Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Help Me Help You: Storytime

Thanks for joining me for the second part of Help Me Help You: What Librarians Wish Patrons Knew About the Library.
Part 2 is all about storytime!

It's okay to leave storytime if your child is Just Not Into It.
In fact, in most cases we prefer that. I try and make an announcement at the beginning of every storytime that if your child is distracted or becomes a distraction to others, please take them out for a little break. We do expect a certain degree of chaos, but if your child is running circles around the story room, they're not getting anything out of the program and they're just distracting everyone else in the room. We won't be offended if you leave and it's okay to get up from your spot and fetch your child. Come back in later or try tomorrow. Every child (every person!) has good days and bad days. Some days they're Just Not Into It. And that's okay.

It's also okay to leave if you are the only one there (it's also okay to stay if you want to). I wrote a post last year about what to do when there's one child at storytime. We're happy to go ahead and do a storytime for one child, but if you don't feel comfortable with it or if your child isn't that into it, we won't be offended if you don't want to stay. We know that you made the effort to come to the library for storytime, but we also don't want to do anything that makes your child uncomfortable and being the only kid in a room with two or three adults might be intimidating for some children. Feel free to stay, but also feel free to leave.

The library is not your babysitter. As a children's librarian, I like working with and interacting with kids. We try to make the library a safe and comfortable place, but it is still a public place. Would you leave your child unattended at the mall? Then don't leave them unattended at the library. To expand on this, I would say that the library is certainly a place for individual reading or for your child to play a computer game by himself, but there is also much for caregiver and child to do together at the library. If you're checking your email while your kid is playing by themselves at the train table, you might be missing some of the best things the library has to offer! Read a book together, play a game together, attend a program together. Which leads me to my next point:

Storytime is not time for you to have a conversation with your adult friend. While we strive to make the library a place for people to gather and socialize, storytime is not the time for this. It's time to spend with your child listening to books, singing songs, and develop those early literacy skills. By all means, after storytime is over, get together with your friends and catch up. We try to make our storytimes entertaining and educational. Your child will get much more from storytime if you're there participating with her and talking to her about the stories later.

Librarians, what would you add? What do you want patrons to know about storytimes?

Check out Part 1: Research and Reference and look for Part 3: Library Logistics coming tomorrow!

ETA (June 11): And do check out Part 4: Teacher Edition and Part 5: Wrapping it Up!


Stacy Dillon said...

Cell phones. Please don't talk on your cell while you are at story time.

Jennifer said...

Our storytime patrons are really excellent in general....but the whole unattended children thing, well. Our children's area is out of sight of the computers but people will just send their toddlers and preschoolers over on their own. Even me telling them about the two child predators caught in the library last year doesn't seem to make any difference - I've seen people leave their unattended purses in the children's area too. It's nice that people feel safe at the library, but not really a good idea.

David Grizzly Smith said...

My Mom was a librarian when I was a kid. When Mom was working, it was fairly common for us to be left in the Children's Library area most of the day while Mom worked up in the Reference Room.

But of course, Mom worked there, and this was back in the 1960's. These days, it's unsafe to leave kids in their own houses.

Tara said...

Awesome post! I love story time at the library. My daughter and I have been enjoying the library together since she was in a snuggly and she is now in JK reading chapter books. My son (2.5) on the other hand just ran away on my husband and I in the library last week. To him, the library is an amazing labyrinth for playing hide-and-seek. He made it up three flights of stairs while we were searching for him on the ground floor. A very kind librarian and security guard helped us locate him after a parent saw me guarding the front entrance in a panic. The librarian did not look at me like I was a neglectful parent. (Perhaps she saw the jail break in action.)
Thank you to all of the librarians out there who understand that we do our best to encourage our kids to be on their best behaviour in storybook world, even though sometimes they are JUST NOT INTO IT.

AJ said...

Awesome post. Our Children's Room is on another floor from pretty much everything else in the building and we get the unattended children issue all the time.

I'd add a general courtesy that people don't seem to think about anymore: If you registered for a program with limited space, it's nice to let the library know you won't be making it. Emergencies happen, but when you know you can't make it letting the library know means someone else might get a chance to attend.

Cat Fancy said...

Everything in this post is so true! I wish I could print it out, frame it, and post it on the door to the story room. I would also underline the whole part about not socializing with other parents during the stories.

Jennie said...

It's ok to come in late, but try to wait for a break in the action, especially if you're a large group.

Also, a good librarian will make story time look effortless, but there is a lot of planning and work that goes into each one. (1 30-minute program took at least an hour or two of prep work)

Ditto on the cell phones

Ditto on the unattended children (I still have parents look at me like I sprouted another head when I tell them they can't leave their 2-year-old alone in the children's room! And I have a local law on my side, so it's not just library policy!)

Ditto on leaving if it's not working for you that day. It happens. Come back next week. Heck, leave for 5-10 minutes and then come back in.

Related: It's ok to come even if you know your child won't be able to sit through the entire program. Come for as long as they can handle and then leave. It's ok!

And Tara-- there is a HUGE difference between "child running away" (which happens) and "ok, sit over here while Mom goes to the other side of the building to do her own thing"

Carrie said...

I love this post. I do storytime at our local bookstore and I heartily agree with all of your statements, especially the one about us not being babysitters. We run into this problem a lot at our store. It always amazes me how people will leave their children at the train and wander around the store.

Lizzy Maupin said...

Perhaps we should tell parents it is OK—better even—to participate in story time. I think that parents forget that they are supposed to model things for their children.

Nothing creases my book pages more than a parent who won’t participate in story time, but expects his/her child to. Sit on the floor with the child; dance and sing with the librarian and children; if there are activities after the reading and singing, by all means do those with the child; help the child make a craft, talk to him/her about what he/she is doing; etc.

If parents make it obvious they don’t care about story time, why should children care?

Also, Dads are welcome as are BOTH parents.

Kelly said...

Thank you for this post! The last one is a great reminder for all of us, especially. :)

austentatious said...

Lizzy, I totally agree with you. I think parents should definitely be involved in the story times with their kids. Parents not participating (chatting, texting, pushing the kids to do something the parent wouldn't dream of) was one of my biggest pet peeves when I did story times. Parents need to set a good example for their kids in story time, and you're right, if it looks like the parent doesn't care, why should the kid?

Unknown said...

I really like the idea of letting parents know it's okay to leave if it's not working. I hadn't thought of doing that during my "I don't expect your toddler to be perfect" bit at the beginning of a storytime session. It's amazing how one kid being a bit crazy can easily distract an entire group -- and how often a parent will pretend it's not happening. I like to think I'm pretty good at grabbing and keeping attention, but some days... So thank you, I'll be adding that to my pre-session talk.

Anonymous said...

Please don't send your child in with a bag full of toys they'll be playing with while the storyteller tries to keep everyone's attention. You can always play with toys at home. Give the storyteller a fighting chance to engage your child!