Babies and Toddlers

Storytime formats vary almost as widely as children's librarians do, and there isn't
necessarily a right or wrong way to conduct a storytime. That being said, I have
suggestions and preferences that have worked well for me.

If the size of your library and staffing permit, you will likely want to separate ages
for your storytime sessions, as child development happens so quickly at this young age.
If possible, separate 0-12 months, 12-24 months, and 2-3 years old.
Large libraries may want to divide the groups even more.
If this is not possible, I have conducted 0-24 months successfully, and then 2-3 years.
Once children start walking, however, getting them to sit on a lap can be challenging.
Be prepared to be flexible!

Preparing for Families

For our littlest learners, I have found it helpful to provide each family with a bag or box
of supplies to use during the storytime session. For my storytimes, these bundles include:

* Lyrics to the songs and/or rhymes we will be singing/reciting
* A copy of the story we will be reading (board book)
* A shaker
* A scarf

Having individual supplies encourages caregivers to interact with the children,
turn the pages with them, and show them how to hold and use the props.
Since the lyrics are just printouts, I invite families to take them home, to continue
to share the songs and rhymes with their little ones. Other items are kept in the library
for future sessions.

In addition to the lyrics, you can also have other printouts available for families to take.
These can include PLA's early literacy calendar for the current month, other early literacy tips,
and information about your 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, if you have one.

I also encourage you to make available a variety of books from your collection,
so families can read books while waiting for storytime to start or check out and take home.

The Storytime Format

The age of your participants will determine exact content, but as a general rule,
I like to incorporate interactive songs, a story or two, and props, as indicated above.
I promote my storytimes in seasons. This gives me flexibility to plan around school vacations
and the opportunity to refresh the song selection as needed.
If your storytime offerings remain the same year-round, you can adjust accordingly.

For each season of storytimes, I use the same "hello" song, the same introductory
body movement song, and the same "goodbye" song. I also use the same shaker song,
the same scarf song, and another interactive song that stays the same.
Each week, however, I introduce two new songs or rhymes that relate in some way to the book we're reading.

The reason for the repetition is to encourage little ones to learn the songs.
It's an amazing feeling when you hear a two-year-old child sing along to some of the songs
for the first time!
The reason for the new songs and changing books is to promote variety and keep things fresh.

I do my best to only use songs that involve participation, whether that's through
simple lap bounces, hand and body movements, gestures, or hugs.
Doing so encourages caregivers to be involved, rather than just sit and observe.
It also engages the children and helps them associate words with their meanings.
For example, if we're singing "up, up, up" while moving our arms up, the word "up"
will start to have meaning for them.

Once we have completed the stories and songs portion of the program, I like to bring out
additional opportunities for children to play and socialize. With babies and toddlers,
this can be as simple as bringing out some toys for them to play with. For the 2- and 3-year-olds,
you may want to coordinate a simple craft project. Either way, having the opportunity
to interact with their peers in a less restrictive manner can build social skills
and early literacy skills, as they are learning what things are and how to behave
around other people.

The Storytimes

Below are actual storytimes I have conducted. What you will see are the lyrics sheets
that I hand out to families. The sheets also include the title of the book we read.
Feel free to use these storytimes as is, or use them as a jumping-off point to
design your own.

Babytime (ages 0-24 months)

TWOsday (ages 2-3 years)