What is a story time in your local public library?
To many people libraries are synonymous with story times. This is a free program in every library that takes place on the weekends and sometimes on other work days. Despite the program's popularity, many new parents don't know about this free activity and miss out on fun time spending and early education benefits that reading offers.
Such library events give an excellent opportunity to gather for parents, educators, and care givers for meaningful conversations and wholesome fun. Story times are like a soul of the library and help cement its role as a community academic lighthouse.
What are the benefits of story times?
We all probably know the benefits that reading aloud to your child brings and how it helps with early reading abilities. Listening to a story in the library together with other kids has a few extra positive influences:
- It helps kids prepare for school by making them listen to another adult and learning to pay attention together with other kids.
- The youngest of readers learn how to sit still and quiet.
- Kids become engaged in the story together with others and can't ask questions in the middle of reading and decide to change a book before finishing one.
- Libraries have hundreds of books and open your child's literature horizons wider than you probably could with your home library. Kids will meet new authors, cultural backgrounds, and narrative styles.
- Going to special story time events in the library will instill that library is a special place where we go to love books. This might be the beginning of lifelong love for reading.
- "Print motivation" is a notion that story telling in the library might associate with fun and thus later reading will also be a pleasant activity.
What do we, as parents, get from story times?
Parents really enjoy this free activity that is close to home and doesn't require a lot of time or planning. Some bigger libraries might require advanced sign-up, but most are totally relaxed and invite the entire family for this great activity. We can also learn from librarians how to read, show pictures, and get children engaged in the story. The same goes for learning new songs, nursery rhymes, and making puppets for extra entertainment that can be taken home. Finally, library story times are great places to meet other local parents and let kids play together.
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What ages can kids be to participate in story times?
This largely depends on libraries and their size. Often times a library will host a few different story times based on age, but expect to find activities that range from babies to 5-6 year olds. The amount of story times offered depends on the size of the community and the amount of available readers. The goal is to keep all kids entertained and not distracted. Some libraries offer "family-friendly" story times when there is something for all age groups. The best thing to do is to talk to your library staff and get all the needed information.
Story times for the youngest kids often involve music, dancing, and singing nursery rhymes. Toddlers love puppets and flannel boards, but music also remains big for that age group. After all, music and song help develop phonological awareness and counting skills.
Parents or caregivers are usually required to attend story time events and, if space is limited, priority goes to local city residents. Some libraries host "sleepover" events, which are evening story times when kids are encouraged to come with their pajamas. Children love to experience the wonder of library at night and the entire set up can help with establishing reading activities before bed at home.
Are there any foreign language story time options?
Recently libraries started offering story times in other languages. This largely depends on the location of the library and ethnical composition of the community. For example, the Brooklyn Public Library offers story time in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Japanese, Kreyol, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu. A library in Alabama might not need all those languages, but Spanish often goes along English even in smaller libraries. This helps not only the local Latin speaking community, but is very beneficial for English-speaking kids who get some real-life cultural exposure.
Is there any preparation needed for story time?
Just like with any other event, parents should make sure that kids are aware of a few things:
- They know that there will be somebody other than parent reading a story
- There will be no play time while somebody is reading
- Talking is allowed only when questions are encouraged by the reader
- It's not OK to interrupt the speaker
- The guests should arrive a few minutes earlier and get kids familiarized with their surroundings before settling for the story and finding a good spot
- Parents should show a good example and listen to the story without phone or peer distractions
- It's always nice to stay longer after the story time is over and let kids explore the library on their own and look for books that they might like
Story time is meant to facilitate your kids' relationship with a library, and we, as parents, can only encourage that by bringing our kids, staying with them, and participating in other academic community events. If there is something we don't see, but would like to find, we can always bring new ideas and help organize events ourselves.
At the end, I would like to share a story time with my two kids, Luke (3) and Emily (5). Our local library is very welcoming and after this positive experience my kids beg me to take them to every story time there is and I can see why: When we got there, it was pretty packed already, but we managed to find a table with a couple of chairs. Kids were given coloring activities, which I was very thankful for! Luke was kept in one place largely because of that and worked diligently on his coloring skills while stories were read. His sister was very engaged in the stories while he was busy trying out every color of crayon possible. I was glad they both were happily occupied.
At the end of the story time there was a little craft project for all kids – threading a dinosaur cutout onto a plastic straw. While it was simple, all kids really enjoyed it. Finally, after the activity, there were all of those books to explore, which kept them busy for another half an hour. I think it's safe to say that we will definitely be back as often as our schedule allows.