Every children's librarian and staff member knows that occasionally it is necessary to take a break from storytime. In addition to allowing staff to recharge their storytime batteries, as it were, a break allows time to plan the next season of library programming. At my library we take exactly three storytime breaks: May (to prep for summer reading), August (to recover from summer reading), and a few weeks of December/January (because of holidays and also to prep for the spring). In each case we have a span of two to four weeks where there is no storytime.
Storytime breaks are great for staff, but sometimes they are hard on families, especially when they have established a routine of coming to storytime every week on a certain day. Also, it's possible that a new family may come to the library to join your storytime, only to discover that you are on a break week. So, what can we do to make sure there's time to recharge our batteries but also serve our patrons?
My solution is a program I call Stay and Play. Stay and Play happens at the same time as storytime, in the same place as storytime, and involves many things we use during our storytime. I set up our storytime room with a couple of tables containing a simple craft or coloring page, set out our puppet stage with a few puppets, and place my flannel board and one flannel story out as well. These are things the kids are used to seeing during storytime, and it's always a fun and special time when they get a chance to use the flannel board themselves or tell their own puppet story.
All of the activities I set out reinforce literacy concepts, which is the same thing we do in storytime. Moreover, they give kids and their caregivers a chance to connect and work and play together, which is a great way for them to spend their morning at the library. And if a new family comes in, I can explain that we have a storytime break, but that there are all these special things for their kids to do in the same room as storytime, so they can still feel welcomed to our community and can establish a routine of coming to the library.
This program takes about five minutes to set up and about that much time to clean up. I do not have a staff member stationed in the room; kids who come to the library for storytime are expected to be supervised by their caregivers, so in this case the caregivers and their kids spend time together without me in the room. I get a chance to catch up on other duties and plan future storytimes and the storytime families get a chance to connect with each other and enjoy a relaxing play time at the library.
What kinds of things have you offered to caregivers when you go on a storytime break?