I didn’t get it

One of the joys and difficulties of being a children’s librarian is you can never completely master the job. There is always something or someone to set your expectations on end.

My current storytime group has a little girl in it who is darling, but really frustrated me because she just didn’t pay attention. I would be singing, or reading a story, or trying to explain how to do something, and there she would be chattering away with her cousin. I would call her name, and she’d look at me blankly and turn back to him and continue. She occasionally would get very upset and turn her back on me huffily, and I never exactly knew why.

But the past few weeks, she has started not just paying attention, but participating enthusiastically. I always ask a lot of questions during stories with this group (“What did that rooster sound like? How does it look like the little girl is feeling?” “Is it going to work this time?”) but she never answered, or if she did it was completely off-topic. But now she jumps right in with a “Cock-a-doodle doo” or “Mad” or “No, it’s not going to work”. She even points out things she’s seeing in the pictures, and the real miracle is, she’s looking at the pictures instead of chatting with her neighbor.

Coincidentally, I can also understand what she’s saying much better. So my big DUH moment was finally realizing that the problem (of course) was she didn’t understand what the heck I was saying! And now she does. It’s as simple as that.

Although I of course feel very stupid for not catching on more quickly, and disappointed once again that after doing storytimes for 30 years I still can be so dumb, it was really a very joyful moment. She’s at storytime! Storytime is helping her learn the words she needs in English to be able to communicate.  If she’s angry, she can use her words to describe how she’s feeling, and she’s learning through the great stories and songs what those feelings are and that they’re normal.  She no longer turns her back on me in a huff, because she’s not so frustrated, and she’s a delight to have in the group.

I always love doing my Storytime for Big Kids, but you don’t usually see quite so clearly that what you’re doing is making a difference in a child’s life. Since I was lucky enough to get that opportunity, I wanted to share it with all of you who write for children or work with children. Our work matters.


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One Response to I didn’t get it

  1. I love seeing that with shy preschoolers – at the beginning of the semester they sit on mom’s lap or at the back. After a few months, they’re up front, climbing in my lap, singing the songs, and giving me good-bye hugs.

    I deal with a lot of children with various issues and I’ve learned to just speak calmly or ignore children who aren’t paying attention – I often find out later that it’s more than just not being able to focus. I had a little girl who didn’t seem to hear a word I was saying – and she wasn’t! Severely hearing impaired. So now I work on talking to parents and creating relationships where they feel comfortable telling me things and then we can work out ways to help their kids get the most out of storytime.

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