Since my storytime load was so light in 2020, it seemed like a good time to dig in and deeply analyze my practice. It was… VERY illuminating. I’ve been doing storytimes for 5 years (longer if you count classroom read-alouds), and I still have lots of learning and growing to do!
Looking Back: Quick Storytime Stats
I only led 35 total storytimes in 2020. Definitely not enough singing to fuel my youth services soul! 😭
By Storytime Age Group:
- 10 Baby (28.6%)
- 2 Toddler (5.7%)
- 5 Preschool (14.3%)
- 11 All-Ages (31.4%)
- 1 Elementary (2.9%)
- 6 Adult (17.1%)
Before COVID-19 hit, I was only regularly scheduled to Baby and Adult Sensory Storytimes. Then everything changed… now I’m lucky if I get scheduled to one all-ages virtual storytime a month!
By Storytime Type:
- 25 Early Literacy Storytimes (71.4%)
- 6 Sensory Storytimes (17.1%)
- 3 Special Program Storytimes (8.6%)
- 1 Group Visit Storytime (2.9%)
By Storytime Setting:
- 21 Library (60%)
- 2 Outreach (5.7%)
- 12 Virtual (34.3%)
Not so much physical outreach last year. For obvious reasons.
By Storytime Structure:
- 7 Flow Storytimes (20%)
- 1 Early Literacy Skill/Practice Storytimes (2.9%)
- 27 Theme Storytimes (77.1%)
So, this was a HUGE difference! In 2019, I was primarily planning flow storytimes based on connections. What happened?
Well, a lot of it had to do with transferring to a new library system and going back to baby storytimes, which I have always planned more thematically. Also, at my new system, the librarians take turns planning storytimes for the week. I wanted to respect the hard work of my new colleagues by using at least some of the resources and materials they gathered. I also wanted to try some new-to-me storytime themes (like ungulates, which was SUPER FUN!) The biggest part of it was stress, though. Planning thematic storytimes is just easier and requires less mental effort.
We read 75 total books in storytimes this year.
Most Read Titles:
- The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi
- Lenny and Wilbur by Ken Wilson-Max
- One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller by Kate Read
- Ten Horse Farm by Robert Sabuda
Most books did not make a repeat appearance in my 2020 storytimes, but these favorites got a little more storytime action and appeared twice!
By Book Type:
- 44 Fictional Narratives (58.7%)
- 26 Nonfiction/Conceptual/List Books (34.7%)
- 5 Nursery Rhymes/Poetry Books (6.7%)
I’m surprised we read so many fictional narratives – most books for baby storytime fall more in the conceptual/list category. We also read a ton of nonfiction in adult sensory storytimes. When I looked closer, nonfiction in my preschool/family storytimes was WAY down from previous years.
By Publish Date:
Soooooo I pretty much stopped looking at picture books after March. Lots of catching up to do with new books! The average publish date for books we read in storytime was 2011, or about 9 years old. I went by original publish date, which meant that reading recent re-releases like the Lenny books also brought down our average.
- Newest Title: Do Cats Moo? by Salina Yoon (March 2020)
- Oldest Title: I Really Want to See You, Grandma! by Taro Gomi (1979)
By Book Subject:
- 42 Animals (56%)
- 17 Humans (23%)
- 14 Both Animals & Humans (18%)
- 2 Objects (3%)
I want to move the needle further towards more human characters in the books we read. Kids don’t see themselves in animals (and feeling seen is a big goal of mine for storytime); plus anthropomorphic animals just don’t have as much of an impact.
And speaking of seeing yourself…
- 24 Diverse Books (32%)
- 51 Books with No Diverse Content (68%)
I noticed this bad trend early on in the year, but did not have much time to correct it before we closed and my storytime load dramatically decreased. 😬
Much of this lack of representation came from reading so many picture books about animals! Out of the 31 books we read that included humans and human/animal characters, 59% featured diverse characters. All of this representation was cultural/racial diversity (no gender diversity or disability rep).
LOTS of room to do better in 2021.
By Creator Representation:
Our 75 books were the works of 68 unique creators (authors and illustrators):
- 13 Diverse Creators (19%)
- 55 Unknown/Presumed White (81%)
YIKES. Who shares the stories being told is just as important as who is represented in those stories – especially if you like to show the author picture, like I do!
Thinking about how many diverse books I read that are authored by white people – like all the Karen Katz books I read in baby storytime.
Songs & Rhymes
Here’s a closer look at the 275 songs and rhymes we did together last year (not including songs/rhymes tied to a flannel).
Most Sung Songs:
- If You’re Happy and You Know It
- I Wake Up My Hands with a Clap, Clap, Clap
- Tick Tock, Tick Tock, I’m a Little Cuckoo Clock
- This is Big, Big, Big
My Top Four definitely skews Baby Storytime!
By Song/Rhyme Type:
- 106 Action Songs/Dances (39%)
- 20 Bounces (7%)
- 3 Breathing/Mindfulness Exercises (1%)
- 16 Cuddles/Tickles (6%)
- 13 Fingerplays (5%)
- 22 Lifts (8%)
- 16 Oral Language Songs/Rhymes (6%)
- 67 Opening/Closing Songs (24%)
- 12 Transitions (4%)
I started paying attention to this after one unfortunately-planned storytime where I asked caregivers to lift their babies in the air for like, FOUR SONGS IN A ROW. Oops. Babies are too heavy for that!
In an interesting shift, I seem to be using less and less transition songs. I wonder how much of this has to do with the age groups I did storytime with, and how much has to do with turning towards more conversational transitions in general… hmm. 🤔
By Motor Skills:
- 33 Fine Motor Songs & Rhymes (12%)
- 94 Gross Motor Songs & Rhymes (34%)
- 36 Songs & Rhymes With Both (14%)
- 112 Songs & Rhymes With No Significant Motor Component (40%)
At first I wasn’t too perturbed by the gross motor over fine motor skew (all those baby and adult sensory storytimes, right?) But then I looked closer and realized I wasn’t incorporating much fine motor content into my other storytimes, either. 😬
Most storytimes contained at least one prop element. Here’s how many storytimes these props were used in, from highest to lowest number of appearances:
- 26 Flannel Storytimes
- 17 Puppet Storytimes
- 10 Scarf Storytimes
- 8 Shakers/Shaker Egg Storytimes
- 4 Rhythm Stick Storytimes
- 2 Realia Storytimes
- 2 Stretchy/Resistance Band Storytimes
- 1 Parachute Storytimes
No surprise that the flannelboard is my go-to! There is one big shift here from 2019 – the stretchy band and parachute used to come out waaaaay more often. But my new library system does not require registration, and my groups are usually too big to bring these items out. Now of course we are doing virtual storytimes, so I can’t bring out the parachute or stretchy band, anyways.
Most Frequent Flannels:
- Doggy, Doggy, Where’s Your Bone?
- Teddy Bears/Blanket Squares
Flannels By Type:
- 13 Games (50%)
- 10 Songs/Rhymes (38%)
- 3 Stories (12%)
Flannel guessing games definitely got the most storytime action this year. Babies LOVE the peekaboo aspect! I also use these flannels often in virtual storytime because they are enjoyed by all ages and such good opportunities for audience interaction at home.
I delivered 25 early literacy storytimes with explicit modelling/messages to caregivers last year. Here’s a breakdown of those messages by skill, from highest to lowest message rate:
- Phonological Awareness: 40%
- Vocabulary: 24%
- Print Motivation: 20%
- Other (e.g. Executive Function, Math): 8%
- Letter Knowledge: 4%
- Print Awareness/Concepts of Print: 4%
- Background Knowledge: 0%
- Narrative Skills: 0%
And a breakdown of those messages by the five ECRR practices, from highest to lowest message rate:
- SING: 40%
- READ: 36%
- PLAY: 12%
- WRITE: 8%
- TALK: 4%
Some of this makes sense – obviously we’re not going to focus on building letter knowledge with babies, and most of my early literacy storytimes were for babies. But how did I deliver NOT ONE message to caregivers about talking with babies and vocabulary acquisition?!
2021 Storytime Goals
I have A LOT I want to work on and not a lot of storytimes this year to do it in. Here’s how I want to grow my storytime practice in 2021:
Read More Diverse Books by Own Voices Authors
My top priority is to increase diverse representation in my early literacy storytimes (where I have the most creative freedom). I do not have a lot of choice in my outreach adult sensory storytimes scheduled for this year (we are following classroom themes upon the teacher request), but I definitely can and should be more intentional during my virtual storytimes.
I also want to make a game plan for if and when we return to in-person baby storytimes. There are many wonderful diverse board books, but not nearly as many diverse picture books that are age-appropriate for babies. Thinking a lot about different ways I could structure baby storytime so there’s more room for one-on-one reading time, and less looking at me holding a book the babies probably can’t see very well anyways.
Read More Nonfiction
Wait, didn’t I just say I want to read more diverse books with human characters? Yes, AND I didn’t read a single nonfiction book in a preschool or all-ages family storytime in 2020. I’d like to make sure to read nonfiction at least a few times during early-literacy storytimes this year!
Mix Up Messages
My messaging was much tighter and well-rounded under Melissa Depper’s supervision and framework at my last library system. Clearly, I am going to need to figure out my own message structure so I don’t sound like a broken record talking about building phonological awareness with animal sounds. Which I said last year. A Lot. Over and over again.
Fine Motor Fun
Going to make sure I incorporate at least one fine motor experience into every storytime! It can be as simple as scrunching up our scarves (with one hand and then the other) before we use them as blankets for Sleeping Bunnies – like my genius friend Ms. Erin does!
Go With the Flow
All of this (paying attention to all the early literacy skills/practices, reading more nonfiction and diverse books) is much easier when these are the starting places of a storytime plan, instead of a theme.
I want to learn more about library service to babies and families (my weakest area). I don’t have a lot of educational background or prior experience when it comes to babies – my first degree was in Elementary Education and then I spent most of my teacher time in preschool/kindergarten. I am beyond excited to finally take Brooke Newberry’s Babies in the Libraries class this month!
I also want to keep growing my virtual storytime practice. Earlier in 2020, I blogged about using the Zero to Three E-AIMS framework to plan and assess my storytimes. I’m curious to take Kathy MacMillan’s Creating Outstanding Online Storytimes workshop and see what new things I learn!
I was also hoping to take the upcoming Library Journal Equity in Action class, but I think it will be cancelled due to so many facilitators (rightly) withdrawing over the SLJ February Cover Controversy.
How was your storytime year, library life friends? What have you learned? How do you want to grow? Would love to learn more in the comments below!