Ladies and gents, meet Brooke Rasche, our January Guerrilla of the Month. Brooke has been a children’s librarian for 2 years. Her first job was in Virginia, where she programmed for ages 0-19. Now, she’s in Wisconsin and programs specifically for ages 0-5, but she also jumps in and helps where she’s needed. Brooke’s passion is early literacy and she loves to talk about it with anyone who will listen, including on her blog. In her non-librarian life, she enjoys reading, watching horrible reality tv, and maybe sewing (she just got a machine for Christmas!). Brooke absolutely adores her job and truly thinks it is her calling in life.
Q: What’s your philosophy for putting together a storytime?
Brooke: The main thing I consider when I look for books and activities is will it add value to my storytime. Will kids respond well to it? How about parents and caregivers? Does this fit with the early literacy tip I want to focus on? I also try to keep my storytime content fresh. Some parents are with me for 24 months before moving on to the next storytime provider and I want to make sure they are not hearing the same 15 books and songs for 2 years.
I also think it’s important to make sure that you are enjoying yourself in storytime. It is easy to get stuck in a “storytime rut” or to get burned out when you do it for months on end. If you dread storytime each week then it will be noticeable by the caregivers and children.
In Wisconsin it can obviously get very very cold. If my families are getting their children ready, walking out in freezing weather, and coming to the library specifically for storytime I want to make sure they leave feeling like it was worth their time.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?
Brooke: I currently do 3 baby storytimes (11-23 months) and 1 infant storytime (0-10 months) each week. My absolute favorite thing to do with them is playtime! It is a great opportunity to really connect with the caregiver and child. I make sure to spend a few minutes with each child playing and talking to the caregiver. It is a great time to chat with participants who are normally more introverted or new to the group. I am kind of a “matchmaker” with my parents and introduce newer moms to some of my more veteran ones who match their personality.
I have a few very young mothers who attend my storytimes and they’ve expressed how awkward it can feel to play with their child. This is also a great time to show them playing can be as simple as putting your hand over their eyes or just talking to their baby with a silly voice. Simply interacting with your child and speaking to them is such a huge step for a lot of parents!
This time is also really special because it gives parents a chance to talk to one another about their lives. Whether it’s concerns about their child not hitting a milestone, to ask about feeding schedules, or to simply talk about lack of sleep- there is usually at least one other mom who is experiencing the same issue.
Q: How do you go about continuing to develop your storytime skills?
Brooke: I am very active online and I’m constantly looking at what other storytime providers are offering. My blog list is numerous, but Mel’s Desk, Jbrary, Storytime Katie, and Read Sing Play are my first stops when I am looking for new content.
I also keep an eye on webinars and what is being offered by local universities. I took storytelling classes in graduate school, but I haven’t really used my oral storytelling skills at all. So I decided to sign up for a class this semester to refresh myself!
Q: You’re in an elevator and an adult services librarian says something about storytime that makes it clear she just doesn’t get it. What do you say to convey the importance of storytime?
Brooke: I always begin talking about child brain development and the importance of what we do in storytime. My favorite study to refer to is the “30 million word gap” that children can experience. It usually ends up being a much longer conversation than the librarian ever wanted to have, but what we do is so important! I truly could go on about the importance of storytime for hours.
In other librarians’ defense, I think a lot of them are just uninformed rather than rude (there are exceptions). From the outside looking in, it can definitely look like all we do is sing and play with kids. That’s why events like Guerrilla Storytime are so important! When people ask me “What do you do all day?” this is one of the websites I tell them to check out.
Q: If you could travel through time, what one piece of storytime advice would you give your new librarian self?
Brooke: Be yourself! I am naturally a very loud and extroverted personality. However, other librarians I watched do storytime were not, so early in my career I tried to mimic their style rather than discovering my own. Once I finally realized that I wasn’t meant to have a calm and quiet storytime they became so much more fun! I think everyone has a unique storytelling style and should embrace it. Sometimes it takes a while to find, and it can definitely change over time—but when you find it you’ll enjoy storytime more, and so will the parents and children!