By Awnali Mills
In Arizona, where I grew up, there are no fireflies. I know, shocking isn’t it? I was an adult before I saw my first firefly. When I visited my soon-to-be-husband’s family in Georgia for the first time, he laughed at me because I thought there was someone sneaking around in the tree line with a flashlight. “No, Babe,” he said with a snicker, “those are fireflies.” When I wanted to promptly run out and capture them, he nixed that, pointing out that it was a long walk across the farm fields, and that I didn’t have the shoes for tramping through a cow pasture.
Such a spoilsport.
A year or so later, dear friends of ours stayed late in a park for the sole purpose of capturing fireflies for me. I was, and still am, utterly enchanted. So, when a co-worker, Jet, brought up the possibility of doing a firefly storytime, I was all in, and asked if I could repeat what she did for my own storytime. The books we chose are The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle, It’s a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree, and Among a Thousand Fireflies by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder.
I opened with my magic bag, which had a firefly in a jar inside. This belongs to my boss, but I just love it. You can get one of your own here. I told the kids about my firefly-less childhood, and they looked amazed. Apparently they’ve all been hunting fireflies before, and can’t imagine a world without them.
We did a stretch to get the wiggles out and read The Very Lonely Firefly. I enjoy this book, but what makes it for me are the twinkling lights at the end. Today was one of those days when the lights refused to twinkle. I had tested it yesterday, and it worked fine, but failed me in storytime. I HATE that.
Then, we rolled our Song Cube and sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. We did a flannel next called Ten Flashing Fireflies which is a flannel based on the book by Philemon Sturges. That’s rather a long flannel, even though I shortened it by not running through the entire rhyme for each firefly, so we rolled our cube and sang Row, Row, Row Your Boat. If you get kids to hold the oars as they row and alternate by singing verses that go gently, quickly, and slowly, then you can get a lot of wiggles out.
Next, I read It’s a Firefly Night in which a little girl and her father hunt fireflies in the night. It’s a gentle little book, and I like it a lot. None of the firefly books are rollicking ones. Instead, they reflect the quiet and mystery that accompany these magical little creatures. You might think that this would lead to an unenthusiastic audience, but you would be wrong. I didn’t have trouble with kids being distracted (or at least, no more than usual.) I think it also helped that I acted out the girl capturing and letting go of the fireflies while I was reading the text.
Our next activity was the flannel Six Little Fireflies from Storytime ABCs. On the verses, I had the children wave their hands from one side to another for the whoosh, cup their hands around their mouths for the wind’s whistle, and do a loud ACHOO! with me as the firefly’s light went out. They also got to choose which color of firefly was going to lose its light. They were very enthusiastic sneezers, and about blew me out of the room.
We rolled our cube again for The Itsy Bitsy Spider and then read our last book, Among a Thousand Fireflies. I adore this book. It’s a little romance of one firefly signaling to another among thousands of other fireflies. How will they find each other? It’s illustrated by beautiful photographs of real fireflies, lighting up grasses and flowers as they signal to each other. I would love to sit with a child on my lap and pour over the gorgeous photographs, but that’s a little too intense for a storytime setting. We finished up with a rousing chorus of If You’re Happy and You Know It, and then said goodbye with our goodbye song.
I do want to say that there are some firefly songs out there that I could have used, but I chose not to. I like having songs that reflect the theme of my storytime, but I like that kids (and adults) participate more with songs they know by heart already. I’ve been seriously thinking about only doing familiar songs, or only having one theme specific song per storytime. Thoughts?