So you’re a new parent — Congratulations! By now I’m sure you’ve read all the books (and magazines, and blogs, and webpages…) about the crazy-wonderful magic that’s happening in your baby’s brain; like how reading aloud to your child creates a firestorm of neural connections during their earliest years. Or maybe you’re the parent of a toddler or preschooler, and your pediatrician told you that reading aloud every day will strengthen your parent-child bond and help get them ready for kindergarten. Either way, your public library has something for you: Storytime!
I’m sure you have an idea of what storytime is: librarian reads picture book to kids, kids are entertained. But there’s so much more to it than that! Not to worry, here are tips for first-timers:
Most libraries will break storytime into four targeted age groups: baby, toddler, preschool, family, and specialized. Here is what you’ll see at each one:
Baby Storytime will have you gently bouncing, singing, tickling and playing with your baby. The librarian will model ways to bring the book to life with your child, and you’ll have plenty of time to connect with other parents.
Toddler Storytime is much more active, with songs and rhymes that will get you moving. The books we read will be interactive, engaging you and your child in telling the story. If your little one’s graduated from crawling to confident walking, toddler storytime is for you.
Preschool Storytime is what usually comes to mind when you think of a storytime. We’ll practice more complicated rhymes that play on this age group’s developing sense of humor, and spend more time reading lengthier stories.
Family Storytime is designed for a mixed age group, from birth to age 6, as they generally aren’t all added to one family at the same time. You’ll see a mix of the activities above, so kids from each age group are engaged.
Specialized Storytimes are designed for families with specific learning needs or barriers that could keep them from enjoying our other storytimes. Your library might offer a storytime entirely in Spanish or Somali, or for children on the autistic spectrum.
You’ll be playing, singing, and moving
Storytime is active! Research has shown that a few specific activities help kids get ready to read and learn when they get to kindergarten: reading, singing, talking, writing, and playing. At storytime, you’ll be doing more than sitting for a story — you’ll be playing, rhyming, singing, and moving along with your child.
While your librarian leads storytime, your little one is actually learning from you. When you show that you value what’s happening in storytime by participating, their learning grows exponentially. Plus, you have the chance to build your own repertoire of bedtime, clean-up, and other themed songs. Please leave distractions like cell phones in bags or pockets, and chat with other parents afterwards. Librarians know that parents like to mingle, which is why unstructured play usually follows storytime (more on that later).
It’s about love
Language and literacy skills are part of storytime’s power, but it’s also about bonding and quality time spent with your child. Kids who are read-aloud-to by their parents develop a stronger relationship over time.
We’re all in this together
You aren’t the only one who could use more sleep, and who may or may not have pulled into the parking lot with a waffle stuck to your face. Storytime is a place to check-in with other parents, seek advice, and support one another. I’ve watched caregivers make playdates, share struggles, and crowd-source the best baby carriers. Don’t feel shy, and do make friends.
No one is perfect, but it’s okay
Many storytimes include playtime, which is a great opportunity for socialization. Inevitably…there’s someone who doesn’t want to share, or feels inclined to push. When this happens, I’ve watched a look of horror cross many a caregiver’s face. I say: Fear not! Storytime is a great place for your child to learn how to interact with other kids before they get to preschool or kinder. In playtime, we use these blunders as opportunities to reinforce developmentally-appropriate social skills, so don’t worry if your child makes a mistake. We’re all learning together!
Well, there you have it! You’re all set for your first storytime. Now, just find your local library, and drop by. You and your youngster will be happy that you did. We don’t shush these days, and we certainly won’t stop you from singing off-key.