Storytime is More than Stories

By Katy Pattison
Appeared in the Springfield News-Leader
November 2, 2010

Rhonda Riley remembers coming to storytime at the Christian County Library as a child. "They had books laid out all over the tables, and I always had to pick books from the tables instead of the shelf, because I knew somebody else had liked them."

Many library users today visit the library and enjoy reading as adults because, like Rhonda, someone brought them to the library as children.

The Christian County Library has been offering storytime since 1974. Today, the library hosts at least three storytimes for 3-6-year-olds each week: 10:30 a.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday in the library, and 9:15 a.m. every Thursday at the OC in Ozark. No registration is required.

Storytimes are more than just stories. They often include songs to introduce rhyme and music, finger play to improve fine motor skills and even crafts to introduce children to art and the skills they'll eventually need for writing. And we know much more today about the impact library storytime can have on a child's early literacy skills.

Early literacy refers to what children know about reading and writing before they learn to read and write. This includes understanding that letters have sounds and form words, realizing that words are read from left to right and tell stories, and having a positive impression of books and reading.

Parents have the biggest influence on children's early literacy skills, but not all children grow up in environments suited to fostering early literacy. Even parents who enjoy reading and keep books for their children in the house can benefit from having a model for teaching early literacy in fun, interactive and age-appropriate ways.

This is where children's librarians and library storytimes come in. Trained children's librarians, like Christian County's Lucinda Dailey and Children's Assistant Cathy Roten, host storytimes that are just plain fun. But they also model for parents of preschoolers how to choose books, how to read to children interactively and how to introduce new words and concepts to their children.

For children, attending storytime is an introduction to listening and social skills they'll need in school. Librarians don't teach children to read, but children who visit the library with their parents might just learn to love reading.

Katy Pattison is the technology assistant at the Christian County Library.

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