A colleague of mine observed my Storytime last week, and if you haven’t had anyone do this for you, I highly recommend it! While it can be tough to hear things that aren’t perfect (I mean, as much as we strive to be perfect, there’s always something to improve, right??), it was really great to get some insight into how to make my Storytimes more engaging and rewarding for everyone. Sometimes, it can feel as though we work in a vacuum, and we rarely, if ever, have colleagues nearby who can offer us constructive criticism or praise. If this is the case for you, hopefully these blogs and others like them can help to remind you that there are others out there who are willing and able to lend a helping hand.
One of the things I struggle with most in Storytime is when and HOW to incorporate Early Literacy tips. I write them on my outline every week, and yet I still don't always remember to actually include them in the storytime itself. This was noted in my review (since I definitely forgot to do it that day), and it something that I am actively working to improve. Even though WE may know the value of the activities we include in storytime, it does not necessarily mean that our parents and caregivers also understand that value in the same way. This is the reason to include those tips - to give insight into our attendees’ daily lives and how they are likely already encouraging Early Literacy with their children.
A time when the Early Literacy tip giving worked particularly well was when I was preparing everyone to sing the "Wheels on the Bus" with me. We were talking about shapes that day, and we were trying out the concept of the “wheels,” wherein everyone was moving their bent arms around each other in front of their bodies. This activity crosses the midline, so as the children were becoming acquainted with this possibly foreign body movement, I tossed a small piece of information about the importance of crossing the midline out to the parents. Part of what made this easier for me is that I had just started really learning about it, myself, so I was excited to share it and it was at the forefront of my mind. It was also helpful, however, that the children were otherwise occupied, so they weren't bored by "grown-up talk."
So, how can we remember to include literacy tips when we might not even be actively aware of knowing them ourselves?? When we’ve been surrounded by Early Literacy as much as we have, sometimes it is hard to remember that not everyone knows as much or the same details as we do.
One thing that will certainly help is making a conscious effort of pulling one out ahead of time and noting it in relation to your storytime. However, the next part is actually INCLUDING it in your Storytime, and that’s often the hardest part to remember! Great times to talk to parents are when the children are actively engaged in something else (particularly so that you don’t lose their attention). The “Wheels on the Bus” example worked well for this reason, and likewise so could the time when passing out materials, cleaning up materials, reaching for the sky, etc. If the children are engaged in something, “adult speak” won’t be so tedious for them.
All this to say, it is most certainly a work in progress! I’ve made a point now of indicating when great Early Literacy practices are taking place outside of Storytime, and that has been met with positive results. When children are coloring with crayons, I make a mention of the fact that they’re strengthening their hands for writing. When children are sitting quietly with a book on their own, I note that they are becoming acquainted with the process of reading even though they might not understand the words just yet. The more we can get this information out to our parents and caregivers, the more likely it is to spread outside of those circles. So, whether you remember in Storytime or make mention of them otherwise, make sure to get those Early Literacy tips out whenever you can! The future of America will thank you. :)