"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

11 December 2015

Librarian Toolbox: Storytime Planning

Not me or my storytime, but a good representative picture nonetheless.
I am responsible for the weekly family storytime at my library. Every week I see 15-20 families who faithfully arrive at our library's auditorium for our storytime and craft. I inherited this storytime from a longtime library employee, so I had some big shoes to fill. I've realized the most difficult part of storytime isn't running the storytime itself; it's the planning. Storytime comes every week whether or not I'm ready for it, so I've had to devise a system for planning my storytimes.

Two months ahead: Yes, I really do start planning storytime two months in advance. Two months before storytime, I begin by 1) figuring out how many storytimes I will have in a particular month and 2) choosing tentative themes. I try to do one storytime based on something seasonal, one based on an animal, one author study, and one generally involving some new book we've gotten in the collection. For five-storytime months I add in a common folk tale or fairy tale and its variations.  This basic structure gives me something to start with when I'm picking themes. For example, for the month of November I had five storytimes.  I did, in order, dinosaurs (for Dinovember), turkeys (animal), fall (seasonal), Kevin Henkes (author), and Three Little Pigs (folk tale).

The next thing I do is choose the books I'll be reading.  Yes, this means that right now, in December, I'm reading books that I'll be presenting in February, but this guarantees that I have enough time to find a variety of books to read. I try to read at least one nonfiction book when possible, even if it needs to be abridged a bit, and I read through anywhere from twelve to twenty books choosing the ones that are appropriate for my particular storytime group, which skews to the younger end of the spectrum. Some books are great one-on-one books but are too long for a group read, while some have a great story but the pictures will be hard for kids to see.  In the end I try to choose 5-6 books that are all good possibilities for storytime.

One month ahead: Now that I have my books chosen, it's time for me to find the other items: rhymes/fingerplays and a craft. I always open and close with the same rhyme, and we always sing the same two "get the wiggles out" songs during storytime, but I like to add one or two rhymes that match the theme.  This is where the wealth of the internet and the shared knowledge base comes in. I can find just about anything I need online, so one month ahead of my storytime I finalize my line-up of which books I'll read and which rhymes I'll do, and I choose a craft that looks fairly simple and not too material-heavy.

Two weeks ahead: By this point I should have created a sample of the craft and should have the storytime line-up typed and printed. I print these out so that I have a record in case of computer failure and also so that anyone who needs to can step in and take over if I'm ill or there's an emergency. I also create a Power Point presentation with the lyrics to all songs and rhymes as well as titles of the books we'll be reading. This allows parents to follow along and helps me get participation when we're reciting a rhyme together. I also make sure that we either already have all of the craft supplies or can easily obtain them within the next two weeks.

The week before: My storytime happens on Monday night, so I like to have things ready to go by Thursday of the week before. I pile up the books I'll be reading, the memory stick with my power point on it, the sample craft and a list of supplies to grab on Monday, and I put all of this in a bin by my desk. I rotate the bins so the next upcoming program is the first on the shelf, and each bin after that represents another program. Once a program is over, I rotate that bin to the end and begin compiling items for that program.

The day of: I choose books to place as display items in the back of our storytime room. I gather our boxes of markers/scissors/glue sticks, as well as any other random craft supplies I haven't yet collected, and put all of that on a cart along with my storytime bin. I double check my Power Point presentation against my line-up and make sure I have all the technological equipment ready to go as well. Then all that's left is to make sure our sign-in sheet is out, the CD player has a Raffi CD in it, and the rugs/chairs have been set out.

Planning this way means I'm always thinking one or two months down the road, but it leaves plenty of time for me to adjust if a craft is too complicated or there aren't enough books on a particular topic or something new and exciting comes up that just begs to be done at storytime. I save all of my storytime plans both electronically and on paper copies (just one sheet of paper per week) so that I can reuse or revisit them as needed.

How about you? What does your planning timeline look like?

No comments: