Every Child Ready to Read

Supercharge Your Storytimes: Using Intentionality, Interactivity, and Community

Kathleen Campana is a PhD Candidate at the University of Washington Information School and a researcher with Project VIEWS2. J. Elizabeth Mills is a PhD student at the University of Washington Information School and a researcher with Project VIEWS2. Saroj Ghoting, a children’s librarian for forty years, is an early childhood literacy consultant who presents in-person and online trainings on Every Child Ready to Read, and early literacy enhanced storytimes for library staff and their partners. Judy Nelson is a Customer Experience Manager Youth at Pierce County (WA) Library System. Kathleen Campana, J. Elizabeth Mills, and Saroj Ghoting are the authors of Supercharged Storytimes: An Early Literacy Planning and Assessment Guide (ALA Editions, 2016), which is highlighted in the column.

Book cover: Supercharged Storytimes

Talking, reading, singing, playing, and writing—the five Every Child Ready to Read, 2nd Edition (ECRR2) practices—are important parts of a child’s early literacy development. All of you who provide storytimes are using at least a few of these practices in your storytimes, but do you ever think about HOW you use them?

Project VIEWS2 (Valuable Initiatives in Early Learning that Work Successfully) was a four-year study from the University of Washington Information School made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Project VIEWS2 initially demonstrated that storytimes make a difference in children’s early literacy skills. It went on to establish that an intentional focus on early literacy skills in storytime planning and delivery increases the early literacy content of storytimes and the observable early literacy behaviors in the children who attend. Therefore when you intentionally insert early literacy skills in an interactive manner into the five practices of ECRR2, you can increase the early literacy impact of your storytime.

If you are wondering how to do this, Supercharged Storytimes can help. Supercharged Storytimes is a movement that emerged out of the VIEWS2 research. It uses the VIEWS2 Planning Tool (VPT) and emphasizes three primary methods for planning, delivering, and reflecting on your storytimes to help you be successful in your practice. These methods are intentionality, interactivity, and community.

To support the movement, the book Supercharged Storytimes: An Early Literacy Planning and Assessment Guide (ALA Editions, 2016) is an in-depth exploration of how to use the VPT, how to incorporate the early literacy behaviors from the VPT into the five practices of ECRR2, and how to incorporate self-reflection and peer mentoring into your process. The next sections are drawn from the book, to give you an idea of the book’s content and approach, and describe how you can supercharge your own storytimes.

What Is a Supercharged Storytime?

The Supercharged Storytimes movement utilizes the VPT for planning and reflecting on early literacy storytimes. This tool is made up of two parts:

  1. a collection of early literacy behaviors that a storytime provider or educator can use to incorporate early literacy into her program; and
  2. a related collection of early literacy behaviors that the provider or educator can observe in the children who attend the storytime.

The VPT focuses on early literacy domains (alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, communication, language use, print concepts, and writing concepts) that are similar to skills noted in ECRR1 and early learning guidelines of other states. You use the VPT by selecting behaviors from it to apply in storytime and then designing activities to incorporate your chosen behaviors.

Below are suggestions for supercharging your storytimes organized around the three primary methods.

Intentionality

Intentionality involves identifying the specific early literacy skills you want to encourage and being thoughtful about how you encourage them in storytime. An intentional focus does not stop with planning your storytime. Intentionality is a part of your storytime delivery, making sure you are deliberate in your interactions with the children and their parents/caregivers during storytime in order to best support their learning. Finally, intentionality includes regularly reflecting on your storytime to understand its impact as well as the successes and any challenges you have noticed.

When planning your storytime using the VPT, you can be intentional by

  • setting aside time to plan your storytimes using the Supercharged Storytime methods;
  • selecting the early literacy skills you would like to encourage;
  • deciding which early literacy behaviors you would like to use; and
  • designing ways to incorporate the chosen behaviors.

When delivering your storytime using the VPT, you can be intentional by

  • focusing on how you are delivering the activities;
  • being deliberate in your interactions with the children; and
  • giving the children opportunities to participate in storytime by pausing to allow them to contribute.

When reflecting on your storytime using the VPT, you can be intentional by

  • setting aside time to reflect on your storytimes;
  • thinking about how your storytime went;
  • considering the impact your storytimes are having on your community; and
  • identifying areas you want to revise and strengthen for next time.

Interactivity

Interactivity involves incorporating storytime elements during which the child can interact with the content of the storytime. It is about having a dialogue with the children, a back-and-forth exchange around a book, a play pattern, or a flannel board story. You can incorporate interactive elements throughout all of your storytime practices. Most importantly, you want to give the children time and opportunities to respond. Interactivity fits with intentionality because it is important to be intentional about providing ways for children to interact with you as well as with the activities you deliver.

Some methods for encouraging interactivity are

  • having the children act out something that is happening in the book, song, or rhyme;
  • asking the children questions about the book and pausing so that they have a chance to respond; and
  • asking children to repeat or fill in words in a rhyming book, song, or fingerplay.

Community

A community is made up of fellow storytime providers. Your peers can be a crucial asset to you when developing supercharged storytimes. Find a group of fellow storytime providers (or even one other storytime provider) who are just as excited as you are about taking storytimes to the next level. Meet with them regularly, face-to-face or virtually, to discuss storytime ideas and provide feedback. Working together on developing early literacy storytimes means you can share and receive activity ideas; get support, advice, or feedback; and ask questions. You can also ask a peer storytime provider to observe and assess your storytime. Then have a discussion on what was observed, providing each other with feedback and ideas.

Public library storytimes offer our youngest customers incredible opportunities to learn through play—which research tells us is the best way for children to learn. When you, as the storytime provider, are equipped with the knowledge you need to provide these deliberate learning opportunities for children, and when you intentionally apply them to your storytimes and articulate early literacy connections to the parents/caregivers, you can rest assured that your storytimes are having a positive impact on these children and making the most of your time with them. &

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