Ask a Storytime Ninja: Fresh and Challenging
I’ve been doing storytimes and school-age programs for a while now, and they just don’t feel particularly challenging anymore. I like being challenged at work. How do you keep things new, fresh, and interesting for you as well as for program attendees?
I think this can happen to us all. Do you ever give yourself a break with a couple weeks off from programming? That may help things to seem fresh and new when you come back.
Another idea may be to set individual challenges for yourself. Can you design a storytime using an entirely new theme or new books? What about adding sign language or a new musical instrument (either that you play or that the children can play)? If there’s a craft component, can you switch from product based crafts to process based crafts?
In your school age program, maybe try a program about something new and “trendy” that you don’t know much about. I did a Ninjago program earlier this year after hearing positive things from other librarians and seeing those books fly off the shelves. I knew nothing about it, but did some research (AKA watching an episode or two) and had a very fun time and successful program.
Good question! I haven’t gotten to that point yet because I’m pretty new to the field but I can definitely see where you’re coming from. I think we are in great positions to constantly be challenging ourselves and trying new things. Every time I look at blog posts by other children librarians doing something extra cool that I hadn’t thought of before I am reminded that there is always something new and interesting to try out. By doing this I hear about other cool programs that people are doing and their success and failures. Maybe you could check out some of the blogs on the Storytime Underground sidebar and just look around for some fresh ideas? If you have a pretty regular schedule of events each week than maybe you could switch it up and go on a storytime break and introduce a STEM related preschool group or a baby storytime if you don’t already have one. For the school-age kids you could even ask them something they might like to try that you hadn’t thought of before.
I really like what Danielle said about challenging yourself to try new things. One thing that I like to do to up my creativity and get my thinking when I get sick of planning storytime’s is to try to think up my own songs and rhymes that go with the theme!
When things start to feel stale to me, I try to shake things up a little bit. I might revamp my baby storytime and choose new songs and activities that’ll be repeated each week). Or maybe it’s time to add a new element to your programs – add STEM components, take up the ukulele, learn rhymes or songs in another language. If you have the opportunity to attend another librarian’s programs, I’d recommend that, too. The blogosphere is great for finding storytime and program ideas, but being able to see and hear new stories, rhymes, and activities is even more inspiring to me.
Sometimes though, when I want a challenge, I just make one for myself. One time, I decided I needed to introduce more world languages into my baby storytime, so I researched the justification, and then had a new world language rhyme every month (so we’d all have 4 weeks to learn in together before doing a new one.) (Also, I highly recommend it. It was really fun, I learned some GREAT rhymes/songs and it can be a really good way to engage your ESOL patrons, by having them teach you a rhyme or song.) Sometimes I mandate that I *have* to do a new rhyme or song every storytime. A little over a year ago, I decided to learn how to play the ukulele and use it in my programming. Some other challenges that would be good for me are to use more puppets (I’m not that comfortable with them, so I don’t use them. It’s a skill that I could learn) or to make and use more flannel boards (maybe a new one every month or week) or I’ve stagnated a bit on the uke front– I really need to learn some more songs.