July 20, 2020

5 storytime tips for the uninitiated

COVID-19 changed everything, swiftly, and continues to impact our daily lives. Educators are scrambling to adhere to directives for the upcoming school year (often not knowing what that even looks like); parents juggle homeschooling their children now while considering fall school options. Public librarians are working hard to provide the level of youth programming and services they know their communities count on.  

Those who work with youth all share a common goal: finding ways to help kids keep learning. Reading aloud is one sure-fire way to do it. So whether you’re a parent *slightly* uncomfortable with reading aloud but wanting to try and hopefully light a reading spark in your youngsters, or a public librarian perfecting your online storytime chops, here are tips to help the uninitiated tackle the magic of sharing stories with kids. 

1. Goal: have fun 

Kids (yours, or others) don’t care if you know how to pronounce words properly. What they *do* care about is quality time with you.  You don’t even have to worry about pulling out concepts or making reading a teachable moment. Just the simple yet powerful act of reading aloud makes all kinds of things happen in your child’s brain. Learning WILL be a by-product. Check out the latest edition of a classic, Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook, 8th ed. (co-authored by Cyndi Giorgis) for anecdotes and information. 

2. Get silly 

There’s nothing kids like better than adults making silly noises and silly faces. Roll with it! The author reading The Book with No Pictures illustrates this concept perfectly. Need some ideas for books that lend themselves to their audience being all-in? Check the crowd-pleasers our NoveList librarians put together: 

3. Choose books that *you* like 

Maybe you’ve heard that you should choose ‘quality’ or classic books. You most certainly can. Remember, though, that once you begin reading aloud, you’ll be reading books over and over and over… Every time children hear books, they often pick up something different and are still learning from it. Hence the repetition. Do yourself a favor and choose the kinds of books that keep you amused. Our All Kinds of Parents list of recommended reads for younger kids makes a super-fun starting point, each with experiences that speak to all kinds of families living in all types of areas: 

4. Don’t forget nonfiction 

Make time for books with fun facts, presented in very visual, often beautiful ways. Any books by Steve Jenkins, Candace Fleming, April Pulley Sayre will be both informative and lovely. You’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of nonfiction lists in NoveList (STEM/STEAM, anyone?) that cover not only the best nonfiction books of the year but also subject areas like math, poetry, and real people. Check out our Grab and Go lists chosen by veteran educator Susie Wilde for surefire read-aloud picks, broken into grade levels. 

5. Keep it real 

The word storytime conjures up images of a perfect circle: you, perched on a chair, rapt, attentive, appreciative kids gazing adoringly up at you. Probably not going to happen that way, especially now, and that’s OK. Storytime can be a quick read as everyone’s eating lunch. Or, you sharing a book with one kiddo on your lap, a funny book during the loooong period just before it’s time for dinner. Whatever you can do to fit it into your situation is A-OK. Here are suggestions to use as inspiration

Pro tip: search ‘storytime’ in the NoveList search box for stellar articles by storytime veterans (including one on virtual storytimes): 

Kathy Stewart is a NoveList Consultant who spent many years as a children’s librarian. Her top storytime faves are Bark, George by Jules Feiffer, and Hungry Hen (with a surprise ending!) by Richard Waring. 


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