Last week, the best* Guerrilla Storytime ever took place in St. Louis, Missouri, at the 2013 Missouri Library Association Conference. Between 7 and 9 p.m. on the first night of the conference, about 20 youth services folks of every ilk joined forces in the hotel conference center hallway to talk shop and best practices. At least two dozen non-youth services folks walked past and noticed what we were up to as well; one even clapped along to a song.
Some of the Guerrilla Storytime questions/challenges came from the Challenge Cup, a homemade container of popsicle sticks with challenges and topics on them. Other topics came from the attending guerrillas, ensuring that everyone had a chance to crowdsource their storytime thoughts and issues. With so many topics over the two hours, we covered a lot. Here are the highlights. Or, rather, the things I wrote down when I wasn’t distracted by the blinding awesome.
- If You’re Happy and You Know It (with plenty of added verses, like “rub your tummy” or “be a tiger,” to expand for time)
- A-Crafting We Will Go (to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell)
- The More We Get Together with an added second verse, “The more we READ together”
Thoughts on Nametags
- Have parents/caregivers write the names, and have stickers for the kids to add to their tags as well; then the child is involved and the tag is legible
- Use theme-associated die cuts for the nametags and give kids the opportunity to guess the storytime theme
- Write names on paper plates; letters are larger and easier to see, and kids who don’t like things stuck on them will still keep their nametags
- Don’t want nametags? Ask kids to say their names “loud and proud” to get to know them
Thoughts on Storytime Room Setup
- Some folks spread out the kids’ area from the grown-up area to encourage kids’ independence
- Some folks like to promote joint engagement by keeping kids and caregivers together
- Some prefer mats/carpet squares to chairs to limit climbing
- Have you seen Anna’s cool mats?
Favorite Strategies to Incorporate Print Awareness
- Have storytime on an alphabet rug
- Point on important and/or big words on the page while reading
- Sing BINGO and variations that fit your theme (APPLE, etc.)
- Playdough as a craft/play component
- Make pipe cleaner letters
- Make a letter mural with butcher paper and crayons; kids add letters every week
To Theme, or Not to Theme?
- Themes are great because they help with planning, especially when libraries need to plan and advertise programs months in advance
- Themes can promote sustained vocabulary and concept learning
- Loose themes can help accomplish additional storytime goals (e.g., incorporating a folk/fairy tale each storytime to promote knowledge of these cultural touchstones)
How to Use Wordless Picture Books in Storytime
- Tableau the picture (i.e., have kids participate in creating a still life of one of the scenes in the story)
- Just share a few pages as relevant to the goal you want to accomplish
- Make up the story as a group
- The librarian makes up a story, then starts the book again and makes up an entirely new story
- Make sure to add an aside to caregivers, who can use this storytime example as a teaching moment of how they can use wordless picture books at home
Some Storytimes Have Stations
- After the books/songs/rhymes portion of storytime, kids can go interact at stations with their caregivers as their interest allows
- Stations may include crafts, play items, activities, science items or experiments, etc.
- Leave instructions or tips for caregivers at each station so they can engage with their children with limited librarian mediation
- Stations for promoting letter knowledge:
- write letters on die-cut insects, then call out a letter and have kids swat the appropriate insect with flyswatters
- use easter eggs as a letter matching game (match “A” to “A,” etc.)
- squeeze finger paint or shaving cream into zipper-top baggies, seal, and let kids “write” with their fingers
Ideas to Incorporate Play
- Throw a Block Party — get out all the library’s blocks and building items and let kids get to building after a construction story
- Get a sensory table, or make one using a small baby pool filled with sensory items
- Make and play with dough
- Get messy! A direct quote: “My parents know, if you come to storytime, you’re going to leave a hot mess.”
So many more wonderful, insightful tips and ideas were shared over the course of our storytime, and I know I left feeling like I’d a) made new friends, and b) added to my storytime bag of tricks. With the bit of exposure we had from non-youth services folks, too, I think we also made a great impression that storytime is hard word with lots of thought necessary. These guerrillas kicked butt.
*”best” is here defined as a participant brought bottles of beer in a recycling bin filled with ice