Welcome to Story Time!

One of the staples of any public library is story time. Each week (or several times a week), children’s librarians anticipate the pitter patter of several little sets of feet bringing children in for stories, songs, and sometimes games and crafts. The noise level may go up a little for a short time, but so does the joy! My mother took me when I was a child, I took my kids, and there is a good chance that someday they will take their own.
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Some of you may be story time regulars, but have you ever stopped to think about story time from the librarian’s perspective? How does a librarian plan story time? What are the objectives? What are we thinking when your kid is a little more fidgety than the others?

Every librarian will have a slightly different philosophy and routine for story time. Here are some of mine.

In order to plan story time, we need to remember why it is important. First, and in my mind foremost, story time instills a love of books in children. It provides fun and accessible interaction with books. It also allows children to practice their listening and comprehension skills, and develop social skills. At the same time it helps with reading readiness, letter recognition and vocabulary and reinforces concepts such as color, shape and number.

Different skills will be reinforced more or less based on age of the audience. A baby story time will focus more on social interaction and instilling the love of books. A story time for school-aged children might focus more on one particular concept and on reading comprehension. Our most popular story time throughout the Mercer County Library System seems to be toddler story time. It is generally for children between ages 2 and 5. Here are some basic guidelines I use when planning a toddler story time:

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I like to have at least 2 or 3 books. I often stick to a theme in my story time, but not all librarians do. I try to choose books that have large illustrations that will be easy for a group to see, and are not too heavy on text. I enjoy reading books that are silly or that have a pleasant rhythm to the text. I sometimes like to pause in the middle of a story to ask kids questions such as :Have you ever felt like this character?" or "What do you think will happen next?"

In between books, we do songs, finger plays, flannel boards, puppets etc. I often take out instruments and let the kids play along to a song or sing a song with motions. This physical activity is good for the kids and also gets some energy out. This helps prevent fidgeting and distractions during stories. If I am using puppets or flannel board pieces, I often let the kids help me to get them involved in the process and practice taking turns.

I try to have a combination of consistency and novelty during my story times. There are some parts that I like to repeat. I usually sing the same hello and goodbye songs each time. This signals the beginning and end of the program for the kids and they enjoy singing along to a song that they have heard and know the words to. On the other hand, we do not want the little ones or the parents getting bored so I try to include new songs and stories as much as I can.

I offer a craft at the end of my toddler story time. Not all librarians do this. I try to keep the craft related to the books we read and songs we sang. I think the craft is fun for the kids and helps develop their creativity and fine motor skills. It also gives them something to bring home that can spark later conversation. I like to think that, as they hang their project on the refrigerator when they get home, parents and kids can talk about what they enjoyed in story time that day.

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I think many parents also wonder what librarians think of their child’s behavior. Many times I have heard parents say they are afraid to bring their toddler to story time at the library because they are so active. Most librarians will not expect a room full of toddlers to sit perfectly still for 30 minutes. We do try to break up listening with action activities to help with this. If your child is being especially loud or disruptive during story time, you are always welcome to take them out of the room for a few minutes. This will prevent disruption for the other children and your librarian will not take this personally! We also find that it is helpful if parents are active participants in story time. Sing along with your child! This will help to keep them engaged and happy.

So, if you are not doing so already, bring your child to story time at your closest branch. It is good for their development and will create some happy memories for you and your child! The schedules for children’s programs at all the branches can be found on our website.
Story Time
-Christine C.


  1. I love how you clarified that "Most librarians will not expect a room full of toddlers to sit perfectly still for 30 minutes." I have heard time and time again from parents that their children are too active for a library story time and in my mind, I am rolling my eyes. Exposing young children to reading and books is extremely important in order to create thinking, intelligent adults!


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