Story time is Sacred

This post is is from 4 years ago. I never hit the publish button!

Last year, story time was a big challenge for me. Coming from two decades in the middle school arena, it was new.   I stumbled through my own ideas of where the children should sit, wether I should sit or stand, which books were the best choices for story time, should I use a document camera, etc, etc.

 In this second year of story time I now understand: the purpose of the story time rug, the story time chair and having a special corner or area for story time. But the biggest revelation for me was just how important story time actually is. Don't get me wrong, I have always known that story time is a big deal and that reading aloud to children is hugely important, but the richness of it and the depth of what story time can be and do is much more than I originally gave it credit for. I underestimated it. Story time is an educational playground chock full of opportunities to teach vocabulary, literary elements and much more. It is also a time to personally connect with students.  It creates a shared, community experience that can be referenced and built upon. I bet whole college courses could be done on story time, maybe they are.

I now have a story time chair for the reader - that's usually me! And, I have moved the area where we do story time to the back of the library, away from the distracting flow of checkout, visitors and chatting teachers, closer to our beanbag reading area near the big windows. I remember first seeing the tiered area in our library with the bean bags and thinking that was the perfect place for story time. Now I know better. That area is too large and spread out for my version of story time.

I still don't have a story time rug, because I haven't found one that I like just yet. But, I do understand that the students need to sit on the floor to improve their ability to focus on the book and its' illustrations, and that being close to each other is important. The rug defines that area and makes it special. Children need to see the reader's facial expressions, and  the reader needs to see the children's facial expressions. The setting is intimate and special. This is one of the reasons I have chosen not to use technology during story time. I believe it would create a barrier between the reader and the student and that face to face experiences in our world are becoming a luxury.

I have always believed in doing the voices and making sounds when reading a story. Now I also find that putting my own reactions into the read aloud is often effective. The look of shock, surprise or anger on my face when a character does something unexpected is entertaining and often helpful to children in confirming their own reactions to the story. It is also fun.

I certainly have much to learn about the art of an effective story time, but I have come a long way. At the very least, I now have a more comprehensive understanding and a deeper appreciation for the goodness and importance of reading picture books to classes of students.