library · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

Engaging Read Alouds

Story time was packed — and I mean packed — this morning!  We’re talking 40-ish kids under the age of six!  Despite the large number, the children were under control and interested in listening to the stories.

BUT, the librarian who was leading story time seemed unprepared.  First, she didn’t know the tunes to the songs she was leading (that were projected onto a screen).  Second, she didn’t read the author or illustrator’s names after reading the title of each of the three books she read aloud.  Third, she misread many of the words in the stories.  Seeing as the stories were projected on to the screen I, personally, found this to be distracting.  Fourth, and the most egregious to me, she didn’t engage the kids in the story!  At the end of the story she either moved on to a song or said, “That was a nice book.”  No reflective questions or things for the kids to think about.  In addition, she didn’t do a single think aloud when she read the picture books aloud.

I realize a crowded story time is nothing like a read aloud in a school that values balanced literacy. However, I’ve taken Isabelle to other story times at other libraries and bookstores.  I’ve watched other librarians and shopkeepers engage the children with the books.  Today was the first time I left a story time disappointed.

On a positive note, Isabelle sat quietly and listened the entire time. Then, she played nicely with her friends who met up with us at the library.  THAT’s good stuff (and I know it)!


16 thoughts on “Engaging Read Alouds

  1. This describes every session of story time at my library. It was supposed to be for kids under 3, yet not one book in 6 weeks was actually for kids under 3. Each time it seemed to be the first time the librarian had read the book. And each time, she would interact more with the adults than with the children. The books were often full of over-their-heads humour, so she’d have to stop and make eye contact with some parents to try and share the laugh. We haven’t been back. 🙂

  2. I loved your last paragraph. It spoke volumes to the way we pick life apart down to it’s littlest pieces, then look at our children smiling alongside us through the whole thing.

  3. These times are frustrating, but speaking from one who has done this parenting journey, you will encounter lots of them– with teachers and coaches and others. Sometimes, I think you just have to let stuff go. Other times you can decide it’s important enough to talk to someone. And then sometimes, my kids have totally surprised me with the learning they have taken away from a time that I thought was totally miserable. Hang in there.

  4. The most important thing, as you mention, is that Isabelle enjoyed the story. Lucky that she knows (thanks to you) what a wonderfully engaging experience a read aloud can be.

  5. Even as an adult, I like for read alouds to be engaging. When I’ve taken my students to the public library, the librarians have said with a laugh that I seemed as interested if not more interested than my students. It’s not my fault, they practically act out those books.

    Good thing your sweetie still enjoyed her experience. She sure is lucky to have a Mom who gives her those opportunities whether they be awesome or lukewarm.

  6. Isn’t it hard to understand how you can read a book out loud and not react to it? I think that it becomes so part of our fiber and make-up that we don’t understand how anyone who professes to love books wouldn’t interact with the story that’s being experienced. Maybe the librarian had distractions going on that prevented her from preparing or just living in the moment, but how frustrating to watch the privilege of reading aloud to young children not be cherished!

    1. You hit the nail on the head when you wrote: “I think that it becomes so part of our fiber and make-up that we don’t understand how anyone who professes to love books wouldn’t interact with the story that’s being experienced.”

  7. I can understand how this experience frustrated you. Not knowing the backstory I can’t comment much on the librarian’s performance. Maybe she was subbing for someone and had not time to prepare. Or maybe she has never seen what an exciting read-aloud looks, sounds and feels like. I hope this librarian has a chance to experience a magnificent read-aloud and gets inspired from it. I am glad that you were able to finish this lice with a positive note.

  8. It is both the educator and mother in you that makes it possible for you to turn a disappointing outing into a positive one. Hopefully the next story time will be more engaging.

  9. It’s such a shame that the experience was like this, especially because of all of the talented, hardworking, engaging Librarians there are, who really “get” how precious, fleeting, and vital these sessions are – and make the most of every audience they get.

    1. I still remember Mrs. Cesar and Mrs. Phelan, the children’s librarians at my library growing up. They were engaging and personable. They got it. Unfortunately, this librarian didn’t. {Sigh.}

  10. That is a pet peeve of mine – someone who can’t get involved in a story, who doesn’t involve the kids and makes it more like a chore. No wonder it upset you.

  11. How disappointing! At least you know Isabelle gets plenty of well-supported read-alouds otherwise! Maybe the read-aloud lady just didn’t know what’s important to do in a read-aloud — you should volunteer to show her, or write to the library! Glad that Isabelle still had a nice time!

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