Ask a Storytime Ninja: ECRR Training

We have a great final question for our amazing October ninjas! There is so much amazing information in these 3 answers. As someone who was thrown to the wolves in her first job, PLEASE DON’T DO THAT! The person who asked the questions wanted as many responses as possible, so please add your thoughts and ideas in the comments.


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The Question:


How do you train new staff members in your library’s  storytime practices? Do they observe before doing their own? Go to an ECRR training? Throw them to the wolves and wish them good luck?


The Answers:



This question is so timely! At my library system, we are just starting to re-work how we train new staff members and/or substitute storytime librarians.


In the past, we’ve trained substitutes on a case-by-case basis, as volunteers or interested parties have come forward. We would assign a mentor or trainer and that new substitute would meet individually with their mentor for basic training. This would include :


1. Walking through the basics of a solid storytime plan, discussing the ECRR2 platform and how to implement it at storytime, showing various plans of past stortyimes, and highlighting print and online sources available to help with storytime planning.


2. Observe *at least* two storytimes — preferably one at a larger location (over 50 children) and one at a smaller location (25-30 children).


3. Write up a storytime plan for evaluation by mentor/trainer.


4. Come to a stortyime and present a book/fingerplay or a song/book or a flannel/fingerplay (part of a storytime, but not the entire thing).


5. Be ready to present a full storytime with observation by mentor/trainer.


6. Feedback!


That’s what our main framework has always been. We are planning to change how we do the in-person training to a larger, group session at one of our two all-staff training days (October or March), OR have a dedicated training session at some point in the year for new volunteers/substitutes/hires. Much of the same material will be covered at the group session, but our main purpose for doing this is to streamline the training so that individual staff members aren’t constantly hopping around and meeting with new stortyime presenters on a one-by-one basis. Keep it simple, right?


We also have an “emergency storytime bin” at each of our locations. Bins include several books, a flannel story or two, some puppets or finger puppets, big books, pop-ups, perhaps a book prop, a CD with storytime songs on it, sheets with songs/fingerplays/rhymes, and a notebook which includes at least two storytime outlines from start to finish. This bin is in each library as a true last-minute substitute storytime plan (e.g. if the children’s librarian calls her library an hour before storytime saying she’s sick or stuck in a traffic jam or what have you). The point of the bin is to make it super simple and easy for *anyone* to fill in if a true emergency arises. This is not ideal, and we try not to do this very often, but every once in a while it does happen and we are happy to have those bins in place!


Other parts of storytime training include attending the yearly metro-area storytime workshop (put on by metro public libraries in my area — Minneapolis/St. Paul). A workshop for all children’s librarians is put on at the end of every year to show best practices, share new songs/fingerplays/flannels/ideas, highlight some aspect of storytime (this year, for instance, we will highlight providing a sensory storytime) and basically discuss all things storytime. We encourage all our substitute staff and new staff to attend this open workshop for ideas and opportunities to gain more information for their personal storytime “tool box”.


That pretty much covers it in my library system — it is ALWAYS a work in progress, as different staff members bring different strengths to the storytime table. Moving forward, however, we hope to streamline the training process a bit!


One last word of advice : if you train substitute storytime librarians (as opposed to new hires), don’t let them languish on the shelf! Our philosophy is that a trained storytime presenter should be used and should be able to keep their storytime muscles limber. To that end, we try to have all substitutes present at least three or four storytime a year, regardless of whether or not they are needed as a true substitute, just to keep them from getting rusty and to make sure they are on top of their game.


Good luck with your training! It’s always fun to welcome new folks into the storytime fold …



My current position includes minimal training responsibilities, and I don’t want to speak for my whole system (which emphasizes ECRR2 training and mentorship), so I’ll defer to the other ninjas on this one, but some helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way, especially for training presenters who are not full-time, include:

Provide Sample Plans–if there’s a way you’d like storytime done, lay it out. Assure presenters they are free to tweak it, but give a guide. Then have trainees observe two very different practitioners to help them stretch the limits of the guide.

Show, don’t just tell–every training should include demonstrations and hands-on activities, storytime training just doesn’t translate well to powerpoint and lecture format.

Highlight storytime resources–Have a central cache (physical and online) of institutional knowledge and best practices, and make sure everyone knows where it is and can edit and adapt it. Guide new storytimers to the embarrassment of riches available now in the blogosphere.

Change it up–Have practitioners do partner storytimes, and encourage mutations on the form once the basic sit and sing model is well incorporated. Dance party? Picture walk? Oral stories? Just one physical change in a room can perk up a whole storytime.

Best of luck with training, and remember to ask what the new people have brought with them–they might have skills you’ve never even considered.



Training and development for storytime providers is SO important. I feel bad for people that are thrown to the wolves. I am the trainer for all of our storytime facilitators in our system. We require a lot for our providers because we feel storytime is such a valuable part of what the library has to offer. In order to initially become a storytime facilitator, each person must complete two classes with me.


1. Introduction to Every Child Read to Read and Parent Reminders

This class provides training on what ECRR is, how to incorporate it into storytime and how to make your reminders fluid in your storytime.


2. Storytime Structures and Objectives

This goes over the structure and objectives for each individual age group as well as all ages and bilingual storytime.


In addition, we encourage all new storytime providers to go see at least 3 storytimes (not all in their own branch). This way they will get ideas from lot of different people. I stress in my classes that you have to develop your own style rather than copying someone else’s style and forcing it to work.


Each storytime facilitator is also asked to attend at least two share sessions per year to help improve their skills. These sessions have a different topic each month. We have covered everything from how to get the wiggles out to using digital elements in storytime. I plan them depending on what people seem to want and need. People are encouraged to come and listen as well as provide input on the topic.


Finally, each storytime provider receives two observations per year. One is done by me and one is done by the person’s supervisor.


We have found by doing all of this, our storytime facilitators have become more confident in their storytime and incorporating the ECRR practices and skills as well as reminders. Our storytime numbers have increased and caregivers are happier.




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