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How can we create an engaging opening and closing to the session?
To establish a safe learning environment for regular attendees, include some repetition within and across your storytime sessions. One easy way to do this is to use predictable routine elements such as the same Welcome and Goodbye song each week. Such repetition not only enables children to learn the songs, it actually helps them participate more easily.
As you sing the Welcome song, greet each child with a smile again, make eye contact and wave hello. This is an important opportunity to connect with each child as you formally welcome them to their local library community. Such greetings offer a powerful opportunity for social interaction between the library staff and storytime participants and among the participants. In fact, greetings not only initiate social connection and strong engagement, they also function to personalise the library experience. Smiling and waving goodbye at the end as you sing the Goodbye song also gives the session a warm sense of closure. Goodbye songs can include, ‘This is the Way We Say Goodbye'.
Attending a library storytime session also teaches children how to behave in a group setting. So, at the start of each session, supportively articulate your expectations about both adult participation and child behaviour. For example, ‘We encourage everyone to listen carefully to our stories today, join in with the songs and rhymes, and have fun together’. You may also wish to let the attending adults know that seeing caregivers participate enthusiastically (e.g. listening carefully, singing songs and joining in the activities) will encourage children to adopt the same behaviours themselves and join in too. It is useful to give parents and caregivers permission to leave at any point if their child is not feeling happy, and return when the child is feeling more settled.
Many presenters report problems with attending adults who continue to chat to the person sitting next to them — a behaviour that can be very distracting and unsettling for the entire group. Some presenters arrange for their peers to help out by standing behind ‘the talkers’ and singing more loudly. Others are not able to do this as staffing ratios are not high enough. If adults keep talking during storytime, you may want to remind them that children tend to watch ‘grown ups’ closely and imitate our behaviours. Encourage adults to join in the activities and save their conversations until storytime has finished, so that everyone can have fun and help the children learn.