Recap of Guerrilla Storytime at Kids First, by Erin Silva

On May 5, 2015, I hosted a Guerrilla Storytime at the Kids First conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The session began with a brief introduction of the Storytime Underground and Guerrilla Storytime movement. I read the “Meet the Corps” section of the website because I believe passionately that “Literacy is NOT a luxury” – and we’ve got to recognize and remind ourselves that the work we do is vital. Then we began with my favorite opener – “Clap your hands”:

Clap your hands,
Touch your toes,
Turn around and
Touch your nose,
Flap your arms and
Jump up high!
Wiggle your fingers and
Reach for the sky!


Q: What do you do when a kid throws up in the middle of storytime? (Because that just happened to me two weeks previously!)
*Move everyone out of the way, and out of the area if possible
*Have another grown-up cordon off the area
*Sing a “distracting” song, like “We are the Dinosaurs” by Laurie Berkner
*I ended up having all the kids stand up while I very enthusiastically read a Clifford book to distract them from the action behind them…


Q: Themes or no Themes when planning storytime?
*Yes, because it helps with preparation, especially when doing multiple storytimes
*No, because the kids always want to check out the books we read and it’s hard to say no
*Some librarians blog about the storytimes after the fact, and then the list of books read is listed for grown-ups to check out later – this evolved into a conversation about hand-outs after storytime. Some do, some don’t. In lieu of a craft every week, I hand out a coloring sheet that has something to do with our storytime. We only do craft once a month.


Q: Puppets or no puppets?
*There was a large groan with this one…some of us have a real love/hate relationship with puppets. However – I explained that Mr. Foxy only comes out at the beginning when we do “Clap your Hands” and at the end when we do our goodbye chant. He then gives out hugs to any child who wants one.
*One librarian come forward and sang “When______ gets up in the morning” (So ducks get up in the morning, they always say quack quack!) She pulls out a puppet or stuffed animal to go along with the song.
*Another librarian shared how she reads/has memorized “Who Ate All the Cookie Dough” by Karen Beaumont. Each time there is another animal accused, that animal puppet is shown.
*Using a “Poetry Puppet” – this puppet comes out to introduce the poem of the day in storytime
*Bringing out a special puppet when singing “Come along and sit and read” (Tune of London Bridge)


Q: How do you incorporate “Learning” in storytime?”
*Point out letters in the room, and tell parents to point letters out in the grocery store
*Send home a take home sheet with early literacy activities
*Mailbox – put items, like letters that spell out a word, in a play mailbox and spell out words on a flannel board
*There was a discussion about bringing in outside partners but in that particular instance, it was too much of a time commitment for the parents, so it fizzled out. Group consensus was it was better to do “one-shot” outreach than a 6-week commitment


Q: The talkative parents…dun, dun, dun!
*Iowa children’s librarians are really into Iowa-nice public shaming! Suggestions included:

Waiting on parents to stop talking before continuing the story
Praising the kids for being such good listeners and then waiting
Having the kids find their grown-up and then all sit together
Make sure the grown-ups participate with the kids


Q: The disruptive child and the unresponsive parent
*The general feedback for this was to gently tell the parent that it’s okay to take the child out of the room/area until they are ready to come back in. It’s okay to leave – we want storytime to be a positive experience for everyone involved. Sometimes parents and caregivers think they must make the child stay and need some helpful encouragement to understand that really, it’s okay to leave and try again.

We ended by dancing to Laurie Berkner’s “Shake Your Body Down,” my favorite way to end toddler time!




Erin Silva is a Youth Services Librarian at Kahona (IA) Public Library.

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