Gather ‘Round: How to Recreate Library Storytime at Home

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credit: Ilike/Shutterstock

Maybe your child loves storytime at the library so much they want to go every day.

Or maybe storytime falls right in the middle of naptime and no amount of puppets, nursery rhymes, or picture books is going to convince you to wake up a snoozing child or risk a meltdown midway through a rousing rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Or perhaps your child is struggling to behave during storytime and needs a little practice and guidance about how to act when you attend.

Whatever the reason, it’s great to know how to recreate storytime at home, and beneficial for both you and your little reader. Here are eight ways to storytime like the pros.

1. Set a timer. Most library storytimes run about 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 it into chunks. Very few storytimes are going to have book reading for thirty minutes straight. Often there are songs, books, and possibly toys or a craft at the end. 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 they never get enough of at library storytime, make that chunk longer at home.

4. Alternate between active and quiet activities. The best librarians I’ve seen know that kids get restless. 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. Mix in 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. I like to add some excitement by saving a few new books from the library to bring out when we do our own storytime.

6. Have a few special things reserved for your storytime. The baby storytime we attended for the first year of my daughter’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.

7. Invite over a friend or two. If you want to make it a little more like storytime at the library, invite another child or a few children (who are about the same age as your child). You can even rotate running storytime with another parent to help your child get used to someone else being in charge.

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!