Meet Rick Samuelson, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

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Both Gerald and Rick look excited for storytime.

The only think spooky about October’s Storytime Guerrilla of the Month is how supernaturally superb he is at storytime services. Rick is Youth Services Librarian for the Washington County Cooperative Library Services in Hillsboro, Oregon. His regular duties include supporting library staff and conducting youth-based outreach to at-risk and underserved populations. Rick is actively involved in tons of library association work and is desperately plotting his freedom. In his non-library life, he enjoys archery, canoeing, hiking, swimming in mountain lakes and telling scary stories. In short, he wishes the world was one big summer camp. He (rarely) twitters at @iceskates and (regularly) blogs fingerplay videos and early literacy tips at http://kids.wccls.org.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to librarians just starting out in youth services?
Rick: Never forget: It’s all about the kids! Get involved in professional associations and committee work, but always try to reflect on how your experiences will help you better serve the kids in your community. Place extra value on hugs and high fives you get from kids. Frame every thank you picture an adoring storytime attendee draws for you. In the grand scheme of things, these tokens of gratitude mean more than a great big stack of librarian of the year awards. Beyond that, have fun!!

Q: What one storytime skill are you really, really great at? Okay, you can share two things.
Rick: Engaging with kids. I mean really getting down on their level and listening to them and having conversations with them about what they’re interested in. I go out of my way to stick around after every storytime so I can talk with kids individually. During storytime, I try to look each kid in the eyes so they understand that I value each and every one of them. I guess all of those years watching Mister Rogers really influenced my early childhood education philosophy. Every child is special and deserves to feel appreciated. Oh. I also do some pretty funny voices.

Q: If you had free reign to try anything in storytime, what would it be?
Rick: I’ve been fortunate to find myself in storytime environments where I’m free to try anything that strikes my fancy. At present, I don’t have a regular storytime schedule. I mainly substitute and provide outreach storytimes. If I had a weekly gig, I would like to try incorporating regular melody play. I recently purchased a set of 25 glockenspiels and I’ve identified more than a dozen songs that can be played on an 8 note C major glockenspiel. I would like to pass them out during storytime for caregivers and children to explore while I demonstrate a simple melody. Research about the benefits of early music experiences is very strong. I would love to expose kids to different aspects of music beyond the rhythm-based shaker games and music play we often do in storytime. Since my own child was about 16 months old, I have listened to him hum refrains (like “Old MacDonald” and “Twinkle, Twinkle”) over and over until he masters them. Absolutely fascinating!

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?
Rick: I am obsessed with action rhymes and fingerplays. The bouncier the rhythm and the bigger the movement, the better. I love sharing rhymes in storytime because they really get kiddos involved, up and moving. I firmly believe that nursery rhymes can do it all. They have the power to inspire a love of language. They showcase pattern and model good social behaviors like turn-taking and self-regulation. In my opinion, rhymes are the greatest takeaway we have to offer to parents and caregivers. Children are naturally drawn to the sounds and rhythms. When parents share rhymes one-on-one, they are inviting their child into a special and fun time of bonding. Best of all, rhymes are super-easy to share. You can do them in line at the grocery store, in the car… pretty much anywhere!!

Q: How do you go about continuing to develop your storytime skills?
Rick: Having a toddler in the house is definitely the best storytime preparation around. If you don’t already have one, I suggest you look into it. Beyond that, I try to push myself to explore new material. I’m constantly looking for new books to try out, new stories to tell and new songs to sing. I find that (when left to my own devices) I tend to fall back on familiar favorites. This can be great. It definitely gives one the opportunity to really nail the presentation. But, it’s also quite limiting. In my experience, doing the same thing over and over will eventually lead to burnout. Finally, I try to keep up on storytime blogs… although, I’m between blog aggregators at the moment.

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