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NLA Guerrilla Storytime 2015

Posted By Rebecca McCorkindale, Saturday, December 19, 2015


If you were unable to make it to the NLA Annual Conference this year and/or missed out on joining in on Guerrilla Storytime, then have no fear! I recorded the audio and have transcribed it (with some editing for clarity/length). It's like being there, but with less fun and laughter.

If you don't know what a Guerrilla Storytime is, then read this. If you don't feel like reading about it, then know that it's basically a Youth Service crowdsourcing event. After all, the best resources on amazing storytime/event ideas are those who do it all of the time.

I pulled premade questions out of a jar that I compiled from other Guerrilla Storytimes, or someone in the group would ask a question.  My prep work would have been even easier if I had found Storytime Underground's Challenges before the event.

Also, I moved my phone next to the projector after the 10 minute warning went off, and the audio got very bad.  Please, if you remember speaking during that time, then let me know! It was heartbreaking to know someone was saying or singing something great behind the loud "hummmmm."

Now onto the Q and A's!

Q: What's your opening song or ritual?

A: For the younger kids we start with a song sung to The Farmer and the Dale - "We wave and sing hello, we wave and sing hello, to all our friends at storytime we wave and sing hello. We clap, we stomp, etc."

We start with whatever theme there's going to be, and the way we get there is on our storytime train. So we do the Down By the Station song and we all get in a big circle and march around heading to "the destination" for that day. We have a train whistle that we blow, and everyone jumps on and then off the train at the train station for whatever the theme is. It's really a big ritual that the kids know and love.

We sing (to the tune of She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain):
We're glad you're at the library today,
We're glad you're at the library today,
This is a happy day -
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

We're glad you're at the library today!

We do (to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know It):
If you love books and know it -
Clap your hands!
If you love to read and know it -
Stomp your feet!
If you love the library -
Say hooray!
If you love storytime -
Do all three!

We Shake Our Sillies Out - the kids love it. In fact, the other day a little girls was over finishing a puzzle and right after we finished singing the song she pouted, "You did NOT wait for me to shake my sillies out!"

We always do the Criss-cross applesauce, peanut butter jelly, etc. And then we also do the Open Shut Them but when we get to the give a little clap we don't clap we go "HUNH" [with arms pumping back]. And of course we have to do it at least one more time.

We do The Pledge of Allegiance, and then after that we always have a puppet show.

Q: What are some good online resources that you like to use?

A: I use - I love her blog - she's amazing!

There's a sunflower one that's great.

There's The Ooey Gooey Lady. Her name's Lisa Murphy and she's just fabulous. She's a preschool teacher and she has youtube videos so that you can actually see what she does.

Flannel Friday is really fun. But also, when parents ask me where I get my ideas, rhymes, etc. and I tell them that I mostly use Google. You need a rhyme for five foxes? Google five foxes rhyme, and boom! You've got lots of ideas.


Storytime Underground where you can join Storytime University to help get you out of your comfort zone. Also Jbrary where the two ladies have tons of videos and a great blogroll for even more inspiration.

The ALSC blog - lots of info and ideas.

Q: I'm curious about this. Ever since I started, we've been teaching the kids The Pledge of Allegiance. Does anyone else do that?

[nobody else did]

Q: An ambulance pulls up next to your storytime window and all the kids rush to look. What do you do?

A: Go look with them.

Turn it into a conversation such as "I wonder what happened!" where kids can practice their storytelling.

One day at my school there were guys working on the sidewalk right outside my windows. I knew there was no way I'd hold their attention so we all went over and watched and talked about what was happening.

See if you can get an ambulance to come to the next storytime so that the kids can go in it. They love doing that.

It's also about being flexible. I have a song sheet every week, and we don't always get to all of them. I'll jump around based on time. Getting locked into we MUST do everything as I planned hurts more than helps.  It's going to be more fun to see the ambulance than what I've planned, and that's fine.

Another thing is that if you bring out something like a puppet and all the children want to come up and touch it, then I say something like, "What we're going to do now is this [a story, etc], but I promise that at the end you'll get to pet the puppet (or whatever). If you consistently stay true to your word, then they'll settle down knowing that what you say is true.

Q: What's your favorite way to incorporate narrative skills into storytime?

A: When you have a familiar story such as Little Red Riding Hood, after you've read it to them, have them act it out. They're "live action" telling the story.

Sometimes they want to tell the story after you've told it - and many times if you invite one of them up, they'll do it and do it well.

There was a little girl who really wanted to read a Dr. Seuss story to the kids in storytime. So after checking with me, her mom brought her in to storytime, and after I read my story I sat down on the ground to let the girl do her story. She did it and did a fine job. I just couldn't imagine disappointing her or discouraging her. It was a lot of fun, and once she got into it, the kids really enjoyed it.

Wouldn't that be interesting, to invite the kids in with their favorite books, and then have them read it to the parents?

I try to use as many interactive books as I can. That way they can help you with the story, and that way they can feel like they're reading the book with you.  And since it's in a group, it can help build confidence.

Sometimes I'll explain words that they don't understand. Or when it's obvious what the next thing is, I'll ask "what is that?" Just getting them involved in the reading process.

We like to read the story backwards after we read it through the first time. The kids think it's hilarious. Could you imagine doing that with a There Was an Old Lady story - especially if you're using a prop with all the items flying out of her mouth?!

Q: How do you learn kids' names to help with behavior management? Or do you?

A: They have to come months and months!

We have a name tag that they hang around their necks. We stand at the back of the room as they come in to hand out or put a new child's name on one of the blank tags we keep handy. It can be a great way to meet the new parents too. Then when they leave they hand them back. And I try to get to know them to hand them their name. Sometimes you can fudge a little and say: "Oh! I know you! Does your name start with an S?" It's part of the opening ritual.

If you don't have a huge group, you can do the rhyme Wiggle-y, wiggle-y bumble bee, can you say your name for me? The child says his/her name, and then you say "let's all say it, [Marcy], let's clap and say it [clap the syllables], let's all whisper it." By the time you've said it three times, it can really stick with you.

There was an author at an event where they were waiting for the last group of kids to show up, and the kids were fidgety while sitting criss-cross applesauce. She went up to the front row of kids and asked one, "what's your name?" The girl told her, and the author would gently pat the child's head and repeat the name three times, and then repeat that with the next child while starting at the beginning child. So she'd say each child's name once and then get to the next one and do the repeating technique. Even the kids at the back of the room were enthralled. And if she'd forget or mess up, she'd apologize and then repeatedly/quickly/quietly say the child's name while patting and start over again. It was great!

I'm terrible at names even though I know it's important. But, my favorite trick is when I check kids out and they use their own card I make sure to say their name, after I see it pop up on the screen.

It doesn't even matter the age - even my college students are delighted that I remember their names.

Q: Have you ever had one of those weeks where you can't pull the books for your theme or they're all checked out? What do you do?

A: Find a different book - the kids won't care. It's like what was said earlier: be flexible.

Something to consider if your library has a budget is to have a storytime collection that doesn't circulate. So if we get in a new book that's a perfect storyteller book, we order an extra one and it's cataloged as a non-circulating storytime book. We have a shelf in the office where only staff can get to and go grab the book that they need.

We do that with holiday books because if we made those unavailable to check out to our community during those times, then there'd be no books for the community to check out!

Q: Do you do a certain amount of storytime themes and then repeat them? And if you do, then how long before you can repeat them?

A: It's usually at least a complete year before I repeat anything. And you can always swap out the books. I also basically keep a theme pack that I can go back to again and again. I always think "why reinvent the wheel?"

Children do need to repeat stuff. We don't want to be in a rut, but we need to recognize the importance of repetition.

We have a three year plan so that we're not doing the same things every year, but by the third year, most of the kids have moved on to another age group (this is for our preschoolers). For our babies it's a two year plan.

Q: What are the positives and drawbacks for having continual storytimes vs. having them in blocks of time?

A: At our library system we take off the month of August after the craziness of summer reading. We also take the month of December off. But our library varies a bit and we only take about two weeks off in both of those months and this is because basically our families were demanding it and we really listen to them.

We have two week breaks between sessions. We don't have storytimes during December but we do have special events.

We traditionally took off January because of the weather, and May because we're hopping around to all the schools promoting the summer programming, and August because we were exhausted. And then we were lucky enough one day that a lady came in who is a certified signing instructor and she offered to do a storytime. And so now she does lap sits and storytimes in January, May, and August. And our Director was able to figure out how to budget some money to now pay her a little for this. Because of this we now offer year-round storytimes. After all, people would show up anyway and be disappointed, or you feel obligated to throw something together for them.

We used to have eight week storytime blocks: fall, spring, and summer. And I would get breaks. With our community, there were more and more mothers working, and so we saw less and less attendance. And so about seven years ago my Director said, "Why don't you go out?" And since then I've had Traveling Storytime. I go once-a-month to the bigger preschools, I go twice to Head Start, and so that seems to work. There are no crafts with it, because there's not time for it and I'd rather focus on the books.

[Due to sound interference I couldn't hear the last response here - a bookmobile was mentioned]

Q: What are your ending rituals or songs?


And I'm slightly heartbroken at the sound interference because one of the sweetest songs was sung - one that was written by a librarian for their library. It brought in their two puppets that do a skit every week. I also remember us talking about how important it is to leave a little time for the parents to socialize and the kids to play.

If you were there and wondered what question I had unceremoniously skipped, then know that it was the one about snacks at storytime.

And there you have it: Nebraska's first (and I hope not last) Guerrilla Storytime!  I would like to deeply thank everyone who attended and participated - it was a marvelous experience.

  • Rebecca McCorkindale

Tags:  conference  inspirations 

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