Here's a look at what the storytime looked like from my perspective:
At just before 10:30 a.m., approximately 25 children and their parents, relatives and caretakers gather in the small, colorful storytime room in the southeast corner of the library. The excited hum of the children spikes every so often with a shrill shriek until the librarian enters the room and starts preparing the kids for storytime with the welcome song.
"Welcome, welcome everyone! Now you're here, let's have some fun!" she sings.
The kids all get settled in their places – on their parents' laps, on the floor nearest the librarian and a few of the shyer kids sit on chairs near their caretakers in the back of the room.
The first title of the day is Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, a book about a young girl's visit to – you guessed it – the library. As the librarian reads the story aloud, she pauses every once in a while to ask the kids a question about the story, keeping their attention.
"Lola and her mom walked to the library, how did you get here today?"
"Do you have a library card?"
"Do you like to find new books at the library?"
"Do you get a snack after you visit the library?"
"Great listening!" the librarian exclaims as she closes the now finished book. "I'm feeling sort of happy, how about you?" She begins to sing "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands," and the kids soon begin to chime in.
After the song ends, the librarian picks up a brown, potato-shaped fabric cut-out and places it on a felt board.
"Who do you think this is?" she asks.
A few youngsters pick up on it immediately.
"Mr. Potato Head!" they giggle.
"He looks a little different ... I think he's missing a few things. What does Mr. Potato Head need to be able to see you?"
"EYES!" yell a few kids, as others nearly poke themselves in the pupils, pointing to their own peepers.
The activity goes on as the librarian asks them to identify the body parts used to do things like smell, taste, hear, run and clap. The kids are almost all smiling by now, fully attentive to what their beloved librarian will have them do next. She picks up another book, this one called Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won.
The book is about a group on animal friends who cheer one another up by giving each other fun hats to wear. Every few pages big, colorful letters encourage the children to shout aloud with the librarian, "HOORAY FOR HAT!" as they throw their little arms up toward the sky.
"Good reading! Give yourselves a hand!" the librarian says. "Now let's get up and moving!"
She leads the children in a rousing group rendition of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," repeating the song three times – faster and faster with each repetition.
After the story, we pick up another hat-themed activity. This time, the librarian uses a felt board to put up different types of hats, such as a red firefighter helmet, a blue policeman's hat, a puffy white chef's hat, a sparkly crown, a purple sombrero and more. After identifying all the hats, the librarian brings out a small felt cut-out of a sleeping gray cat, who she explains likes to sleep underneath hats.
As the children close their eyes and count to ten, the librarian hides the cat under one of the hats. When the kids open their eyes, she has them attempt to find the cat by identifying the color of the hats.
"Little cat, little cat, are you under the green hat?" the children croon along with the librarian. "NOOO!? Little cat, little cat, are you under the black hat?"
They eventually find the cat sleeping under the orange construction hat and all rejoice excitedly.
With the sleeping cat now safe and sound, the group jumps along to a counting CD and uses their fingers to get all the way up to ten before sitting back into their seats.
"Look at the time!" the librarian says. "It looks like storytime is over! But not before we sing the thank you song!"
The children sing along, clapping their hands and stomping their feet before they roll their hands in small circles in front of their tummies and wave goodbye.
Watching this tender and invaluable interaction between the librarian, the kids and their caretakers made me incredibly excited for my upcoming class assignment to propose with my own storytime program. Getting a first-hand look at some examples of intellectually stimulating (and fun!) storytime ideas reinforced a lot of the information I've been reading about for my class and gave me some new ideas for future literacy programs of my own!
To learn more about the Kenosha Public Library's weekly storytimes, click here. They're fun – and free!