The first word I thought when I completed my first solo family storytime. This word was immediately followed by thoughts of a million things I could have done differently. My first book was too long. My scaffolding was confusing. My songs were too long. My songs didn’t have enough movement. The kids grew bored. The kids couldn’t follow what I was doing. One toddler was running around behind me. One threw a tantrum in the back. Even my friend’s nephew, who’s grandmother brought him here specifically to watch my storytime, just sat in his grandma’s lap with a shocked, frightened look on his face.
I am a terrible librarian, I thought after I finished. Sweaty and red-faced, I just tried to hold it together as the kids and parents/caregivers said thank you and goodbye.
To set the scene, there were 53 participants at my storytime. The majority were toddlers, although (blessedly) a preschool group showed up. These older kids anchored my storytime, so I at least I had a few attentive faces. I carefully introduced the songs and the books. Many kids participated. Many didn’t. By the end, I was emotionally exhausted from remaining upbeat, cheerful, and animated for 20 minutes.
My only consolation came when Claire and I sat down for feedback. The first words out of her mouth: “Wow, that was a tough group.” She complemented my pacing and participatory efforts during the books and songs. [I used an example to introduce the concept of the first book, asked leading questions (“What would you say?” or “I don’t see a pigeon anywhere! Do you?”), asked for suggestions (such as “what else do penguins do?” during that song), etc.] Claire suggested that I should have shortened the first book when I noticed they started to fidget, and could have switched the middle song to help shake out their wiggles, or had them stand up. But her biggest feedback regarded my scaffolding. The man point of scaffolding is to set up the kids (and by extension, myself) to succeed. If the kids need to think too hard to answer a question (or find an image, or repeat after me, or do a movement), then they falter. Instead, my scaffolding should be done in a way where they easily know the answer already. To accomplish this I actually need to scaffold books and songs much more than I think–especially if I’m expecting a call and response.
This feedback is invaluable. I understand that my ability to scaffold will grow with experience, but for now I look forward to picking Claire’s brain for tips and tricks and watching other librarian’s storytimes to learn how I can grow this skill.
Granted, even if I had shortened a book, changed a song, or scaffolded everything more, the group dynamic may not have improved. Some storytimes are just hard.