Ask a Storytime Ninja: Early Literacy Discussions

What is the best way for YOU to deliver early literacy messages in storytime? Do you have a no fail method? Please share in the comments!


What is the best way to incorporate discussions about early literacy skills into the storytime?


Brooke (@berasche) says: I call it a “fun fact” in my storytimes. No one wants to be lectured to or feel like you’re talking down to them in storytime. Also, truly make it “fun”. If you say it in a monotone voice and look super uncomfortable when you say it then people will dismiss it. Pick something that is actually interesting, say it with energy, and make sure you know what you’re talking about in case you get questions after.  Kelsey at Library Bonanza does a great job of listing different tips here.

Meg (@theemegnificent) says: I think the best way to promote early literacy skills in your storytime is to just be a good role model for the parents.  For example, when reading a story I will often take breaks to ask “What do you think will happen next?” or “Does the bear look happy or sad?”.  By breaking up the story to engage the children you are showing parents that it is okay to do the same when reading at home.

I also have a puppet friend (Harold the pig) who helps me to introduce the storytime theme and the “rules” of storytime.  Harold also talks to the adults and let’s them know that “even if your preschooler or toddler doesn’t appear to be paying attention he or she is still absorbing what they are hearing”.  This would also be a great part to introduce an early literacy tip and then demonstrate that tip in storytime.

Lastly, I have also had take home sheets for storytimes.  It really depends on your crowd on if they will work or not.  My last library storytimer’s LOVED the take home sheet but they aren’t as big of fans in my current position.  The take home sheets had the songs and books we sang and read in storytime as well as an early literacy tip for the parents.

Kendra (@klmpeace) says: The “best way” really depends on the presenter. You need to be comfortable in the way you deliver messages and that will be the best way for you. Some people like a more formal approach and others like to be more casual. You should really check out Mel’s post about giving messages.

My goal was to work early literacy messages in to storytime as a conversation with parents. It has taken YEARS for me to be comfortable enough to do this. I started by writing little blurbs out and sticking them on the backs of books so when I was finished reading a book, I’d share the tip I’d written out for that book. After reading Tanka Tanka Skunk, I would say something about phonological awareness (this was back with ECRR 1).  Now it’s more like if we’re singing a lot I’m going to talk about singing. Nothing super complex-that they should do it no matter how they think they sound, do it often, use a book if it’s helpful, rhyme or chant instead of singing if you’re uncomfortable with singing, that kind of thing. I do come up with a much more research based, formal message to put on the rhyme sheet handout each month. But I don’t say that during storytime because there are often so many people, I can’t keep their attention for a long message.

My tips for engaging parents:
-Make direct eye contact with parents
-Continue to entertain kids with something like getting a puppet read, or opening a book
-Allow them to ask questions and answer them quickly or tell them you’d love to talk to them more after storytime if it’s something that might take a while to answer
-Have a message that you will NEVER forget and don’t be afraid to pull it out whenever you need it. This way you won’t worry if you rehearse something but then forget. Just pull out your magic line. We all have one.
You can see some examples in my storytime outlines on the blog.

Learn about Ask a Storytime Ninja and ways to participate here.


About Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

Posted on February 11, 2014, in Ask a Storytime Ninja. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I create coloring sheet that complements the storytime theme and has an early literacy tip printed on it! Kids love taking home the coloring sheet.

  2. I started with very formal early literacy asides and then, as I got more comfortable, got more casual about it. I write them up on our chalkboard, frame them as conversations with adults, and include them in our take home bags.

  3. Great ideas!!

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