We know that language interactions with others are crucial for literacy and learning as well as community formation. So, arrive early before each session in order to set up and also use the opportunity to create a welcoming atmosphere by greeting children and their caregivers as they arrive. Be sure to smile warmly as you say hello. Try to make eye contact with each child as this invites children to make a social connection with you. If there are children who attend regularly, try to learn their names. To engage individual children, as well as to promote print awareness and alphabet and letter knowledge, some presenters write each child’s name on a nametag sticker, and others ask caregivers or any children who can write their own names to do that, so that the children can wear the nametag and the presenter can see and use children’s names during the session.
In addition, make time to chat with children individually. You can sit with them on the rug before storytime and talk to them about the weather, their pets, their clothing or use puppets or a picture book to begin a conversation with them. You may also offer them playtime before the session to encourage interaction with other children and adults by providing them with soft toys (beach balls), puppets or musical instruments to play with. Providing opportunities for play before storytime may allow adults and children some time to transition from the outside world they have just left behind to the world of books and the library.
At the end of storytime, try to engage the children in conversation again if possible. One storytime presenter designs each craft activity in such a way that the child must come to them for a staple, rubber band or sticker that completes the craft object. This reinforces the social connection with the child and provides the presenter with the opportunity for a brief one-to-one interaction with each child. Such interactions may enable the presenter to ask questions about each child’s interests and make individualised borrowing suggestions for children’s books or other relevant library resources. Borrowing helps to foster the habit of coming to the library and keeps the connection between the library and the child alive. Other presenters ask the children to show their craft object to a library staff member at the front desk. This also opens up the potential for interaction, social connection and community formation with a simple question like ‘Tell me about your drawing/puppet/craft’.