Saturday, February 19, 2011

Introduction to Baby Storytime

Every week, I do a story time for infants-- age birth-12 months. It's a lapsit program, so it's designed to have one child + one adult. (Sometimes in the case of siblings or twins, there's more than one child per adult.) The program lasts for 20 minutes and is attended on a drop-in basis. I don't do preregistration because they're BABIES! You never know if you're going to get out the door in time! Fire code says there can only be 25 people in the story time room, including me, so attendance is capped at 12 babies + 12 adults.

Many people wonder what the point in doing story time for kids this young is. We want to expose kids to regular library attendance and books as soon as possible. I love the idea that these kids will have regular library trips as part of their routine since birth. There's the bonding element between adult and baby. There's exposure to nursery rhymes and tickles and songs and bounces-- all of which have been shown to be very good for baby brain development. It also lets the babies interact with other babies. They LOVE this!

Mostly though, it's a program for parents. I teach them new rhymes and songs they can do at home. I model interactive reading and how to share these rhymes and stories so they can continue these interactions with their children throughout the day. And, even though this isn't one of the library's goals, I know the parents like meeting other parents, they like getting out of the house and meeting new people and exchanging tips and ideas. They often stay for a long time after the program has ended to talk and many friendships and playgroups have been formed out of story time. That's not why we do the program, but it's a darn cool side effect.

So, the basic structure of my program goes like this:

Welcome spiel:

Good morning everyone! For those of you who don't know me, my name is Miss Jennie and I'm one of the children's librarians here at Oxon Hill and this is my monster baby, Jack. [note: Jack is a stuffed Wild Thing from Where the Wild Things Are] Now, the thing to know about monster babies is they weigh a lot less than people babies, so I can lift Jack way above my head and not hurt my lower back. I have a hard time doing that with a person baby. Monster babies are also ok when they land on their heads. Most people babies are not. I do my actions really large so everyone can see, but do whatever works for you and your child.

Sing the Welcome Song

it's to the tune of "Where is thumbkin" and gets sung to each child. If a child is late, we sing it to him or her when they come in.

Where is [insert name here?] Where is [insert name here?] (cover eyes with hands)
There (s)he is! There (s)he is! (point to the child)
I'm so glad to see you! I'm so glad to see you!
Peek-a-boo! Peek-a-boo! (play peek-a-boo with the child)

3-4 Mother Goose Rhymes/Songs/more subtle action rhymes
Pease Porridge Hot
Hickory Dickory Dock

Read 1st book

4-5 Action Rhymes/Tickle Rhymes/Knee Bounces
This is the Way the Ladies Ride

Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi (with each baby having a maraca to hold and shake, or for their caregiver to hold and shake)

Read 2nd book (handing out the second book is a good bait-and-switch to get the maracas back with fewer tears!)

Patty Cake

Sing the goodbye song with is to the tune of "Shortin' Bread"

Every little cell in your body is happy
Every little cell in your body is well
Every little cell in your body is happy
Every little cell in your body is well
I'm so glad every little cell in your body is happy and well
I'm so glad every little cell in your body is happy and well
Every little cell in your body is happy
Every little cell in your body is well

The books we do are all board books, and I have enough copies so that every baby + caregiver has a copy to read together and then I model interactive reading as we read the book out loud together. If there's an older sibling, I give them their own copy to read along with.

I'm able to have enough copies because we're a large library system and I can borrow copies from other branches.

Some rhymes change every week, but once I introduce a "new" rhyme, I tend to use it at least a few weeks in a row. Every rhyme (except for the longer ones) is done twice. I like to change rhymes so that the parents are exposed to a variety of ones to try. Also, as this program is aimed at the parents, a little variety is good so they keep coming back. I also change the books so that they are introduced to a wide variety of titles, authors, and illustrators.

I also try to work in each child's name as much as possible and go around the room doing the song or rhyme for each child (time permitting.) So "Baa Baa Black Sheep" will have a bag of wool for the master, the dame, and little Susie/Timmy/etc down the lane. Or Susie/Timmy etc will be nimble and jump over the candlestick.

The rhymes that I do every week are just personal favorites that tend to go over very well. "Hickory Dickory Dock" is one that I do for all my story times! The actions work well for parent and child, but also just for a child to do by his/herself. I started doing this one when I had children start to age up through different programs and it was one familiar to them when they hit a new setting and format.

I also have a "demonstration baby" (a newborn sized stuffed animal of one of the Wild Things) so I can model rhymes, actions, and reading.

I have a hand-out that lists all the books we read, songs we sang, and the words for all the rhymes (with action cues) that I hand out after the program is done so parents can play along at home. They are also free to check out the books we read, and most do.

Also, after every program, I wipe down the maracas with anti-septic wipes.

It's a great way to bring new parents to the library, or at least to a section of the library they haven't seen in awhile. I've also noticed that kids who start in our baby story time, age up to toddler time, and then age up to our 3-5 year old story times are much better prepared for the older story times and their caregivers are much more active participants.

I hope that's helpful! Tomorrow I'll post my actual story time plan for last week's story time.


  1. I'm looking forward to your baby storytimes! I'm lucky to have a colleague from the school district who does my baby and toddler storytimes (3-4 per week) so I just do the preschool storytimes and the after school programs (3 total per week plus whatever else is going on). But, sometimes she's sick. Or gone. And I completely missed out on baby storytimes in my three internships, 7 years in childcare, and 2 years of grad school. So I sit at your feet and am ready to be instructed!

  2. Jennie, I would like your permission to re-post your "Introduction to Baby Storytimes" on the Reading Corner Blog for Reading Horizons. You offer a great program idea to spread around! Can you please contact me by email? Thank you!

  3. Starting them early is vital for their learning. This is a good practice.