Liz Derouet

Still talking about books

Story time

Story time with a group of young ones can be the most rewarding experience. Many times while working in a public library, when the pressures of dealing with adults and adult-like life were weighing me down, a story time session would always lift my spirits. There is nothing better than sharing a story or rhyme with a group of young ones and seeing their faces light up with enthusiasm and joy.

This page includes some of my insights into story time. There are many aspects of story time I have not discussed here. If you have some good ideas that may help others please feel free to post a comment below.

Why story time?

Story time provides a literature rich, early learning experience. A love of books and reading is fostered and nurtured and the child is at the centre of all activities. In a fun environment, children are exposed to print and books. They become aware that the printed word relays meaning and that what we ‘say’ comes from reading the words, or to a young listener, those black marks on the page. The story time session offers the opportunity for the young audience to part of a group, contributing to their social development. They have fun with other audience members, their parents and carers, and the presenter.

Pre-literacy skills need to be learnt before the decoding of words and reading for understanding can occur. Story time is an opportunity for this. Young viewers will learn that the words are making the meaning, that they are (usually) read from left-right, and the pages are turned from the front of the book to the back. They might even recognise the letter and or sound their name begins with, or familiar words, names and phrases. All these concepts provide early literacy learning.

The physical parts of a book can also be discussed. For example, the book has a front cover, back cover and end pages. The book has an author and an illustrator. Discussing these roles is important. Phrases such as Let’s turn the page to see what happens next are important to use now and then. These all enrich the reading experience, either before and/or after reading. Discussions while interacting with books and stories enables narrative skills to be introduced, such as knowing what a story is, being able to recall a story, and discussing characters and sequence of events. Similar characteristics to favourite stories and books may also be recognised.

If craft activities are included they provide further development with fine motor skills, cutting, colouring, pasting, twisting and tearing materials. The finished product can be taken home as a reminder of the story time experience.

Who is story time for?

Story time is for many. Firstly, the presenter must have the young audience as its main focus during the preparation, delivery and evaluation phase. I know this may be stating the obvious, but I have seen some sessions where the presenter is not focused on the children. Young children are experts at detecting this and will act up, or leave, accordingly.

Story time is also for the parents and carers. They will (hopefully) be watching the presenter for tips on how to read a story at home. They are also exposed to the pre-literacy aspects discussed above, and to a range of quality literature they can read to their young ones at home. It is also a good chance for them to meet with other parents.

Story time is also a good chance for the public library to show off to a wide audience. Parents and Grandparents bring the children, and while there, are exposed to what the library can offer.

What to include in a story time session

Every story time session is different. I believe it is important to have a regular procedure and structure to make young ones feel secure and safe. I like to begin with the same rhyme. This is a sign to the audience that story time is beginning and is known by regular visitors. The types of books, stories, songs and rhyme used are important. I will mainly focus on books in this article.

There are some very important factors to consider when choosing a picture book for a story time session. A large format is important when presenting to a group so all can see clearly. Bright, clear pictures are also important. The absence of borders is an important element. Borders act as a barrier between the reader/viewer and the narrative. Books without borders includes the audience and is an important factor in books for young children.

The text should be short and not too wordy. Rhyming text is fun and enjoyable. It also introduces young listeners to playful language and sometimes made up words. Make sure the rhyme works, it has to be quality literature to work when read aloud.

Books that encourage interaction from the audience can miraculously hold a group’s attention. For example, a book might include animal noises and children love to shout these out. Repetitive text and environmental noises may also feature in a session. There is nothing better than an audience of young ones replying to a story, or joining in with the reading. The louder the better I say! Lift the flap books are also interactive and make a great choice for this age group.

Felt board stories and puppets should also feature regularly in stories.

Felt board stories are easy and inexpensive to make.

They can be made easily from a few materials, or bought commercially. Puppets are a great way to encourage involvement and young children love them. They can also be purchased commercially, and sometimes found in major chain stores.  Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell is a brilliant story adaptable for puppets. Swallowing puppets are easy to make and can be used for many different themes.

I always include songs and rhymes in my story time sessions. I cannot sing, however young children do not seem to care! Having a song and/or a rhyme allows the audience to have a short break from sitting and lets them move around. Choose songs and rhymes to suit the theme of the session. Many songs can be changed to suit the theme, for example, the Hokey Pokey can be used for different types of animal or dinosaur body parts. Use recordings if you feel you need that little extra support. Make sure you are adequately licenced if you are using commercially obtained recordings still covered by copyright law. In Australia you will need to obtain a licence from APRA AMCOS.

Always be on the look out for useful items for story time. For example, a small rubber duck

I found these nesting dolls at a major supermarket chain store. They can be used for a variety of themes.

and tall glass vase is great for Alexander’s Outing by Pamela Allen. Using food colouring in the water helps the audience see the water rise as the story is read or told. Different types of clothes can be worn, or plastic pieces of food and a basket for a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. There really is no limit.

There are many resources available online, and in print form. I particularly like The Little Big Book Club with resource lists and activity ideas.

Appropriate story time books reviewed on this blog will have tags for appropriate themes with S/T preceding the theme name.

Story time image downloaded from Clipart Kid

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