The amount of storytimes I have been able to perform just in this semester alone have taught me so much. They have taught me how to work a room, how to redirect children, how to adapt to any situation that might arise, and they have taught me a lot about myself. The way I handle situations, the way my mind works when I am in a state on uncertainty, how I navigate finding the right door at a school (I go to the wrong door a lot). Just being able to roll with it has been an important part of this position.
My mantra as a youth librarian is, “children will be children.” You can plan and you may have an idea of what is going to happen but children are unpredictable. They are curious and learning and they know how to keep you on your toes; which I think is what makes them so fun. My storytimes have been a lot of unpredictable moments and my reactions to situations have given myself a lot to reflect on. It has been hard to think of responses on the spot sometimes, trying to make them comprehensive for children while also trying to make them positive.
Some of my stortyime moments:
During my first preschool storytime and my last story, a child scooted all the way up from the back of rug and right up to the front of my feet. While in the middle of the story I feel my laces start to pull apart, without trying to lose much focus I slightly look down. The child that had scooted up towards my feet was untying my shoe laces and playing with them. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at the situation but I knew the best thing to do was to stay focused and continue like nothing was happening. I kept on reading the story and he played with shoes up until the end, it was his way of listening and is now my favorite story to tell.
That child wasn’t the only who loved my shoes. I had another one do the same thing a week or so after that, so I have stopped wearing shoes with laces to storytines. However, not even a week after that choice, a child came up to my shoes during a story and just sat there and poked them the entire time. This was never something I had excepted, but they are moments of curiosity and is something I try not to disrupt if I can help it.
Children will also tell it like it is. One of the songs during my stortime is the “Baby Shark Song,” that all the kids know. To save time I cut out a few of the verses and very quickly learned that was NOT a good idea. For my first three storytimes I got called out for leaving out “grandpa shark” and “that’s the end.” I have learned, we do the full song now.
Every child is different, every class is different, every storytime is different. I have had children run up and take all my felt fish off the felt board while doing a rhyme. I have had children try to take away the shark puppet from me. I have children tell me they want no more songs. Children who have refused to stand up for songs, children who just want to talk, and children who want to do nothing at all. It has been amusing to navigate on all these situations and reflect on them later. Thinking of what I did in the moment and what I would do differently if the situation arose again. Taking the time to come up with a script or action for all the different seniors.
I am also not in my own space which changes my reactions. I am going to different classrooms where the space is the teacher’s and I am just a guest. I would handle situations differently if I was in my own storytime room, or even if I was doing a storytime with parents involved. Each setting displays its own challenges, situations, and solutions. The space, classroom size, and teacher’s involvement all have an element into how situations are handled. In my storytime last week I asked the class if they were ready and the teacher jumped right in and said, “No we are not. We are waiting for (said child) to sit.” I followed the teachers instructions and did not start until she told me to. In other cases I have had teachers not get involved at all, leaving me to configure my role as an authority figure that the children will listen to as well.
The biggest challenge is not knowing how a situation is going to be until you are in it and teaching yourself to adjust and adapt to every moment as it comes. My storytime script as changed a lot. With every storytime I leave I have learned something new to add, change, or take away. I have obtained so much knowledge and valuable experience during the small amount of time I’ve been here and I can’t wait for more opportunities that will come in the upcoming semester. Being able to place myself right in the middle of the Skokie community has been overwhelmingly rewarding and has given me a whole knew outlook on early literacy.