Promoting a love for literacy: Story Time in the Library


Bee Klapper

Story Time in the Library was created to foster a love for literacy. To make reading interactive, the volunteers use puppets and activities along with reading

Sitting in the library surrounded by children from NKU’s Early Childhood Center, Teresa Walker paused to a question.

“Do you guys like snow?” Walker asked.

The children voiced their enthusiasm and Walker, a library staff member, started the storytime session. The theme of the week was snow, and the children were given blank pieces of white paper to act as “snow” for their activity after the reading.

They were assembled on a quilt made by a retired library employee that had a red backdrop with covers of children’s books. Walker read four books to them, including “You Make Me Smile” by Layn Marlow and “One-Dog Sleigh” by Mary Casanova.

Walker paused after every page and asked the kids questions to engage them. She also read one book with the help of a puppet named Mr. Squirrel.

Jenny Smith, coordinator of the Story Time in the Library, said volunteer readers should vary their activities and incorporate elements like puppets into their readings. Another option available is telling stories, which Smith doesn’t see volunteers do as often.

Young children generally can’t be expected to sit still for 30 minutes, so Smith suggests for volunteers to read a book, do an activity and then go on to another book. They also make sure to offer help to volunteers before sessions for preparation.

“Before a reader comes to do their thing, we send them a PowerPoint with tips and suggestions for a good read-aloud session,” Smith said. “We’re available to help them with choosing books and that kind of thing, and coming up with activities.”

She said that a major goal of the Story Time in the Library is promoting literacy and a love of reading in children when they’re young.

“We try to support it from both ends to make sure it’s a quality program and that we are actually accomplishing a goal like promoting literacy and a love of books and a love of the library,” Smith said. “That’s why we have them come to the library instead of us just going to them. We want them to experience visiting the library and picking out books.”

Erin Smith’s favorite part of doing story time is her interaction with the children, and listening to them as they react to the books and activities. Smith, who acts as a coordinator for all volunteers,  enjoys building her relationship with them. She sees most of them pass through the Early Childhood Center from when they’re young until they graduate.

“The kids just brighten my day,” Erin Smith said. “It’s fun to develop relationships with them even when I only see them half an hour every week.”

Towards the end of the 30 minute program, the children participated in an activity. They took their pieces of paper from the beginning of the program and crumpled them up in order to make “snowballs” and then proceeded to have a snowball fight with each other for a few minutes.

At the very end, all of the children were allowed to take a book back to the classroom with them to check out until the next session.

Jenny Smith said a goal of the storytime program is to present the children with books that they wouldn’t normally read. The program primarily wants to encourage their love of reading and learning early in life, through showing kids they can have fun.

The children are split into groups by age, ranging from 1 to 4 years old. Each group attends story time about once a month, as they rotate the groups weekly. All groups are only together once a year, at a party for all ages.

The party has a theme based on books, and past themes have included Curious George and Eric Carle’s books. While the current program is only for NKU’s Early Childhood Center, they may branch out in the future and invite other daycares in the area.

The program was started in 2007, as part of the teacher resource center in the library. Initially it was library personnel who volunteered to be the reader, but after a couple semesters it was opened to the whole campus.

Anyone who wants to volunteer as a reader is able to do so, and past readers have been anyone from international exchange students to on campus staff.

A signup sheet is available at the beginning of every semester, although most recent readers have been staff members.

Volunteer readers can contact Smith. The volunteer readers can talk with her about what they want to do for their story time and their topic. Readers can either choose their own books, or they can use story kits that have already been put together by the Teacher’s Resource Center.