Really Big Shoes to Fill…

At the last minute I was called on to fill in for the Children’s Librarian and present storytime for two back to back preschool sessions at the main library for which I volunteer. I’ve observed  previous preschool sessions, and noticed these particular storytimes employ a lot of music and movement. I took a chance and adapted the pirate storytime from the previous Saturday to better fit the traditional paradigm.

Taking the children’s attention spans and routine into account, I thought it best to use two read-a-loud books, and create a flannelboard pirate set instead of reading the third picture book. I located appropriate clip art from across the web to create my own version of five pirates on a treasure chest (the original version and lyrics can be found here.) I figured I could incorporate these three elements into the traditional storytime routine, and use the treasure map craft.

Unfortunately, there was a CD issue. The only regular song I could get to play was “What Are You Wearing?” Forget about the “Hello Song.”  In a moment of sheer desperation I altered the words to “If You’re Happy and You Know it” to “If You’re a Pirate and You Know it” and crossed my fingers.

So the modified timeline was as follows:

  1. Intro: Shake our wiggles out to… “What Are You Wearing?”
  2. Read-a-Loud Book: Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC by June Sobel
  3. Flannelboard
  4. Read-a-Loud Book: Do Pirate s Take Baths? by Kathy Tucker
  5. Song: “If You’re a Pirate and You Know it
  6. Craft

I assumed there were be a hiccup or two, but both storytimes were (increasingly) disastrous. With the exception of the opening song, the majority of the children were NOT feeling it. Most of the children refused to sit still/silent for the read-a-loud books, participate in the flannelboard countdown or act out the motions to “If You’re a Pirate and You Know it.”… which is unfortunate because it made it difficult for the few attentive children to focus and hear storytime.

I have never dealt with such a rowdy and out of control bunch of children, and quite frankly, I was at a loss as to how to respond. While enrolled in library school I had the good fortune to enroll in child literature/oral narration classes taught by a well-respected professional storyteller and retired children’s librarian. I was taught to never break character. Looking back its is not something my professor would have faced, since storytelling is a venerated art form in Hawaii, and it would have been unthinkable for parents and children to do anything other than listen attentively.

I’m still unsure about how to handle such chaos in the future—especially, when the parent or guardian doesn’t intercede or is ineffectual. I really do not want to run my storytime sessions like a despot—ordering parents and children alike to sit down and be quiet! Not to mention, this would alienate our patrons and reflect badly upon me and the library. I know how difficult it can be to “control” a little person, I’ve worked with children previously and I have an 11 month old niece with selective hearing and an independent spirit.

I think this experience underscores the need to know one’s patrons and library community.  For instance, who knew there are so many kids in my hometown who have no desire to make storytime crafts?!!?

If I ever have another opportunity to conduct storytime at the main library, I will definitely fore go presenting a theme based storytime and follow the traditional protocol (with the possible addition of one picture book of my choosing).  I’ll be heading over to iTunes to burn my own backup CD for just such an occasion…


theDoor2DoorLibrarian View All →

Professional book dealer. Getting people hooked on books since 2012. Everyday I’m hustling.

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