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10 Readers' Advisory Tips for Storytime

by Kathy Stewart

*This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Kids & Books.*

Do you have regular storytimes? If so, congratulations! You're uniquely positioned to provide terrific Readers' Advisory for young patrons. You've got a known demographic – parents and children in a specific age range -- which allows you to build positive relationships, often week by week. Through regular conversation and observation of these kids' reading habits, you can ensure that not only will youngsters enjoy hearing you read books to them, but also leave with a stack of books to enjoy at home.

  1. Make age-appropriate books available for post-storytime perusal. It can get a little crazy after storytime -- kids are getting hungry or tired, and parents might be unsure how to select books for them, or might be busy with a much-needed moment of adult conversation. Many parents appreciate having selections made for them, either through a cart of books pulled into the room, or a bag with books already chosen and ready to be checked out.
  2. Create a display outside of your storytime room. Depending on your library's policies and the age level of your storytime, parents might remain in the storytime area with children. For those who don't, why not provide them with books? Try parenting books (potty training, anyone?), concept books, or books that explain topics of seasonal interest, such as weather or particular holidays.
  3. Make fiction/nonfiction connections. Bridge the gap between fiction and nonfiction by pairing the two. Nonfiction titles that provide further explanation for topics addressed in fiction and vice versa are sure to please.
  4. Did you know? Despite our best marketing efforts, it never fails that there are programs and services patrons don't know about. Use the time together to share a ten second pitch on other formats/resources/programs that your library offers -- "We have picture books with read-along recordings!" "Did you know we have toys that check out?" "You can get great deals at our Friends' book sale."
  5. If you liked... then try… Choose one of your storytime titles on which to build read-alike suggestions. Bring these books in to show and booktalk at the end of storytime. Or, use these books as part of your display -- either in or outside of the storytime area.
  6. Create a community. Foster talking among parents after storytime so they feel comfortable sharing ideas and book titles. It's a great time for you to get to know them and the kinds of subjects their children are interested in (which can inform future programming).
  7. Keep the fun going. Create printables for parents to keep after the storytime session ends. These can be a list of the titles read, lyrics to songs that were sung, or a bookmark with links to resources or suggested read-alikes.
  8. Maintain that relationship. After the session ends, get participants' email addresses and follow up. Send reading suggestions; tell about the latest award-winner or book you read. Let parents know when a new book comes in that you think their child would like. Let parents know when they can sign up for the next storytime or program.
  9. Allow challenges to become opportunities. A growing attendance can make for less personal attention to attendees. Schedule as creatively as possible, or consider changing the program altogether, turning too-big toddler sessions into family-friendly multi-age storytimes with a craft component. Be sure to have extra staff after your storytime session to provide assistance once storytime lets out.
  10. Collection development. As funding and planning permit, buy more copies of books you use in storytime so that you are able to meet the demand you're creating for those books.

Need book suggestions for multi-age storytimes? NoveList has suggestions for books perfect for sharing across a variety of age levels. (This list is also available inside NoveList).

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Kathy Stewart, Juvenile Content Specialist at NoveList, enjoyed many years of storytime as a children's librarian and wouldn't hesitate to sing "Herman the Worm" at a social gathering.