Early childhood and librariesHey! Here is the best list yet of storytime tips, from a blog that I just discovered, “Saints and Spinners,” which I have already added to my blogroll. The list, by Seattle storyteller/children’s performer Farida Dowler, aka Alkelda the Gleeful, is called “Seven Tips for Satisfying Library Preschool Programs.”

Alkelda has surely nailed it, and I have to quote her twice. In the several decades I’ve been presenting storytimes, I’ve always noticed that all the other children’s librarians I knew seemed to feel the need to have a theme – dogs, cats, farm animals, weather, the ocean, and lots more. I haven’t used a theme in twenty years – I just read books I really like, and sing a lot between them – and I feel as if themes are, well, a teacher thing, and not a librarian thing. I don’t feel as if my storytimes suffer for it at all.

I tell new children’s librarians who are coming up not to feel constrained by themes; you know, to live on the edge. But they always seem to use themes anyway, and end up frantically searching for books on the topic up to the last minute before storytime starts. Alkelda says:

If a unifying theme helps you prepare a storytime, that’s great, but don’t choose mediocre books just so you can read 5 books about frogs or fingernails. Choose books for their pacing, their ability to convey plot in a short amount of time, and how much you yourself enjoy the books.

Reading books, chanting rhymes, and singing songs that you enjoy are critical – if you don’t like what you’re doing up there, the kids can tell. And she also recommends, as I do, that you sing those songs yourself instead of relying on recorded music:

I prefer the storytime leader’s own natural voice, no matter how weak it may be, over playing recorded music. Whether you play an instrument or rely on your voice alone, when you lead the audience in a song, you are the one in charge.

True. Little kids don’t focus so well on music playing out of speakers, the way they can when they can see who’s doing the singing.

But please – go check out this list!