Advocacy Toolbox – Bringing Books to Life

Welcome to the first “Advocacy Toolbox” post. There are amazing things happening right now in the land of research and advocacy. We know it can be hard to keep up with everything though!

These posts will highlight an item to add to your own advocacy toolbox. Your tools should help you advocate for yourself, your library, or simply increase your knowledge of a topic. If you want more detailed information about the topic just click through to the linked article.


Bringing Books to Life
By Jamie Chamberlin
Monitor Staff
October 2012, Vol 43, No. 9
Print version: page 40

5 things to take away from this article


  • Simply reading text on a page is not enough to support early literacy.
  • Readers must show enthusiasm and ask open-ended questions for children to gain skills.
  • Parents and teachers often need coaching about how to ask questions as they read to a group.
  • Selecting a developmentally appropriate title is hard! Parents and teachers need help
  • When teachers asked open-ended questions and focused on describing how words related to the child’s life, the children’s vocabulary grew more than when a teacher simply read a book.

So what does this mean for you? All of the “strategies” they are teaching the parents and teachers are things we do in storytime! We model for our parents and show them great books every week. This is a great article to share with managers, directors, or coworkers who don’t quite understand why storytimes are so important to a community.




The Coolest Thing I Saw on Facebook

The absolute best stuff I saw this week was on the SU Facebook group. Y’all are talking up a storm, and all your ideas are genius. If you’re not a member of the group yet, readers, you are missing out on the best professional community on the internet.

Some other cool stuff happened, too!

Katie did a presentation on the hows and whys of flannel boards. I definitely got involved with the larger online storytime community to begin with because I could not figure out how the hell flannel stories worked, so I think this is a great resource. 

I clipped this post of Bryce’s weeks ago and it got lost in the shuffle. It’s amazing, though. I think we’ve all picked out books for a program only to have the totally wrong age of kids show up. Bryce brings her regularly scheduled brilliance to talk about differentiated instruction as it applies to public library programming. 

SPEAKING OF BRYCE: I got you this GIF, which made me giggle:


Welcome to the storytime blogosphere, Jane! Every Day Is Storytime has some truly phenomenal ideas about integrating storytime principals into home life. I can’t wait to see what else she posts!

SLC Book Boy has a really fracking cool idea for a pocket on an apron, and all sorts of messy storytime brilliance to go along with it. I also like his brief reviews of how the kids responded to each book. 

Loons and Quines is back with a new post!!!! Thank God. 

Kendra wrote about how she tweaked her storytime to work for 1 year olds. It’s brilliant enough to make me break my rule about posting stuff from the Joint Chiefs. 

That’s it for my, Ninjas. Keep rocking your shit out



Ask a Storytime Ninja: Screaming Children

Welcome to the second May installment of Ask a Storytime Ninja! Want to be a featured ninja or have a question for our ninjas? Go here.

Think this month’s ninjas missed something? Share in the comments.

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This week’s question:

How do you deal with parents or grandparents who will not deal with a child who is screaming or running around often during storytime. The screaming is the biggest problem, even had other families complain about this behavior. Storytime is advertised as 3-5 yr olds and most this behavior is younger siblings, but I have a couple families where it is both the age appropriate and younger. Do you say anything while it is going on during storytime or address it only in private after? 

Answers from May’s featured ninjas:

From Abby:  I have had this situation and it’s definitely a tough one. One thing that might help is making a general statement to your whole group when you start that if your child becomes distracted or becomes a distraction to others, please feel free to take them out for a little break and come back when they’re ready to try again. This gives adults permission to “interrupt” and take their child out or to leave the room knowing that you won’t take it as an insult. If it’s a recurring problem with the same families, I would talk to them after storytime and see if you can brainstorm some solutions together. You and the parents/grandparents both have the same goal – a successful early learning experience for the children in your program. 

From Meagan:  I had a family like this at my previous job and it really became a huge problem.  I know of some librarians that have called families outside of storytime just to say something about a child’s behavior but that really isn’t something for me.  What I did what got a puppet, Stanley, and had Stanley tell the rules for storytime.  Stanley also told the group that if anyone is having a bad day or storytime isn’t working for them then they are more than welcome to step outside and try again another day. I think if you just give that option to parents/caregivers it really makes them feel better about having to step out.  If a child is screaming and running around and the parent/caregiver still isn’t’ doing anything than I would recommend just asking them to step outside so that everyone can enjoy storytime.  I know it seems scary and mean but it is really distracting to the other kids and families and then they aren’t getting the most out of storytime. I really think the most important part is being comfortable– I wasn’t comfortable with the calling but felt better when I used Stanley to help set ground rules.  Do what is best for you!

Jennie asked for some clarification and her following response is based on this additional information from the question asker:  This is just screaming to be screaming, especially if grandmother touches the child or tries to corral the child or asks the child to do anything the child does not want to do not at all crying-screaming and in a large room so it really echoes.  The storytime when I finally spoke up and asked her to please take the child out to the hallway until the child is under control is advertised as Preschool Storytime and this child is under 2 and it has happened in this setting 2x before and even when she came to the age appropriate storytime she screamed.  And yes, I do an announcement of rules before each storytime (which are: I am aware children this age may wander, I only ask if they get in front of the flannel board or if the child is crying please feel free to walk into the hallway until the they are ready to try again) and this grandmother has heard this many times as she has been coming with an older one. I have had other families express concern about screaming and how much it disrupts and that they will not keep coming if this keeps up.  The grandmother complained to my director and called a board member when I had finally asked her to please take the screaming child out to the hallway but we hope you will please come back in when the child is ready to.  I wanted to have some advice from other librarians that have handled this.

Jennie’s answer: Ok, hindsight being 20/20 maybe talking to them outside of storytime might have been more ideal, but I have handled similar situations the same way you did, especially because you’ve gone over all the rules at the beginning and it hasn’t had an effect.

Because the grandmother complained, I would make sure the director knows everything you say here, especially the part about other families expressing concerns and how it may force them to stop coming to storytime. If the behavior continues, I would also ask the director to come and observe what’s happening. I’d probably also make a big show of introducing the director as a “special guest” so that the parents who see an issue with what’s happening can talk to him/her afterwards with their concerns about the screaming child.

The Coolest Thing I Saw — Spoiler! Guerrilla Storytime! — On the Internet This Week

Massachusetts Library Association’s annual conference is going on RIGHT NOW and they had a Guerrilla Storytime today. Rachel had this to say on Twitter: “If I could just do guerrilla storytime every morning, I wouldn’t need to eat or sleep. I’d just live off that crazy GS energy.” and here is a video from the blessed event of her singing our all time favorite, the FRUIT SALAD SONG. Also she made BUTTONS: 



In storytime news: 

Abby put up a transportation themed plan with soooo many good literacy tips. 

Dana gives details on how she planned a multilingual storytime, even though she’s not multilingual. 

Anne incorporated digital storytelling and traditional flannels to make one really fun BOATS storytime, and build vocabulary.

I love this frog storytime from Cultivate Wonder, with letter and number knowledge built in! 


Congrats to all our friends who were elected to Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz and EXTRA SUPER SPECIAL congrats to our amazing Mel, who is embarking on a fantastic new adventure


And, to welcome Amy home from Abroad, she asked for a Jane Austen GIF. I spent like 5 hours looking at GIFs of Alan Rickman and various Darcys (OH WHAT I DO FOR YOU) and this was the clear and wonderful winner: 



Ask a Storytime Ninja: Getting Parents Moving

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Welcome to the first edition of the newly revamped Ask a Ninja! By featuring a few ninjas each month we hope questioners will get more detailed and complete answers without these posts being TL;DR. If you think the featured ninjas missed something, please add your thoughts in the comments! Learn how you can be more involved in Ask a Ninja go here.

This week’s question:

What are good ways to get adults up and moving with children in story time during the movement activities? And do you ask adults to sit with their children? I know that would help but the tradition here is that kids sit in front close to me and adults hang in the back, sitting on chairs. I feel like I would dynamite to change this arrangement.

michael dance

Answers from this month’s featured ninjas:

Learn about this month’s ninjas here

From Meagan:

GUILT THEM INTO IT. No I’m kidding, kind of. If you get one or two parents into it then usually I’ve found that others will follow, especially if you say something like “(child’s name) I love how your mommy/daddy is dancing with you!”  As for the chairs I would really just take them away.  As long as they are there the parents will be sitting on them (and often when I’ve had this arrangement the kids go sit on them as well).  If you really aren’t comfortable with that than I would kindly ask them to come sit closer with their child and add in some early literacy tip like, “when you child sees you enjoying the stories and interacting in storytime it makes him or her also excited about it”

From Abby:

Melissa Depper from Mel’s Desk shared this great message that she gives to parents before starting her first book of storytime:

“Grown-ups, we know that children watch what we watch, so please put away your cell phones and save your conversations until after storytime. Let’s all do storytime together! This will help our children be successful and to have fun. All right, here’s our first story…”

Parent participation is something we’re still working on, too. A few things that might help: posting the words to songs and rhymes so that everyone can see them and sing/say along, including grownups when you pass out props like bells, shakers, etc., including songs and rhymes that are familiar to most people (this is something we pop in sometimes if parents are becoming distracted or chatty). Another thing I have heard other librarians do is tell the children to go get their grownup for the next activity. Grownups might be more likely to play along if their child is asking them to! We typically have kids sitting on the carpet and some parents with them and some parents in the chairs, but at my previous library we only set out maybe 1 or 2 chairs to accommodate folks that found sitting on the floor to be physically difficult.

From Jennie:

Usually when I start an action rhyme or song, I say “everybody on your feet” or “everybody, let’s get our rocking arms going” or something similar. If the adults aren’t participating I usually say light heartedly “everybody includes the grown-ups, too! Where else can you get away with being this silly?” That usually gets the kids to give their adults the side-eye until they start participating. If it’s an ongoing issue, I’ll work something into my welcome spiel along the lines of “today we’ll listen to stories, sing some songs, and move our bodies. Can everybody do my a favor and listen well when we’re listening and sing loudly when we’re singing and do all the actions when it’s moving time? Grown-ups, can you do me a favor and do the same because a little backup never hurts and makes my job A LOT easier.” I’ve found that wording it that I need help works really well.

From Danielle:

I have a few different ideas for you that can be used all together, or whichever ones you feel may work with your families. To get the parents up and moving, I would suggest using some storytime instruments for a few weeks. Try using scarves, rhythm sticks, whatever you have for at least one song during storytime and make sure to hand one to each adult as well.  Hopefully, the adults will get the hint that it would be appreciated if they do their movements.  If you don’t have enough to go around, William Janiak has a fantastic song on “Songs About Me” called A Piece of Paper. All you need is paper!

Of course, that may not be enough or work for you. Another idea is to address the adults when talking about the actions you’ll be doing. For example, if you’re going to clap your hands, ask the group to clap their hands above their heads and “Goodness, look how high your grownups can clap your hands! Moms and Dads, can you clap your hands above your heads?”

As for sitting with their children, I would just be really direct and tell everyone your reasons for wanting them to sit with their kids (modeling storytime behavior or what have you). The next thing that I would do is cut back on the number of chairs that are out, if possible.

May Photo Diary Prompt

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At the beginning of each month, we post the Storytime Underground Photo Diary prompt for the month. Community members are invited to submit photos (and maybe a bit of text) to us, and we’ll feature all Photo Diary submissions in a roundup post at the end of the month. The idea is that we can share peeks into one another’s libraries and storytimes, hopefully finding some inspiration, ideas, and common ground along the way.

May Photo Diary Theme:

Share your zaniest storytime experience! We’ve all had them: storytimes that could have been perfectly normal, but that turn out unbelievably crazy and sound like an unrealistic sitcom scenario when you tell your non-librarian friends. We here at Storytime Underground believe all the strange things that may have happened to you in storytime, though, and we want to hear about them! We’d love for you to accompany your story with an image of some sort, too. Think ridiculous gifs, grumpy cats, etc.

How to participate:

Email your photo and story to us in either jpg or png format by May 17. We’ll let you know if we have questions.

The photo share:

Check back later in May for the photo roundup to see your fellow guerrillas’ craziest storytime stories.

The Coolest Thing I Saw On The Internet This Week

This week, Amy’s taking the waters of Bath (no, seriously, that’s what she’s doing) so feel free to direct jealous pains of frustrated Austen fandom in her direction.

What is happening in the world of youth services librarianship while the rest of us are stuck in our everyday superhero lives?

Kim over at Literary Commentary brought Guerrilla Storytime to Ohio, and did an AMAZING write up afterward. As usual for a GS, it has great tips AND Kim has posted links for songs, etc that were shared! Welcome to the revolution, Ohio!!

Sophie Brookover took the idea of Guerrilla Storytimes and RAN WITH IT and made a crazy/beautiful tech training/GS mashup and pretty much the greatest moment of my existence was when I realized that I had invented a training methodology. I AM THE GREATEST. Ahem. It’s exactly what we wanted, when we made this site, was for people to go crazy with the Guerrilla Storytime idea and change it up to suit their needs. This is amazing and I’m so excited that Sophie is such a ballsy genius.

Miss Meg posted about how her Personal Learning Network helped her feel comfortable doing baby storytimes, including some wise words by our resident babytime expert, Brooke. Use your PLN! We’re here for you! And now Meg is one of May’s Storytime Ninjas, so YOU can ask for HER help with YOUR storytime problems!

Michelle Kilty wrote a really smart guest post for Little eLit about using Evernote for storytime collaboration and to increase parent participation. It’s excellent problem solving!

Keren at Intentional Storytime really spends time with why she chose each element and how it worked, which I appreciate. This post on an Egg Storytime is pretty excellent in part because it uses one of my favorite flannels, Miss Mary Liberry’s egg game, but also because it’s clear how deeply Keren understands early literacy elements and how to use them while keeping kids engaged.

Andromeda Yelton, all around bad ass tech lady librarian, posted about being inspired by Danish librarians to do a Waste Lab with her kid, and the results are pretty phenomenal. Also Andromeda shouts out youth services librarians for starting the whole Maker thing about 50 years ago, and we always appreciate the recognition.

Also from Sophie, this brilliance:


You’re welcome.

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Meet the May Ninjas

Introducing the featured ninjas for May!

Do you have a question for these four fabulous librarians? Submit your question here.


abbyjohnson (2)

Abby Johnson is the Children’s Services Manager at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library in Southern Indiana. She has worked as a youth librarian since 2007. She’s done storytimes for a variety of ages, and currently plans and implements baby storytime and preschool science programs. She supervises a staff of five – three full-time and two part-time librarians – who offer storytimes for toddlers, preschoolers, beginning readers, and preschool classes. You can find her on the web at or on Twitter @abbylibrarian.



Jennie Rothschild recently became the branch manager of a small branch in Arlington, VA, just across the river from Washington, DC. Before that she was a youth services librarian for 8 years where she did programs for newborns through high school. She has worked as part of a team and as a team of 1, she has worked at big branches and small, under-served communities and wealthy ones. She finds a spreadsheet to be her most useful storytime planning tool.

Where to find her:
Biblio File (reviews and thoughts)
YA Reading List (a themed reading list for every day of 2013)
Library Noise (the no-longer-updated programming blog)
Twitter: @kidsilkhaze


Meagan with Hermit Crab, Abraham Sandwich

Meagan with Hermit Crab, Abraham Sandwich

Meagan Schiebel:I am a new to the field children’s librarian working as the head of the children’s department in Connecticut. I am very new to this position (as in this is my first week) and it is my first time in a manager position! I am definitely still getting used to being the head of a team but luckily I am starting small with just 3 others in my department, all part-time. My expertise is early literacy. Toddlers are probably my favorite age group for storytime but I have also done pre-school, all ages, and am just starting to do baby storytimes.
Blog: and twitter: @theemegnificent


Danielle Ziegler: My name is Danielle and I’ve been lucky to be working in a library for the past four years, after receiving my MLS. My library is located in a Midwestern college town of 50,000 (including students), where I’m fortunate enough to work on a team of six awesome youth librarians and youth assistants (like me!), including my supervisor. I feel like I do a bit of everything, from baby storytimes to outreach to tween programming, but perhaps my expertise lies in non-storytime programming and reader’s advisory. Feel free to check me out on Twitter at


Thank you, Ninjas and let’s put them to work!

Meet Dana Sheridan, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

Dr. Dana has the best take on those stereotypical "librarian glasses."

Dr. Dana has the best take on those stereotypical “librarian glasses.”

Ninjas, today I’m pleased to introduce you to Dana Sheridan, our April Storytime Guerrilla of the Month. When we put out a call for folks to feature in this monthly series, Dana asked if we would only be featuring librarians. I was pleased to reply, “Nope! Anyone who does storytime in any capacity is a storytime guerrilla in our books.” We want to feature the full range of storytime practitioners, from volunteers and paraprofessionals to librarians and folks from other fields besides librarianship. If you’re doing awesome storytimes, we want to give you a platform to share it. And thus we came to feature Dana herself.

Dana Sheridan–or Dr. Dana, as she’s referred to when on duty–received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Virginia. While her academic work focused on how children learn in free-choice environments, her professional passion has always been the design of dynamic hands-on programs for children. She has worked in a variety of settings, including a children’s hospital, special collections library, children’s museum, science center, and a major city zoo. Additionally, she has been a guest lecturer at literary society meetings, children’s literature classes, and education courses. She currently works at the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University, and blogs about her creative literacy work about her creative literacy work (including storytime project fun!) at Pop Goes the Page.

Q: How did you come to be a storytime practitioner?
Dana: I’d worked with kids in various contexts (museums, schools, hospitals, camps) before I came to Princeton University, but I had never done a straight-up storytime until I arrived at the Cotsen Library eight years ago. Since then, my storytime technique has evolved into what you see today–semi-dramatic readings with vocal characterizations, audience participation, questions & answers, using the book as a prop, etc. I’m starting to teach librarians and teachers how to use these techniques. My first workshop is next week! Wish me luck!

Q: True or false: A storytime is a storytime is a storytime.
Dana: It depends on what you believe. You can have a storytime with all the bells and whistles and it’s not worth one whit if you don’t believe in what you’re doing. You are absolutely allowed to be nervous, hesitant, terrified, and overwhelmed when you’re new to the storytime trade, but you can always learn storytime skills and find your voice. Even if you flub the first few and sweat your way through The Very Hungry Caterpillar, if you believe that books, children, and literacy are important, that belief is going to radiate out from you and make an impact on your listeners.

Q: What’s been inspiring your library work lately?
Dana: I’ve been doing a lot of nonfiction work lately. Currently, I’m researching six web mini-documentaries that feature Cotsen’s special collections. The mini-documentaries are aimed at middle school students. Some of them are basic, like what is a rare book, what are primary and secondary sources, what is book conservation, etc. Some are more complicated, like Victorian childhood and how toys reflected social status. Or the introduction of Communism in 20th century China as seen through a series of popular children’s publication. What’s inspiring are the materials from Cotsen’s collections. The stuff is just amazing, both visually and historically. I can hardly wait to teach kids about them.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?
Dana: My favorite thing is to read dramatically to kids and watch them react to a story. Gasps, laughter, hands over the eyes during the exciting parts, little squeals during scary parts, the offering of unsolicited advice to the characters. I will never tire of it. Never. Ever. Coming in a close second are the creative projects we do at storytimes. It’s always thrilling to help kids make a concrete, tangible, and inspired connection to the book, and to have them take their creations home for further fun.

Q: How do you go about continuing to develop your storytime skills?
Dana: By watching other story tellers, librarians, and teachers. And not just what they do during storytime but also during the transition times of the program! For my character vocalizations, I always keep my ears tuned for interesting voices in crowds. I snag voices from the videos my kids watch too. I’ll just add here that Captain Barnacles from the Octonauts is the man. Or more accurately, he’s the bear!


TL;DR Advocacy – Library Sneakers

Welcome to the first ever Storytime Underground “TL;DR Advocacy” post. We know that you are doing amazing things in your library and community. We want to know about it but no one has time to read every single detail of your life. TL;DR is a fancy way of saying “Too Long;Didn’t Read”.

Tell us your advocacy story in 149 words or less and we’ll put it up for the world to see. This is a great opportunity to refine your next elevator pitch, and to inspire others to step up their advocacy game. It can be a huge movement (Storytime Underground) or something small (the post below), we want to hear them all!

TLDR Advocacy

Today’s Boots on the Ground post comes from Brooke Rasche, who is a joint chief of Storytime Underground and works at La Crosse Public Library. 

This winter, our library began providing a field trip adventure for kindergartners. Sneaker Tote Bag
We call them our Library Sneakers!

While we are talking to the children we stress that this is THEIR library. We tell them throughout the tour how we want them to visit us often, because this is their library and they share it with the entire community. We provide an incentive for them to return by offering a tote bag for their first visit back.

The best results we have seen from these tours are the parents that come into the library with their children for the first time. They usually say, “She’s been talking about the library since she came on the tour and said we HAD to come this week.” By empowering our kindergartners to be advocates for the library, they are passing the message on to their adults in a way we never could!

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