While Washington County Library’s children’s librarians are taking a two week break from regular storytime to get ready for this year’s Summer Adventure at Your Library, Erica Myhre, children’s librarian at Hardwood Creek Library in Forest Lake, has a message for all of the storytime parents out there.
Let me start by painting a picture for you. My tiny humans were two years old and five months old, and they had not been going to storytime regularly. I realized one day that we hadn’t been since before the second tiny human arrived, so we braved the winter weather and headed out.
We arrived at the library, found our spots, and everything was going well until about 10 minutes in. At that point my five month old started fussing and insisted on getting out of her car seat IMMEDIATELY, at a volume that meant everyone else knew she wanted out too. While dealing with that, my two year old, who is fast as lightning, BOLTED to the front of the room, ripped the book out the librarian’s hands, tore out one of the pages, and threw the book and the page on the floor.
Naturally, the room went silent… except for my infant who was still loudly insisting on exiting her car seat post haste. And you know what happened? The librarian picked up the page and the book and kept reading.
I felt such relief that we hadn’t ruined storytime. Even though we all survived, it definitely was not my proudest “Librarian Mom” moment. However, we went back and we keep going back. Now my son (mostly) sits, listens to the stories, does the rhymes and sings the songs.
Storytime is chaotic. Storytime is busy. Storytime is FUN. But most of all, storytime is for learning. Learning for tiny humans is filled with lots of starts, stops, bumps, bruises, and silliness. There is very little that your child can do at storytime that I (and most seasoned children’s librarians) haven’t seen before. The only thing that is worth getting upset about is how embarrassed the adult gets and how many adults stop bringing their tiny humans after one bad storytime experience. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. Every other adult in the room is just thanking their lucky stars because they all know that next week, it might be their kid!
So on behalf of children’s librarians I just want to say, it’s okay! It’s okay if your kid wants to sing over me – they’ve learned the words! It’s okay if your kid wants to get up and move – they’re excited about reading! It’s okay if your kid wants to ask a million questions while I read the story – they’re listening! It’s okay if your child comes up and pulls the book out of my hands and tears the page out – they’ve got great motor skills! It’s okay if your kid can’t make it the full thirty minutes, because maybe this week it’s only 10 minutes but next week it’s 15 and then 20.
Part of what our beloved tiny humans learn at storytime is what we call “executive functioning,” which is a fancy way of saying controlling yourself. It takes time to develop this skill and some days it’s just not going to happen and that’s okay. Come back next week and try again. I know plenty of adults who still struggle to control their emotions/actions, and they have had a lot longer to work on those skills.
Even if you have the opposite problem and your tiny human sits, doesn’t move, doesn’t sing, and doesn’t appear to engage in any way, I promise that they are paying attention and one day when they are ready they will be singing, jumping and laughing with the other tiny humans… or they’ll bust out with the lyrics to a song we sing every week when you least expect it!
So remember, it’s all okay at storytime.