A big thank you to our guest Storyteller, Jessica Nix, Developmental Specialist for Kids on the Move. Thank you Jessica!!!
In our years of doing Storytimes and Laptimes here in our very large children's wing at the Orem Public Library, we find ourselves in a constant state of change. We are forever and always searching for ways to improve our offerings in our effort to be better--and better--and better! Jessica's presentation on telling to the littlest of our littles was an amazing opportunity to re-align our goals with what we are actually doing.
** When doing a Storytime, or Laptime as we call it, for the youngest of library patrons, it is extremely easy to go off track, to steer your storytime out of the baby and toddler realms and into the preschool camp.
Do not be swayed. Stay your course.
Do not shift gears and tell to the preschoolers who happen to be attending your baby laptime. I know, its going to be hard as they are the ones who are verbal, communicative, and responsive (thereby making your task of keeping it young even more daunting).
Hold fast and tell to the infants. At their level. It will pay off.
** You might ask HOW do you host a storytime at an infants level? How do you know if you are reaching them? As anyone who has tried can tell you, these children seem to fall into two categories:
The mini lumps that sit passively, silent, and seemingly unresponsive.
The wanderer who scoots gleefully away from the grasping frazzled arms of their adult.
Neither seem to be gaining anything from storytime. But---as explained by Jessica in our training--
"It takes 1,000 drops. It takes an average child hearing a word 1,000 times before they will then attempt to speak it. It's like filling a sponge, drop in the 1,000 drops and once the sponge is filled, one drop will come out, followed by another, and another, and so on."
SET YOURSELF UP FOR INFANT STORYTIME SUCCESS
1- Check your inhibitions at the door.
You are the performer, you are it, you are THE STORYTELLER.
Raise those eyebrows, lift those shoulders, use your full arsenal of vocal inflection.
Amplify yourself, as if you have a switch, turn yourself on and BE that storyteller personality.
If you are willing to be that silly, engaging, super smiling storyteller--then you are not only attracting the attention of the babies, but you are silently giving permission to the caregiving adults to do the same.
Welcome your attendees as they arrive. Warn them that we are going to get a little weird. Oh yes, you are that wind-up monkey. Welcome by name if you know it, if not, just start in on the compliments, because face it, what parent isn't head over heels for someone who notices and compliments their children.
Come on, practice it:
"Hi there! Oh, don't you look adorable in those sparkly pink shoes today! Oh, and you, you are so rocking that dinosaur shirt! My what brilliant caregivers and parents you all are for giving your child the gift of learning today! Welcome, welcome!
2- Repeat, repeat, and did I say it already? REPEAT.
Remember those drops into that little brain sponge? It's takes a 1,000 times, hearing the same word.
Say the fingerplay, rhyme, or poem to set it up for the adults
Sing it-- keep it slow, make eye contact with your audience--particularly the babies and toddlers.
Do it again--speed it up only if it looks like you've captured your target audience--the kids.
Now, again. Yes, again. Make a goal to reach even the most reluctant of participants.
Be over the top. Exaggerate. Emphasize. And if the adults are bored, you are just about doing it right.
~Do be conscious of the fact that you might have some more shy, timid, and special needs children, watch for those non-verbal clues warning you off.
3- Don't be afraid to take it S L O W.
We may be experts, the preschoolers in your audience will certainly know they are experts, but those babies . . . they are not.
Enunciate, say it slow and clear. Incorporate body movements to more fully express your words. Repeat.
4- Be the example, kids learn through imitation.
It's all about building confidence with competence. Fingerplays are a staple of storytime for a reason.
Show your audience what is expected, ie: fingerplay moves, body gestures. Now PRACTICE with them:
First, show the gestures.
Second, pair the gesture with sounds (environmental, animal sounds).
Third step is gestures paired with actual words (exclamatory phrases).
In any way possible, get the adults to assist the littles by holding the child's hands, lifting their elbows, rolling their arms. It's amazing how quickly a baby will respond when given 'permission' to be involved. Imitation of their loved ones is key. It's hand over hand.
p.s. It's great when you have your own 'demonstration model/child' to assist you in doing the gestures.
Themes for Babies and Toddlers
Short simple phrases
Beware of Theme Tunnel Vision
It's perfectly natural to think you need a theme. Well guess what, there aren't many babies that will get what Winter is. Or Valentines Day, Halloween, or anything else you may cook up. If you are doing a theme, realize that it is for you and the adults. It is not for the kids. Do not expect them to respond to such vague subjects. Now incorporate BIG and small with animal sounds and lots of movement--well, you might have just found a bridge between the two worlds.
Praise specifics, such as, "I love your clapping hands." instead of the generic, "wonderful job."
Get Full Use of your Props
Do you have bells, rhythm sticks, or other prop to hand out? If you are going to the effort of handing out props, make full use of them. Let the kids hold onto the props for more than one quick shake, jiggle, or rattle of a song rendition. This is where repetition comes in very handy. Do more than just one movement. Take it high. Take it low. Got some mobile toddlers--let them dance it out.
While on the subject of props -- REMOVE ALL POSSIBLE DISTRACTIONS, ie: Hide your props when not in use. All of them.
Now you too can be the infant laptime telling pro!