Please allow me to introduce you to December’s Storytime Guerrilla of the Month, Kristen Bodine. Kristen is a children’s librarian at the Louisville Public Library in Louisville, Colorado. She is on the Steering Committee of the Colorado Librarians for Early Literacy (CLEL) and blogs weekly early literacy tips on CLEL’s blog. She’s been a children’s librarian for a year and a half, and before that she was a teen librarian. Kristen loves storytime and thinks she has the best job ever. In her spare time she reads, is trying to finish this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, crochets, and loves to cook.
Q: How did you come to be a storytime practitioner?
Kristen: I started my librarian life as a teen librarian. I always wanted to work in youth services, and I loved working with teens, but when I was offered the chance to work with children, I was really excited. I think early literacy is so important, and wanted the opportunity to work with the really young to hook them on books and reading right away. Luckily for me, when I started my job, I had a few months to settle in before I was responsible for running my own storytimes. I used that time to read, read, read as many picture books as possible, and observe storytimes to see what might work for me. It also gave me time to think about the differences in working with teens and kids and how I could apply what I had learned with teens to kids. I feel like the most important thing I’ve figured out is that there’s a huge amount of overlap—both kids and teens can often feel like their voices aren’t heard and are looking for someone to really listen to them and engage with them. That’s something I try to keep in mind in my daily work and in my storytimes.
Q: What’s your philosophy for putting together a storytime?
Kristen: I would say my general philosophy is to make it valuable, make it fun, and make it age appropriate. I do three storytimes a week: babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. That gives me the opportunity to really gear storytimes to all of these unique age groups and their developmental needs. I want to make sure that parents are walking away with knowledge about early literacy and how storytimes support that. I also want to make sure that the books/rhymes/etc. that I’m choosing are going to work with the age group for whatever storytime I’m planning. What’s most important to me is that I make it fun! Storytime is one of my favorite things every week, and I try to make sure that everything I’m doing in storytime is fun for me, which usually translates to being fun for the kids. So my first questions are: “Am I basing this around early literacy?” and “Is this age appropriate?” After that, I have to ask: “Is it fun?”
Q: What one storytime skill are you really, really great at? Okay, you can share two things.
Kristen: I love being a goofball and getting silly with the kids. I think I get at least as excited as they do when we sing the banana song or do Zoom, Zoom or some of my other favorite action rhymes and fingerplays. I also pick lots of silly books, because yelling, flailing, and overdramatic crying are some of my favorite things to do in storytime. I think another skill I have—and this is definitely a learned skill that I’m honing with every storytime I do—is being incredibly flexible with the storytime plan. If something isn’t working, I’m not afraid to stop it, and move on to the next thing and try that instead.
If you had free reign to try anything in storytime, what would it be?
Kristen: I’d really love to have more instruments and live music in storytime. I saw a presentation by a music teacher who showed us all how she did a drum circle with kids and that made me want to buy a set of storytime drums so badly! My coworker plays the guitar and when she brings it to storytime the magic of live music is so wonderful to watch. I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at learning an instrument of my own to bring that element in—maybe the ukulele.
Q: How do you go about continuing to develop your storytime skills?
Kristen: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve realized that I’ve become so much more comfortable with storytimes over the past few months, but that every storytime is a learning experience. And I hope I’m never NOT trying new things in storytime and building upon my skill set, to keep it fresh for me and the kids. Trying new things, and learning from them, is the best way to keep getting better at providing storytimes. I also have a wonderful coworker who has a lot of storytime experience, and has been a great sounding board for me to figure out solutions to problems, suggest great books that work really well, and think about how to continually make my storytimes better. I try to attend as many storytime swaps as I can, and whenever I meet another children’s librarian I make sure to ask about his or her favorite books and activities. And the blogosphere has been hugely helpful to me. Children’s librarians are so generous in sharing what they do—I love to read about what other people do in storytime and I’ve learned so much from different blogs that help me to create engaging storytimes.