Storytime: Libraries!

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to storytime, of course!

For my first storytime of the new season—after a summer full of special guests—I decided to start with the basics. After all, libraries are truly special. I love getting the chance to talk about what makes them tick. I also really wanted an excuse to read Chicken Story Time. What better to pair it with than a book about book-loving Lola?

NOTE: For information about my approach to storytime, check out this post.


Opening : “If You’re Ready for a Story”

Since I was subbing at a different branch, I adopted the staff’s signature opening song. I like it, and I may just have to give it a try if we decide to switch ours at my branch.

Song: “Let’s Go Riding on an Elevator” (with scarves)

The highlight of storytime was seeing all the babies lifted in the air by their caregivers. Who knew this song would work so well in baby storytime, too?

Rhyme: “Open, Shut Them”

Book: Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, illus. Rosalind Beardshaw

lola at the library
Image credit: Rosalind Beardshaw (Charlesbridge, 2006)

Puppet/Rhyme: “Little Mousie Brown” (with puppet)

After storytime, a little one came up to me and asked if he could see Little Mousie Brown again. I let him knock on the wooden box she lives in, listen to hear if she’s there, and peek inside. His mother later told me that his grandma makes special little boxes with critters in them and gives them to her grandchildren. After hearing all that, my heart was full. In fact, I just about melted!

Song: “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom”

Book: Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher, illus. Mark Fearing

chicken story time
Image credit: Mark Fearing (Dial, 2016)

Goodbye: “Goodbye Friends” (with ASL)


How It Went: This was a much younger crowd than I am typically used to. Most of the kids were preverbal and/or shy, so they weren’t the most interactive bunch. But the grown-ups were the true superstars of this storytime: they were engaged, interactive, and fun.  Next time I go to this branch, though, I really need to brush up on my baby and toddler storytime skills.

The first book was excellent for teaching library skills. But, since I expected a chatty audience, I didn’t think to really teach—I more or less expected that they would already know what happens in Lola’s library and answer accordingly. Wrong! I think it may have been helpful to either use a whiteboard or some visual cues to go along with actions.

The other book was fun, too, but it also elicited less participation than I thought it would—despite the fact that I handed out multiple chicken stick puppets and encouraged excessive clucking. I wonder if my energy was too much or too distracting. This has been a problem before. The kids watch me instead of participating. (Side note: this is why I firmly believe storytime should not be a performance. We should listen to our audiences and adjust accordingly.)

The last thing I’ll say about this storytime is that I completely failed to bring up race. Jessica Anne Bratt was right: you really do need to practice pointing out the race of characters like you do everything else. I assumed it would come naturally but, sadly, both shared readings resulted in missed opportunities.

4 thoughts on “Storytime: Libraries!

  1. Well, Alan, I’m gona beg to differ with you and Jessica Anne Bratt. I see that Lola is an African American. I’m African American too, been that way for 60 years, and if you are always pointing out the race of the character, it complicates the situation. I would like for Lola’s visit to the library to be just as normal as Caucasian Tom’s visit is. In reading we do not point out that Tom is Caucasian, so why stress or mention that Lola is Black. If there are pictures, then it is obvious what the character is, and unless it contributes to the plot, such as Lola is an African American, and in the town of Zuwaziddy they don’t like African Americans, I really see no sense in it. For racism to be neutralized we need to stop pointing it out as though it is unique for a character to do something that is normal for everyone else. Now if a child asks about race, or why is Lola Black, and not Caucasian, then you might want to delve a little deeper into the race issue, and query why this mention is of interest to the child. THERE you maybe able to do a little race relationship mending. But otherwise for someone to be reading a book, and pointing out that Lola is Black, Oppie is White, and Fernando is Hispanic, just doesn’t work. If the picture shows me everyone is everyone I can see that. Now that’s coming from me, sitting on the other side listening to you read the book, showing me the pictures, and being Black for 60 years.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I will definitely consider this as I plan my next storytime.

      My understanding of Jessica Anne Bratt’s approach was that we need to talk about race so that talking about it (including labeling whiteness) becomes normalized. I’ll reach out to her and see if she has any thoughts to add here.

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