Tag Archives: ask a storytime 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: Featured Ninjas for March

February is over already! Our February ninjas did a fabulous job but now it’s time for a few others to March into their places (see what I did there? heh heh). Let’s meet them!



Meet Inma:


I have been a children’s librarian for a couple of years. I worked part time at our library while finishing my MLIS and was fortunate to transition into the children’s department when I graduated.  I was given Baby and Toddler story time and….it was terrifying at first but now I love it!  Over the last year I have doubled my story times and created new programs~ Bagels with Buddies, Bedtime Stories, and Los Cuentos (Bilingual Story Time). I handle collection development for board books & picture books.  When it comes to summer reading I have been managing our online system and transitioned us from paper forms to an totally online environment.


Outside of my library world, I have two sons who have told me “reading is not a sport” but truly, I love to read, gardening, and I’m learning to knit~ blankets or scarves are my only accomplishments.  I am a native of Spain and love traveling and discovering the history behind new places.


Meet Karen:


I’m Karen Mills and I’m a Youth Services Librarian at Wright Memorial Public Library in Dayton, OH, where I’ve worked for almost 3 years. However, I started my library career as a shelver in high school, so I’ve worked in libraries on and off for almost 13 years (whoa, now I feel old!)! My library passions are Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers and Outreach visits, though I’ve also done programming for School-Agers and Tweens. I can’t do a storytime without using a song by Jim Gill, and I totally geeked out when I got to meet him at a concert last November! I may have had more fun at the concert than a lot of the kids! Find me at my blog: https://terrifictaleswithmrsmills.wordpress.com/.


Meet Polly:


Polly recently kicked off her seventh year as a children’s librarian, a career which started at two and a half branches of DC Public Library, and is now happening at Aurora Public Library in Aurora, Ontario, Canada. Chaotic programs for ages 4-8 and outreach are her favourite things about Children’s Services, but other than collecting stats, she thinks the whole job is kind of a dream come true! Her current primary story time responsibility is Tales for Twos (and filling in for everyone else when necessary), but she’s done lots of story times, huge (400 people) and tiny (4) for all ages. She currently supervises (but does not manage) a staff of three children’s library assistants, selects most of the children’s collection, oversees all the programming, and does a great deal of the children’s outreach. She loves puppets, and does puppet programs as Polly and her Puppet Friends at the library. She blogs when she can at https://damerosehay.wordpress.com



Ask a Storytime Ninja: Outdoor Storytime

A little later than usual (sorry ’bout that!) but here’s the first Ask a Ninja question answered by our September featured ninjas. Would you storytime in a boat, with a goat? Would you, could you, in a train?! Or near one…


The Question:


Hi, ninjas, I need suggestions for stories, songs, and activities for an all-ages drop-in storytime at our farmers’ market. Outside, so lots of distractions–including a busy train line. Thanks!

Ask a Storytime Ninja badge


The Answers:


From Anne:

Storytime at the farmer’s markets sounds like such a great opportunity to reach out to all sorts of library users. Any storytime held outside can be a challenge. I’ve hosted similar storytimes at community-wide events in a busy park right across from the train tracks.


Shorter interactive stories tend to maintain the attention of the audience but also allows families to participate in a full story or two while still being able to move on to the next activity. I recommend any of the Jan Thomas books but especially Can You Make a Scary Face? and Are You Ready to Have Some Fun. Mac Barnett’s Guess Again! has just the right balance of absurdity and fun. If you really want to get active, try Bounce or Stretch by Doreen Cronin or You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo.


It’s also helpful to sing or play songs that families are already familiar with like Heads, Shoulder’s, Knees and Toes or The Hokey Pokey. Carole Peterson has a very kid and crowd friendly version of The Hokey Pokey on Sticky Bubble Gum: and Other Tasty Tunes.


If attention is really an issue, try a more passive program or an activity based program. You could pre-package take-and-make science experiments or crafts with instructions and your library’s newsletter.


That way families could stop and take a minute to talk to you about the services your library has to offer.



From Ashley:


Storytime at the Farmer’s Market? Sounds great! For an all-ages group in a busy environment, I would rely on rhythm and music. A good beat or tune can engage all ages from babies up to elementary aged kids. Also books that are a little light on plot would be good so that people can feel free to come and go.


My favorite story in this vein is Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb. It’s great for stomping or clapping along with the rhythm. You could tie it into the market by showing fruits and vegetables and clapping out how many syllables they have. Wa-ter-mel-lon!


Another one I like for stomping to the beat is Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig. Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett appeals to many ages because of its rhythm and repetition, plus older kids love looking at the clues in the picture to guess what animal is coming next. Two of my favorites for audience participation are If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Jump! by Scott Fischer.


A great song to do at the market is Raffi’s “Going on a Picnic.” You ask audience members to say what they will bring, and could suggest they name their favorite market treat. If you can bring it, having a large white board or pad of paper nearby could be good for listing what kids say. As you sing the song, you keep adding to the picnic packing list, so it’s a great memory exercise.


One final suggestion: you might want to consider adding sign language, even just a few simple signs, to one or more of your songs. Parents love the idea of young children learning signs, older kids love the challenge and excitement of learning a new language, and it could help your storytime be more inclusive. Here’s a simple Hello/Goodbye song with signs from Jbrary.

Have fun!



From Tabin:


I’m jealous that you’re at the market while my view is of a tire shop, but I digress. When I get out I like to play popcorn with the parachute and bean bags. I Went Walking by Sue Williams is a good big book to march to. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin is a crowd pleaser. Honey, Honey Lion by Jan Brett gets the crowd moving, as does an interactive version of Mabela the Clever by Margaret Read McDonald. Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens is a good market story (though the name made me pause), and I always bring If You’re Happy and You Know It by David A Carter. Since you’re by a train you might consider bringing Freight Train by Donald Crews and play Little Red Caboose on the Wiggleworms Love You album. (I also love If I Was a Bird). However, if you’re there all day try Motown for Kids to save your sanity.


I especially promote databases during outreach. Parents typically know about kids’ programs, but they don’t know we have Zinio, and once they know, they’re more likely to go. If it’s slow you can post a sign that says, “Have you been around the world but don’t speak the language? The library has a database for that!”


For crafts, the kids can make farm scenes. I pasted clip art into tables, printed them on cardstock, cut them out and used school glue to glue on the popsicle sticks. I glued green paper “grass” onto blue cardstock, but in future projects I skipped that, along with rounding edges (Martha Stewart left the building around cow 19). Fold the paper over to cut slits with scissors. The kids decorate the scenes using scraps, die cut shapes, pens and crayons. The parents really like them because they keep the kids entertained on the car ride so they can save the napping for home.


farm scene2 farm scene

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Storytime for Older Kids

Lots of great tips for storytiming with kids older than 3 this week! Have something to add? Please do!


Ask a Storytime Ninja badge




I have to plan an after school storytime with the ages from 3-7 and maybe a touch older. I have only done toddler storytime and I’m not sure if the songs and flannels will fly with the older kids, so I’m at a loss at what activities to do between stories and I also am unsure how to structure it so it’s still interesting for the older kiddos. Help?




From Sue:


I use flannels even up to age 7 or 8 when I have school visits.    The flannels I would use in Toddler story time (colors, counting, ‘5 littles’) I wouldn’t use, but I would definitely use full-story retelling, or a story like Monkey Face that has a buildup and punchline to it.  Kids this age like to anticipate outcomes and have the attention span to hang on longer for the ending.  The other great thing about K-2 is they will tell you when you’re not doing it right, so you can re-tell a familiar tale (like 3 little pigs) and make lots of funny mistakes and even have THEM participate with voices and sound effects.  If the crowd is even older, you can make it like a play with props and costume pieces.


Unlike toddlers, you can take advantage of them being able to sit and interact for longer periods.  Songs where they follow directions (Freeze Dance for example), repeat, or build (Going on a Bear Hunt) would work too.  You could even do more non-fiction stories and do show and tells.


From Lisa:


We run a story time for grades 1-4 after school.  While this is a little older than your group, we still use flannelboards and songs.  I also look for longer picture books, such as Cloudy with a  Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.  Since this group should be able to sit, you can also work in some great nonfiction, such as Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy.  My favorite resource when starting this program was Cool Programs for the School-Age Crowd by Rob Reid.  If you can’t that title, then most of his professional reference books are adaptable to working with school-aged kids.  This title really helped me with my original plans until I had enough experience to come up with my own ideas.


The other thing to keep in mind when doing an afterschool program is that these kids just sat for most of the day at school.  You will want to work in some games, crafts, or activities that involve some movement.  We tend to work in a 10-15 minute craft/activity time where the kids can talk or move around, whether it be a scavenger hunt or making a pet rock.


From Bryce:


I definitely agree with Susan on attention span and silly songs!


“Ages 3-7” is actually a difficult to range to program for; cognitive development at 7 is much more advanced than at 3. Kudos to you for trying it out! Something that I’ve found that works with a range of ages is including activities that encourage team work, with older kids helping their younger siblings when needed. This gives the older kids ownership of the program and they’ll sit through the parts they might think are “babyish”.


I recently held a story time for older kids based on Bedtime Math (http://brycedontplay.blogspot.com/2014/06/pj-puzzles-pk-2-storytime-with-bedtime.html), and the attendees were families with kids ages 3-10. The structure worked for me and I would definitely use it in the future when planning storytimes for this age group:


1. Introduce yourself and list the things you’ll do at the program (this helps for all ages with self-regulation; they’ll feel a connection with you while also knowing that if you start with a book, you won’t be reading forever).
2. Read 2 short stories or one longer one
3. Release the families to complete one activity or crafts related to the books at stations (explain the activities first!)
4. Bring everyone back with one more book or song


This way, everyone gets what they need!


From Anna Francesca:


I absolutely agree with Lisa about kids who have sat at school NEEDING something different.  I believe in movement.  One that I enjoy is “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” where participants alternate sitting and standing every time they say “b.”  (An example is here)  If the older kids need more of a challenge, do it twice with the second time being quicker.  Another song that can be used is “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”, which, again, is way younger than what your seven-year-olds would do when still.  However, if you let the kids suggest new verbs that the group then does, they will gladly participate.  (For example, what does it look like if kids swim, jump, or crawl?)


Are your flannel board activities ones with enough pieces that the kids can each have a piece to put on the board?  If so, something that might work better for younger kids as a demonstration will carry to the older ones because it is interactive.


With the books, it helps to check in with your audience on a regular basis.  If they are looking at you and/or the book you’re sharing and participating, that is great.  If not, move on to something different.  This can be really hard if you’re in the middle of a book that needs all of the pages read to make sense.  Therefore, I suggest finding books where you can paperclip some pages together to give an abridged reading if necessary.  I also love to share Hervé Tullet’s I Am Blop! because it has no plot and can therefore be edited in a moment to serve patron needs.  However, it is imaginative and covers some basic concepts like opposites for little ones.  For a craft with that book, you can make “blop” puppets by copying the page of blank blops in the back, and having the kids color, cut, and tape their creations onto popsicle sticks.  Older kids can cut for younger kids.



  1.      Move!
  2.      Involve older kids with the opportunity to make suggestions.
  3.      Tailor books and activities to varying attention spans.
  4.      Stay aware of if your group is participating or needs a change.

Good luck!


Ask a Storytime Ninja: Featured Ninjas for August

Ask a Storytime Ninja badge



Another month, another set of questions to be answered. Here to take them on are our featured ninjas for August:



Meet Anna (who is the real Anna? Ninja? Librarian? Both?!) Francesca Garcia:

annaninja anna1











Ninja bio: Confidential


Storytime bio: Since 2004, Anna Francesca Garcia has worked in public libraries, and she is the Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian (liaison to schools, homeschool groups, and enrichment programs). Anna Francesca earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences degree from the University of North Texas in 2008, six years before the birth of some of her youngest patrons. Newborns through geriatrics in Missouri and Nevada have enjoyed her programs, and she has led regular storytimes for caregivers with their babies and pre-readers.  She focuses on appealing to all sorts of learning preferences.  This is why she loves to incorporate dance/ movement (kinesthetic), felt (tactile), instruments (auditory), puppets (visual), and group activities (social) into story time. As she explores library offerings, Anna Francesca’s favorite test-subject remains her now seven-year-old daughter.



  • American Library Association: YALSA, ALSC, EMIERT Roundtable—Electronic Communications Committee
  • Missouri Library Association


Twitter: @AnnaFrancesca18

Monthly Blog Contributor: www.theoutreachlibrarian.com

Regular Blog Contributor: www.kclibrary.org/kids and www.kclibrary.org/teens

Storyland– Early Literacy Blog (completed): http://dandmomread.blogspot.com/



Meet S. (She claims it stands for Sara, but it’s really for Sparkly) Bryce Kozla:



S. Bryce Kozla (also known by her alter-ego moniker Sara Bryce) is a Youth Services Librarian at La Crosse Public Library in Wisconsin, where she works in a non-management position on a team of six (including one of the joint-chiefs– HI BROOKE! HI!). Seven years’ professional experience in education have served her well in her library’s long and storied battle to reclaim the enormous boat in the children’s department in the Name of Reading. Bryce considers her expertise to be crowd/space management and non-storytime programs, but is happy to run her mouth about all sorts of stuff. She blogs about programming and other youth services topics at http://brycedontplay.blogspot.com/ and can be found gallivanting on Twitter at @PLSanders



Meet Lisa (I want to live in her Libraryland) Mulvenna:



Lisa has 10+ years of presenting highly energetic story time programs featuring props, music, and now apps. She is known for her innovative new youth programs, including parachute games, dance parties, and early literacy stations. Lisa was the recipient of the 2012 Pletz Award for Excellence in Service to Youth, given by the Michigan Library Association. Lisa is the Head of Youth Services at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library. Lisa’s expertise includes toddler and 2 year old story times, early literacy, sensory programs, and technology.   Blog-www.lisaslibraryland.blogspot.com Twitter-@lmulvenna



Meet Sue (she’s done it all!) Jeffery:



Sue Jeffery is one of the founding members of the blog called Library Village, where she blogs about her preschool story times with her professional BFFs Kristie and Kristen. She had 15 years experience as a performer (database consulting was the day job)  and several years as an aide in special education classrooms before hearing the call of librarianship.  Sue was part of her amazing team for 2 years before moving to a new branch to be the solo youth librarian, but then leapt right into management in time for this year’s summer reading club.  She graduates this month from Kent State and is now the Head Librarian at a small branch (managing a staff of 5) in a county system in Ohio. Sue’s expertise is preschool story time, lower elementary library visits, outreach, flannel boards, transition songs, and coffee-fueled story time craziness.   www.libraryvillage.blogspot.com @suelibchick (twitter) Library Village (Facebook)