[kids-lib] FW: story time etiquette input needed

ENGELFRIED Steven stevene at multcolib.org
Thu Oct 29 09:48:07 PDT 2009

I really like the format, content, and tone of the printed guidelines
Heather shared.  Presenting it as Q & A correctly implies that we assume
almost all parents want to do what they can to make storytime
successful, while also giving clear messages for the ones who really
need them.  The A's neatly acknowledge the challenges that some parents
face (multiple siblings, restless children, tight schedules) and provide
guidance about how to work with these in storytime.  Plus they convey
quite a bit of information about the goals and benefits of
storytime...including an early literacy message at the end.  Nice job!

- Steven Engelfried, Raising A Reader Coordinator
  2010 Newbery Award Committee Member
  Multnomah County Library
  205 NE Russell Street
  Portland, OR  97212-3796
  503-988-5206 (phone)
  503-988-5441 (fax)
  stevene at multcolib.org

-----Original Message-----
From: kids-lib-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
[mailto:kids-lib-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of heather
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 9:12 AM
To: Patrick Goodman; kids-lib
Subject: Re: [kids-lib] story time etiquette input needed

This is certainly a universal problem that we all deal with.  Isn't it
interesting that we don't have to give near as much attention to the
behavior of the children?  

Over the years I've discovered several techniques to remind parents
about what is expected of them for a successful story time.   Forgive me
if this is overly long, but I hope it will be helpful.

1.  I believe it is crucial that the location be selected carefully.  I
realize we don't always have a separate room, but you've got to be set
up with a wall to your back, no windows, no shelves.  If we compromise
on this, and place ourselves where people can walk behind us, shelve
around us, etc., we're sending the message that storytime is not
important and that we just plop it wherever we can.  We need to present
it as a special world that requires attention.

2.  Before storytime begins I ask for the parent's help with
approximately these words:  "I need your help.  If your child needs to
get up and move a bit while I'm reading stories, that's fine, I
certainly understand all about toddlers/preschoolers.  But please keep
them close to you in your space.  At the end of story time I'll be
inviting them to come into my space to hug Winston (my puppet sheep
dog), look at the books, play with the toys I brought, dance to the
music, and so on.  But please don't let them come into my space until I
invite them at the end of story time so I can continue the stories and
everyone can see."  By giving this reminder every week I have found that
the parents truly honor my request, and understand why I make it.  If a
parent comes in late, and didn't hear that announcement, and their child
is trying to take my book or puppet, then I'll just gently say, "I need
help from this child's parent."  Then I turn to the child and say, "You
can come up at the end of storytime and play with the toys, but now it's
time to be with your parent and listen to the stories." It just takes
one gentle reminder like that, and everyone else will honor it. 

3.  When parents are talking, and it is distracting, I might lower my
voice a bit, or pause briefly, so that their voices stand out, which
usually catches their attention.  I might try to catch their eye.  If it
is perpetual, I might request, "Could I ask for your help?  Would you
please hold off on your personal conversations until the end of
storytime?  Thanks so much." Usually they are apologetic and help me
out.  I've had a few over the years who were unhappy with me and left.  

4. The BEST solution is to make sure that story time includes plenty of
interactions so that their personal conversations are "interrupted" with
the fun of storytime--songs, rhymes, requests for audience participation
in the story (I use that a lot!), wiggles, tickles, lap bounces, etc.
Since we are role modeling for them about how to make storytime fun and
important, I make sure I include them throughout storytime, asking a few
questions, inviting their participation, including a tickle,
recommending an author, providing an early literacy tip, etc.  Each of
these are very brief, but make them feel part of what is going on,
rather than on the sidelines.

I'm attaching the FAQ that we print every week on the back of the early
literacy rhyme sheet we distribute to the parents.  It gives answers to
the parents about what is needed for a successful storytime, and it has
definitely helped.  Most (notice I didn't say all) of the parents are
wonderful about adhering to our requests.  They appreciate the
enthusiasm and planning that goes into storytime, and honor it by being
respectful.  I often have 80-100 in Toddlin' Tales for ages 18-36
months, which could be a disaster, but is usually great. 

I do think it's our job to set the parameters and establish control.  I
try to use the words "your help," a lot so that they feel empowered.
But, there are parents who use any opportunity to socialize with other
parents, or whose parenting style is to remain "hands off," in order to
encourage so-called independence. (Can you tell that's a personal pet
peeve of mine?)  Just this week I finally had to turn to the father who
was slouched against the wall, reading a magazine, ignoring his
rambunctious 2-year-old daughter who was running back and forth, doing
all that she could to attract attention during storytime, and say,
"Excuse me, but I need your help."  Just a few days before the same
parent was oblivious when the same little girl ran out of the library
and was found outside climbing on the sculpture while he remained in the
building.  Sigh....

I look forward to hearing from others what they have found helpful at

-----Original Message-----
From: kids-lib-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
[mailto:kids-lib-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of Patrick
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 9:49 AM
To: kids-lib
Subject: [kids-lib] story time etiquette input needed

Hello everyone,

   How many of you have the problem of parents disrupting and
distracting both the children and storyteller during story time? If
you're like me, your parents are the primary problem with behavior. But
how do you reprimand them for their actions in a way that will not leave
them angry and with a vow on their lips to never return to your
storytime and library again?

   Although this is definitely not the final answer, I'm in the
beginning stages of creating a pamphlet concerning proper story time
etiquette for parents. I'd like any and all feedback of what are common
parental problems and how they can be alleviated. Here are a few of the
major concerns that I will be addressing:

1. Leaving children by themselves.
2. Walking/talking behind the storyteller. (disclaimer: not all
libraries are built the same, so changing areas is sometimes not an
3. Talking during storytime, then shushing children when they begin to
speak. 4. Continually leaving and returning to the storytime area. 5.
Restricting a child's movement. 6. Allowing their children to throw
serious temper tantrums, but not removing them from the area. (this is
actually the easiest problem to address, but I'm always amazed that I
have to politely ask parents to leave until their child has settled down
each and every time) 7. Showing up [habitually] late. 8. Following their
children around when they wander from the story time area (but still in
view). 9. Participating. 10. Forgetting their children need help and
encouragement during craft time so that they can gossip away with one

   Again, please feel free to list anything you think I'm overlooking,
complete with what you'd like the parents to do. Also, if you'd like to
share any horror stories from your story time, please feel free. Just
make sure they're humorous and enjoyable, 'cause I don't think anyone's
interested in a rant... unless it's a really good rant.

   When I'm finished with the pamphlet, I'll post it up here (in pdf
form) so anyone interested can make copies for their own library. And
thank you everyone who responded to my queries on educational videos.
I'm about halfway through my purchasing, and really looking forward to
it's launch.

Kind regards,

Patrick L. Goodman
Youth Services Coordinator
Jefferson Co. Library District
241 SE 7th St.
Madras, OR 97741
(ph) 541.475.3351
(f) 541.475.7434
patrick at jcld.org _______________________________________________
Kids-lib mailing list
Kids-lib at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Hosted by the Oregon State Library
(503) 378-4246
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