn around and
Touch your nose,
Flap your arms and
Jump up high!
Wiggle your fingers and
Reach for the sky!


Q: What do you do when a kid throws up in the middle of storytime? (Because that just happened to me two weeks previously!)
*Move everyone out of the way, and out of the area if possible
*Have another grown-up cordon off the area
*Sing a “distracting” song, like “We are the Dinosaurs” by Laurie Berkner
*I ended up having all the kids stand up while I very enthusiastically read a Clifford book to distract them from the action behind them…


Q: Themes or no Themes when planning storytime?
*Yes, because it helps with preparation, especially when doing multiple storytimes
*No, because the kids always want to check out the books we read and it’s hard to say no
*Some librarians blog about the storytimes after the fact, and then the list of books read is listed for grown-ups to check out later – this evolved into a conversation about hand-outs after storytime. Some do, some don’t. In lieu of a craft every week, I hand out a coloring sheet that has something to do with our storytime. We only do craft once a month.


Q: Puppets or no puppets?
*There was a large groan with this one…some of us have a real love/hate relationship with puppets. However – I explained that Mr. Foxy only comes out at the beginning when we do “Clap your Hands” and at the end when we do our goodbye chant. He then gives out hugs to any child who wants one.
*One librarian come forward and sang “When______ gets up in the morning” (So ducks get up in the morning, they always say quack quack!) She pulls out a puppet or stuffed animal to go along with the song.
*Another librarian shared how she reads/has memorized “Who Ate All the Cookie Dough” by Karen Beaumont. Each time there is another animal accused, that animal puppet is shown.
*Using a “Poetry Puppet” – this puppet comes out to introduce the poem of the day in storytime
*Bringing out a special puppet when singing “Come along and sit and read” (Tune of London Bridge)


Q: How do you incorporate “Learning” in storytime?”
*Point out letters in the room, and tell parents to point letters out in the grocery store
*Send home a take home sheet with early literacy activities
*Mailbox – put items, like letters that spell out a word, in a play mailbox and spell out words on a flannel board
*There was a discussion about bringing in outside partners but in that particular instance, it was too much of a time commitment for the parents, so it fizzled out. Group consensus was it was better to do “one-shot” outreach than a 6-week commitment


Q: The talkative parents…dun, dun, dun!
*Iowa children’s librarians are really into Iowa-nice public shaming! Suggestions included:

Waiting on parents to stop talking before continuing the story
Praising the kids for being such good listeners and then waiting
Having the kids find their grown-up and then all sit together
Make sure the grown-ups participate with the kids


Q: The disruptive child and the unresponsive parent
*The general feedback for this was to gently tell the parent that it’s okay to take the child out of the room/area until they are ready to come back in. It’s okay to leave – we want storytime to be a positive experience for everyone involved. Sometimes parents and caregivers think they must make the child stay and need some helpful encouragement to understand that really, it’s okay to leave and try again.

We ended by dancing to Laurie Berkner’s “Shake Your Body Down,” my favorite way to end toddler time!




Erin Silva is a Youth Services Librarian at Kahona (IA) Public Library.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: ECRR Crafts

This week’s question is all about incorporating early literacy practices into craft activities.  Do you have any more ideas? Share them in the comments!



The Question:


Is there any suggestions for crafts to do with the ECRR 2 practices? I am an old time ECRR but am starting a new storytime using these practices for 2-3year olds.


The Answers: 


From Abby:


What about making books together? You could staple together several sheets of paper and provide either pictures for the kids to color and parents to cut out and glue and write words down (or if families prefer to draw and make up their own story, they could). This practices writing (and pre-writing as the littles are coloring, drawing, etc.), talking, and reading. Or you could provide printouts with the words to simple songs (Twinkle Twinkle, Itsy Bitsy Spider) and have children color pictures or draw a picture for the song above the words. Taking the words to the song home may encourage families to sing together.


Making simple finger puppets or stick puppets (even just having kids color and cut out pictures and glue to popsicle sticks) encourages talking and playing.


I did a little research and found some sites that have ideas:


From Lindsay:


Great idea! I’d start by thinking about interesting materials and surfaces that will lead to the ECRR practices (I’ve bolded them here). Art supplies that engage the senses will warm up the kids’ brains for learning and inspire them to talk, explore, and play. Here are some ideas that I’ve tried in the past that have worked well.


Painting with marshmallows: Get the big ones and let them get slightly stale before the activity. They’re just the right size for 2s and 3s to grip (and they smell like sugar!). Use paper that contrasts nicely with whatever washable tempera paint colors you choose. Kids can dip the marshmallow into the paint and make marks on the paper.  Simply changing the paint and paper colors from one week to the next will give the children a different experience.  Get the kids talking and describing while they create (Narrative Skills).

Shape art: Cut out a bunch of shapes from construction paper. Give the kids chunky paint brushes and watered-down glue in bowls, and watch them go! Getting hands-on with shapes helps with Letter Knowledge. Try it on paper or paper plates. Or, try stamping with sponges cut into different shapes.


Tissue paper collage: Again, with watered-down glue and chunky paint brushes. Encourage kids to tear tissue paper (an interesting sensory activity), and stick it to the paper. While they’re doing this, they’re developing fine motor skills, which will help with holding a pencil and writing later on. Try it with cardboard tubes or foil, too.

How about colored tape?  Have caregivers help children decide how long of a piece they want (math-related Vocabulary) and help them tear it and stick it to a piece of paper (fine motor skills and writing), creating lines and shapes (Letter Knowledge).  Paint over it with water colors.


Try any of these on banner paper and let the kids work together on the floor.  Banner paper, since it’s not take-home size, reinforces the idea to caregivers that it’s about the process, not the product.  Display related books to read such as Mouse Paint, Lois Ehlert books (lots of shapes in the illustrations), or Tip Tip Dig Dig (which uses mixed-media collage).


Give caregivers a couple open-ended questions they can ask to get their children talking, or key Vocabulary words to introduce such as blending, streaks, or layer. If they’re taking something home, give caregivers index cards and have them write down what their child says, creating a caption for the piece.  Tell them to point to it and read it aloud to their child later in the day; Print Awareness!


Read more from ZERO TO THREE, “Learning to Write and Draw”

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Guerrilla Storytime Recap: Massachusetts Library Association Conference 2015

IMG_0028The intrepid Ashley Waring alerted us to the fact that she helped throw a terrific Guerrilla Storytime earlier this week as part of the 2015 Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference. We love it when y’all host Guerrilla Storytimes at your local events, and we’d love to support you to do more of them! You can always email us for more information, or check out our Guerrilla Storytime page on this very site. Make sure to let us know when you’re planning a Guerrilla Storytime!


Without further ado, the glorious peer-learning from Massachusetts!


Hello song: (sung to tune of “farmer in the dell”)
Hello my friends, Hello
Hello my friends, Hello
Hello my friends, hello my friends, hello my friends hello.


Q: What do you do with siblings?
Older siblings – let them have their own baby, let them model for younger kids, notice when they’re being good and congratulate them
Incorporate a peek-a-boo game even with an older group because younger siblings like it


Q: Registration v Drop In?
Sometimes you have to do drop-in because of staffing issues
Sign-ups hard because life is too unpredictable
If you do a craft, sign-up is good so that you know how much to prepare
Put out a basket with name tags, first 15 kids can attend storytime – this also encourages families to show up on time
Do 2 storytimes with small break in between, so if someone gets turned away from first one, they can attend second


Q: How do you accommodate for twins in babytime?
Give alternatives to motion, like peek-a-boo instead of lift up child
Tickling is good because you can tickle a few kids at once


Q: Favorite welcome or closing song?:
Make gallup sound on lap or bounce baby: Horsey horsey gone away, we’ll play together another day, so let your tail go swish and your wheels go round, giddyup we’re homeward bound
“Glad to see you” by Peter and Ellen Allerd
Older kids: Laurie Berkner “These are my glasses”
Toddlers: Laurie Berkner “Blow a kiss”
Goodbye friends song with signs: Goodbye friends, goodbye friends, goodbye friends, it’s time to blow some bubbles (with sign language) Jbrary:


Q: How do you do writing skills in storytime?
Coloring, writing – like filling in a blank “My favorite color is _________”
Brainstorm with group before storytime.  You write what they say so they understand that spoken word equals print, also good to assess their prior knowledge about the topic you’ll be doing
Do a group drawing activity. Everyone adds to a scribble drawing on the board.


Q: What is your favorite way to use scarves?
Wave them around to Raffi’s “shake my sillies out”
“Peek a boo, I see you, hiding behind your scarf. Peek-a-boo!”
We wave our scarves together, because it’s fun to do
One bright scarf, waiting for the wind to blow. Wave it up high, wave it down low. Put it behind your back, where did it go?
Popcorn kernels song from Jbrary
Shaker song but can do with scarves: shake your shakers high, shake your shakers low, shake them to your side, shake them on your head, and then you go to bed


Q: Favorite way to use a parachute?
Innies and outies game: parents wave the chute and kids run under then out
Sing: “1 little two little 3 little bubbles, pop those pop those pop those bubbles…” kids sit on it and parents sit around and shake it and make the air bubbles – great for parent involvement
Have kids try to move the item to a particular color on the ‘chute
Rolled up socks as balls was a hit for something to shake
Running under can be a challenge because of kids getting crazy, crashing into each other
At PJ storytime – put paper stars on ‘chute and they fly around, then kids can gather them up
At teddy bear picnic – put their stuffed animals on and shake them off
Can use ‘chute for old MacDonald – put stuffed animal on there to sing about


Q: A fire truck pulls up outside and everyone runs to look. What do you do?
Hurry hurry drive the firetruck, ding ding ding ding ding – song


Q: A child says I don’t like that book. What do you do? – turned into heckling share time ☺
I’m sorry, maybe you’ll like the next story!
Change the story! Kid who said “that’s not safe!” about what characters were doing, so librarian instead shared the book and they talked about safe v. unsafe.
When working with kids: tell, don’t ask. If you ask, they think it’s a choice and it may not go your way!


Q: How do you use technology?
If it’s an all ipad storytime, advertise it separately so parents know what they’re getting
Project lyrics to songs for larger groups
Put all your music on itunes, create playlists, but be careful not to get a cheap speaker system or dock because you need it to be loud enough for a room full of kids
What is that animal game? Using an animal sounds app


Q: No one is dancing with you, what do you do?
Make it a “copy me” game or song
Give them props to dance with
Give them a speech: “You are your child’s first role model.  They are learning from you, not from me”


Q: Favorite felt or flannel activity?
A big felt humpty dumpty, after they say the rhyme the kids get a turn pulling him off the board
Brown bear, brown bear flannel – have the kids retell the story
Mouse behind a house flannel, can also do a fox in a box
If kids don’t get a turn with felt, let them be the ones to help clean up the felt story


Q: How do you deal with snacks at storytime?
Other kids with snacks are very distracting – try talking to parents about not bringing them
Allergies are a problem


Q: How to engage reluctant grownups?
Tell kids “Find your grown up! Can your grown up clap? Where’s your grown-up’s nose?”
Say at beginning “Turn off phone.  If you’re engaged, they’ll be engaged.” Then if need be remind parents midway thru.
Hand the grown-up a prop and make them take it and use it.
Ask kids “I hear some voices. Does anyone else hear voices?”: shame grown ups into being quiet.
Use the word “caregiver” or “grown-up” instead of “parents” so that nannies, aunts, etc. don’t feel off the hook


Q: What is your favorite song?
watermelon, papaya, banana, fruit salad – shake and move
tea break: here’s a cup and here’s a cup, and here’s a pot of tea, pour a cup and pour a cup, then have a drink with me
First you spread the peanut butter, then you spread the jam, put a piece bread on top, and eat up all you can, then you take your sticky fingers and you wipe them on your pants, and you do a little wiggle for the peanut butter dance
bananas chant: (a few variations)
bananas unite!, peel banana peel peel banana, slice banana slice slice banana, mash banana mash mash banana, go bananas!
Form banana form form banana, peel banana peel peel banana, go bananas!
Can do other fruits, too!: form apple then eat, form corn then shuck & pop, mash potato, squeeze orange, pick & smash grapes

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Keeping Storytime Fresh

Here’s our first Ask a Storytime Ninja Lightning Round for the month of May! These questions are posed to all of our ninjas instead of just our featured monthly ones and are meant to be quick and efficient responses to some interesting inquiries. Here’s our question for this week:




The Question:


“When do you change up your storytime routine, if at all? I’ve been doing pretty much the same opening/closing/etc. for over 3 years now, and for me, it’s gotten pretty stale. However, the kids and adults still love it, so I’m hesitant to change something. Any advice?”


The Answers:


From Kendra J. (@klmpeace,


I know it is time to change things up when they start feeling stale to me. You want to make sure you are enthusiastic about storytime and if things start to feel boring to you, the kids are going to pick up on that. That being said, I’ve kept a few things the same for the last 6 years. Opening and closing routines will stay the same for at least a full storytime season, but with the exception of “This is Big” for a transition rhyme, all the songs and activities in the meat of the storytime change almost every week. I have an unofficial rotating list of songs and activities that families who are with me for the whole storytime session and beyond will know well but things still stay fresh for me.

Moral of the story, if it’s stale, freshen it up. They will love anything you love, promise.


From Miss Sue (


It happens to the best of us! I wouldn’t change everything at once, especially since your kids are still loving the routine (what kid doesn’t?). Try a new song in the middle, learn to play simple songs on the ukulele (what I did), bring in a new puppet…whatever! Just changing one thing will give you a little adrenaline rush without confusing the kids. I wouldn’t change a second thing until that first thing is firmly rooted in your story time. Routine is good – but a little change can freshen how you approach story time.


From Anne C. (@sotomorrow,


Change it, change it, change it! BUT only change a part of it. I change about 25-30% of my opening and closing routines each 7-week session. That lives me enough familiarity for my families but a big enough change that I don’t feel bored or stifled. Plus it adds to my repertoire! If you don’t do sessions or do storytime continuously throughout the year, perhaps switch one rhyme out every month for a new one. If you get requests to bring a song back, you can always work it in somewhere else in the program every once in a while.


From Natasha FC. (


Keeping the same routine for opening and closing can get old for the provider, but it can be a great crowd management tool to get kids ready to settle in for storytime and a comfort to families that aren’t able to make it every week but come often enough to recognize what’s happening. It’s also developmentally appropriate to give kids those cues so they know what is happening next. Having said that, I still alter mine on occasion to keep things fresh for me, but I try to a.) make changes after a storytime break (I started taking a month off each quarter to refresh and prep for the next three-month session), and/or b.) make changes one at a time (for example if you do three songs at the beginning, keep the first one and change the second one one week, then the third one a few weeks later, and so on, so there is some routine continuation.


Thanks for the responses everyone! Have any of your own? Comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The Coolest Thing I Saw

This week, one of my favorite library blogs ever is having a birthday: Bryce Don’t Play turns 4! Bryce linked to 8 new blogs she’s loving, and they are all worth checking out.


I especially love this baby sensory play post from Mallory Tells Stories, this candy science program from the LibraryKart, yeah, I won’t link to them all, go see Bryce! She’s got you hooked up.


You needed to giggle, didn’t you?


Sometimes, the world around us falls apart, and picture books are therapy. Keep being amazing, Baltimore.


I love the Self-Care Sundays series that Kendra’s been doing. There’s so much burnout in librarianship, for obvious reasons. Let’s all support each other in getting the hell away from the library world and into pedicure chairs or travel adventures or margarita pitchers or. . .whatever self care looks like for us.


Brooke also recently did a blog roundup, this time of her go-to early literacy sites, all of which should be in your toolbox.


This idea, from Not Just Cute, about noticing the seeds we’re planting instead of relying on finishing items on a to do list, would probably be great to share with parents. But, I think it’s also a great idea for us, professionally. Some days it feels like noting gets “done” except maybe some connection building, some planting of seeds.



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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Books for Check Out

We love enthusiastic storytime participants, but sometimes it’s hard to be fair and make sure everyone leaves happy. This week’s question is looking for advice with this very issue. Do you have something to add? Leave it in the comments.



The Question:


“When I end storytime the books that I have read, approx. 8+ are available to check out. Some kids are quite eager to get the one they want . It makes me uncomfortable to see them grabbing for them. How can I facilitate this?”


Follow up to question:  some more information as requested by our featured ninjas.


“All the books are different.  As you know some kids are quick and grab and others hang back and wait.  I just want to help to make it not so competive.  We usually have 10-12 kids and I don’t sit far back either.  Lately I have been having other titles by the same author even if I don’t read them all.”



The Answers:


From Natasha:


It’s awesome to have the kiddos clamoring for the books you’ve just read to them!  Depending on the number of kids you could do a “lottery” – have the participants drop their names in a hat as they come into storytime if they want to get first crack at the storytime books, and then draw names at the end.  Another option is to use color awareness – “I’m wearing green today, is anyone else wearing green?” and then let the green-wearers have first crack at the books.  You could have other books available on display for the kids wearing other colors, or very little of the color you announced so that they all feel like they are getting something.


From Abby:


It’s great that your kids are interested to check out books after the storytime is over! I always put out books on display in the back of the room for families to check out after storytime and after we finish our last song, I introduce our play stations for the week before letting them loose. If you have time to add some play time or an activity after storytime, that might help deflect some of the energy off the books. Even something as brief as 10-15 minutes might help – once the kids know that the toys or crayons or whatever is coming out and they can engage with that for a few minutes while you get the books ready to go on your display table (or whatever you use).


I also second what Natasha suggested with finding some way to call on kids to make their choice, as long as you think you can make it fair (i.e. vary who you’re picking first each week, etc.). One way might be to recognize kids who showed good behavior during the storytime or kids who are sitting quietly and waiting to be called on at the end. One of the school readiness skills that we practice in storytime (even in my baby storytime) is turn-taking and even some of the 2-year olds I have in that storytime can sit and raise their hand and wait to be called on. I confess that what I would find difficult in that situation is trying to make sure that I’m not calling on the same two or three kids first more than other kids.


From Lindsey:


I second Natasha.  It’s awesome that the kids are so excited about the books you’ve read.  My suggestion is similar to Abby’s;  Have you tried laying out books for the kids to browse before storytime begins?  I like to do this because it gives the kids a few minutes to read, making good use of the time they might be waiting for others to arrive.  Maybe one of these books will spark their interest and there will be less demand for your storytime books?  You could also give a really quick booktalk for a similar title or previous favorite.  “I really wanted to share this book with you today but there just wasn’t time.”  If a child is particularly disappointed that she didn’t get a title she wanted, perhaps you could help her find a book after storytime.  I bet a little one-on-one with her favorite storytime provider would make whatever book you find together feel extra special.

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Ask a Storytime Ninja: May Featured Ninjas

Meet our featured ninjas for May! Thank you all for offering your time and advice.




Meet Abby:

abbyjohnson (2)


Abby Johnson is the Children’s Services Manager at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library in Southern Indiana. She plans baby storytimes and does tons of booktalking, in addition to other library programs. You can find her on the web at


Meet Lindsay:

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My name is Lindsay.  I just recently moved to the Denver area and am enjoying both my new position here as Early Literacy Outreach Librarian and the great Colorado outdoors.  Prior to my move, I was a children’s librarian in the suburbs of Chicago for ten years and served on the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Committee.  I have a background in Elementary Education and like working with kids of all ages, but my specialty is early learning, and storytime is the highlight of my week!  In previous positions, I coordinated storytimes, reading initiatives, and programming.  In my current position, I provide early literacy outreach, work with community partners, and get to be part of an awesome team that serves young children and their caregivers throughout the district.  I’m a big advocate of learning through play and I like the library best when it’s bustling!


Meet Natasha:



I’ve been a Youth Librarian for 13 years now, after a few years spent as a social worker  My first 3 years were at a small, rural, stand-alone library in Kansas, and the last many years have been with a large, multi-branch county library in Oregon, and there are things I like and appreciate about both types.  While I was surprised at how much I like working with teens, early childhood is really my passion,and my two favorite library things are storytimes and doing programming for elementary-aged kids.  I’m also a pop-culture, fantasy, and superhero geek, and rabid graphic novel consumer (as possibly obvious from my photo).


You can find her on Facebook.




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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Gender Neutrality

Welcome to the final installment of April’s Ask a Storytime Ninja. Thank you to our featured Ninjas for taking on these great questions. Just a reminder, if you would like to be a Featured Ninja, helping out your colleagues by answering their questions and offering advice, you can! We have openings! Go here and sign up now.  If you don’t want to answer questions but instead have a question to ask, submit it here. You can even earn badges for asking and answering questions!


The Question: 


I am a big proponent for gender neutrality and am curious if you actively do anything to support this in your library and/or Storytime. More specifically:
How do you let a parent know that their son can and should check out a princess book if he is drawn to it? Are there books you steer away from because they propel gender stereotypes? How do you encourage coworkers to expand their reader’s advisory skills past the stage of ‘truck books for little boys’?


The Answers:


From Ingrid


I am a big proponent for gender neutrality and am curious if you actively do anything to support this in your library and/or Storytime.


More specifically:
How do you let a parent know that their son can and should check out a princess book if he is drawn to it? Are there books you steer away from because they propel gender stereotypes? How do you encourage coworkers to expand their reader’s advisory skills past the stage of ‘truck books for little boys’?

This is tricky, but an important topic! First, thanks for caring about it enough to ask about it.
If a parent is dead set on not letting their son take out a princess book, there isn’t much we can do about it. There are no magic words that will suddenly change a parent’s mind. No one wants to be told that they’re doing a bad parenting job, but I do try and help a kid out in situations like this. Something like, “Oh, it looks like your child picked up one of my favorite titles! He has good taste!” or something like that. That’s the most you can do without seeming like a jerk. Support the child, don’t make the parent feel bad.

I don’t think of it as avoiding certain titles, but rather, I do love to display books that are a bit more progressive as far as gender is concerned. Get ’em off the shelves and into the light where kids can pick them up and take a look at them! The Rainbow List is a great place to start. Current picture book favorites are Not Every Princess by Jeffrey Bone, This Day in June by Gayle Pitman, I am Jazz by Jazz Jennings, Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen, and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino. 


We all have so much gender nonsense ingrained into our brains from an early age and some of it can be very harmful if we keep perpetrating certain stereotypes. When it comes to staff, training is essential. Maybe have a book club where you all read Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein? 


All of this is a process and it takes time. Thanks for making your library a little more LBGTQ friendly.


From Mel


If I were running a training, I might try an exercise where we start with a big pile of heavily gendered books/topics (Fancy Nancy, truck books, etc) and work to group them in unconventional ways (Don’t Let the Pigeon and Fancy Nancy are both about characters who LOVE to TALK!) or by doing book talks that frame a minor thread as the selling point (so, like showing someone Crews’ Train and saying, “Hey look, this is an awesome book about colors!”)


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