Summer time is crazy town here at the library. We have been particularly busy this year, with over 5000 kids signed up for our summer reading program. Between 2 weekly storytimes, at least one special performer or program a week, and a weekly movie, the children’s department rocks out pretty much every moment of every day. It may not sound all that program-heavy, but when every program is fully attended, the resulting crowds are more than enough for us to handle.
During the school year, we have 15 or more storytimes a week at our branch. In the summer, those programs are condensed down to 2 storytimes a week, which are open to all ages. Attendance at summer storytimes this year has ranged from 113 to over 200 (that’s per program, so double that for the week). We do count anyone who comes into the room, so this number includes all attendees, regardless of age.
There are four of us who are doing the storytimes this year, and we work in teams of two, splitting up the on-stage duties. When I say on stage, I mean it–we stand up on the stage of our community meeting room, and use microphones to read and sing. This is my American Idol moment! Storytimes last for 30 minutes, and are followed by a simple craft.
There are 8 weeks of storytimes this summer, so the 4 storytime staff members were each charged with creating 2 programs, which included developing the storytime (we are using the Dream Big–Read theme), creating the powerpoint, and preparing a craft. Then each person was scheduled for a specific week and made sure that their program was ready to go on the chosen day. Teams could then do whatever they wanted with the program, as long as the basic structure stayed the same. Books and songs could be moved around within the storytime, songs (even whole books) could be dropped, props could be added, etc.
The change in routine that summer storytime provides has been refreshing. Working so closely with my talented fellow staff members has been a wonderful experience–I have gotten so many great ideas from them this summer. Working as a team is fun, too, and really challenged me to look at storytimes differently, which is a good thing. Other challenges–we can’t use flannel stories or small-scale songs or fingerplays, as they don’t really work in a large room filled with many people, and one of my coworkers does not like to sing but prefers to use recorded music. I had to really rethink my standard storytime processes, and again, that is a good thing. Of course, doing a wild hokey pokey up on stage with over 100 people watching sounds like a story better suited for the after hours crowd (karaoke at the bar, anyone?), but really, who doesn’t want to do the hokey pokey in front of a huge crowd? And with all the kids and adults swarming the craft tables at once following the storytime, craft time becomes like managing a flash mob, an exercise in barely controlled chaos, but since we don’t get to do crafts during the school year storytimes, it’s a treat to have them at all.
And yet despite the fun of summer, I do look forward to the return of regular storytimes. That return will happen soon, now that summer is more than half way over (2 more weeks of library summer to go). I miss the intimacy of my much smaller school-year storytime groups, the emphasis on early literacy that I can include in the smaller storytimes, and seeing the reaction of kids-to-book up close rather than from a distance or not at all. I am NOT, however, ready for summer to end. Ah, the great summer reading paradox strikes again.
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This is incredibly interesting! My community will just never have that large of story time. I guess I could wish it to happen but I don’t want that either. I love hearing how you’ve had to rethink the way you traditionally do story times to encompass these larger crowds though. This sounds much more performance based than traditional, school year story time as you alluded to.