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Early Literacy

Early literacy resources for librarians


This section is meant to provide some ideas of how you can use plan and implement storytimes for young children in your library.

Simple Steps for a Great Storytime

  • Commit to storytime. Think of storytime as a cornerstone of your library's service to the community. Survey the community: what types of storytimes do they want or need (babies, preschool, mixed age?) What times and days work best?
  • Have a plan. Plan for your audience, the time allotted, and your own enthusiastic interests. Allot the appropriate amount of time for each age group your storytime is intended for. Shorter times, perhaps 20 minutes, short books,(usuallyjust one or two), and lots of songs and fingerplays are suitable for toddlers and babies. For older preschoolers, plan on longer books, more books (perhaps three or four), and more complicated song movements. For mixed age audiences, plan on one item that will work for each age group; not every book and song you select will be for everyone in the audience.
  • Repetition works and is necessary! Use the same hello and goodbye songs each week, and use many of the same transitions each week. Children learn through repetition, and as you repeat songs and fingerplays each week, children will learn what to expect from storytime. Sing some songs twice during storytime to reinforce learning. Revisit books that were popular with the audience in weeks past. Repetition helps you too. Once you have a storytime routine established, you will be more comfortable each week.
  • Keep it simple. You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to make storytime meaningful and fun. If you're not comfortable using props like puppets or flannel boards, or using instruments such as shaker eggs and rhythm sticks with the audience, that's ok. What matters is that you like the books you picked out, you've rehearsed your program, and you feel comfortable with the songs you will sing. If you like, you can use recorded music from a CD or an iPod, but do pick songs that are interactive and that you and the audience can sing or dance together.
  • Seek out information. Find blogs, websites, colleagues,and books on storytime such as the ones listed on this page. Sign up for mailing lists such as AKLA - Children's Services, ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) lists such as ALSC-L, ALSC-Story, and ALSC Preschool Services.
  • Embrace flexibility. Not every storytime will be perfect; go with your instincts and trust your creativity. Your storytime plan is not set in stone, so be prepared to make changes as needed. Be flexible; if a book is not working, have a backup book, or be ready to go into songs or fingerplays if the audience is restless that day. Perhaps your audience of preschoolers wants more stories and fewer songs, so have more than just a couple of books on hand to read.
  • Engage your audience. Seek out books, songs and fingerplays that encourage interaction and participation. Not every book is suitable for a storytime: check out Katie Fitzgerald's blog post Choosing Books for Storytime. For ideas for songs and fingerplays, don't miss Jbrary's YouTube channel. Look for books with clear pictures that are easy for groups to see, and books with rhymes, alliteration, and repetition.

Storytime Resources