It has been a long spell since I got to do a storytime. Right now, the children’s programming room is being transformed into Middle Ground, a space for middle schoolers, and a new program space hasn’t been built yet. So I haven’t done storytime since last April, and I miss it! Bunches!
But fortunately, I do have another opportunity in my life to spend time with kids, which is a hands-on Montessori-based program we use at my church. At the beginning of the year, we get out a timeline of the history of creation, and let’s just say the fundamentalists would not agree with this timeline. It’s made out of grosgrain ribbon, and we tell the kids that each bump on the ribbon stands for 1,000 years. We also tell them that the earth came out of the Big Bang. One of the things I love about the Episcopal Church is the expectation that God gave you brains so you should use them.
It’s a phenomenal set of lessons, because it is all about wonder. It’s about how kids this age (6-9) are fascinated with how things connect, and where things come from. These presentations ask kids to spend time thinking about how amazing the universe is, that it is complex and interlocking. Just ask a question or two (What is your house made out of?) and they take off. They love thinking about how the bricks in their house were made from dirt, that glass came from sand, that wood came from trees, and that their clothes were made of cotton that grew in the ground. It’s all stuff that most of the time, they never thought about before.
I love seeing that look on their faces when they realize something, and you know that they will give it some more thought later. I always remember when my younger son was this age, and one night he was saying the grace and he (partly to annoy his older brother, I am sure) thanked God for the metal in the forks and the wood of the table and the wax that the candles were made from…until he had his brother literally banging his head on the table with impatience. If you work with kids where they are developmentally, the results are, well, wonder-ful. They make you, as the adult, think about things that you forgot to notice. They remind you to be grateful that you live in an astonishing world.
My great wish is that the children’s librarians who are now trying to work STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) into their programs see it as the great opportunity it is not just to teach facts, but to spend time wondering. Storytime should always, in my view, be about figuring out who you are and why you’re there. Science is all about figuring out how the universe works and your place in it. Don’t just give them a bunch of facts about butterflies–read a story about a butterfly and then let them look at a butterfly under a magnifying glass! Encourage them to wonder.
Wondering is where religion and science both begin. It’s where poetry begins. It’s where art begins. It’s where everything that makes life satisfying and fascinating begins. And then, help them get those facts which the library is very full of. Spark their curiosity, and give them the words and the tools they need. It is good for them. It is also fantastic for you.