Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


The Art of Storytime

Some tasks can be easily broken down into steps, a formula for successful completion: do A, B, and C just so, and you'll be an expert. There's a careful science to them.

Other things, however, are more of an art. They not only require a knowledge base and a studied approach, but a feel for intangibles as well, things that are hard to capture and describe, encapsulate and articulate.

Many of the things I do as a librarian fall into this category, from the dialogue that leads to a successful book recommendation to the research process. One of the most intangible of those is storytime. I say this both as a regular practitioner and as someone who has frequently trained others in the art.

Another blogger has recently written a series of posts that do as good a job of articulating the many factors involved as I've seen. So good, in fact, that I'm cataloging them here as much for my own sake as for sharing them with others, so I have an easy link I can give to future trainees I plan to have read them. Here they are, with short excerpts I like from each:

Essential Elements of Storytime

I’ve been giving storytimes regularly since 1996, and have been in a training and mentoring role for storytimes at my library for the past several years. The more time I spend thinking and learning and talking about storytime, the more I realize how much is involved and how many things must be managed in order to do it well. If you provide storytimes, give yourself credit for working to master a complex, sophisticated skill set. In storytime, you are performing, promoting, teaching, inspiring, and managing a double audience: children and adults. You’re amazing! . . . 

Loving Storytime

  . . . We will also be curious about continuing to learn and improve. Continuing our education takes effort, but when we want to learn more or improve our skills, we’re more likely to prioritize those actions that will build on our knowledge and understanding. Spending time talking with other storytime providers, in person or online; ordering a different storytime idea book from another library system; keeping an eye on the new picture book shelf; surfing the web for fresh ideas for rhymes and flannelboards; singing a new song to yourself in your car twenty times to learn it by heart…all of these things are easy NOT to do if you are unmotivated. They’re easy not to do even if you ARE motivated! But when we want to do storytime well, and we make the effort, our storytimes improve, bit by bit. . . . 

Knowing Your Material

  . . . I had a hard time writing this post, because there’s just so MUCH to say about selecting age-appropriate materials, and ultimately I can’t squeeze it all in to this post. But learning how long of a story a 1 year old group can sit through, versus a 3 year old group, versus a 5 year old group, is part of this process. We need to experiment, too, to find the right combination of stories for an all-ages or family storytime. And spending some time reading about what gross motor and fine motor skills a typical baby, toddler, or preschooler is likely to have mastered will help us choose fingerplays and action rhymes that will be enjoyable challenges and not frustrating experiences. . . . 


  . . . We can’t convince a group of kids to have fun shaking their sillies out unless WE are genuinely having fun shaking our sillies out, as well. Part of this has to do with not worrying about how we look or what people will think while we’re on stage, but part of it also has to do with choosing materials for storytime that we enjoy ourself. . . .

 . . . Make eye contact with individuals in your audience while you are performing. You will feel connected to them, and you’ll also be aware of where their attention is focused and when it wanders a bit. This can help you assess which materials are the most effective and most fun for your listeners. If your group size is manageable, ask open-ended questions as you read the books to foster participation and help you learn the children’s personalities. . . . 

Embracing the Performance

  . . . We can be comfortable on a stage and still not be very practiced at it. This is natural! Not all of us have high school drama or band or choir solo experiences to draw on, or are natural extroverts. But I think successful storytimes do require thought beyond book and material selection, to dramatic conventions such as voice projection, audience awareness, prop manipulation, staging, pacing, and continuity. . . . 


  . . . Or perhaps you might go ahead and read the same book as you had planned, but adjust your presentation depending on your group. Often you can stretch a “toddler” book for a preschool crowd just by stopping and asking questions and making predictions together. Or maybe you might stop and comment and make predictions yourself, to help a younger group understand and enjoy a longer story. . . .


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