To Theme or Not To Theme

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When it comes to story time planning, do you theme, or do you freestyle?

The library technician at my branch plans beautiful family story times around themes like “firefighters” or “rabbits” or “spring”.

Themes have never really suited my style.

I don’t really like being tied to my outlines – I always plan my story times, but I don’t always stick to my plans. My groups can vary wildly from week to week, and I never really know who will be sitting on the carpet waiting for me when I arrive. I often change my plans around to suit the makeup and the mood of the day – if it seems that everyone’s feeling really bright and energetic we’ll do more movement songs, but if everyone seems sleepy or we’ve got a few kids who are feeling under the weather, we might keep things more low key. Sometimes I’ll have a big group show up, and sometimes I’ll just have a handful of parents and little ones. I like being able to switch things around at the last minute, without worrying about deviating from the day’s theme.

I know that some people do fantastic themed story times, and I really admire their creativity. I also know that there are different ways to use a theme – some people use the same songs and rhymes every week but just change up their books to suit their weekly theme, while other people follow a theme from hello song to goodbye song.

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There are lots of different ways to plan a story time, and different approaches and styles suit different people’s skills and abilities. There’s no right or wrong way to do story time, as long as you’re always putting your families at the heart of your programs.

If you do children’s programming, how do you like to plan? Do you like to work around a theme, or do you freestyle your programs? I’d love to know!

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6 thoughts on “To Theme or Not To Theme

  1. I like a theme because there are usually so many things to choose from if I freestyle. I don’t like it to be too binding though. I like to include new books even if they are not part of the theme so parents know what is available. However my most important criteria for selection is the appeal factor. eg. the pictures are easily seen, the text is not too lengthy, it is fun or meaningful, it works as a read to a group and rather than a one to one, etc.
    The other most important factor is that I enjoy reading it – the enjoyment rubs off.
    (p.s. If the book doesn’t grab the audience put it down and sing a song or do something else.)
    -Claire

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    • Thank you for this!!! I totally agree, themes should be there to guide you and inspire you, but shouldn’t hold you back. Such a great tip for new librarians, too – if something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to put it down and do something else! I wish I’d known that right when I started, it would’ve saved me from a few awkward story time experiences…. 🙂

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  2. I think similar to Claire I use a theme as a launching point. Sometimes it’s helpful, but I rarely would stick narrowly to it (unless it’s a special event storytime). And Jane, I love your storytime faces!! 🙂

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  3. I do 18 month & 2 years as well as a 3, 4, & 5yr old class. I do 4 week sessions 3 X a year. I like to pick a theme each week as well as a running theme for the older kids. For example: I will be doing Fall colors, Farm, Halloween & Weather with a running theme of Rhymes.
    With my younger class I do the Good Morning song, Teddy bear, Teddy bear, a Brown Bear, Brown Bear flannel which I let them bring up an animal, and a closing rhyme each week with two books and a rhyme. I usually use the same theme for those books and rhyme as my older class. I have a craft for both classes as well, and the theme helps me pick that craft. [the younger class craft has lots of glue stick action, their favorite.]

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