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Ask a Storytime Ninja: Summer Storytimes

The latest installment of Ask a Storytime Ninja is here! And just in time for Summer.

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How to plan for summer storytimes which will be at the same time my preschool during the year times are, but may include preschoolers and older siblings or school aged kids for the summer. Can I still include songs? But not the flannelboard? I’m new to this and could use any advice!

Answers from our Featured Ninjas:

Meagan: If it is still being advertised as a preschool storytime than I might leave it mostly how it was, just have back up longer books if your crowd tends to be older.  If it is just an all ages storytime that happens to land in the same time that your preschool one did previously then you might want to tweak your plans to suit the older kids a bit more.  Maybe have longer books, use the flannelboard for more stories and less “5 whatsits” type of rhymes.  I would definitely keep songs in, especially ones that get the group up and moving and dancing.  All ages storytimes are tough because you never really know what age groups will come that particular day.  Make sure you have a variety of book options to choose from in case you have a younger crowd or an older crowd and extra songs or rhymes if it doesn’t seem like your books are working.  Really, I think you might just have to play it by ear the first couple weeks to see who is coming and what they respond to the best.  I don’t think there is any right answer!  Good luck 🙂


What a great question—I think this happens a lot during the summer! Yes, I would definitely include songs. I find that many older kids respond really well to dancing and using musical instruments, especially if you get really enthusiastic and into it.   Flannelboards could definitely still work as well, especially if you use them to tell longer stories.

When I’m doing a storytime with lots of different ages, I try to ask lots of varying levels of questions (reminding the older children to let the little ones answer too, as necessary).  Other things that have worked well at my library include shadow puppets and letting the older children be your special helpers. Having them be helpers works especially well if you don’t have very many older ones in a particular storytime.

Something that will also work really well this summer, especially if you’re doing the Fizz, Boom, Read program, is doing experiments during storytime.  All ages can be fascinated by your homemade volcano and you can give the older kids some great science information too!

Do any of you have more to add? How do you prepare for those older kids in storytime? Feel free to share in the comments!

Don’t forget to check Flannel Friday for some ideas for longer flannel stories.


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.

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Pregnant and Storytiming

Here’s the latest Ask a Ninja question. As always, please comment if you have anything to add.


I’d love more information about being pregnant and doing storytime including adaptations, odd situations and more.


Jennie (@kidsilkhaze) says: The nice thing about pregnancy, is the physical limitations come on gradually, so you can learn what you can and can’t do with enough time to plan around it. My big modification was just bending my knees and raising my arms instead of actually jumping. Towards the end, I made sure everything was in easy reach, because getting in and out of my chair could be a production.

The other nice thing is that many of the adults in a storytime have recently been pregnant themselves, or deal with pregnant people, so they’re very understanding. (Relatedly, they’re also the most polite. My storytime moms were the LAST people to ask me if I was expecting. Even though I was 7.5 months along and looked like I had a beach ball under my shirt. They never patted my belly or asked horrible questions.)

Anonymous says:
Before I get into my advice, congratulations! I hope you have a happy, healthy pregnancy. OK, here we go!

1) Do what you think you can handle. People will understand, most of them being moms themselves. I had to change our opening routine entirely as for years it had been very high-energy with lots of movement and I had to change it to something much more slow-paced. It was an adjustment for the kids, but a needed one. And even after I had the baby and came back to work after maternity leave, I appreciated the slower pace since I was still exhausted from sleep deprivation. If you are having a bad time with morning sickness (I once threw up moments before opening the doors for storytime!), ask your doctor about prescription or other remedies. Remember that it gets harder to breath as you get further along so you will have to be conscious of that when reading. I also had some vision difficulties while pregnant so I had to wear my glasses more

2) Prepare a scaled-back SRP. Again, you do what you have to do. My due date with my daughter was June 12th and our SRP was scheduled to start June 9th of that year. I was also the only children’s librarian. Luckily with pregnancy, you know you will need some kind of leave, so you can plan further ahead. My paraprofessional staff really stepped up and ran a decent SRP for me. We didn’t shatter any registration records or anything but there was a SRP. It was a smaller town than yours, so most people knew I would be off and there weren’t a lot of questions. But even in a big town, your regulars will know that you are on maternity leave. Remember your due date is just an educated guess! Most first time babies arrive within the week after the due date, but plenty come earlier too. You also may wind up on bed rest, so my advice is to plan far ahead and make sure multiple people know how everything is supposed to go. You may wish to scale back on programming plans for the rest of your pregnancy as well.

3) It’s best to decide now how much information you want to give out and practice making polite responses to questions that are intrusive. While pregnant, I was asked everything from were you planning children? were you on birth control? what preschool are you planning to send her to? Is your husband disappointed that the baby is not a boy? Are you planning to breast feed? After I was back from maternity leave the questions were still there: Have you given up on breastfeeding yet? etc.

4) I advise everyone to not make a firm decision about being a stay at home mom at first. You just don’t know how you’ll feel about it for sure. I know several moms who quit their jobs and then discovered that being a stay at home mom wasn’t the lifestyle for them. It can be grueling being home all day with a baby and can be an isolating choice. On the other hand, I know lots of happy SAHMs too. You can always resign later if that’s your choice. Being a full-time working mom is the right choice for me and my family, even though it’s not always easy.

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