Tips for a Fun and Successful Library Story Time

by Lois Rubin Gross

A while ago, the New York Post printed an article about how tickets to morning story times, at one particular branch library were as hard to come by as, say, prime seats for “The Book of Mormon.”

To most metro area library staff this came as neither new nor particularly startling news since crowded story times, especially in the burgeoning 2 to 3 year old group, are the rule and not the exception. Story time has become a rite of passage for many urban children: a first place to socialize with other children of similar age; a place where “criss-cross applesauce” gains real meaning and behavior norms in groups begin to be enforced; but especially a place to learn from practiced group leaders the rhymes, games and stories that foster good language development, early concepts, and a love of books.

However, there is another purpose for story time and that is, in essence, to “train the trainer” – that’s you, Mom, or your surrogate, the nanny or babysitter. You should be learning how to interact with your child to reinforce word and number concepts and gain knowledge of the expressive and interesting way that books can be shared with small children.

Here are some things your local librarian would like you to know to maximize your child’s story time experience:

1) Know the story time rules: Does your library require pre-registration for story time? Is it first come/first-serve? Does the child need to have his or her own library card to participate in the program? Libraries vary in how these guidelines are enforced. Make a quick call to the library and verify the policy in advance of story time day.

2) Which group should my child attend? Except in very small libraries, story times are usually divided by age groups. This is done so that the materials and projects selected for the group are age and skill appropriate. To misappropriate Garrison Keillor’s line, every child in the metro area is above average. Even if your child is brighter than the average, they should attend story time with their age mates for the best social experience.

3) Story time is not just for kids. Caregivers should be included in story time, if for no other reason, to relieve the presenter from having to discipline children (which is tough to do while also holding a book or a guitar). For your part, this is a good time to turn off the cell phone or texting device and learn the rhymes and songs with your child. You need to reinforce these lessons at home. This goes for noisy chatting with other caregivers, too. You need to model behavior that paying attention to the speaker at the front of the room is good manners.

4) Feed your child before or after coming to the library. As they used to say in elementary school, “Do you have enough for everyone?” If you didn’t bring enough for the entire crowd, then manners dictate: don’t offer a snack to your child.

5) Know when enough is enough. Not every child has the attention span to make it through the entire story time, and some days are squirmier than others. If your child is having “one of those days,” just slip out. You won’t offend the storyteller, and it will be a more pleasant experience for the other children when the space is free of restlessness.

Getting your child a place in story time will not guarantee their admission to Harvard or Princeton, but can foster a love of libraries, books, and language and a strong bonding experience for you as the adult who reinforces the story time experience.

More information about the value of story time games and rhymes


Lois Rubin Gross has an MS in Library Sciences from Drexel University. She is currently Senior Children’s Librarian at the Hoboken (NJ) Public Library. She has also worked as a librarian for children with special needs. She is a book reviewer for Children’s Literature and a blogger for After Fifty Living and Wise Women Now. Join her Facebook book community Lois Storylady.


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One Comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I am a children’s librarian and your tips are exactly what I wish parents and caregivers knew about storytimes.

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