105 Ways to Give a Book

Back to Basics

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?

Category: 4 comments


tanita✿davis said...

...oh, wow.
Yeah, I usually think of classic films and tweens and am shocked by the lack of knowledge of John Hughes movies - but I realize I Am Old. Not knowing "Baa-baa Black Sheep" is kind of ...worrying.

teacherninja said...

I did love taking my infant daughter to the library storytime and appreciated re-learning all those classics. I read her those things but didn't sing much and she loved the librarian's puppets and hand motions. So yes, it's worth being the one to cover those basics.

KT said...

At the national book festival they were handing out a cute little nursery rhyme flip book with ideas for hand motions. I grabbed one, hoping it would have some new ideas for the kid. They were all rhymes I have been doing with him from the beginning (twinkle, twinkle etc). I was pretty disappointed, but...maybe I shouldn't be. I guess there are kids out there that don't get it from birth. Kind of sad.

Reading is my Life said...

I've noticed this in my storytimes too. Even more worrying, if you read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? I see a..." and turn the page, the two year olds all stare blankly at me.

Even five years ago, I would have had a few kids yelling out "A bird!" and maybe even one or two with "A red bird!". Now? Blank stares and silence.