One thing I never post about is my Stories for Wee Ones program, which is our storytime for babies from birth through 18 months and their caregivers. I think I don’t write about it because the storytime is basic and repetitive, but I know people (my colleague Jason is a big For Instance) find this age group challenging. I remember being intimidated by this storytime myself when I first started doing it, but the key to this age level is the same as any other age level–which is to say one has to understand and respect the children and meet them where they are. In the case of babies, it’s all about repetition, rhyme, rhythm, singing, and keeping things snappy. You also have to relax and know that the babies absorbing things while they seem to not be paying attention. You can’t expect kids that small to sit there quietly and watch you the whole time. At this point, whenever the babies all become silent, I start to get freaked out a little because it’s unnatural for babies not to be moving or making some kind of noise.
Anyway, the way I run this program is that at the beginning of a session (I’ve been running them for three weeks, but I’m going to do a couple longer sessions this fall), I create a rhyme sheet that includes the titles and words to all the rhymes and songs I plan to use that session, and I have copies made. We’ll use the same rhymes in the same order each week of the session, and we do each rhyme twice. Each week, I read three different books, which I intersperse throughout the program (so we’ll do three rhymes, one book, three more rhymes, another book, etc.). At the beginning of each session, I hand out the rhyme sheets, and we all sit on the floor in a circle. I take time at the beginning of each storytime to introduce myself, explain how the program works, and encourage participation. The key to getting the other adults to participate is to commit yourself to the material, but it’s also essential that you give them the words and that you include plenty of rhymes they’re going to already know and feel comfortable with. I think the temptation is to do all things that might be more obscure and new to the adults, but that just overwhelms them.
Let us take a moment to reflect on how the difference between children and adults is not as big as it looks sometimes.
I really liked the rhymes and order I used this last session, so I’m going to post the rhyme sheet here as a PDF (figuring out how to do that was way more difficult than doing this storytime), and here is a list of my favorite books to use with this age group, in no particular order:
Moo, Baa, La La La! and The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
I Like it When by Mary Murphy
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
Peekaboo Morning and Peekaboo Bedtime by Rachel Isadora
Hello, Day! by Anita Lobel
Charlie the Chicken by Nick Denchfield and Ant Parker
Peek-a-Moo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti, illustrated by Stephanie Peterson
Look at the Baby by Kelly Johnson
Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Ted Rand
We’ve All Got Bellybuttons by David Martin, illustrated by Randy Cecil
Wiggle by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Scott Menchin
There are some other books I use, but these are the ones I’ve used so frequently that I have them memorized.
This all only takes about fifteen minutes to get through, which is plenty enough for the babies. We use the second fifteen minutes of the half-hour program to play. I have puppets, rattles, bells, board books, cars, and the like that I get out. The babies interact with the stuff and each other, and the adults interact, too. This is a great luxury for all concerned. A lot of adults who have babies at home crave contact with other adults, and it’s a nice opportunity for me to talk with the adults and also play with the babies. I learn a lot watching them, and often my discussions with adults lead to reference questions and referrals to other programs. Most of the people who come to this storytime remain regular storytime and program attendees for years to come.