Busy, so very busy. Wait, the kids are in bed, they want a story, OK OK Just a minute, ZOOM! What book do you want to hear?! Bla bla bla, now go to sleep! You’re not sleepy? Whaaa?
On the go parents, kids with mobile devices, a storytime is last thing on the list, right? Well a 5 minute story-time before bed can help kids sleep, teach them the basics of reading and provide a fun family bonding routine.
First of all, pick your book. Is it serious, or funny, lengthy or short? Is it an old favorite or a new addition? So the first step is be in there when they pick a book. Make that a democratic decision, or you’ll be reading Green Eggs and Ham for 20 minutes. GE&H, a great book, but verbose. You must choose wisely!
Step 2, get your playlist set. 2 books should be 5-10 minutes. As part of the bedtime routine, teeth brushed, teddy bear in place, arrange your audience and set the mood. Dim the lights. Open with a jingle, It’s bedtime for kiddos, comon and get in bed. Make it your theme song. Don’t worry if you don’t have one, it’ll come with practice, i the meantime, use the tune to Gilligan’s Island until your find your selfie shanty.
Step 3, the book itself, glance through it, look at the artwork, is it serious or funny, what is the topic? Figure out which one goes first. Opening act and closer!
Voices: Add characterization to the story. Need a Giant? Do a growly voice. Princess do a falsetto. Hero, sound like a classic rock DJ. Imitate how you picture the characters voices sounding. This is surprisingly fun, and even if your kids roll their eyes, they appreciate the effort. Not just for picture books, but chapter a night as well. Poetry, science fast etc, all various themes that only take a moment at bedtime to brainstorm and get those minds ready to dream.
The book is your prop, not vice versa. The book is your teleprompter, how you read is you. That means you can edit, paraphrase, edit, or act out as you see fit. You don’t need to read verbatim. Feel free to comment on whats happening. Your kids will!
Act out, use finger people, or stand and deliver. But keep in mind your energy level will either get them riled up or downshift. Watch Cesar Millan for his techniques on calm, assertive energy. It works, believe me. You can start high energy, but end a bedtime story on calm energy. Sweet dreams are made of these. And who am I to disagree?
Comments and interruptions. If kids are turning your storytime into an episode of Springer, well it’s time to set some rules. Interruptions are OK, but if it doesn’t naturally cycle back into the story, you’ll have to steer. If their energy is too high, bring them down. Calm down with the 3, 2, 1 thing or a musical ditty. If the book is boring, end it and get something else. If it isn’t boring and you are wrapping up, it may show your kids they need to settle down and listen. It’s OK to tell kids, one voice at a time, unless we are reacting.
Question what you read. Don’t just accept an idea because it is mainstream. Ask your kids did they like it? How did they feel, Happy Sad? Funny, Goofy? Discuss the ideas, or what the author should have done. This shows kids that they can change the world, one idea at a time. For better or for worse! They don’t like the ending, write a better one! In fact, draw one page of your own story, one night at a time. In a month you may have your own, family bedtime book, something they can look back on in decades to come and remember fondly. They’ll remember this better than Dad’s game was ALWAYS ON.
For example, I love you forever. That is a popular book, people say it’s inspirational etc etc. But I and my kids thought it was creepy. The artwork, the overall message, we thought it was strange. It was not bad, it just was not for us? So when I read it, I changed the tone. I made it about a Mom checking to see if her kids were sleeping, I made it goofy and changed the tear jerker ending. I made it that the Mom was now in the loony bin, but now the young dad is starting to do it too! Oh no! I’m not a purist, I don’t stick with the menu. I make my own meals, for better or for worse!! I try not to ruin it, just make it fit in our lifestyle.
Closing. Towards the end of the storytime, start to speak in lower hushed tones. A literary lullaby. Bring your energy level down too, calm down. Relax. If the kids keep asking question set limitations. One more Q, then it’s off to sleep for U! Kids know how to stall by getting you talking, so beware of your own ego! Ha HA!
Routine ideas: Wear a storytime hat, that is only on for that.
Or have a puppet, character or a favorite stuffed animal, as an audience to role play how behavior should be. Teddy listens. Teddy doesn’t like loud noises. Yes, kids see through this so do it in a sarcastic style and show them you know it too. Don’t sell them anything YOU wouldn’t buy! But do let them know, if Teddy gets scared off, so will you, end of evening. Set those limits, stick to them.
Even your Hand in the shape of a duck or llama can be your signature sidekick on your own talk show. Get Mr Potato Head eyes and hold em in your fingers, make a great characterization!
Sound effects. We humans make awesome noises, we have great vocal chords for mimicry. See 12 noises you already make for tips!!
Make up a story? Make it a family story. Make your kids the stars and teach them a moral you believe in. make it whimsical and silly, it doesn’t have to make sense, it needs to simply be you. No storytelling classes or PHDs are going to teach you how to be you. If you are a parent, you already know who you are. If you get stuck for ideas, ask your kids for one. They’ll help you. This is an imagination exercise.
Most of all have fun. If the kids see you having fun, being yourself, they will too. If they are too cool, find a subject they want to hear about and go that way. Storytime isn’t about books, it’s about families coming together to speak and be heard, explore ideas and be together.
And you can do it during the freakin’ commercial breaks of Shark Tank. Commercial breaks= 8 minutes, you can spare that, right? Be the commercial!
Ok I’m done.