You’re Never Too Old for Storytime

It’s currently Spring Break at my school, so even though I have some ideas brewing from the AISL conference and the research seminar I’m teaching this spring, I wanted to share something a little cozier for this post.

As many of you likely know, February 1st was World Read Aloud Day. I also work with students in grades 6-12, which are not prime read-aloud years. But they should be! There has been plenty of research on the benefits of reading aloud, but for me the biggest benefit is the joy of sharing a story together.

I’ve only tried to do something once before with World Read Aloud Day – it was very elaborate and a middling success. I tried to do something that lasted multiple periods across the day, involving all kinds of teachers and while it engendered some positive feelings about the library, the reality was that it was poorly attended (even with the lure of hot chocolate!) and did not connect with students the way I had hoped it would.

But iteration is the name of the game, right? For this go-round, I decided to keep things much, much simpler. One storytime, during a time when most students are free, two picture books, and, of course, some cookies. I’m lucky to have a student ambassador for the library who I can consult with as I plan these things – she helped me pick the day and time, and also helped spread the word and generate interest.

I made an announcement during an upper school meeting and sent a follow-up email, but didn’t do much else in terms of promotion. The two books I selected to read were Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (a favorite of mine) and, by student request, an Amelia Bedelia book.

I was expecting maybe five or six students to show (which I would have counted as a success!) but I ended up having almost 30 kids come to storytime! There were students from grades 9 through 12, and a handful of middle schoolers who were brought by the leader of their after-school activity. One student asked if they could respond to the story as I was reading it, and I said yes – which sparked a steady stream of “oh no!” and audible groans as I read about the trials and travails of poor Alexander.

This simple little storytime proved so popular that students requested it become a regular event. I did another storytime in February (and had a second planned that was canceled due to a snow day), this time inviting the faculty advisors to the Black Student Union and Black/African heritage affinity group to read aloud some of their favorite books. I’m hoping to continue to connect with other affinity group advisors for future storytimes.

I know I am often guilty of trying to go “too big” when planning, well, anything so it was both lovely and humbling to see so many people excited about such a simple program. And, thanks to Cindy Wray and Margaret Rhoades and their AISL presentation on creating a culture kids love, I now have a million more ideas for programs (big and small!) that will help me to connect to even more students.

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