When Storytime Attacks: How one librarian attacked back

This week we are featuring a librarian who had some issues with storytime and how she worked them out.

I Am Librarian, Hear me Roar!

I Am Librarian, Hear me Roar!

Let’s start a discussion!  If you have had a similar experience, please share in the comments, or link to a blog post if you’ve written about it.

Would you have done anything differently?

Can we talk about why library school students don’t have a required practicum or something so they can actually do real, live storytimes (or reference/RA, etc.) before they are thrown to the preschool wolves? Ok, maybe we can save that discussion, but that is always my first thought when I hear about librarians like Brytani who are thrown in and fortunately have the natural talent to succeed.  But I digress. Here’s Brytani’s story.

You can send any pats on the back or questions to Brytani at brytanifraser@gmail.com.

I began my career as a children’s librarian in an outreach role, performing fifteen minute storytimes for preschool classrooms. I loved everything about it. The children were attentive and sweet, they sat quietly and listened to directions, and they cheered everytime I came into the room.

A few months ago I started working at a new library where I was to perform two storytimes a week for four and five year-olds. Traditionally, these storytimes were caretaker-optional, a prospect that seemed pretty simple to me. It would basically be my own classroom environment, right? What I forgot to factor in is that I have no experience as a teacher or parent and the children who were coming to me often didn’t have much experience in daycare or preschool either.

My first storytime was a disaster. The kids ran circles around me, put their faces against our windows and doors, ran up and down the stairs in our room, and two boys even started fighting on the floor. When it was over, I was shellshocked. At first I went to the back and put my head in my hands. Then, I locked myself in the storytime room for thirty minutes. I went over it in my head again and again trying to figure out where I went wrong. I went home and cried. (I should tell you that at this point in my story, I had about six months of cumulative experience doing storytimes.)

The next day I came back resolved to take a few simple steps at a time and see if it helped. First, I attacked our room. It’s a pretty exciting place. There’s a parachute draped from the ceiling, there are toys lined up in our windows, the room is painted lively colors, we have steps and we have beanbags. I took away everything that wasn’t stapled down. No more toys, or beanbags, and now the kids had squares to sit on around the flat area of our room. Keeping them on the flat portion on their own square, I thought, might keep them from using our stairs as springboards and give them some concept of personal space. It also gave them a point to come back to after doing a lively activity. I also made sure that I outlined a few important rules at the beginning. One, I introduced the concept of listening ears. (Eyes are on me, sitting quietly, and listening.) Two, we keep our hands to ourselves. Three, we follow directions…or else. (Sometimes I have to send one out and let my co-workers locate his caretaker.)

I also thought that establishing some routines might be helpful. I came up with a structure that I follow everytime and I use three songs as my touchstones. The books and the activities change each week but our songs help the group know where they are and, obviously, get out some wiggles. My storytimes for this bunch are as interactive as I can make them and often feature acting out stories, puppets, and many games. I also end with the same games each week: Little Mouse, Little Mouse and Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear.

The kids got better and better each week, especially as some of them became established visitors. At first, I felt good about getting through two books each week and focused a lot on other activities. Now, two months later, I am able to read three books and have started introducing teaching moments. We learn letters each week and play I Spy for words that begin with that letter using laminated clip art on our flannelboard. They still don’t like that they can’t pull out a beanbag and play like jumping beans on the steps but they are starting to love our literacy activities more and more each time and there have been no more fights.

Thank the storytime gods!

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