Halloween Storytime Party – And A Small PSA

The library hosts their Halloween storytime party every year on the Friday before Halloween, so that there’s no conflict with other events the village puts on that take place on the actual holiday. Which means we had our party this past Friday.

It was…a bit like running a marathon.  A super fun, adorably costumed marathon.

Our storytimes generally follow the same loose structure: two books mixed in with various songs and rhymes, including an opener and a closer.  At least one of those songs is a shaker song so the kids can get up and dance.  Our Halloween storytime was no different, only this time we had ALL our regulars (usually they’re spread out among the daily storytimes), totaling 35 kids and 33 adults. These are kids and parents who know the score and who are generally well behaved – all of which apparently goes out the window when you add a holiday and costumes.

We danced to Monster Mash, did a monster-fied version of the Hokey Pokey (You put your claws in, you put your claws out…), and our shaker song was Witch Doctor, which was a definite hit.  The books read were:

We’re Off to Find the Witch’s House, Richard Krieb
Go Away, Big Green Monster, Ed Emberly (One of my personal favorites)

After storytime the kids did a bit of trick-or-treating around the adult area, for treats like pin wheels and bubbles, before coming downstairs for fruit and veggies (and also tiny cupcakes, because c’mon, it’s Halloween). Overall, people were happy, it was fun, everyone had a good time.

Except for one little thing, really.

I tend to think that parents should take a bigger role in helping librarians get their children settled for storytime; encouraging them to sit down, listen to the story, participate, etc. For the most part, the parents I’ve been meeting have done so.

For the most part.

There are ALWAYS one or two (or, in the case of the Halloween party, more) that don’t even seem to be paying attention. We had a couple of kids dressed as superheroes who were racing laps around the room, seemingly recreating a hero-chasing-villain scene, while a librarian was reading her book to the crowd – where were the parents?

I haven’t experienced this in my storytime, because the oldest kid who comes to mine is just under two. The parents who bring their babies to my storytime are always ready to engage, because babies can’t really do that without adult guidance and encouragement. But I’ve observed it in others – the parent, babysitter or guardian who leaves their child at the front of the room and moves to the back, spends the whole time on their phone, and checks out for the whole storytime. I get that it can feel a little silly to full commit as an adult to doing a fingerplay or dancing the hokey pokey, but you know what? The experience is better for everyone if they do. It helps model good behavior for the kid, it helps the kids get a better handle on what the activities are, and it makes for a more focused environment all around.

What I want to say to those distracted guardians/parents/babysitters: If you’re going to be there with your child, be there. Help us out a bit and play a little!

First Baby Storytime

One of my duties at the library is taking over the baby storytime, which is held Tuesday mornings at 9:30. I was strictly on observation for the first few weeks on the job, so I could get a sense of the rhythm before jumping right in. Part of that was also getting familiar with the Mother Goose on the Loose format, which is what my library uses for the babies.

Mother Goose on the Loose is a program defined by discrete sections, each one performing a different function (rhythm games, body rhymes, lullabies, etc.).  It is also a program defined by repetition – it encourages you to repeat whole chunks or the entire program, as a way of reinforcing early literacy skills for the babies.

It is also completely different from any storytime format I’ve used before – that is, it’s different from the storytimes I was prepping and running as a library intern, when I designed and gave a new one three times a week. The repetition bit has been hard for me to grok, because I keep imagining the babies will get bored with the repeated material.

Can you tell I haven’t had a lot of experience with babies?

It didn’t take me long to realize that repetition is not only necessary but makes the program a lot more fun – we get maybe three or four (and on occasion as many as five) kids, aged infant to just under two years old. The parts of the storytime they get most excited about are the ones that are the same week after week – the scarf rhyme, in particular, is a big hit (click here for the full rhyme on my storytime wiki).

The repetition also makes planning easier on my end, since I started at the library in the middle of a storytime session (starting in January, I’ll be laying out my own plan from scratch). So all I have to do is pick a lullaby, shaker song, two books and a rhyme; the rest is the same every week.  This week, I went with (stuff in bold are the parts I added):

Opening Song: Hello Everybody, Yes Indeed
Opening Rhyme: Knuckles Knees
Rhyme: I Had A Little Turtle
Book: Tiny Little Fly, Michael Rosen and illus. Kevin Waldron
Bounce Rhyme: See the Ponies
Book: Little Owl’s Night, Divya Srinivasan
Rhythm Game: This Old Man
Stand-Up Action: I’m A Little Teapot
Animal Rhyme/Fingerplay: Here Is The Beehive
Shaker Song: Popcorn, Barenaked Ladies (from the album Snacks)
Scarf Rhyme: Wiggle Waggle
Lullaby: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (from the album The Best of Wee Sing)
Closing Song: The More We Get Together

First impressions of the format…mostly I felt weird only reading two books. I also let first-time jitters get the best of me and completely forgot to do my turtle rhyme, and rushed other parts so I came in a few minutes under the time slot. Picking songs was another place I got tripped up, since I’d never done a storytime with recorded music before – turns out CDs can be sort of overwhelming to browse when you a.) don’t know what you’re looking for and b.) aren’t familiar with the track lists. But I had a ton of fun, and the babies had fun, and the parents were very involved, which always makes things more enjoyable.

I’m going to close this entry with the cutest library story I have so far:

The very first week I observed, the librarian doing the storytime read a book called Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins. It’s about a baby woodpecker learning how to peck for the first time, which results in holes all over the pages as he pecks his way through trees, doors, tables, clothes etc. The librarian tapped the page on the holes, and invited the kids who wanted to to come up and tap the pages as well.  One kid in particular (we’ll call him John) had a lot of fun with the pecking, and kept pecking around the storytime room after the book was over.

The next week (and the week after, and the week after…) John came into the storytime room already pecking! The book really stuck with him – his mom commented that it was the first time she’d seen him show that kind of long-term memory about something. (He is also one of my “wiggle waggle” fans.)

Reading: Little Brother, Corey Doctorow
I finished Ender’s Game for my book club (I’ve read it before, but not for years), and it was most interesting for me to compare how I relate to Ender now versus how I related to him as a kid and a teen. Reading the book now, I felt heartbreakingly protective toward him. Still an eternal classic, no matter what my feelings about the author are.

Playing: Pokémon X, forever.
Seriously you guys, this game is so good – I’ve been playing Pokémon for fifteen years and this is the first time it’s felt like a fresh game. I especially love that leveling is easier, so I can rotate my team more and experiment with different ‘mons, as in the past I’ve very much felt that I had to carefully consider who I would keep with me, since once you got past level 50 the level grind became unbearable. The character animations are also stellar, and give the game as a whole more personality than ever.

Watching: Not Sleepy Hollow, since it’s on break for the next few weeks. 😥 OR American Horror Story: Coven, since I don’t get F/X anymore. :”( Getting caught up on Parks & Rec and New Girl. And starting Dracula tonight! I hope it’s as quality as Hannibal.

Newly Minted

The hardest part of my job might be the fact that the dress code at my library does not include jeans and sneakers. Coming from the extremely lax office I still split my weeks with, this seemed like an unbearable inconvenience – I actually had to go shopping for professional clothing.

Well…ok, not really.

I’ve been a real, honest-to-god librarian for about three and a half weeks now, and that’s not nearly the hardest part of my job. I’m still feeling that part out, but last Saturday (my first weekend shift) taught me a lot about how the atmosphere of a youth section can be both similar and dramatically different from what they tell you in school.

I focused on youth services during my MLIS program, and my professors were pretty upfront about what to expect when working with kids (especially teens). But theory and practice can be different animals, and no class I had could really prepare me for the ten year old kid repeatedly trying to sneak into the teen room, sassing me when I caught him, disrupting his friend’s computer time, and repeating this ad nauseum. At no point was he actively breaking any of our rules – but he was dancing on the line, and making me feel like I had to keep one eye on him constantly (I did most of that shift by myself).

At what point does the kid who’s dancing on your last nerve become deserving of a reprimand?  At what point, if he’s skating just under the rules line, do you make an issue out of his behavior?

I found my breaking point (for that day, at least) with the teens about five minutes before closing, when I saw a boy flying tackle another kid. There are rules that we’re more lax about than others, but playfighting is not one of them – witnessing something like that is grounds for closing the teen room for a length of time as determined by the librarian doing the closing. Even if they hadn’t been on their third warning, I would have reacted the same way, which was to storm in like the wrath of God.

“That’s it, guys. We’re closed. Everyone out.”

Could I have been nicer? Maybe. Probably. But I’m both new and a pretty small woman, and the last thing I want right now is to establish a pattern where they think they can take advantage of me. There are things I’m learning I can be lenient about, and things I feel like I can’t.

Up to that point, I had been comfortable letting one of the more experienced librarians handle the disciplinary action, with the justification that watching how it worked would give me the feel for what the limits are, were we can stretch the rules, and what the dealbreakers are. Saturday was my first practical lesson in the fact that in order to develop my relationship with these kids, and establish what limits I can let them push me to, I have to be more active in telling them what’s not acceptable (and praising them for what is).

I promise my job actually rules, and I love most of it a whole lot. Next time, I’ll tell you about my first storytime with the babies to prove it.

Reading: Ender’s Game

Playing: Pokemon X

Watching: New Girl, Sleepy Hollow