It should come as no surprise to anyone in the Storytime Underground community that our colleagues are often engaged in some really awesome projects. One such colleague is this month’s Storytime Guerrilla of the Month, Soraya Silverman-Montano, who recently completed her stint as an Emerging Leader on behalf of ALSC. Ninjas, meet Soraya.
Since being (thankfully) forced to volunteer by her incredible mom at the age of 14 (and, shortly thereafter, that service grew to love), Soraya has been working at the library for ten years and is currently a Youth Services Librarian with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. According to Soraya: “I can honestly say from the bottom of my geeky heart that I love everything about it! I enjoy making explosions and slime, being ridiculously silly every week while sharing my favorite stories, and also coordinating the occasional teen program to express my geekiness to likeminded individuals at this awesome awesome job!” Outside of work, Soraya considers herself a pretty cool wife, friend, daughter, and sister of five girls; a gamer, crafter and unique chef; a mommy of three doggy fur babies; and of course, an avid reader of mostly YA fiction, manga and comics.
Q: What’s your philosophy for choosing books and activities for your storytimes?
Soraya: The #1 rule for me when picking books and activities is that they above all else: Must. Be. Fun! #2 is that I have to be able to get the kids to be engaged and involved in the story or game, and the #3 rule is that I generally should be able to make a fool of myself because if you can’t laugh at yourself then who are the kids gonna laugh at/with? 😉
I pick stories with songs the kids can sing with me, ones with repetition or rhymes that they can read along with. I do flannels and fingerplays with interactive songs or pieces the kids can pull off the board, or hide and go seek, or matching games.
And if a book/activity doesn’t inherently have an interactive portion I make it fun and interactive by asking questions throughout the entire story: Would you be friends with a crocodile? What if it was a nice crocodile? Who here likes apples? I love apples! You guys have good taste, literally! What do you think’s going to be in the box? A banana? A sad clown? A MONSTER IN HIS UNDERPANTS?!
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?
Soraya: Flannels. I love flannels. They are so great at reeling a fussy crowd back in and at getting chatty parents to participate and focus back on storytime. If you have a small storytime that day and the group isn’t engaging with you, you can get kids excited by having them come up and pull pieces off the board.
And flannels are so diverse! I have ones that tie into fingerplays, some that are alternate ways of reading a well-known story, matching games, and hide and go seek games. I have some that teach ABCs, colors, counting, emotions or shapes; anything is possible!
Q: If you could travel through time, what one piece of storytime advice would you give your new librarian self?
Soraya: Don’t stress so much! You have to find your own groove. You don’t have to do the same outline as Lily or the same songs as Marshall or themes like Robin or books that Ted reads. If a kid is screaming his head off and can’t sit still, it’s probably not because of you and just because they’re having a rough day. If you have a tough crowd who won’t engage, you’ll learn techniques to get them to. Look for new ideas from coworkers, online, from 3rd parties like classrooms, there’s always more to learn. And as you learn, storytime will become easier and easier. You just have to give yourself a break and a chance to grow into that awesome storytime guru you will be.
Q: When you have a storytime problem, who/what do you turn to for advice or support? It can be a person, a blog, a website, a resource…
Soraya: The resource I use most and that I am extremely grateful for is my coworkers. They are a plethora of knowledge about any aspect of a storytime you can think of, and we’re always bouncing ideas and thoughts off of one another. Plus, it’s equally beneficial to see that skill in practice, to shadow them and see exactly how they incorporate what you’re trying to learn in person. That doesn’t mean you have do exactly as they do, but you’ll at least have some ideas to think about how you want to incorporate it into your storytime.
I also use Storytime Katie (who I had the pleasure of briefly meeting at Annual this year which was awesome) for theme ideas. We have similar tastes in books and it helps me brainstorm other books that go along with whatever theme I have for the week. Plus she posts her crafts ideas, too, which is fabulous.
And I am a member of the Storytime Underground Facebook group where I’m able to post any questions, stories, or even just geeky things I’d like to share with everyone. It’s an excellent resource to use to get a variety of ideas from other Youth Services folk around the country and even the world. Social media rocks the socks!
Q: You recently “emerged” as an ALA Emerging Leader. Can you share some information about your project? How has it made you see your youth services work differently?
Soraya: Our Emerging Leaders group was tasked from ALSC, the Association of Library Service to Children, to do research that would lead to developing a Youth Services Value Calculator, which essentially breaks down each service we provide to children, parents, schools, etc. and assigns a monetary value to that service. We quickly realized, though, that this was a daunting feat; how can you assign a price to something invaluable, such as establishing a love for reading and instilling early literacy skills at an early age so that they have school readiness and will hopefully be more successful and ambitious in their pursuit of education?
We determined that a Value Calculator would be insufficient as a measurement tool because it is only a snapshot of what services are provided for a brief moment in time. Our group felt that a more thorough and all-encompassing tool would need to be developed for Youth Services staff to show their value and how important providing our resources is–so that we can better advocate for ourselves to administration, legislation, the public, whomever. Ultimately, we voiced our conclusion that there should be an ALSC taskforce or some other entity dedicated to researching and finding relative concrete value for our services in order to create such a tool. We were ecstatic to find out that such a taskforce has been created, and we’re eager to see their results and how this project will evolve!
This Emerging Leaders project was eye-opening in that I realized there aren’t a whole lot of tools out there specific to Youth Services that can easily convey to the public just how crucial we are to the children and families we serve and to society as a whole. Now it may be a stretch to say that librarians are responsible for creating a more educated, open minded public, but who’s to say that we don’t have an important role in doing so? If we can reach kids while they’re young, or at any age in between, and help them to love reading and learning, and that in turn leads them to value education, pursue higher degrees, think for themselves and continue to learn, wouldn’t that lead to a more educated society? I know now just how necessary advocating for Youth Services is, and that we need to take every opportunity to make sure that everyone else, too, realizes how important libraries, Youth Services, and reading are to help the children and people of our community shine even greater than they already do.