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How to do a Library Storytime at Home

Are you missing library storytime?

I take my two little girls almost every week and it’s such a fun part of our routine (and I miss having Ani along – last year when she was in afternoon kindergarten, she came along with us since it was in the morning).

In the summer, our library pitches a massive canopy on the sloped lawn and holds storytime outside and we brought along a picnic lunch each week.

Now, of course, our library is shut down and library storytime is on hold indefinitely.

If your child is also missing it, here are some tips for doing it at home for the next little while.

(These tips are also great if storytime falls right in the middle of naptime and no librarian on earth is magical enough to convince you to wake a snoozing child or risk a meltdown midway through a rousing rendition of “Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree.”

Or if your child struggles to behave during storytime and a little at-home practice could go a long way).

No matter your reasons for having storytime at home, I hope these tips will make it fun and enjoyable for you and your child.

Here are eight tips for doing storytime like the pros.

How to do a Library Storytime at Home

  1. Set a timer. Most library storytimes run somewhere between twenty to thirty minutes. If you’re working on behavior, start at ten minutes and gradually move up. Setting a timer will give you a good idea of how long storytime should be (so you can plan accordingly) and also make you feel fine about being finished when the timer sounds.
  2. Lay out a blanket or mat. I discovered early on that if there is a blanket spread out on the living room floor my girls feel like whatever we’re doing is extra special and important. Plus, it provides a nice boundary so they know where things are going on and where to stay.
  3. Break your storytime into chunks. Very few storytimes are going to hav thirty straight minutes of reading. Generally, there is a good rotation of songs, books, and possibly toys or a craft at the end. Our Texas library always did bubbles for the last 2-3 minutes, which was a huge hit. Usually about seven to ten minutes of each is perfect, and if your child is struggling with sitting through one section for that long, make that section shorter and gradually work your way up. Or, if there is one block that they never get enough of at library storytime, make that chunk longer at home.
  4. Alternate between active and sitting activities. The very best librarians know that kids get restless and that most toddlers and preschoolers can’t sit still for 20-30 minutes. They start with a song or marching or something active, then read a book or two, then do a few more songs or activities, before returning to the books.
  5. Keep a predictable schedule. It might take you a few tries to get a solid routine down, but once you get one, try to stick to that rhythm. It’s very comforting for kids to have that structure and easier for them to behave when they know what to expect. Start with a certain song, read the same number of books, do a little puppet show or play with a special toy in the same order each time. You’ll notice that almost every library storytime has an outline that they follow each week and this makes it easier to plan and easier on the kids.
  6. Mix it up with old and new books. At-home storytime is a great time to introduce new books, but it’s good to also keep things familiar by mixing in old favorites. If your book collection is feeling stale with the libraries closed, ask a neighbor to leave a few out for you on their porch or order a couple of new titles from BookOutlet for way below the regular price.
  7. Have a few special things reserved for your storytime. The baby storytime we attended for the first year of Ella’s life had a parachute that the kids all LOVED. We’d never played with one elsewhere, and it was the absolute highlight for my daughter. Because it was only for storytime, it remained special for the entire year. Pick a toy or two that you only bring out during storytime to make it extra fun.
  8. Don’t include a snack. I’m guessing your library doesn’t pass out snacks as part of storytime (and because of allergies and pest issues, most libraries discourage parents from bringing snacks to feed their children during storytime). I highly recommend doing the same. You don’t want the food to be the reward of storytime — storytime should be its own reward!

Any other tips for recreating library storytime at home? I’d love to hear!


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  1. Another really fun option is a new storytime podcast by Orem Public Library called “Little Learner’s Storytime”. A new episode comes out monthly and it’s meant to be an interactive experience with caregivers and children with stories, songs, rhymes, etc. I love it because we can listen anywhere…including the car! There is also a 5-minute segment at the end just for caregivers that talks about early literacy and how to incorporate different skills into everyday activities. Great new option for those that can’t make it to the library for storytime or just want a more “portable” option! It can be found at https://www.oremlibrary.org/kids/programs/storytime/ or anywhere people listen to their favorite podcasts.

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