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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's Only Storytime (But I Like It)

Today I "performed outreach to the community," which is a fancy way of saying that I traveled to a local day care and did storytime for two separate classes of kids. There was one class of 3-year-olds and one class of 4 to 5-year-olds and they were all very cute and enthusiastic and engaged in the activities I provided. They also gave me a cute "welcome & thank you"  letter signed by all the kids, which kind of made my week. (Believe me, it's always nice to feel appreciated, especially these days.)

However, something happened during the 3-year-old session that made me question my entire approach to children's librarianship. I had sung my opening "Hello" song, did "Open Shut Them" twice (always a crowd pleaser) and had read one of my favorite storytime books, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. The kids were with me. We were having a good time. All was well.

It was then time to sing another song. I tried to prepare the group.

Me: "Okay! Can we all sing  'Wheels on the Bus' now?"

Because everyone loves that song right? It's a CLASSIC and no storytime feels complete without it. Kids usually cheer when I say we're going to sing it.    

"No!" A tow-headed three-year-old boy shouted with total seriousness. "Sing 'Call Me Maybe'!"

The kids laughed. The teachers laughed. I laughed. But something inside me twisted uncomfortably. This kid was THREE YEARS OLD. Putting aside the issues of musical taste and levels of lyric-appropriateness, he didn't want to sing "Wheels on the Bus."
This rapid loss of musical innocence is happening right before our eyes, people. A couple of (older) kids told me yesterday that they wish they could turn the library into a "rock concert" with Nicki Manaj and Lady Gaga instead of some of the programming we are planning for the summer.

As this guy said:  


These interactions make me feel old, my friends. More worrisome, they make me feel like I am perhaps not doing the best job I can as a children's librarian. I mean, is this where storytimes are headed? Are children's librarians going to be expected to throw out the classics for whatever dime-a-dozen pop song is hot that week in order to get higher program stastistics?  

Well, FORGET THAT. I'm not going to change my routine. They can pry "The Wheels on the Bus" from my cold, dead hands.

Despite my storytime inflexibility, it's my hope that I will still remain the...


  1. Yes, I weep with you, but seriously, "Call Me Maybe" is so addicting!! I need to sing it at least 5 times an hour! "Wheels on the Bus" is still #1! xxoo

  2. Your storytime sounds awesome!

    And while I think "Wheels on the Bus" should still exist, I'm so happy that kids are listening to more music! I think children having any kind of music appreciation (whether it's pop, jazz, classical, or rap) is really great for developing their musical ears and ability to appreciate music in the future. Artistic expression is great!

  3. Abosolutely! You know I'm being tongue-in-cheek. (Although my feelings on Carly Rae Jepsen are probably what my parents thought of Debbie Gibson.) :)

  4. Of course! I love listening to my parents generation talk about our music, and then talk about what their parents thought of theirs. Circle of life!

  5. I cringe a little at a 3-year-old requesting that, then I remember a relative proudly posting on their Facebook wall a few years ago about how their 4-year-old had learned all the choreography from the "All The Single Ladies" video.

  6. Emerging readers need to learn finger-plays, poems, silly songs and repetitive texts. These skills are a necessary part of learning to read. Three year olds have all the time in the world to explore and appreciate the world of music...LATER!

  7. I had a 7 year old ask my why we had to read stories, because stories are boring. I died a little on the inside.

  8. There is nothing really wrong with a preschooler knowing Call Me Maybe, but they're going to get exposed to that in their life outside of school regardless. Pop music is ubiquitous. BUT, they're not necessarily going to be introduced to the children's repertoire of "standards" elsewhere - which is where we librarians come in! It's my mission to make sure the kids who come to my library have a good base in nursery rhymes, classic children's songs, favorite folk tales from around the world, and the best of age-appropriate children's literature (from Carle to Willems). I don't think we need to try to make storytime "cool" or "relevant." That feels false to me.

    Of course, my 2-year-old's favorite song of all time is Super Bass, and she also goes crazy for the Beastie Boys. So I'm one to talk. But they don't sing it at preschool, and I'm pretty glad about that.