Library’s Storytime Series Focuses on the Whole Child

​Skill-boosting programs help prepare children for school 

An adult helps a child make art with rubber bands and a peg board.It’s 9:45 a.m. in the Central Library storytime room and Ashley G., a youth programming specialist at Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL), is setting up for “Combined Preschool Storytime.” A basket of scarves, a stack of books, sandpaper blocks, and the TV at the edge of a colorful ABC carpet are all part of the cheery atmosphere. Soon children and their caregivers arrive, chatting and catching up; all are regulars to this Monday morning series. 

Storytime classes are some of the most popular programs at libraries, and this spring, VBPL began a “whole-child” approach to preschool programming. Not only are the children introduced to activities that support early literacy and encourage reading, but also to those that build social-emotional skills, confidence, problem-solving, science and math concepts, and motor skills – things that will be very helpful when they begin school. 

As the children settle onto the carpet, Ashley leads a welcome song and the children pass sandpaper blocks around, each sharing their name – Michael, Kaitlyn, Cullen, Nina and Blake. One is quiet, holding back from joining in but is assured, “That’s okay, the world needs both talkers AND listeners!” Ashley brings out a felt board and the day’s weather details are discussed – is it sunny and windy, or rainy and chilly? She then begins layering images of hearts, a horse, a helicopter, and a house, as today’s letter of the day is “H.” The caregivers jump in to help as Geoboards are passed out; these handheld boards are used to teach math and strengthen fine motor skills. Today, the children are working on making H’s and hearts by stretching rubber bands around the board’s pegs. Their voices then join in the alphabet song we all know, ending with an excited, “next time won’t you sing with me?” 

Children play with sheer scarves in storytime.Kaitlyn is 5 years old and is with her mom Ally, who remembers their early days at library programs. With Kaitlyn, then snuggled in a wearable infant carrier, Ally would push big sister Nicole in a stroller to storytime at Windsor Woods Area Library. Now with Nicole in school, Ally brings Kaitlyn to preschool storytime and is looking forward to signing her up for “On My Own Storytime,” perfect for 4 and 5-year-olds who are comfortable in the class without their caregiver in the room. Independence and confidence-building are important skills to work on before going to school!

The whole-child approach also seeks to involve parents and caregivers in their children’s literacy development. For Ashley and other storytime leaders at VBPL, that means providing tips and activities that can be used at home to continue learning. 

On this day, Ashley explains how to use the “power of yet.”  “First, assure a child who may be struggling with reading or other skills that they’re not failing,” says Ashley, “Then, encourage the child that in time and with practice, they will be successful – just not yet.”

Storytime continues with the book, “Hush Little Trucker,” by Kim Norman, its rhyming lullaby-like prose all about big machinery from bulldozers to front-end loaders. 

“What’s next?” an excited Blake asks. It’s a song about zoo animals and Ashley shows them how to do yoga poses that go along with the song: dog, butterfly, cow and more. Kaitlyn says yoga is her favorite part of storytime; it’s also a great example of boosting motor skills, another aspect of the whole-child approach. 

These activities make for a fun, interactive, and encouraging storytime for both children and caregivers alike. Want to join in the fun? Registration for each VBPL storytime series opens two weeks prior to the first program in the series. To register and learn more, visit www.VBgov.com/storytime.

Library staff read a book to a group of children.
A child shows off the art they made with rubber bands on a peg board.
Guided by library staff, a group of children add items to a flannel board.
A group of storytime children saying goodbye to library staff.

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