One of the mainstays of library services is preschool storytime. Unfortunately, the past two years have impacted many of the in-person programs that were once offered on a regular basis. Storytimes are being offered once again, but with some restrictions, like social distancing and how many people can attend. Plus, many families are still uncomfortable bringing their children into public spaces.  

With that in mind, I would like to offer families an alternative… you can create your own storytime! I realize it’s different than having other children to interact and socialize with, but it can still be an opportunity to introduce early literacy at home and empower your child to take a leadership role in what a storytime might look like. 

Here are some suggestions to help you and your child pull it all together: 

  • Many children’s librarians (myself included) will first think of a theme for their storytimes. When I plan a storytime, I think about fun ideas that might pique a child’s curiosity or imagination. The themes don’t have to be life altering or world changing; they can be as simple as stories with ducks, or cars and trucks. (You get the picture.) The benefit of developing a home storytime is that you and your child can talk about this together. For more thoughts on the nuts and bolts of storytimes, you can also check out Elinor Anderson’s blog post, Storytime at Home.
  • After you decide on a theme, the next step is to find the books. One of the services we provide at JCLS is Discovery. This is where a librarian will curate and email you a book list on any topic you are interested in. You can then choose which books appeal to you. Of course, you can also visit the library and ask a librarian for book recommendations. We’ll be happy to find books for you as well. Another neat service the library offers is the Storytime @ Home bag. Each bag includes a handful of books revolving around a theme, some songs and rhymes that you can do at home, a toy or game that helps reinforce concepts and help with motor skills, activities that help expand on early literacy and learning, and a coloring sheet with crayons. There are bags in English, Spanish/español, or bilingual. All you have to do is search for “Storytime @ Home bag” in the catalog and it will bring you right to it.
  • When you have your books picked out, it’s time to think about the structure of your storytime. The following is an example of how I generally structure my storytimes at the library: 
    • Beginning – I usually start with an opening song. Here is a simple and easy opening song adapted from the tune If You’re Happy and You Know It: “If you want to hear a story, clap your hands / If you want to hear a story, clap your hands / If you want to hear a story, if you want to hear a story, if you want to hear a story, clap your hands.” Then you can substitute clap your hands with stomp your feet, flap your arms, jump up and down, and finally end with find your seat.
    • Middle – After the opening song, I begin reading my first book. After a book or two I’ll introduce another song like The Wheels on The Bus, or Head Shoulder Knees and Toes. (You can also make up songs from tunes you already know). A fun addition might be simple percussion instruments made from paper towel tubes. You can either tape or staple the end closed and add rice or beans, or you can make two and have your child tap them together. (One word of advice, staples can be sharp so it’s best to cover them with heavy-duty tape).
    • End – When I’ve read all my books and sung any extra songs, I end with a goodbye song; one I’ve used in the past is also adapted from the song If You’re Happy and You Know It. “Our storytime is over, wave goodbye / Our storytime is over, wave goodbye / Our storytime is done, I hope you had some fun / Our storytime is over, wave goodbye.” This is a great resource for more children’s songs.  
  • Now you have your books and your songs and a basic structure for how storytime will go, it’s time to create your space. Pick a spot where you have a bit of room, and gather any stuffies your child would like to participate in storytime. Have your child arrange them in a semi-circle. Don’t forget to make a space for your child as well. 
  • When you are sitting down, embrace the fun and say hello to a couple of the stuffie participants, make sure you also welcome your own child. 
  • To bring the theme of your storytime full circle, it might be fun to offer some activity you and your child can work on. If you would like to do this, but can’t think of an easy craft for a specific theme, most librarians have a whole treasure trove of crafts and activities they can share with you. There are also numerous books on the topic that you can view here, as well any number websites that offer simple and easy crafts with supplies found in your home. Here are 10 Crafts to Beat Boredom With Stuff You Already Have at Home (Parent Map) and 13 Easy Crafts for Kids to Make With 3 Supplies or Less (

Of course, you can also check out the library’s virtual storytimes that you and your child can enjoy together. Many of my virtual storytimes are connected to a blog post, with step-by-step instructions for different crafts and activities you can do at home. If that’s something that interests you, just go to the catalog, pop my name into the search box, and make sure you switch from the catalog to the website.

Storytimes are foundational to early literacy and a wonderful way to share the love of reading with your child. Just remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. At the end of the day, reading aloud, singing songs, and enjoying books together is what it’s all about, so relax and have fun!