How to Lead Story Time

Baby A, sleepy at the library

I'm lucky I live in an area with six story times available through the week. But somehow, naps, errands and compatibility with development level do not always line up between story time, Baby A, and me. That's when we have our own! Could I read, sing, and finger play with Baby A anytime? Yes, and I do, but it's more fun with friends. And the real point of going to a story time is to practice listening, dancing, music, and social skills with friends. Am I right?
So, if you can't or don't want to schlep over to a library's or book store's story time, invite babies/kids around the same age/development over for a story time play date. 

Here's a little formula:
1. Choose a book. Generally, it is best to choose a book appropriate to the level of you audience, which is fairly brief and easy-to-see illustrations. Pull a theme out of that book and choose one or two additional books based on that theme.
2. Choose a song or finger-play that relates to the theme, and two or three more songs and/or finger-plays. Not all of the songs need to relate to theme, but it is fun to have them relate to each other, if possible. Choose songs you know well, and that your audience is likely to know, too. One song can be new, to learn together.
3. Choose an welcome and goodbye song.
4. Map out the order of your stories and songs. 

And when it's go time, follow the the temperament of your audience. If they get fidgety, throw in a wiggly song. If they're losing focus during a book, ask questions to help them relate to the story.

I put together this example with three-year-old children in mind, but I adapted a similar plan to a 6-12 month-old group when I hosted a story time. It has a vague theme of big and little / opposites, plus almost everything is water-related. The energy level goes up and down to keep everyone interested.

Welcome Song: Here We Are Together

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

So Big! (How big is baby/[name]? So big! Stretch baby's arms open.)

The Shark Song (With babies, have the parents/caregivers nibble them with the shark motions, older kids can mimic. There are many renditions of this song, I like to include the verses "saw a shark" and "swimmin faster" after grandma(pa) shark, but no shark attacks or lost limbs.)

What's Up, Duck? by Tad Hills (a book about opposites)
Five Little Ducks Song (Any children's librarian or preschool teacher can teach you this one.)

Motorboat, Motorboat Song (Kick legs slow and fast. Be cautious searching for "motorboat" videos... who would've thought?)

Goodbye Song: "Goodbye, [name]. (Repeat) We're glad you came today" to the tune of Goodnight, Ladies [source]. If you're having a playgroup story time, you're probably not leaving yet, so you can just clap and praise everyone.

Tip: Between activities, use transition talk. For example, between Shark Song and What's Up Duck?, say "The octopus was big, but the plankton were little. The baby shark is little, but the daddy shark is big. Big and little are opposites. Let's see if we can find more opposites in this book."

And if you want more examples, you could steal the story time re-caps posted on this Maine library's awesome blog.

Tell me your favorite story time ideas.

P.S. Mother Goose from Orem Library's story time is coming to the Utah County March for Babies on Saturday! Come see us there! And please, double the change for March of Dimes babies by donating double the change in your pockets, and inviting a friend to do the same!

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