Tag Archives: ask a ninja

From the Archives- storytime behavior

Maybe you’re having some issues with storytime behavior. Or maybe you are new to the Storytime Underground Community. (Welcome! We’re so happy you’re here!) Either way, today I’m going to highlight some of the great content from our archives that you can use!


You know about our Ask a Storytime Ninja posts, right? Check it out, there’s great stuff there!

Lately, I’ve been reading and learning from all the amazing ninja advice about behavior in storytime. First up, how do you set expectations and explain the rules? Our awesome ninjas address rules!

And what about parents who don’t follow the rules? You know, the ones who chat or play on their phones or treat you like a babysitter? Check out some ninja advice!

Got a question for our ninjas? Ask it here!

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Preschool Storytime Newbie

If you have anything to add to this week’s answers, please share in the comments.


The Question:


I am doing a Preschool Story Time for the first time at my library soon, (I’ve always done Toddler and Family story times.) I’m wondering how to gear it differently for preschoolers and what things I should make sure to touch on for them, ie early literacy statements, things to point out about the books, songs, etc. Any suggestions?


The Answers:


From Nancy:


I love preschool storytime! I prefer to have caregivers in the room to help with behavior, but I ask them to sit in a semi-circle (in chairs) behind the kiddos and me because storytime offers a great opportunity for preschoolers to get their social skills ready before kindergarten–taking turns, waiting to speak, etc. Unlike storytimes for younger kids and babies, I do not interject commentary on why I chose a book or how this action song reinforces one of the Five Practices of ECRR2. I let the storytime flow but I am always thinking of how I can engage the preschoolers to take turns, predict what happens next in the story or work together to finish a cumulative rhyme or activitiy. Each week, I create a flyer (just a half sheet of paper) with homework for the kids and their caregivers.  One side has a 2 or 3 sentence summary of what we did that week (theme, book titles, songs). Then I explain how we incorporated one of the Five Practices (ECRR2). At the bottom of the caregiver side, I offer suggestions for fun or unusual things to do at home to reinforce that week’s practice (reading, writing, singing, playing, or talking). On the back of the homework sheet, I add a line art image that ties to the theme for the preschoolers to color and I add the theme word in dotted lines on writing practice lines for them to trace the letters (I use this website: http://bit.ly/1pRRfXy but there are a number of free sites to choose from). I wasn’t prepared for all the kids returning their completed “homework” the next week–so I now make sure to have stickers or our “I visited the library” hand stamp ready and waiting.


Though it’s true for toddlers too, I especially like gross motor activities for preschoolers because being physical helps cement the information in their brains (learned that from an occupational therapist years ago). So things like introducing the letter of the week then having them stand to draw the letter giant-sized in the air (like they do in Super Why) is appropriate. I like to narrate that and tell them that “A” starts at the ceiling over my head then comes down to my left foot, then goes back over my head and comes down to my right foot, then “A” gets a belt right in the middle. You get the idea!  I like making “Alphabet Soup” too–I let the gang pick a magnetic letter (or you could use laminated letters) as they enter the room. Then I tell them I love alphabet soup with vegetables (I put play veggies in a cheap witch’s cauldron) and lots of letters. As we sing the alphabet song slowly, they identify their letters and drop them in the soup pot.  We stir and stir then let it simmer for 2 books. After book 2, I pull out felt letters that spell out the theme (we put them in order on the flannel board, sound them out then say the word).  Using black letters in the pot is great–they blend in and the kids think the pot is magic! I like this trick as they have to keep track of how many books we’ve read and they remind me it’s time to check the soup; they have to wait for a result; and we get some phonics fun in our program.


Basically, the examples are to let you know that you can create a simple yet sophisticated storytime that meets the needs of the preschoolers without being preachy or boring. Use your imagination to think of what a preschooler will need before kindergarten then package it as fun with lots of opportunities for movement and you’re good to go!


From Lindsey:


I also love preschool story time! My age range is 3-5 for this group and we have so much fun! I like to choose normally 3 books that allow these kiddos to think. I try to choose books that teach a certain lesson, like being generous, helpful, kind, ect. They like to think about that kind of thing and parents love it, too, as it gives them a great teaching opportunity to expand on at home. I also use this opportunity to use wordless books. Their imaginations are so active! They really love interactive books as well, so I try to choose those when I can!
As far as activities go, I do a lot of painting/art with this group. They have wonderful imaginations and I love to allow them to explore and do things they might not get to do at home. I don’t usually sing or do flannel boards because we do more craft type activities afterwards, but I’m sure there will be great suggestions for songs and things!

With preschoolers, I find them to be like mini adults. I love having conversations with them and interacting with them one on one. I like to provide extension activities for parents to do with their children at home after story time, as well. Whether it’s a book list of books related to what we talked about during story time, a list of activities they can do for a special prize, ect, they love it! You will LOVE preschool story time!


From Chrissie:


If you love interaction with children, you are going to LOVE preschool storyime! Depending on what the ages of the children are, they may be very chatty. Children of this age like to tell you everything that is going on in their lives! Ask questions and encourage discussion!  For example, if you are reading a story about pets you can ask the children if anyone has a pet at home. How do you take care of your pet? It helps introduce the story, but also helps children relate to the story by developing reading skills at the same time.


Personally, I do not provide any kind of early literacy tip or ECRR2 information. Parents are already on information overload and I don’t like storytime to feel too much like school for children or adults….if you decide to include adults in your preschool storyime. In the last few years I stopped doing storytime for 3-5 year-olds, because honestly, there is a big difference in learning abilities between a three year-old and a five year-old. I started pairing 2&3 year-olds and 4&5 year-olds together- it is just what worked for my library at the time. For the younger group, I would have parents come down to storytime for obvious reasons, but the older children I would have come down by themselves. It helped some children get used to the idea of being away from a parent for school readiness. Also, I didn’t feel as though I was being judged by the parents as much when it was just the children in the room. (And a good portion of the time, I spent quieting the parents from their side chatter.)  It’s all about what you are comfortable with!


Definitely include some of the aspects you are doing in your other storytimes. Older preschoolers still like music and movement, plus you can also play simple games with them. I am a big fan of Yo Gabba Gabba’s Freeze Game- music, movement and a game! A simple game of hot potato will easily please them, too. They will also like many of the rhymes you do for other groups.  One thing I have always liked doing is putting out the puppets and other props for the children to play with after storytime is over. It gives the children a chance to use their imagination to either re-tell a rhyme or story or create one of their own!


I found the best way for me to get ideas about an age group I have never worked with is to see another librarian in action. If you are able to, visit a library close to yours and see how that librarian does storytime. Sometimes a visual is all you need!


Just remember, if something doesn’t work out the first time you try it in storytime, you can always change things for the following week!

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Featured June Ninjas

Meet our Featured Ninjas for June! Thank you for your help answering questions this month. And, Happy Summer Reading to all!



Meet Lindsey:


Hi there! My name is Lindsey and I am a 3rd generation librarian at a small public library in Kansas. My grandmother was the children’s librarian here for 15 years and my mom was a circulation librarian for 10. I started my job in November 2013 and have loved every minute of it. I specialize in the 3-5 age range, but my typical programs consist of PlayDate (ages birth-2), StoryTime (ages 3-5) and I am starting an art class for ages 3-8 in the fall. My biggest goal right now is trying to help our library get a new building. This requires a lot of extra programs, and I have learned a lot in these past few years about what works in my community and what sometimes doesn’t. Happy to be a ninja!


Meet Nancy:


Nancy Messmore is a Children’s Services Librarian at Spike’s Place, the children’s department at Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library in Stow, Ohio. She has worked in school and public libraries since 2005. In her current position, Nancy has planned storytimes for children from birth through 2nd grade as well as created programs for preschoolers through tweens; she also maintains the department’s Pinterest page.  She shares responsibility for the teen volunteers and co-created a book discussion group for adults who read teen/young adult books. Connecting with caregivers and their babies and toddlers is Nancy’s forte but she also loves planning programs for tweens. Her storytime mascot is a golden gorilla puppet and nothing thrills her more than watching toddlers conduct their own storytimes with the mini version, which is available for play in the children’s room.


Meet Michelle:


I’m Michelle Kilty. I have been in the kid’s library world for almost eight years. Recently, I started as Children’s Services Coordinator with the Aurora Public Library in Illinois. Before that I spent my career focusing on creating innovative programs and storytimes for youth. I am part of the Robot Test Kitchen (www.robottestktichen.com), exploring STEAM programs for all ages of kids. You can find me on twitter, @makeylibrarian.


Meet Chrissie:

super reader

Chrissie McGovern is the Children’s Librarian at the South River Public Library in South River, New Jersey.  She has worked in public libraries for thirteen years providing programming for all ages but storytime is her favorite program! Chrissie believes in providing a positive library experience for each child that comes through the front door. She also likes to dress up in costume for programs- you may have seen pictures of her floating around of her dressed as the Super Librarian or standing between two toilets for a Captain Underpants program! If you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing in a program, the children won’t have fun either!  Recently elected to the Collaborative Summer Library Program’s (CSLP) Board of Directors, summer reading is her favorite time of year.  You can check out some of the programs she has done in the past on her blog: funbrarian.blogspot.com.


Ask a Storytime Ninja: Books for Check Out

We love enthusiastic storytime participants, but sometimes it’s hard to be fair and make sure everyone leaves happy. This week’s question is looking for advice with this very issue. Do you have something to add? Leave it in the comments.



The Question:


“When I end storytime the books that I have read, approx. 8+ are available to check out. Some kids are quite eager to get the one they want . It makes me uncomfortable to see them grabbing for them. How can I facilitate this?”


Follow up to question:  some more information as requested by our featured ninjas.


“All the books are different.  As you know some kids are quick and grab and others hang back and wait.  I just want to help to make it not so competive.  We usually have 10-12 kids and I don’t sit far back either.  Lately I have been having other titles by the same author even if I don’t read them all.”



The Answers:


From Natasha:


It’s awesome to have the kiddos clamoring for the books you’ve just read to them!  Depending on the number of kids you could do a “lottery” – have the participants drop their names in a hat as they come into storytime if they want to get first crack at the storytime books, and then draw names at the end.  Another option is to use color awareness – “I’m wearing green today, is anyone else wearing green?” and then let the green-wearers have first crack at the books.  You could have other books available on display for the kids wearing other colors, or very little of the color you announced so that they all feel like they are getting something.


From Abby:


It’s great that your kids are interested to check out books after the storytime is over! I always put out books on display in the back of the room for families to check out after storytime and after we finish our last song, I introduce our play stations for the week before letting them loose. If you have time to add some play time or an activity after storytime, that might help deflect some of the energy off the books. Even something as brief as 10-15 minutes might help – once the kids know that the toys or crayons or whatever is coming out and they can engage with that for a few minutes while you get the books ready to go on your display table (or whatever you use).


I also second what Natasha suggested with finding some way to call on kids to make their choice, as long as you think you can make it fair (i.e. vary who you’re picking first each week, etc.). One way might be to recognize kids who showed good behavior during the storytime or kids who are sitting quietly and waiting to be called on at the end. One of the school readiness skills that we practice in storytime (even in my baby storytime) is turn-taking and even some of the 2-year olds I have in that storytime can sit and raise their hand and wait to be called on. I confess that what I would find difficult in that situation is trying to make sure that I’m not calling on the same two or three kids first more than other kids.


From Lindsey:


I second Natasha.  It’s awesome that the kids are so excited about the books you’ve read.  My suggestion is similar to Abby’s;  Have you tried laying out books for the kids to browse before storytime begins?  I like to do this because it gives the kids a few minutes to read, making good use of the time they might be waiting for others to arrive.  Maybe one of these books will spark their interest and there will be less demand for your storytime books?  You could also give a really quick booktalk for a similar title or previous favorite.  “I really wanted to share this book with you today but there just wasn’t time.”  If a child is particularly disappointed that she didn’t get a title she wanted, perhaps you could help her find a book after storytime.  I bet a little one-on-one with her favorite storytime provider would make whatever book you find together feel extra special.

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Transitions

The Question:


I am new to doing storytime (about 5 months in) and struggle with the transitions between the books, songs, and fingerplays. There always seems to be some awkwardness when I am about to do the next activity. Any advice for making things flow better? I’ve tried watching some videos, but the transition times are usually what is cut out.



The Answers:


From Ingrid:


If I’m doing a theme, I’ll keep explaining how what I’m talking about links together: “We just sang a song about bread and butter, and those words begin with B. This is a song about a butterfly, which also begins with B!” That way, it’s always clear how everything is related. I feel like that helps the transition a bit.


Before my first book I sing, “If you want to hear a story, clap your hands” which is basically just “If you’re happy and you know it”. So, it’s: if you want to hear a story clap your hands, then tickle your tummies, and, last, go like this “shh, shh!”. Once they are quiet, the story begins. I sing the full song for the first book I read, but only the last “shhh” verse for each additional book I read. After each book I say, “We’re going to say goodbye to this book, and now we’ll say hello to (insert whatever puppet, flannel board, song)”.


When in doubt, say, “Good job, everyone! That was great!” and smile. You’re not as awkward as you think.


From Emily:


I’m not sure what age of storytime you’re doing, so I’ll share what I do for both my Baby Time and Preschool Storytime. With babies, it’s pretty easy for me to move pretty quickly in between my rhymes and stories, since I repeat most of it from week to week. Basically, I’ll finish the song with a “Good job!” or “Excellent!” since our babies love to clap for themselves. And simply say, “And on to our next book/song/rhyme…” and go right into it. It help keeps the baby’s attention when it’s pretty quick, too. With my preschoolers, I like to explain a little bit between songs & rhymes since each week is different in theme/subject (help them know what’s going on), and because I’m helping them get ready for school (build good listening skills). Before each book, I remind them to “Put on your listening ears and remember to stay on your bums so everyone can see” and then I say the title & author/illustrator. Afterwords I’ll ask them a question or two about the book, and go into our next activity with a simple “And now we’re all going to….” Basically, I encourage them to chat with me a little bit in between and I add some commentary that feels natural.


From Mel:


I think transitions are one of the most interesting parts of storytime! In my experience, thoughtful transitions can help children sustain their attention from one thing to the next and minimize opportunities to get distracted. What I try to do with my transitions is to link back to what we’ve just done and then make a connection and look forward to what we’re about to do. I think wrapping up one thing helps children with closure and giving them a hint about what’s next gives them a clue about how they are going to need to behave or respond. Sit still for another story? Stand up and move around? The more structure and guidance we give kids, the more successful they can be. So if I wanted to sing Head and Shoulders after reading Pete the Cat, after we finished with Pete, I might show them the cover again and say, “I love how Pete’s shoes change color! Where do we wear our shoes? That’s right, on our feet! And what’s on the end of our feet? We can wiggle them in the mud or the sand. Yes, our toes! Let’s sing a song that has toes in it. Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes! Let’s stand up….put our hands on our heads….. here we go!”