Program-And-Tell: Drag Queen Storytime

Image credit: My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis, illus. Suzanne DiSimone (Aladdin, 2010)

It’s been a while since I last posted but, hey, I crossed off another professional goal on my list and brought Drag Queen Storytime to all three of our locations last month as evening storytimes! Read on to see what we did and how we did it. I can’t wait to try again next year.

How It Happened: Drag Queen Storytime is a program I have been working on behind the scenes for a while—almost a year. It has been difficult to lock down presenters but I persisted and eventually came into an amazing partnership with the local drag court system, The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Emerald Empire (ISCEE). The ISCEE was already doing Drag Queen Storytimes at the Barnes & Noble, and I saw a few so I knew that it would be successful in our community.

I met with each of the presenters beforehand to help them choose books. I did not coach them in leading storytimes. Instead, I co-lead the program with the presenters as extra support and to lead transitions between books.

Activity: Bubble Play

As participants were coming in, I used my new bubble machine to greet them. We made name tags and got our wiggles out.

Hello Song: “If You’re Ready for a Story”

After singing, I introduced our special guest. I, dressed as a prince, told participants they could either bow or curtsy to greet their royal guest. At first they did neither (I blame low executive function skills) so I just asked them to bow. It was cute.

Book: It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr*

Image credit: Todd Parr (Little, Brown BFYR, 2009)

*Each storytime had different books. We also read My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis, illus. Suzanne DiSimone; Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, illus. Laura Cornell; and Mommy, Mama and Me by Lesléa Newman, illus. Carol Thompson.

Song/Rhyme: “The Freeze” by Greg & Steve

I tried to do a freeze dance song on my own with “Can’t Stop the Feeling” but the song is too long and it didn’t work as I’d hoped. So, even though this song is a little too country twang for Drag Queen Storytime (unless you’re Trixie Mattel), I think it works better for what I was trying to do. Fun fact: I never actually got to try this song out due to the low attendance. But I’ve used it at other storytimes and it’s great!

Book: BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney, illus. Carmen Saldaña*

Image credit: Carmen Saldaña (Albert Whitman & Co, 2017)

Goodbye Song: “The Goodbye Train Is Leaving” (with scarves)

The first time I did this, we paraded around the children’s room and came back to the craft table but I didn’t think to have a song prepared. We didn’t do this at either of the other two programs. Those ended with bubbles. In fact, I might say that the MVPs of this program (besides our lovely presenters) were bubbles. Instant. Attention. Getter.

Craft: Decorating Paper Crowns

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t usually do crafts, so this was kind of hard for me. But now I see why people love them so much. The conversations you have with kids during craft time are some of the best. I just feel guilty for our custodial staff because the carpets are full of glitter. They might even still be full of glitter almost one month later… Oops!

How It Went #1: This was my first time doing a program at the main library and I gotta say that having an actual program room makes a HUGE difference. We had a great turnout of over 50 people. Only one child dressed up to the theme, but it was generally just a really sweet, accepting environment. Our presenter was in bearded drag—no one batted an eyelid—and she was so gracious about fielding comments and engaging the kids. I made a rookie mistake and didn’t pre-cut the craft, but the kids seemed to really enjoy decorating their crowns once we got it all going. I really couldn’t have asked for a better first program!

How It Went #2 & #3: I’m not going to lie, these two programs were rough. For one, we didn’t have anyone show up until 10 minutes after the program started (a mom and her toddler) and, for the other, we only had a baby and her parents show up. I was really disappointed. Everything I had planned for the program went out the window and it became a matter of my trying my best to encourage the presenter and keep the content age-appropriate. Pro tip: Heather Has Two Mommies is not a good storytime read-aloud! Our drag performers were very gracious about the small crowds, but I know that they were hoping for more. I don’t know what happened in terms of getting the word out, or if the community branches just weren’t as receptive, but I’m definitely trying to grow from the experience rather than feel like a failure. And that can be tough!

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