2021 Storytime Goals

It’s a new calendar year! 2020 has been filled with new experiences for many of us (hello work from home, virtual programs, stay at home orders, and so much more!), and I’m pessimistic enough to anticipate that 2021 will be filled with more challenges. I’m expecting to be presenting virtual storytime through May and maybe summer. (Perhaps by summer with a hybrid model–some virtual and some in person?) I’m also anticipating taking a little break when we return to full in person storytimes (pending staffing levels of course) because (1) I have some lovely coworkers who haven’t been comfortable presenting virtually but are excited to return to in-person storytimes and (2) I need a real vacation. (And staycations simply don’t work with my life. I’d spend a whole staycation sneakily working on work projects, catching up on picture books, and working on this blog. Which isn’t a vacation at all, really.)

I’ve talked about this a bit in my weekly storytime outlines, but I’ve really appreciated being able to deep dive into a variety of storytimes for all ages. Storytimes were a part of my job before, but I’ve had the opportunity to make them a focus instead of one of just many things on my plate. I’ve had a chance to examine storytime books and blogs, figure out outlines that work for me and my audience, intentionally align everything I do to early literacy, practice a storytime before presenting it (something that really helps my intentionality in what I say and even how I hold each item), and build a collection of core storytime materials that will (hopefully) allow me to continue bringing variety to my storytimes long after in-person storytimes have returned.

But my storytimes are far from perfect, and I want to keep growing as a presenter. So what do I want to focus on in 2021?

1. Diverse Music. This is something I talked about this year, but it kept getting pushed aside. I’m happy that this project is built into my personal work goals next year, so I won’t be able to let other deadline-driven projects keep pushing this down the list.

There are a lot of great resources on the internet that keep up with diverse books, but I need to put in the work to really explore diverse musicians. I rely fairly heavily on recorded music in my storytime–I’m not the most comfortable singing, and I know many of the grown-ups watching aren’t either, no matter how much their librarian assures them its fine. I want to move beyond the regular Laurie Berkner, Jim Gill, and Caspar Babypants tunes. I started this project this year, and essentially it just turned into me including Jazzy Ash’s music in all of my storytimes (GO LISTEN TO HER), but there are many additional diverse artists out there that I want to be promoting. I want to go beyond just a list of artists but also take the time to listen to all of their music and pull out songs that are ideal in a storytime setting (clear motions, great with manipulatives, etc.). I expect to be sharing a lot of that work here too, so look out for music posts!

2. Diverse Books – especially for toddlers. I keep finding wonderful, own voices books I want to share with preschoolers–but I don’t often present preschool storytime. I’m reading to babies and those squirmy toddlers and to stay developmentally appropriate for both of these ages (and to hold their attention through a screen), I like to focus on books that include actions or animal sounds. I also try to separate books that I use with babies and toddlers–babies get those books that have photos of babies and smaller motions like bouncing or peek-a-boo, while toddler books are, based on their age, a little longer. The problem with this approach? Most of those interactive toddler books that I love feature critters, creatures, or monsters. I don’t want to keep recycling the same handful of diverse titles every few weeks, and I also don’t want to reuse a book I just used at baby storytime–I want new options that are new to me and to the grown-ups watching.

Also: I want to re-examine my go-to storytime books and authors too. I used to use Upsy Daisy Baby, until I read some reviews commenting on poor word selections that would not be remotely reflective of the cultures depicted. I’ve also been much more aware of how babies are illustrated, particularly in books that aren’t by own voices authors and illustrators. Asian slant eyes in illustrations is racist (and pretty common in popular storytime titles–take another look at some of those Helen Oxenbury books).

3. Fingerplays beyond Five Littles. I’ve been reading a lot on accessibility in storytimes and making all programs accessible (not just thinking about these things during a sensory storytime). Fingerplays are a big one. Not every kid has ten little fingers (or ten little toes). It’s easy to avoid books that focus on these things, but fingerplays are important to build those muscles needed for writing later on. I’ve stopped using fingerplays featuring 10 littles, and I want to stop using fingerplays featuring five littles too, particularly if there is not a visual component or alternative motions to go with it. There are a lot of other fingerplay options out there, and there are ways to immediately be more inclusive with fingerplays (such as counting to five using two hands instead of just one), but I need to take the time to find the ones that work really work for me. I talk about this a little more here, but I want to focus on making this happen in 2021.

4. Captioning and Accessibility. Thinking more about storytimes and accessibility, I want to pay more attention to captioning next year. For every storytime I present (on Facebook Live), I create short videos for our library’s YouTube channel of any non-copyrighted content. Those have many purposes, but they are really there to help increase accessibility. Facebook is not a great resource for captions, but I can control the captions on YouTube. These videos are also always available, allowing families to more easily stop and start and skip a video entirely, as it makes sense for them (and as their technology allows). I made an effort to caption all of my YouTube videos toward the middle of 2020, but to-do lists always grow, and this project also got pushed aside even as I continue to produce more videos. I want to make sure all of our YouTube content is captioned, and I want to review it all to make breaks as clean as possible (above isn’t a great example, with sentences being cut between captions).

I also want to create a visual storytime schedule that can be displayed on the wall behind me during storytime. This is such a small thing that I could easily include in my storytimes, but I haven’t taken the time to do so, which is entirely on me.

5. Build more early literacy asides and at-home activities. This may be more of a storytime extension, but, especially as we start to shift back into in-person storytimes later in 2021, I want to think about ways to encourage families to continue early literacy activities at home. I’ve been building on this idea as I prepare the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program that will debut next year, and I talk (a lot) in storytimes about early literacy activities, but I want to figure out a way to make this succinct and easy, especially since, I expect, when we restart storytimes, the oh-so-important playtime won’t be debuting, probably for the entirety of 2021. Can I offer take home kits at the end of a storytime? Will people actually take and use handouts? Is it time to re-examine a text messaging service? I don’t know. But I want to think of more concrete ways to take these concepts home with parents.

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