Tuesday, June 30, 2009

To Theme or Not To Theme?

Do you use themes for your storytimes?

I've been thinking about this since I started my new job. At my previous library, we didn't generally use themes for storytimes. The idea behind that is that it's better to read a handful of great readalouds than to stretch to find books that have to do with your theme. We kept track of the books we used in a database so that we didn't repeat them too often.

At my new library, we do tend to use themes. I've done storytime a couple of times now and to be honest, the kids could care less if all the books are about chickens or colors or whatever.

What are some advantages to using themes?

- It can make it easier to plan. There are a bazillion picture books out there, so which ones do you read at storytime? It's a little more manageable when you narrow it down to just books about dogs or eating or zoos. That said, it gets a little less manageable when your theme is so narrow that you can only find one book to read. I always keep in mind my good friend And. As in, "Today's theme is Cats and Dogs!"

- It might push you to include different books that are unexpected hits. Or maybe you don't normally look in the nonfiction section for your storytime books, but since your theme is "Milk", you decide to include a true book about where milk comes from. I'm always one for pushing the envelope and trying something new. And I'm a big advocate for including nonfiction books in programs and displays. If needing to stick to a theme will push you to try something new, I say go for it.

- Themed storytimes lend themselves to displays. Set up a table in your story room where you can display more books on your theme, and encourage attendees to check out the books. This is another chance to push your nonfiction and include some of those great picture books that aren't necessarily great readalouds.

All that said, does it really matter if we're reading books on the same theme? I'm thinking not. The more experience I get with this whole librarian thing, the more books I know about and the better I am at picking out books that'll work as readalouds. So that makes it easier to pick readalouds on certain themes.

And even if I do use a theme, I'm not afraid to go off-theme for a song or rhyme if need be. Throw a little Jim Gill in there or do some dancin' with Sharon & Brahm. The important thing is that you're sharing books with kids. That's why we love being librarians, right??

So, librarians, what do you think? Do you use themes for storytime? What are some of your favorites? Do you hate themes and all they stand for?

ETA (12:06pm): Seems we've heard from several supporters of themes for storytimes. Anyone want to make a case for not having themed storytimes? I know you're out there!

And parents, do you have a preference? Does your child? Why do you like themes (or dislike them)? Is there a reason you like stories that are connected in some way or does having a connection matter as long as all the books are fun readalouds?

(I am apparently full of questions today!)