One of the things I’ve had parents ask for was something for children who are emerging readers. As I see it, it is not enough to hit the pre-literacy, we really need library programs and services to capture those kids who are just tackling reading on their own. English isn’t an easy language to learn or to read. It’s a mix of rules and exceptions, phonics and sight words, sounding it out and “why do you pronounce it that way?”

So this spring, with Madame Storyteller’s blessing, I put out the idea of an older kid’s evening storytime. I planned for 12 kids and hoped to at least half fill it. The response was gratifying–we closed out the “waiting list” at 16 (NO MORE, I announced). The children are between 4-7, with the majority 6-7. Little siblings, though not completely forbidden, are really strongly discouraged.    

For three weeks the youth services aides tackled creating picture boxes for me. I’d picked up 20 8x8x8 boxes a few months ago and I raided the never ending stash of donated National Geographic Magazines. I told the aides I wanted the boxes covered with pictures on all sides.They did a beautiful job. 

There are 20 different brightly covered boxes.

Starting 15 minutes before storytime (now that I’ve told them about it) and through the first five minutes of “actual storytime”…I invited the kids to grab a box and tell their grown ups a story about the pictures they saw. The kids engaged very quickly with it, as did the parents. I think over time it will go even more smoothly as they come up with wild and crazy stories based on tree frogs, pyramids, buildings, and wild cats.  

We did a hello song.  Always a good way to draw focus.

Then, I got to read them a book I’d never be able to read to my 3 year olds (Wednesday starts my regular Pre-school storytime too):

The Book That Eats People
by John Perry

It’s a lot longer than my usual pre-school books, but this crew can handle it.  And while the dark and sinister is giggle worthy, rather than nightmarish. It’s a phenomenal read aloud. 

Then I pointed out a whole slew of Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie books that I’d brought in for the kids to grab. Often parents are looking for “the good easy readers” and I have the chance here to highlight authors and bring in some classics.

For tonight’s selection, I read:

I Will Surprise My Friend!
by Mo Willems

I don’t think I could ever live up to the reading I’ve seen the author do of Pigs Make Me Sneeze but the kids, fortunately, are not judging my reading against his. 

And this is a separation storytime, which most of the parents have been pretty excited about (“Ten minutes to go look at adult books all by myself? Really? Sign me up!!”).  So after those two books I shooed the parents out of the room. We only had a little anxiety about staying in the room with a book that eats people. I put my chair on top of it so it wouldn’t eat anyone.  (We counted 3 times to make sure the book hadn’t eaten anyone.)  

During this ten minutes I’m going to do a short activity and then read to the kids from a chapter book. I’m staying away from crafts and snacks, though not entirely ruling either out either. This week’s activity was ribbon dancing (ribbons taped to straws) and we started Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka. I only had time to get through one chapter, but that’s okay.  What was important was that they listened–clustered around and nearly right on top of me.

We finished by scooping up carpet squares and grabbing Mo Willems books and then our Read to Rover program followed hard on the heels of the storytime. Several of the kids headed out to the children’s area to wait their turn to read aloud to a dog, and I saw one boy painstakingly reading aloud an Elephant and Piggie book.

Can’t wait to see how next week goes!