By Awnali Mills
With my boss on vacation today, I got to do Toddler Story Time. Maybe it was spring. Maybe it was the sunshine. Maybe it was the phase of the moon. I have no idea. But for some reason the toddlers were full of themselves today, and some of the parents totally disengaged. Things got wild and wooly!
The books I chose were Blue Bug’s Vegetable Garden by Virginia Poulet, Giant Pop-Out Bugs Book by Chronicle Books, and Can You Make a Scary Face by Jan Thomas.
In many ways, my storytime was a repeat of yesterday’s Bug Storytime for the preschoolers. I had the same bug finger puppets in my magic bag and talked about bugs. Then, we read Blue Bug’s Vegetable Garden. This is an older book, but good for toddlers and a great one for talking about directions – up, down, left, right, over, under, etc. That led to an easy literacy tip for parents: talking about directions is easy to do and helps kids learn about their world.
Unfortunately, one family was late coming in and missed hearing the storytime rules about respecting my storytime space and feeling free to get up and get your child if necessary. Naturally, this was the little girl who wanted to be right in the middle of everything I was doing, and kept shouting, “Ant! Ant!” over the top of my reading. My agreeing with her that it was an ant and encouraging her to sit down made absolutely no difference whatsoever.
Next, we did a modified version of the flannel Bug Hunt, just putting up the individual bugs and chanting the verse about them and doing all the motions.
So, then I got my ladybug finger puppet and we all did “There’s a Ladybug on Me” a few times. This worked well to bring everyone’s attention back.
Next, we read Giant Pop-Out Bugs. Normally, pop-up books are a total crowd pleaser. This has wonderful, large pop-outs and a simple text. But this group decided they’d rather run around the room. So, I abandoned the book midway and had everyone stand up. We marched in place and then sang five verses of The Ants Go Marching while marching around the room. It’s hard to get toddlers marching when some parents (even after being encouraged) stand off to the side and watch, but somehow I managed.
Then, I did the flannel Busy Bees. Even though it’s a quick one and I was very animated, I lost their attention again.
I finished up with Can You Make a Scary Face? This book did engage the children, or at least most of them, and they did their wiggling and dancing. Then I brought out the balls and pails, and puzzles. They played, then left. I cleaned up, went into the back, and collapsed at my desk, exhausted.
Like I said, things got wild and wooly. I would take it personally and feel like a failure (what did I do wrong? What needs to change?), but I remember my former boss coming in from a toddler storytime and saying, “It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, storytime. All they did was run around and scream.” Since she was a children’s librarian for over 30 years, and beloved as one of the best in our library system, I don’t feel so bad. What about you? What are your “worst storytime ever” stories?