Taking kids to story time can be a lovely respite from the daily grind of being a parent. It's an effective way to help your child love books, reading, increase their literacy and to see the library as an amazing resource. But if you've been following this blog for any length of time (Hurray! You are awesome!) I am preaching to the converted. However, let's be honest. It's not always the serene and peaceful mid-day break we hope it will be.
I've been a library story time volunteer for about two years now. I took my own kids off and on to free story time activities at the library and other venues with varying degrees of success. As a parent, a lot of the success of a story time trip has to do with both the type of event and the personality of the child. But chances are, both you and your child can have a great time.
Recently, on my Facebook page I suggested that parents stay off their phones and stop chatting to each other during story time. I got a lot of "Here! Here!"s, but I did get a wee bit of pushback. I get it, you are a weary parent or caregiver. You want a break! I argue you can have a break AND be a respectful story time attendee. Here are the Dos and Don'ts of Story Time, based on my experience as a volunteer and as a parent.
- Feed your child before story time. Need I say more?
- Arrive early. Our library gives out tickets which go quickly, but even if that is not the case, it is very hard on the story time leader to have late arrivals straggle in.
- PARTICIPATE. This is a big one for me. I know you are tired, I get that you might not want to sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" for the umpteenth time today. Your child is watching you. If the librarian or volunteer asks you to stand up for "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes" and you don't do so, your child learns it's okay not to listen when adults ask them to do something. (Yes, you may be attending to your child and can't do something - no problem, but otherwise....) I get that some adults may feel silly, but I assure you, you look way less silly as a participant than when you sit on the sidelines. So, clap those hands!
- Model respectful behavior. Amy of Sunlit Pages wrote in her post, A Pet Peeve of Mine, or Why Parents are a Big Fat Bunch of Hypocrites:
... we expect our kids to be still and quiet when we take them to adult events (church or wedding receptions or funerals), but we think we don't have to be still and quiet at their activities. We are setting a very poor example, and they are paying attention to it.
I could not agree more.
- Let your child approach the story teller. For me personally, and others may disagree, when kids try and put their noses in the book, point to everything on the page, or even turn the page, I can handle it. So far, I've been able to hold the book up higher than any 3 year old can reach if necessary. On the other hand, if the child seems to be particularly intrusive, set him on your lap.
- Help clean up, if the opportunity arises. This may not apply to all story times, but we have toy time at the end so parents and caregivers can hang out for a little while. I always appreciate the help putting the toys away.
- Thank the librarian or volunteer! Most people do this and I love saying goodbye to the kids.
- Make it a regular event if you can. The more you go, the easier it will be and the more your kids will get out of it.
- Check out books before you go home. Congratulations. You just enjoyed a free story time activity! Most libraries get funding partly based on circulation numbers. Checking out books is not only good for you, it's a way to give back to the library.
- Don't worry if your child isn't paying attention. In my experience, kids don't regularly pay attention to the books until about age 3. I don't care if kids wander the room, roll around on the floor, inspect my shoes, or any other number of activities!
- Don't look at your cell phone. Not even one little bit. Refer to my advice above about participating and modeling respectful behavior. My mother took me to story time before cell phones and she survived. Are you taking photos? Okay, you can do that.
- Don't talk to your neighbor. I get it. You are so excited to be in a room with other adults! YAY! Chat with them before story time, get a cup of coffee after story time. When I'm reading a book and the adults are chatting it is incredibly frustrating. DO talk to your child when you need to (I don't think parents need to shush their children. It's okay if kids want to talk, but follow the lead of your story teller), but try to keep it quiet.
- Don't bring snacks. Snacks are trouble. Snacks make crumbs. Snacks make work for others. Feed your child beforehand.
- Don't forget that librarians work hard and that volunteers are giving of their free time to bring you a FREE event. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. Better yet, treat them the way you want your children to treat others.
Librarians and volunteers love having full rooms of kids eager to read books, sing songs, recite rhymes and have fun. I hope your local library has a story time that works for you. If not, why not approach your children's librarian and offer to help out! I'm sure they would appreciate it!
Are you a librarian or story teller? What tips would you add to this list? What is the key that you have found for a successful story time? I'd love to learn from you!
Parents, what are your tips? Do you go to local story times?
MORE: Looking to take your library visits to the next level? You must check out our library challenge!