It’s a pleasant surprise to find out that your favorite restaurant offers carry-out service. Sure, no one serves your meal, and you have to provide your own seasonings. But you can get a high-quality meal in the comfort of your home, where you can wear your sweatpants or even pajamas.
Well, the children’s department at your public library has been providing a similar service for years, and it’s often a pleasant surprise when parents realize it. The storytimes that you attend with your children aren’t one-time performances that can only be handled by a trained professional. They are models for your own reading times. Sure, no one serves up the stories, and you have to provide your own “seasonings.” But you get high-quality books and songs that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home, where you can wear your sweatpants or even pajamas.
Like many restaurants that provide a take-home menu, the libraries will often have a program that lists the recommended books, songs, and fingerplays. If a handout isn’t available, you can write down book titles or song ideas for use at home. And just like you don’t need to order everything off the menu, the program also allows you to choose your favorite things. Maybe the cleverly written fingerplay about the little birdies didn’t do it for you, but the program may remind you to teach your child the “Two Little Dickie Birds” rhyme. You might not want the book about the wacky parrot, but you find that How to Heal a Broken Wing deserves closer inspection. (Yes, I am going to mention that book every chance I get.)
You can also learn tricks of the trade at storytime. Balance shorter books with longer ones. For the youngest readers, show that that every book has a title, an author, and words that tell the story. You don’t have to do special voices though bonus points if you do but modulate your voice. Read quieter, louder, faster, slower, or stop to make the point. If you have busy toddlers, leave some time to get those wiggles out with fingerplays or songs or a stand-up, shake-it-out minute. Be prepared to bail on a book if it isn’t holding their interest, and have a backup, never-fail book at hand. (Can you guess mine? Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! of course.)
If you can’t always get to storytime at the library or bookstore, here at MotherReader I’ve been sharing my own ABC Storytimes. Based on the letters of the alphabet, the program theme is simple, and has given me the chance to highlight some of my favorite picture books. I tend to select very simple rhymes and songs, believing more in the value of reinforcement of the basics. I’m about halfway through posting the programs, which can be used for home, preschool, or day care. As libraries lose staffing all across the country, they may even help out some librarians now tasked with storytime with no prep time.
Remember, bringing storytime home reinforces the new concepts and the old rhymes. It gives you books to find at the library, instead of always bringing home the latest Dora the Explorer. It can breathe new life into your reading routine. And best of all and most unlike your favorite restaurant it’s all free.
For more ideas on using your library, visit Share a Story Shape a Future and the host of Day 4, Eva’s Book Addiction.