Can’t Find a Story Time? START ONE!

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Start Your Own Story Time!

Can’t find a Story Time? Have tried your local library, books shops and recreation programs? If you still can’t find one, or if you are working in a library that does not provide Story Time programming, then why not start one of your own?

Story Times come in a large variety of shapes, forms and sizes. There is no right or wrong way to run a Story Time. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Decide Who?

Decide if you want to start a program for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, etc. or a combination of ages. Knowing the age range of your group will guide everything you do from picking books and songs to deciding where everyone will sit and how long your program can be. A little research into the age range you are picking can be very helpful as well!

2. Decide Where? When? How many?

Will you be the “leader” or do you have a group of caregivers who would like to share the job? Will you meet at a regular time and place? Will your program be for a select group of play-date friends or open to anyone who wants to join in the fun? Keep in mind the space you have available as well as your own personal comfort level and decide how many kids can attend. You may find yourself completely comfortable reading to a handful of kids but not to a huge crowd, or vice versa!

3. Decide What?

What elements do you want to incorporate? Ideally, Story Times should focus on learning and experimenting with language. This can be done in a wide variety of ways. Most programs use a combination of books, music and language play. If you are just starting out I recommend The Big Book of Stories, Songs and Sing-Alongs by Beth Maddigan. This book give a lot of information about the benefits of Story Time and also lists several full programs, complete with songs, rhymes, crafts and book suggestions.

There is absolutely no shame in borrowing! A quick internet search will bring up hundreds of sites that give you FREE, complete Story Time plans. Two of my favorites are The Library Adventure’s own Katie Fitzgerald at Story Time Secrets and Sunflower Story Time. My blog (Itsybitsymom) lists more suggestions and my own shared Story Time plans.

4. Play to your strengths

Not comfortable belting out a song? Don’t! Bring a CD player, iPod and speakers or find a pal who will handle any music you wish to incorporate. Not crafty?  Skip a craft – or enlist the help of a crafty parent or nanny. Find materials you love and are comfortable with that are appropriate for the age of your target audience and you can’t go wrong.

5. Make a plan and write it down.

Forgetting what the heck you were going to do next when you have a gaggle of toddlers staring you down is highly unpleasant! I type out all the words every week and refer to them all the time. Read the rhyme off of your plan if you need to, there is no need to memorize everything.

5. Practice!

After you have your plan be sure to preview ALL of your books. Read them through a few times OUT LOUD! Some language is tricky and some language may not be appropriate for your group. I once found myself reading a book that used the phrase “shut up” to a bunch of toddlers. I should have previewed the book and not blindly taken the recommendation. I quickly substituted “Stop it” and moved on, but near had a heart attack. Keep in mind really young kids can’t read and won’t know if you change a word here or there, so if your book is too long or there is something you are not comfortable with feel free to edit when you read it out loud.

6. Be flexible and patient.

Things won’t always go according to your plan. Sometimes your plan will need to be altered as you are presenting it. Sometimes you will have the best plan ever and Story Time is still a disaster.  Be flexible and patient with yourself and learn as you go.

7. Read!

The more kid lit you are familiar with the more choices you will have!


Above all, Story Time should be fun for everyone, including the leader!

Have any advice or a great resources for starting a Story Time program?  Please share!

About Anne McKernan

Once upon a time Anne McKernan, a very tired mother of two, walked in to a library ... the next thing she knew she was leading her town library's story time programs. Read more at

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