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Sunday, January 3, 2021

Winter - Virtual Storytime

 After taking a few weeks to settle into my new position and first develop a non-virtual alternative to storytime, I turned my focus to virtual storytime in December. I know many people are reporting that patrons have screen fatigue and interest in virtual programming has sharply declined, but I felt that I had to at least give it a try. Partly because I really didn't know what else to do and felt pressured to do *something*, and partly because I had not done a storytime in 10 months and really missed the performance aspect of reading books aloud. Of course it isn't the same without a live, in-person audience, but it would at least keep me in practice.

I decided not to do a full storytime because I don't think kids engage as well with a video verses in-person. My goal was 15 minutes, but I keep ending up around 20 because I guess I'm trying to fit too much in, and I think I tend to favor slightly longer books. I've been doing opening and closing songs, two books, and two other songs/rhymes, but I may need to cut back to one book. I am not handing out a separate craft for each storytime, as the monthly early literacy kit contains several activities that loosely coordinate with what I will be doing in the virtual storytimes that month, and I don't have the time to do extra on top of that.

For the first one, I focused on a winter theme of hibernation, migration, and adaptation. I introduced myself and welcomed potential viewers with a quick song, "Hello, My Friends, Hello", then introduced the theme. I led in to the first book with my usual "If You're Ready for a Story" song.

winter storytime, hibernation storytime
The first story was a very cute one that I had not seen before about a little bear who does not want to hibernate, Hush Up and Hibernate by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam. Adults and kids will likely chuckle at all the familiar excuses Baby Bear gives for not being ready to hibernate: he's not sleepy, it's not fair because other animals don't hibernate, he's thirsty, the bed is too hard, etc. 

I really like that it also talks about the fact that not all animals hibernate and shows some of them being awake and active while Mama and Baby Bear are asleep in their den, as well as geese flying south. The illustrations are lovely, and I really like all the informational material at the end of the book, including other animals that do hibernate, so you get both fiction and non-fiction in one book.

I ended with talking about other ways animals survive the winter besides hibernating, such as migrating to warmer locales, or adapting by growing thicker, longer, warmer coats or even changing colors to better camouflage in the snow. This led to a song that includes several examples of all of these, "Winter's Coming Soon":

Winter's Coming Soon

The weather's getting cold, so bundle up,
bundle up, bundle up.
The weather's getting cold, so bundle up,
winter's coming soon.
 

The ducks and geese go flying south,
flying south, flying south.
The ducks and geese go flying south,
winter's coming soon.

The bears in their dens sleep all the time,
sleep all the time, sleep all the time.
The bears in their dens sleep all the time,
winter's coming soon.

The frogs and toads go deep in the mud,
deep in the mud, deep in the mud.
The frogs and toads go deep in the mud,
winter's coming soon.

The people in the town wear hats and gloves,
hats and gloves, hats and gloves.
The people in the town wear hats and gloves,
winter's coming soon.

winter storytime, migration storytime
Next was a book I've used many times that addresses migration, or rather what happens when one little duck doesn't migrate with his flock as he was supposed to, Jackie Urbanovic's classic Duck At The Door. Poor Max liked where he was during the rest of the year, so he thought he would like it there during the winter as well, so he chose not to migrate with the rest of his flock, which of course proved to be a serious mistake. Luckily he finds the home of animal-lover Irene, who of course takes him in. Max makes himself at right at home, maybe a little too at-home! This is a very cute story, and provides an opportunity to remind kids they should never open the door, but go get their grown-up if someone knocks.

I ended with a quick good-bye song and reminders about our curbside and digital services.

How It Went

I always ended my traditional storytime write-up's with a "how it went" to discuss how well it was received, what worked, what didn't, what I might do differently. But with a virtual format, it is really difficult to address those things without an audience to interact with.

I felt I did a decent job, though I would definitely be better with a real audience. It just isn't the same without the in-person interaction and feedback. At around 20 minutes, I think it's too long, and I will have to try to whittle it down in the future. Even though it was done live, there was no audience feedback during the presentation despite my prompting them to comment, nor after, and very few views. With being new and not having a chance to build a loyal following before the pandemic, and it being months since this branch had any virtual programming for kids, it will take time. I am cross-promoting with the to-go early literacy kits, as well as putting flyers in bags for curbside pick-up of holds that contain picture books to let people know about it.

I honestly have my doubts that I will be able to build much of an audience, but I am going to give it at least 3 months of trying, then re-evaluate.

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