Library Programs · Storytime

Guerilla Storytime Notes (first meeting of the Boston Area Storytime Underground Group)

The Boston Area Storytime Underground group had its first meeting last week (yaaaay!) and a small group of librarians met at the Belmont Public Library to do a guerilla storytime. It was a great mix of guerilla storytime and talking about local performers, trends, tips, etc. I think we all had a great time (were were there for over 1.5 hours!). Below are the notes.

How do you handle chatty or uninvolved parents in storytime?

  • Work your expectations for parents into spiel at the beginning of storytime (about how parents are their children’s first teacher, modeling behavior for your kids, etc.)
  • Just get quiet and wait for parents to stop talking
  • Do the stare down

Do you take breaks from storytime? What’s your storytime schedule?

  • One library used to do six week storytime sessions with two weeks off but stopped doing sessions and now only takes breaks over holidays.
  • Several other libraries only take breaks over holidays/school breaks
  • During summer storytime schedules change/get scaled back and one library doesn’t do regular in-library storytimes during the summer months

What are your favorite storytime songs?

  • Shake along to any song!
  • Whitney from Easton made up alternate words to “We’re Going to Kentucky”: We’re doing down to Easton, we’re going to the zoo, we’re going to see the [cats] to see what they can do! Shake it, shake it, shake it!”
  • Liz from Belmont does Mama’s Sleeping to the tune of Skip to My Lou:
    Mama’s sleeping, don’t wake her up. x3(sing quietly, shake shakers softly)
    We must be very quiet!
    Wake up mama, we want to play! x3 (sing louder, shake shakers hard)
    Let’s be very noisy!
    (repeat with Daddy, Grandma, the baby, etc.)
  • Shake Your Maraca (by Little Groove, a local group, album: Building Blocks)
  • Milkshake Song (Old Town School of Folk Music/Songs for Wiggleworms)
  • Popcorn (Laura Doherty/Shining Like a Star)
  • Shake it Baby, Shake It (Rainbow Songs/Oh Baby!)
  • Goodbye (Old Town School of Folk Music/Songs for Wiggleworms)
  • Hokey Pokey
  • Shake My Sillies Out (Raffi)

How do you close your storytimes?

  • End with shaker eggs so you don’t have to get them back
  • Close with a craft
  • Playtime for baby and toddler storytime
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • Goodbye Rhyme (from the book Something Musical Happened at the Library by Rob Reid)
  • Alligator Pie (from the album Circle of Songs by Hugh Hanley, a local performer)
  • Bread and Butter (Jbrary video here:
  • Twinkle, Twinkle while waving a magic wand and “twinkling” stars
  • Rhyme: Our hands say thank you with a clap, clap, clap. Our feet say thank you with a tap, tap, tap. Clap, clap, clap. Tap, tap, tap. We wake our hands and wave: “bye bye.”

What are your best tips for doing library dance parties

  • Make a YouTube playlist in advance
  • Ames did one over February break for all ages and 50 people came, mostly preK. It was hard to get the parents (and kids!) to participate at the beginning.
  • Use adult party music and popular songs: chicken dance, Taylor Swift, Macarena, YMCA, limbo, Shout, Happy (in storytime, Denise plays the song Happy and shows the book, then they dance for the second half of the song)
  • Give the parents direction and/or use songs that give direction as part of the song
    Edited to add: Denise suggests these songs, which all have direction as part of the song.

    Can you Dance – Aaron Nigel Smith
    Boom Boom – Bari Koral
    Silly Dance Contest – Jim Gill
    Dance, Freeze, Melt –  Mr. Eric and Mr. Michael
    Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes  – Lisa Loeb (Songs for Movin’ and Shakin’ CD/Book)
  • Use props (shakers, scarves, inflatable balls), either put them out for free play or use with Let It Go
  • Play Jimmy Fallon “History of Dance” videos to dance along with (just make sure the one you’re using is kid friendly first)
  • Pumpkin Freeze Dance: for Halloween, Denise combined a freeze dance with a jack-o-lantern craft. She played Monster Mash and stopped the music periodically. When the music was stopped, the kids would run to their craft and glue on a new piece of the jack-o-lantern, and then run back to dance when the music started again. Could be adapted for any kind of theme (snowman, etc.)!
  • If you want to hire someone to do a dance party, “Mr. DJ” is a local dj who does kids dance parties (
  • Dance party theme ideas: Red White and Blue Dance Party for July 4th, Silly Hat Dance Party, Sock Hop
  • Alternate fast and slow songs with books
  • Deb did one and used Pete the Cat, the Wheels on the Bus by Jane Cabrera, A Very Simple Dance (Sesame Street Song), Safety Dance by Steve Songs
  • Whitney saw another group do a song to the tune of In the Hall of the Mountain King: tipping on my tippy toes, flopping on my flopping feet, etc.

What are your best tips for outreach storytimes?

  • Make friends with the school librarians, PTOs, coordinators. Have to get an in to show them what you can do for them and then they’ll be convinced. You have to make the first steps.
  • Offer to preschools that they can make field trips to you (in Winchester they’ll walk over to the library for storytime)
  • Offer to bring programs other than storytimes to them

Miscellaneous conversation:

  • Winchester has a firefighter do fire safety program 2x/year
  • Classical music to use with kids: Tom Chapin “Don’t Make Me,” Jim Gill “Soup Opera” and “Beethoven’s Five Finger Play”
  • The recent article in The Atlantic on preschool was discussed (I think it was this one:
  • When taking a storytime break, do a “pop up playtime”—put out tunnel, other activities in Children’s Room for families to explore on their own

Local performers who were recommended:

  • Magic Dave is a good local magician, comes with Hocus Pocus the bunny
  • Wayne Potash, lives in Easton and opens summer reading every year for them
  • Vinny (part of Toe Jam Puppet Band) is good, does giant bubbles
  • Big Ryan’s Tall Tales
  • Hugh Hanley, Little Groove, Mr. DJ (all mentioned above)

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