This past Saturday I staffed my library's booth at the local fall festival. I have two takeaways from the experience. One, never to accept the booth location downwind from the barbecue. It's hot and you'll be soooo hungry. Two, children do not know nursery rhymes. Or kids songs. Or much about books.
To encourage visitors to our booth, we had a trivia game to win a free book from our book sale donations. Given that we had brought a very very lot of books, we were very very disposed to the kids answering correctly. This turned out to be harder that expected.
The five year old who didn't know the story of Little Red Riding Hood had a hard time picking out the wolf as the bad guy. A preschooler couldn't identify "wool" as the product that the black sheep might provide. I gave up on asking the color of Madeline's dress or even - most sadly for me - what the pigeon wanted to drive. (THE BUS!)
The older kids were spotty in their knowledge, but I got better at sifting through my question choices to find easy ones. I thought the kids would know the author of Fudge and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I thought teens would know the author of Twlight. These were the questions I thought were fairly easy - and were multiple choice, by the way - but instead revealed the Book Bubble that we occupy where everyone is a reader.
I helped at this festival last year as well, finding the same thing, and it changed the way I do story times. I stopped looking for clever ways to incorporate fall leaves into "Old MacDonald" and started just singing "Old MacDonald." I went back to the basics with songs and rhymes. I brought in more classics that I hadn't been using because I figured everyone knew them already. Spoiler alert: they didn't.
Another thing on the songs and rhymes. I've noticed a difference in the participation of the kids and parents from when I started doing this. Ten years ago I had more kids sing along a bit, and definitely more parents. Now the kids look at me blankly as if they've never heard "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and the parents are looking at the handout for the words.
My fellow storytellers, I love all that is new and exciting in our book world, but it might be time to go back to the basics. What do you think?