Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Look Back at Spring Storytime

For the past couple of months, I have been posting our weekly preschool storytimes. Last week was our last week of spring storytime (summer ahoy! OMG...), so today I wanted to take a look back over our storytime series and share a little bit about what we do, what we like, and what we might change for next time. 

Our story room!
Traditionally, my library has offered registered preschool storytimes in the fall and in the spring. When I first started, we began offering a drop-in storytime, but it just never took off and our attendance was very low. Spring and fall storytime has been a tradition here for over 30 years and I think it's what people are used to, so at the beginning of 2011 we dropped the drop-in and went back to only having the registered storytimes. (We do offer weekly drop-in baby and toddler programs.)

Our Spring Storytime Series ran from the week of February 21 through the week of April 18, taking a week off for Spring Break when many of our families go out of town. To compensate for eliminating the drop-in storytime, we offered an 8-week session (up from a 6-week session in the fall) and we offered five different time slots (up from 4 in the fall). Honestly, I don't think that this made a big difference and I think we'll go back to 6 weeks in the fall. Or possibly 8 weeks in the fall and 6 weeks in the spring to give us a little more Summer Reading Club prep time.

We offered the following time slots and families were asked to sign up for one class time and attend every week (as they are able):
  • Mondays at 11:00am
  • Tuesdays at 7:00pm
  • Wednesdays at 1:00pm
  • Thursdays at 11:00am
  • Thursdays at 2:00pm. 
 The Thursday afternoon was a departure and it was not well attended. We won't have it again in the fall. The rest of the sessions were well-attended, with the exception of Tuesday evenings. Evening programs in general do not draw big crowds for us, so this evening storytime was on par with other evening programs in the past. It's important to me that we always offer an evening class time for working parents, so we will continue doing that. We might try Tuesdays or Thursdays at 1:00 or a later afternoon (like 4:00) for kids with siblings in school.

We make a nametag for each child and they pick it up at the Children's Desk before their storytime. Nametags consist of a die-cut shape with a little metal fastener and we use the same shape for all of them, but a different color for each class time. My class time was Mondays at 11:00 and we had red nametags. Children pick out a sticker to put on their nametag for each week that they attend. (Bonus: little siblings may have a sticker if they want one, and sometimes that eases the sting of not getting their own nametag!) Children may take their nametag home after the last session of the series.

We limit sign-up to 25 children per class and usually one or two class times fill up. We almost never have all 25 children show up at the same time, though, so we always welcome guests. We are very flexible about letting in siblings and letting in other children as long as we have the space for it. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to come in, but they may send their child in alone as long as he/she is comfortable with that. Most of our parents come in.

There are five of us in my department that do programming, so we each took one time slot. We planned the themes out in advance and divided up the planning with each of us planning one or two weeks. The person in charge of planning a week picks out books and materials for storytime, trying to choose a variety of materials since every group will be different and every storyteller's style will be different. That person also chooses and preps a take-home craft.

We started offering take-home crafts last fall and we LOOOOVE THEM. Traditionally, we would all do a craft with the group after the stories. Depending on the size of the group, this was more or less manageable. The main inconvenience was the tables. For every storytime, we'd have to drag out our small hexagonal tables and then we'd have to put them away again when others needed to use the room. One of my staff members suggested take-home crafts and we tried them out last fall. Not only is it 100 times easier for us, but parents love them! They love having something to take home to do with dad or brothers and sisters. We allow them to take extra packets to share with siblings at home. And it helps parents extend what the kids have learned in storytime by having a related activity to bring the learning home.

In each craft packet, we include all the supplies to do the craft (minus staples like glue, scissors, crayons, etc.), instructions, and a sheet with a topical book list on one side and ideas for at-home activities on the other side. After we determine the themes for each week, I put together the handouts and it really doesn't take too long to bang them out.

I used the same opening and closing songs each week, which worked well. For opening, I used Raffi's "Shake Your Sillies Out", which was fine but the range is a little too low for me to sing easily, so I'm in the market for a different song for next time. For the closing song, I used "Do You Know What Time It Is?" I like using that one because we use it in our Mother Goose on the Loose and Toddler Time programs, so that provides some continuity. Here's the song:

Do You Know What Time It Is?
(Sung to the tune of "Do You Know the Muffin Man?")

Do you know what time it is?  [tap wrist]
What time it is? What time it is? 
Do you know what time it is? 
Storytime is over!

Now's the time to wave goodbye... [wave hands]

Now's the time to stand up tall...  [stand up]

But come back to see us soon  [clap on beat]
See us soon, see us soon
But come back to see us soon
When the fun will start again!

I used the Memory Box every week, which went very well, although I don't think any of the kids actually learned the memory box rhyme that I said with them every week. And I don't think we planned it this way, but I believe that every week we had some variation on an activity asking kids to bring felt pieces to the board or have pieces to come up and put in a box. I like the continuity that this gives (and also it's something familiar because we do it with our Toddler Time programs, too).

Next time, I'd like to incorporate more music and possibly bring out the bells each week. I'd like to make a more conscious effort to have a felt board or item/box activity and come up with a rhyme or song for it each week. And I'd like to put more thought into my own storytime themes, so I am open to your favorite storytime themes!!

So, here are my questions for you librarians:

  • What are your favorite storytime themes or readalouds? 
  • What have you tried with your storytime that's really worked well? 
  • What (if any) activities do you repeat weekly? 
  • What's your favorite opening song?