Category Archives: Speaking Up

Storytime for Social Justice check in

It’s time for a check in on our Storytime for Social Justice Blog Challenge! If you haven’t taken the challenge yet, don’t worry! This is an ongoing challenge and you can join in anytime.



In the meantime, here’s a look at what we’ve seen so far:


A social justice storytime outline.


Rosemary is ready to go.


Rebecca, who BTW is KILLING it with her Libraries are for Everyone images, resolves to be socially shiny. 


Our own Julie and Holly made lists of resolutions.


Did we miss your post? Send us a link! And if (when?) you join in, let us know by commenting here!


Sunday Storytime Challenge

Welcome to another Sunday Storytime Challenge! Our goal is to encourage the SU community to try new things and share out those adventures. Challenges will vary widely and can include craftiness, elevator speeches, networking, professional development and beyond!


So here is this week’s challenge!




Recently, we held a Virtual Guerrilla Storytime on Twitter and Facebook with a focus in discussing social justice issues for Storytime.


We were happy to receive some fantastic responses, but the experience also left the Joint Chiefs feeling like we came on too strong. Honestly, there were questions posed that I couldn’t answer. We wanted to take a step back. What would social justice 101 look like?


  • Understanding that the library is a portal to knowledge. If we don’t help to change our communities, who will?
  • Using diverse books in your Storytime, displays, book talks, reader’s advisory, and lists.
  • Don’t use gender stereotypes in your library. Offer boys ballet picture books even if their caregiver gives you a look.
  • Please ditch your holiday programming.
  • Recognize that families do not look the same. Rethink offering Mom and Dad based programming.
  • Work on your terminology. Instead of saying mom, dad, girls, and boys try grown-ups and friends!
  • Go beyond ADA compliance at your library. Do you use large print in your Storytime signage? Do you offer chairs in your Storytime room for those that cannot sit on the floor? Be sure to discuss the use of modifications for lifting and bouncing songs and other problematic rhymes.
  • Make some POC flannel sets like Storytime Katie’s babies or Mr. Lou’s mustache from Literary Hoots!
  • Move away from only comfortable workplace conversations. Be a little more badass and take your professional discussions to a new place. There are behaviors, attitudes, and environments that we must address, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular we may become.


As an early literacy provider, we present ourselves to the next generation of leaders. No, your Storytime toddlers will not be able to define social justice for you, but they can take in concepts of fairness, caring, kindness, love, friendship, equality, and respect. I feel like social justice 101 is all about recognizing that you may be doing it wrong. Your ideas, especially if they haven’t evolved in 20 years, may need a refresher. If you think social justice isn’t for your community, you are sadly mistaken.


Take this week (and your whole life I hope) to reach out to those around you and discuss these issues. Talk about what you can feasibly do and what you can strive for. Very few of us hold all the power to make changes in our systems. Request a meeting with your supervisor. Send this post in an email to your youth services staff. No one will know that this is important to you until you tell them.


Did you sit down with your supervisor to see if they would back you up if you read Mommy, Mama, and Me in Storytime? Did you take an opportunity in a staff meeting to discuss putting diverse titles on all displays? Maybe you went straight to the director to address the lack of diverse stock photos in your marketing. Make sure to come back and share with us! There are so many ways you can share:


  • Simply comment to this post!
  • Email us at
  • Tweet it out using #storytimechallenge
  • Do you have a kick-ass blog? Share your challenge story there and send us the link!


There is no concrete timeline for you to complete the challenges and they will always remain open.


We can’t wait to see what you can accomplish!

Storytime for Social Justice Blog Challenge

You may recall our Resolve to Rock blog challenge from the last couple years in which we challenged librarians to blog about their professional goals for the new year.


This year, we have a new blog challenge for you: the Storytime for Social Justice Challenge.*


Image by the amazing Rebecca at Hafuboti

As youth librarians we have a lot of influence and a large captive audience of small children, and now more than ever it is vital that we do our part to make the world a better place. We offer services to make our communities — ALL members of our communities, from those we see to the marginalized faces that don’t use the library, — feel represented, welcomed, and appreciated.


Take a moment to think about what you can do to help teach empathy and inclusiveness in your programming, your displays, your space, your services. Check out Julie’s post for some inspiration and examples, take a look at our new Storytime for Social Justice  kit, and then tell us what YOU are committed to doing for your community!



Write a post on your own blog using this image**, share with the hashtag #StorytimeJusticeWarrior, and
post a link in the comments here.  If you don’t have a blog, we are happy to host guest posts! Get in touch via email at storytimeunderground (at) gmail (.) com and we will share your post on this site.


Once you’ve written a post and made a commitment to social justice, I encourage you to print it out and post it by your desk, or in your planner. Maybe make it the background on your computer. Whatever will help keep these ideas in the forefront of your mind. Because supporting Storytime for Social Justice is great, but only if you actually do it.


*Wondering why social justice belongs in Storytime Underground? Just a reminder that Storytime Underground is NOT neutral. We were built on social justice, and we continue to serve that purpose. If you don’t like it, you do not have to participate, but this is NOT and has never been a place for only storytime ideas.


** Our blog challenge image was lovingly created by Rebecca at Hafuboti. Thanks Rebecca!!

Storytime For Social Justice Kit

This is the time of year when you normally see the SU community light up with resolutions to change our practices, learn something new, and improve our services. It’s a time when we ramp up our energy and set goals to smash expectations of what libraries should be. It’s a tradition we love and honor, but this year is different.


This year most of us in the library profession had our ethics, hearts, and years of work demolished by a perfect storm of bigotry, ignorance, and apathy. In the wake of endlessly disappointing legislation, devastating and infuriating election results, and ever-capitulating leadership (both in our government and in our profession), the Joint Chiefs are choosing to fight. Our weapon is something so innocent and so elegant that you may miss its power on first glance.


We’re fighting back with Storytime.


See, we think that when we are faced with fascism on a terrifying scale, it is radical to empower the public with messages of strength in community, empathy for those who are different from us, equality with those we cannot understand, and love without boundaries. We think it’s nothing short of sedition to sow the seeds of unity, equity, and power.


We think Storytime should make bigots tremble. It should establish a place of belonging and safety, raising up families who are willing to advocate for one another. It should normalize and celebrate diversity, dispelling all fear of differences. It should give children the foundation they need to have confidence in their ideas, pride in their ability to make and change things, and a place of acceptance for voicing their thoughts and feelings.


Storytime is social justice.


So, yes. This year is different. Instead of asking for your resolutions, we’re issuing a challenge to throw away your trusty road map and become an explorer again. Re-examine your mission and practices and choose the path to being a social justice warrior. We invite you to join us in reading diverse titles, using your songs and activities to create a sense of community and safety, and encouraging support and love among families and neighbors.


As always, we’re here to support you as you make this leap. Below you will find a kit complete with book suggestions, songs, flannels, and extension activities. We’ve also included some ideas for fostering constructive conversations in Storytimes and linked to other lists that may be helpful.


Click here to view and use our brand new Storytime for Social Justice Kit.




If you’re ready to take a stand with us, shout it out. #storytimejusticewarrior

And, don’t worry. There is much, much more to come. Check back with us next week for more resources related to this challenge.


A Response

Hi, I’m Miss Julie and I do Storytimes.


Most people believe that I simply read books to children. Yes, that is one of the fantastic parts of my job, but I like to think that I am so much more. I see myself as an educator, an early literacy professional, a mentor, a friend, an entertainer, an activist, and part of a child’s inner circle.


I do what I do so that early literacy is brought into the home. I do what I do so that children can feel welcomed, safe, and understood. I do what I do so that children can become better acquainted with themselves and the world around them. I spread love. I bring down the house. I express and applaud individuality.


Now, more than ever, it is clear that our nation is divided. A rough estimate would tell me that over half of my Storytime families voted differently than I. I know that there are Storytime Ninjas out there who have different beliefs than I. Out in the world, this social division is ruled by hatred and disbelief. In Storytime, and in all parts of the library, we come together and accept our differences. As youth service providers, we can’t idly sit back and watch the world go by. Not now, not ever.


Yesterday, someone asked on Facebook “Can we keep Storytime Underground just about Storytime?” I understood the desire. We have definitely been bombarded with this election. The request was likely in response to a political article that we quickly deleted from our site. However, the answer to this request is no. We have never, and will never, be just about Storytime. At least not in the sense that you are asking.


Yes, Storytime Underground is shaker eggs, felt, and how to get caregivers to stop texting. These conversations are what brought me here two years ago looking for the basics. I wanted to be a Storytime librarian and didn’t really know where to start. Now, activism drives those basics. Storytime is social justice.


Right now, I am pleading with our community to pull yourselves up and make some changes. These small responses will help you feel more empowered and, more importantly, the children around you will notice.


  1. Make the majority of your face out shelving and displays feature minorities.
  2. Remove all ‘Books for Boys’ and ‘Books for Girls’ lists. Books are for people dammit.
  3. Offer boys books about princesses, bunnies, and ballet. Offer girls books about excavators, crime fighting, and dinosaurs.
  4. Add some positive affirmations to your Storytime routine. This idea came from Cynthia Dawn on the Facebook page. In her first ever Storytime, she had the kiddos shout out phrases like ‘I am smart!’ and ‘I am loved!’. (Cynthia, we see great things in your Storytime future.)
  5. Model descriptive affirmation language to caregivers. Instead of saying a baby is cute, say that they are strong, intelligent, or hilarious. Better yet, talk about what they are doing-‘Terry is such a strong climber today’ or ‘Lilah, I enjoy your laughter so much!’.
  6. Katie Salo suggested that you learn the name, and correct pronunciation, of your Storytime friends. Names are important and should be valued.
  7. Watch your gendered language! Make the speckled frog a female once or twice, use grown-ups instead of mommies, be proud of saying they instead of selecting a pronoun.
  8. Notice if the ‘extra’ parts of your library are inclusive. Angie Manfredi’s library had a stuffed library friend lose an arm. Instead of sewing it back on or discarding it, she proudly let it stand that way. Because, not everyone has the same body parts. Do your flyers, Facebook images, signage, and toys show a diverse world?
  9. Take some time to learn phrases in the languages of your community.
  10.  Add some, or a ton, of diverse books to your end of the year carts.


Social justice isn’t easy, but these are easy things you can do.


So, wake up.

We believe in you.