I’ve been doing lots of studying up on storytimes, and have discovered many great ideas and program plans.Â Let me just say that up front: the three books that I’m using to educate myself have a wealth of great information and tips and suggestions, and I have learned an enormous amount.
But these books have also re-raised an issue that has bothered me in the past: the dependence on die-cut machinesÂ for library programs.Â [I’m bound to offend a large number of people here, but it’s time for me to expose my snarky side…]Â As the daughter of an educator who excelled at creative projects, I take issue with the use of pre-cut shapes in storytimes, which the child participants decorate and take home.Â Several things bother me: the requirement to take something tangible home after a storytime, which by nature is an intangible event; the importance being placed on the end product at an age (two, three, four years old) when the child’s natural end product is not going to be pleasing to adult eyes; and the removal of exploration from the child’s artistic experience.
Mom used to talk to me about her educational theory.Â I specifically remember one conversation with her when we talked about how everything is new to a young child, and that even holding an ice cube and watching it begin to melt is a fascinating educational moment for an infant or toddler.Â She also advocated the use of water tables, sand boxes, and other mediums in which a child can become absorbed in the moment, make discoveries, and also mellow out by virtue of water therapy or sand therapy.Â
Children have very different artistic sensibilities than adults – they’re freer, less inhibited by cultural standards – and it’s from these differences that new directions in art can be born.Â For my first Create a Valentine program, I had an assortment of artistic goodies laid out for the kids, along with a huge stack of pre-cut felt hearts, with the intention that the kids would take the supplies and glue them on to pieces of construction paper and make traditional cards.Â It was a shock to me, in a good way, when one girl took a funky lumpy pipe cleaner and strung several of the felt hearts on it, then looped the two ends of the pipe cleaner together to make a circular, three-dimensional, totally non-traditional Valentine.Â
The storytime books that I’m reading talk a lot about how librarians running storytimes have a golden opportunity to teach parents and caregivers to present books and reading to their children in a developmentally appropriate way.Â We’ve obviously made huge strides in the literacy end of things, and our storytimes have changed to reflect that, depending less upon a weekly theme and more upon stories that encourage and develop pre-reading skills in children.Â In my two youngest storytimes, if I choose to include an artistic element, I’d like to make that portion of the storytime be equally appropriate for the attendees.Â Why not blow bubbles, or play with clay (no end product needed or intended), or experience water play?Â If and when my storytimes have a craft portion, I want it to be experiential, not judgemental.Â I don’t want to burden any child at a veryÂ early age with the sense that he or she “couldn’t do” the assigned project correctly.Â
I’d love to hear other opinions on this matter, maybe even get a discussion going.Â Comments, anyone?