Welcome to Theme-less Storytimes Week! A few months ago, I gave up storytime themes in favor of making every storytime about my favorite books, rhymes, and activities. While I realize that this format isn’t for every storytime provider, I want to dedicate a week to theme-less storytimes in order to both spark some discussion and to critically analyze what’s working and what’s not working. To start us off, I’ll share some of the pros and cons of theme-less storytimes:
- FREEDOM! By giving up storytime themes, I’m able to choose whichever books, songs, activities, ect. that I want!
- Because I’m able to choose what I want, I’m able to choose things that I really love. Long gone are the ‘meh’ books and activities that I would throw in to stick with the theme. And by choosing things that I really love, my energy level and enthusiasm for the storytime increases, and it shows! Parents and children get excited simply because I’m excited.
- I’m able to gather a lot of books and activities for each storytime, which makes it easier for me to adjust storytime based on the crowd. I don’t know about your libraries, but preschool storytime is more like family storytime at my library. Most weeks we’ll get an equal number of preschool-aged children and toddlers with a few babies thrown into the mix. When I was doing themes, it was sometimes hard to find enough books and activities that were suited for a variety of ages, and I often found myself thinking on my feet to accommodate the various ages (which sometimes resulted in me doing the rhyme cube 3 or 4 times). But now I bring a whole big stack of books, flannelboards, songs, and activities into the storytime room. The ones I don’t use, I save for the next storytime. It’s amazing!
- It takes less time to plan (usually). The first day I decided to go themeless, I spent about a grand total of two minutes walking through the picture book section, pulling some of my favorite books. I then walked to my cubicle area, opened my flannelboard/activity drawer and picked out a few. The whole thing took about five minutes. Like I mentioned above, any books or activities that I don’t do in storytime go into the next storytime I do. So when storytime is over, I have half of my next storytime all ready to go. All I have to do is pull an extra few books and maybe an activity or two and voila!
- You have to be very cognizant of what books/activities you’ve used recently. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s easier for me to remember what themes I’ve done recently as opposed to which books/activities I’ve done. I’m lucky at my library because preschool storytime is split between myself and three other librarians. So I typically do one storytime a month (sometimes 2 a month if we have people out on vacation/sick time). Therefore, if I do end up doing a book or activity that I did the last time I did storytime, it’s usually not as big of a deal because that last storytime was most likely 3 or 4 weeks ago. Still, I often find myself looking at my past storytime plans and wondering, “Is it too soon for me to sing Pete the Cat again?”
- If you only do your favorite books and activities, your pool of things to choose from grows smaller. I’m lucky in the sense that I have a lot of favorite books and activities. This added on to the fact that I only do storytime once or twice a month means that it’ll be quite awhile before I run out of things that I love (and by then, enough time would have passed for me to start repeating things). But if I was doing storytime every week, I would probably have a problem.
- Lack of structure. While it’s freeing to not be limited to themes, after my second themeless storytime, I started grasping for some kind of structure. (If I were a character on Friends, I would be Monica. You might not have this structure problem if you’re a Rachel or a Phoebe.) I found myself creating some semblance of structure by the types of books I read (see the next post, The Method to My Madness). And so far it’s working out okay.
- The parents may not like it. This isn’t a problem that I’ve actually encountered yet, but I can see it happening if parents are used to themes. So many of us do storytime at my library, and we all have different styles, which means the parents are used to every storytime being a little bit different. And I know some of my coworkers occasionally do a themeless storytime just to liven things up (or because they have a cold and are in no mood to actually plan a themed storytime…we’ve all been there). So my storytime parents are used to this nonsense and just kind of go with the flow. But if you do themes every week and suddenly stop, I can see some parents reacting negatively to that. But they’ll get over it. Especially when they see how much fun their kids are having.
And that’s all I can think of right now. Do you do theme-less storytimes? If so, what are some of the pros or cons for you?