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Putting It All Together: What My Storytime Prep Looks Like

I always enjoy hearing about the process that other librarians go through while preparing their storytimes, as well as seeing the space they present the finished product(s) in. Here's what I do now that I'm in my new library.

I get a sheet listing what my branch's themes will be for the entire session a few weeks prior to the start of storytimes. For summer 2013 the themes are: fish/beach/pond, ducks/chickens, bugs, pirates, tool time, pigs, and pets. We do 7-week sessions. I have three classes of 2's and 3's each week: 2 on Tuesday mornings, and 1 on Wednesday mornings.

The tubs begin rolling in a week or two before the session is scheduled to begin. I always get really excited to open them (we will have 1-2 at a time, generally as they rotate between our 4 branches). Here's a peek into the tub for this week (pirates!) :

There's usually anywhere from 1-3 puppets, 1-5 flannel boards, and some extension activities. The binder has a table of contents for the tub and a sheet for all of the presenters to jot down which materials they used. It can be really useful to see what went over well at the other branches.  Also inside the binder? Songs and rhymes related to the theme. There are also three stacks of books rubber-banded together. There is a stack of shorter books for 2- and 3- year olds, longer books for 4- and 5-year olds, and then toy/pop-up books. Of course, you can use books from whichever stack when presenting. One smart thing about this system is that we use the book's pocket to put a note saying which stack the books go into, so presenters can pack them up properly without having to consult the master list in the binder. 

As I go through the tub contents, I make my own three piles of books: yes, no, and maybe.  If, after I go through all of them, my "yes" pile is pretty light, I start doing some research. I'll check blogs (even my own, because I have done most themes by now but can't remember what titles I used). I also have a few go-to storytime planning manuals that I'll scan through. And I do catalog searches to see what's at my branch as well. If I'm working more than 2 days ahead of the first storytime, I'll see what the other branches have as we have daily deliveries to and from all locations. 

As I work, I make notes on my storytime outline. Yes, I've upgraded from my pink index cards of yore, and now I print one of these sheets off for every week of a session (I write them down so I can blog them later and then I reuse the back side for scratch paper): 

"STICKERS!!!" = I forgot that my predecessor gave out stickers at the end of each storytime and didn't have any one day. OOPS. 
Once I've put together enough material for a half-hour whirlwind of literacy and chaos, I throw everything into a box and haul it into our children's program room on the morning of storytime. Come on in! 
My predecessor started a thing with the 2's and 3's where we stand outside this door, count to 3, and yell "OPEN SESAME" to get enough storytime magic to open the doors. 
The right half of the room (see below) is where we do storytimes. The kids typically sit on the floor and the adults will sit in chairs on the perimeter or at the tables in the back half (not shown). We can fit around 60 people at 2's and 3's semi-comfortably. Thank goodness the kids are still pretty small at this age, because there are a lot of them registered for my storytimes! Below is what the audience sees. 

I love the paint colors of this room. It reminds me of being in a tub of Superman ice cream, which I'm told is a Midwestern thing only? Do they have Superman ice cream wherever you are?  
Over on the left, you can see our AV set-up. That's a CD changer with a 5 CD capacity. I don't trust those things so I remove CDs when switching. Actually, I generally only use CDs that have at least 2 songs that I like on them. At my previous library, I always used iTunes playlists from my own personal device and found that more to my liking, but I haven't experimented with that here yet. Maybe in the fall session when I'm more settled in.

The first thing I do when I bring my stuff in to set up the room is put the music on. I find it a good opportunity to warm up my voice and my storytime persona. The next thing I do is put the houses for "Little Mouse" on the board and give Miss Mouse a good hiding spot. I put a puppet or two or three on top of the flannel board to give the kids a hint of what our theme for the day is.

How I set up my easel for storytimes
Books go in the  middle of the flannel board easel, which has a white board on the reverse side, with a ledge for big books. There is a red pocket below the book shelf where I put the stickers for the kids at the end of the program. On the floor I house props like scarves (in that striped bag), bean bags, flannel board stories, additional puppets, etc. that I will be using that day. See those double doors behind the blue chair? That's where my branch's puppet and prop collection lives. It is floor-to-ceiling awesomeness. Sometimes I just go there, stand in front of the assorted goodies, and drool.

Oh, and I always sit on the floor. I think you get a much better connection to the kids when you're at their level. But if there's a lot of them, I'll stand so everyone can see the pictures. I really don't think these chairs are comfortable! Anyone else a dedicated floor sitter?

So, that's my process. At least for this month. I'd love to hear about yours, whether you want to leave a comment below or write a blog post of your own. I find this stuff fascinating!


  1. Okay, I love your blobby things on your easel to label. I will have to get on this to post my own. I am also pretty jealous that you get a prepared tub of stuff to put on the program.

  2. Aw, man, I have all the prep work done for a post like this--I better get it blogged!

  3. I am so envious of your storytime room. At my library, my storytime room is the general meeting room so I am always having to take down tables and chairs. Plus, it's just so blah color wise. I've added alphabet borders but it still doesn't pop that much. Your room screams fun.

  4. We've been doing something similar with the tubs for the past couple of years. At least one librarian from each location prepares 2 each session, so we know what themes we'll be having pretty far in advance. I love it, since I'm the only children's librarian at my branch and I don't feel so alone when I get the tubs.

  5. We DO NOT have Superman ice cream here in New England. So jealous!


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