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Behind the Scenes: Storytime

The end of the month marks my seventh year here at CLP – Squirrel Hill. It’s been an amazing time full of growth and exploration. I feel pretty lucky to have a job where singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and reading picture books to kids, is the norm. But when I first started doing storytime, boy was I nervous! I remember the very first book I read aloud during our Terrific Tales for Toddlers program. It was Ducking for Apples by Lynne Berry. I must have read that book a hundred times before sharing it with the group. Luckily, despite my nerves I made it through that first storytime and realized that it was a lot of fun!

Reading a book during a school age program.
Reading the book, Rah, Rah Radishes! by April Pulley Sayre during a school age gardening program.


Of course, having a reading buddy helps. Miss Kristen, co-presenter of the toddler storytime, was the best mentor a gal could ask for. Miss Kristen is an engaging storyteller, and it was inevitable that some of her magic librarian dust would rub off on me. Over the years, I learned that as long as I’m enjoying the books and songs, the participants are usually having a good time too. I also learned that reading a book (almost to the point of memorizing it) is super helpful when it comes to making eye contact with the audience, while giving the reader lots of space to play with voice inflection and tone.

I now do storytimes for a variety of different ages (babies up through school age), and visit local daycares and preschools on a regular basis. It’s amazing how a storytime can vary from age to age, and even from day to day. Sometimes if the group isn’t feeling it, you just have to go with the flow and be flexible. It’s a form of theater, and like other performing arts it takes practice and patience. Having a bunch of resources at my fingertips also helps.

I love visiting Jbrary, a website hosted by children’s librarians, Dana and Lindsey. This website is a storytime gold mine and an essential resource if you’re learning new songs, wigglers (a technical library term for the part of storytime where everyone stands up to get the wiggles out) and fingerplays. Here’s a sample of one of my favorite Jbrary videos, “Ten Little Fingers”.


Looking for other storytime ideas? Check out the blog, storytime katie. Children’s librarian Katie shares great books to read aloud and felt or flannelboard stories that you can recreate at home or in the classroom. Felt stories are a wonderful way to add visual storytelling into a storytime by using props. Felt stories are also an interactive way to have children retell stories on their own, as it helps develop Narrative Skills. Narrative Skills is an early literacy skill that helps children tell stories in sequence, and to describe things.

The felt story, Giant Carrot.
Retelling the folktale, The Giant Carrot, using felt pieces.


You can learn more about how to incorporate the five early learning activities into your daily routine here. At the Library, we highlight and include these important early literacy building blocks into every storytime.

Jessica is a Children’s Specialist at CLP – Squirrel Hill. An avid reader of all things Moomin, Jessica also enjoys beekeeping, biking and digging in the dirt. 

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