Many parents, caregivers and preschool programs participate in public library storytimes; if you’ve ever been to one you’re likely to see a mixed bag of parents, grandparents, caregivers and daycare providers sharing the space with each other. But have you ever wondered if the library storytimes are preparing your children to be ready to learn when they enter school? Us too! That’s why we asked Tricia Allen, the Ilsley Public Library Children’s Librarian, if those books, songs, fingerplays, puppets and crafts, support our intuitive believe that we’re helping prepare our children for elementary school or if librarians simply providing frazzled caregivers an excuse to get out of the house and a much needed break on a Tuesday morning!
MiniBury: What literacy programming does Ilsley offer for preschool children?
Ilsley Public Library currently offers 3 storytimes for children birth to five, all held at 10:30am. On Tuesdays I run a Baby and Toddler storytime for, well, babies and toddlers! We have several older siblings that attend as well. Fridays Kathryn runs our Preschool storytime geared toward children 3-5, although younger siblings are always welcome. On Saturdays Kathryn reprises her Friday storytime, adjusted for the crowd that shows up!
MiniBury: Walk us through a storytime experience for a family that’s never visited?
Our weekday storytimes both take place in the meeting room on the lower level of the library. A couple of minutes before storytime begins the librarian will walk through the children’s room to announce storytime, at which point children and caregivers will head into the meeting room and find a pillow seat. Saturday storytime also gets the same heads-up, but instead gathers in the youth room on the far side of the fish tank on the children’s floor.
The baby and toddler storytime is focused on songs, lap plays, rhymes and games with one or two shared books. This storytime runs for about 30 minutes, give or take ten minutes based on the attention span of the audience. We follow the same set list of songs and games each week for a 4-6 week session, at the end of which families get to keep their own copy of the book we had been reading.
The preschool storytime is a more story-based program designed for children with longer attention spans, usually alternating 3-4 stories with songs or games. After about 30 minutes of programming, children have the opportunity to complete a craft based on that week’s storytime theme.
Saturday storytime is a repeat of the theme and craft from Friday, adjusted for the children who attend. One week we may have a group of two and three year-olds, and the next all school-aged children!
MiniBury: What early development skills does storytime promote?
What skills don’t we promote!? Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this is to talk about the storytime favorite for all ages: Little Mouse. Little Mouse is a flannel board game which asks children to guess where little mouse might be hiding: “Little Mouse, Little Mouse, are you in the (blue) house?”. You can watch a video of it here.
At a basic level this is a very simple game. Guess a color and check to see if mouse is in that house. In reality this game is growing children’s brains by leaps and bounds. Before starting we often count how many houses are on the board, working on learning numeral sequence (the order in which you name the numbers) and one-to-one correspondence (only saying one numeral for each house). We also practice naming the colors of the houses. We talk about whether the blue house is on the TOP of the board or on the BOTTOM of the board, NEXT to the orange house or UNDER the orange house, working on spatial awareness and basic geometry skills. The rhyme of mouse and house (as well as any other rhyme) helps emphasize that words are made of smaller sound parts, a key step to learning that different letters make different sounds and build different words. The nature of the game – checking one house at a time – helps children learn to take turns and work on their self-control (not shouting out house colors willy-nilly or running up to the board to pull them off). Little Mouse is just one of many activities that build a fun (and educational!) storytime.
MiniBury: What school readiness skills are preschoolers expected to develop and how can library trips help?
Vermont looks at five domains for Kindergarten readiness:
- Social – Emotional Development
- Approaches to Learning
- Cognitive Development
A small sampling of how the library helps with each of these school readiness skills:
- Library trips help children with their social-emotional development by giving them a chance to interact with peers in an environment outside of their home.
- Storytimes teach children that books and learning are fun.
- Children learn to follow basic storytime rules, and converse with multiple people outside of their family group.
- Storytimes, books and open library play all emphasize imaginative play, recognition/recall, early numeracy skills and more.
- The library encourages self-help skills such as using tissues on runny noses and putting on/taking off outdoor gear.
MiniBury: How can parents continue this learning at home? Any tips and tricks would be greatly appreciated!
Repetition and modeling! Children learn through repetition. Long after a caregiver is done hearing the same “Zoom, zoom, zoom, we’re going to the moon!” song, children are still enjoying making the sounds, hearing the rhymes, feeling the beat and moving their bodies. If your children start singing a song, join in! If something you say or do reminds you of a rhyme, say it! Not only will the repetition help them make connections between words, numbers, sounds, movement, rhythm and more, but having YOU participate helps them to associate singing, reading, and learning with happy feelings.
You can also check out Tricia’s storytime songs, activities, and rhymes here!