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     Many times all we need is a spark of an idea to get us going.


     Storytime programs evolve; in the planning and in the execution. Storytime can be inside or outside. Typically I have Storytime inside during the school year, especially because I have a preschool classroom that walks to the library every Wednesday morning. This is our local Headstart program and what a joy it is to welcome them. The kids walk down holding onto a rope with handles and in their colorful snowsuits (yep, we're in Vermont) they look like a caterpillar slowly making it's way. I host Storytime again on Thursday morning for our village and surrounding communities as well. Once school lets out for the summer, we all head outside and everyone is invited. Our library is small so having a large pavilion and a big grassy field to play in is so much fun; think messy crafts and giant bubbles. 


      Just as I can't control the weather, I can't control the mood of my young audience. Children may arrive tired and cranky, their caretakers worn out; they may have been stuck inside all rainy week and are ready to run and play - anything but sit still. I follow their lead. I may sing or get kids moving right off; get out the heebie-jeebies. I also know how much children love to share. It's important to take time to listen. Just listen. It isn't long before I introduce a book; taking a look at the cover and talking about what might happen in this story. Most every time, I have their attention.


     My Storytimes always begin with our Hello Song. I love opening this way because it brings children and caretakers together as one whole cohesive group. What grins I get as I turn to each child; smiling, making eye contact and singing their name. This is so very special as every child (adults too) love hearing their name. It's true. When the song is finished, we are all ready for the book to open and the story to begin.


     Sometimes I can read a second book right after the first but this does not happen often. Most times, especially with a toddler group, we must have time for movement. I teach a fingerplay or we sing a song or play instruments or we stand up and move about according to the movements in the song. Then we stretch high and slowly come back to our seats and we're ready for the next story.


     I love flannel board stories. Children love flannel board stories. Adults love flannel board stories. So, I try to incorporate a flannel board story as our second story. I invite the children to participate by putting some of the pieces on the board. This is a wonderful way to teach spatial relationships, to teach how a story progresses (beginning, middle and end) and mostly, it's fun. It's empowering for a child to be part of the storytelling.


     After our stories, it's time for crafts. It's important to have the craft in it's finished form yet only as a guide. As we begin creating, I always happily express: There is no wrong or right way. We're all about free artistic expression. Saying this aloud to everyone takes away every bit of pressure to "do it correctly." Mostly, this takes the pressure off adult caretakers. Children have no problem doing it their own way and it's wonderful to see their imaginations at work. Lots of times my sample craft is only a jumping off place. The children become completely absorbed in gluing and taping and coloring and cutting. It's magical. It truly is. Making art gives children time to work their small muscles. It's tricky to use scissors, to squeeze glue out of the bottle, to tape something to the paper and they love practicing. We would do well to learn the art of practice from a child. Create your joy!


     One library I worked at always served a snack after craft; crackers and juice. The Storytime kids loved it. They looked forward to it. It was mid-morning and they were typically hungry. Actually, kids are always hungry. Snack was a good transition as some children worked to finish their craft, others began to play with toys or a friend, mothers begin to network and Storytime wrapped up. At the library I work at now, we don't serve snack. I actually prefer this for we go right from craft to a few rounds of Ring Around the Rosie and end with our Good-Bye Song. I like this because it completes the circle of Storytime.


     All of this happens in about 45 minutes. It's a wonderful time of social connection; face-to-face interactions, a burst of creative energy infusing our shared space, reading stories, singing songs and having fun. What better way to introduce our youngest readers to books. There is so much love. There is so much joy.


     I love Storytime. I think you will love Storytime too.