Why We Ditched Storytime (and Why We Went Back)

Story time at the library when I was a kid involved books, of course, but also Punch and Judy puppet shows, games, fingerplays and music. And, most notably in those days when no one had ever heard of “helicopter parenting”: there were no parents in the story time room.

Two librarians managed to handle the group of children just fine on their own. Which meant the frazzled moms had about 30 minutes to go read a magazine, browse the books, or just sit in the peace and quiet. (Because libraries were quiet back then, remember?)

Somewhere between my childhood and my children’s storytime changed.
why we ditched storytime
Today the moms,nannies, &grandmas sit behind the children for the entire program. The children are supposed to sit in a circle but really they walk around the room and talk almost constantly despite the presence of so many adults. The librarian reads, sings, & invites the children to play just as before, but somehow storytime has lost its “this is a just for kids activity”. Everyone listens to the three picture books. Everyone sings along to the repetitive songs children love.

So, when my kids were young, we ditched storytime.

Yes, I know, what a confession from a book and library loving family. But it’s true.

I had no desire to sit in a room filled with toddlers and sing “The Wheels on the Bus” umpteen times. I could do that just as well at home. And at home I could say when it was over.

So, we simply used the library to find new books for reading at home. We liked the librarians (and they knew us by name), but we didn’t attend storytime.

library shelvesBut a funny thing happened: my kids got older. (Strange how that happens!)

And the library was scheduling programs like “Messy Science” or “Art Camp” and “S.T.E.M Fun” and “Lego Days” in addition to storytime.

We started attending nearly every program we could.

And best of all, my oldest 3 kids were old enough to go alone. Some of the programs were designed for kids after school, so parents weren’t expected to be there. There was time to read a magazine, or browse the stacks, or even run down the street to the market and buy some local honey or a gallon of milk.

Then our youngest daughter realized her siblings were going to the library more than she was. She’s not the kind of kid to take that sort of thing without protest. So: Storytime. Occasionally. Not every week, but often enough. And some of the programs stretch from her age up to her old siblings’ ages, so I can send her in with them while I browse for books myself.

Libraries aren’t necessarily always quiet places these days. And the programs aren’t just about books. But one thing hasn’t changed: a local library is an incredible resource for any family.

Even if you don’t like storytime.

Does your family attend a storytime at your library?

Resources for Readers:
Dover Books

ditched storytime

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  1. Our story time in Buffalo had only two or three kids attending (one being mine). I honestly thought it was pretty lame so Abby and I went to story time in the next town over. That only happened once. There were so many kids/parents/grandparents it was unreal! And only a fraction of the kids actually sat and listened. The mothers were clearly there for the social part. I was glad to go back to our small group!
    Also, the kids’ school down here has a STEM room where they do all sorts of neat things and I think the kids go about every day. I’d never even heard of it until we moved down here.

    • Yeah, I kind of wonder if a lot of the adults are there for the social part too. But they’re usually older than I am and I don’t consider story time a social event. :)

  2. I am sad to say that I walked out of a story time when the children were being taught the sounds of the alphabet and we got to the letter “wee” which says “wuh”, apparently. My kids were just learning sounds themselves and I was listening to the kids in the room ALL mispronounce the letter name and sound – and the adults, not knowing or wanting to correct the librarian were too!!! Twilight zone moment – then we left before we could be assimilated.

    • That is wild. I would have walked out too. (And I probably wouldn’t go back under those circumstances, unless a new librarian who knew letter sounds came along.)

  3. I loved story time. But there were few families and the kids were pretty well behaved. I could be blocking it out, but I remember a good time.