I did theater for a long time. Twenty-three musicals a long time.
So, when I started working in the youth services department, I didn’t think that storytimes wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
I had experience singing, dancing, and storytelling in front of crowds of people, so why would 20-some children and their caregivers be any different?
But I was wrong.
What I quickly learned was, storytime isn’t theater, it's improv.
Not improv in the sense that I was making things up as I went (I promise I prepare for my storytimes), but in the sense of working together as a team.
I am coming up on four years of being an improv teacher, and one of my biggest points has always revolved around improv as an act of co-creation.
It is the idea that each individual on a team gives “offers” to their partners, who will then build upon that offer by saying “yes, and.”
The infamous Tina Fey often talks about how the rules of improv apply to things like life and business, but applying them to my library programming is truly what changed the way I work.
You can apply these same principles of improv to enrich your home storytimes, too!
Ceasing to view myself as a performer, and instead viewing myself as part of the team I am creating, helps me to say “yes, and” to my programs.
When a child crawls up to me and grabs the book I’m reading out of my hands, halting the entire storytime, instead of getting frustrated about the interruption, I can say
“Yes, I love this book so much too!”
When a caregiver is sitting on their phone during storytime instead of engaging with their child (a growing issue among storytime communities), I can create teamwork opportunities by encouraging dancing or movement that requires all of us, not just me.
By embracing the community that storytime creates, rather than focusing on the “Me-Show” that I thought it would be, I was able to reframe my expectations according to Tina Fey’s fourth rule of improv:
“There are no mistakes, only opportunities.”
Storytime is not the TV. That’s what makes it so great.
Whether at the library or at home on your living room couch, it is a way to engage in unique and new ways, with your child and with the people around you. (For more information on how Storytime encourages Early Literacy, take a look at Cheryl’s most recent blog post.)
If you’re interested in being a part of our storytime community, check out our calendar to see if we have a storytime that works for you.
And, of course, check out the list below for some of my tried and true storytime favorites to read together at home!
by Vikki VanSickle
The rhyming text and myriad of unique mythical animals from around the world that the main character imagines as her new pet, (raise your hand if you know what a kirin is) make this a great choice to introduce your child to new sounds and vocabulary.
by Deborah Underwood
Another engaging rhyming book featuring a space mechanic Cinderella and her pet robot mouse, Murgatroyd. All around fun, and may help encourage engineering skills in your little Cinderella to boot.
by Jessica Love
Beautifully illustrated, with sparse text, this book celebrates a child’s imagination and allows plentiful opportunities to make guesses with your child about “What will happen next?"
by Alex T. Smith
An African twist on an already known tale helps children develop their compare and contrast skills to discover how authors can rewrite the same story in different ways. Pair this one with a classic Little Red Riding Hood story from our nonfiction folktales section.
by Bob Shea
Okay, really any Bob Shea title is a great choice for you and your child to have a laugh together (Dinosaur vs. The Library is another great choice). I like how he changes font shapes and styles throughout his books to help heighten print awareness.
by Susan Middleton Elya
Bilingual, rhyming, gorgeous illustrations, AND a classic fairy tale retelling? This one hits all the marks. A great way to build Spanish vocabulary by using words that are easy to define via context clues, meaning you don't have to pause your story if you don't want to.