the day i suggested we slay the sacred SRP cow

This is my 4th SRP. The past 3, I have been a mess. Completely panicked and totally stressed and…well…a mess. We start signups on June 1 and our kickoff party is June 6 and I keep waiting for the panic to seize me, but I think this might be the year I finally realize SRP is no different than any other part of the year. It’s just busier.

On twitter a few nights ago, I caught a snippet of a conversation where someone asked if SRP is a sacred cow that needs slaying.

Can I get an AMEN?!

(crickets)

Yeah. I didn’t think so.

I know, I know. SRP is important. We help prevent summer slide! (But do we really? My library doesn’t have any empirical evidence that’s the case…I mean, obviously if kids are encouraged to read over the summer and they do then maybe, but aren’t those kids going to be more likely to be engaged readers in the first place? We still rely on caregivers to get kids to the library during the summer so are we reaching those who can’t come? Especially with programs that require repeat visits throughout the summer?) We get non-readers to read by giving away prizes! (Yeeeeah, but there’s a lot of research that suggests rewarding reading doesn’t work in the long run and if anything, by rewarding kids who already LIKE to read, we could be turning them off to reading.) Our community loves our summer program and they would be so upset if we got rid of it! (Okay, you’ve got me there….except shouldn’t engagement be the goal year ’round? Are our SRP designed for our entire communities or the ones that are the most vocal and supportive already?)

I’m obviously being a bit cheeky, but the whole business of slaying sacred cows means we’ve got to be on the lookout for the “Because we’ve always done it!” answer and at the end of the day, isn’t that why SRP is the ultimate sacred cow?

I don’t have any answers or a big finish here. So, I’m just going to leave this picture of a shaker egg I got from Cory during Guerrilla Storytime at Midwinter. 

 

observing my storytime neighbors

We’re on a storytime break at my library (something I believe is critical for a variety of reasons, but that’s another post…) and as I have been tasked with developing storytime training/standards/evaluations, I thought it would be helpful for our storytime providers to get outside our organization and take our new-still-a-working-document peer evaluation form out for a spin. 

In my perfect world, where early literacy is a priority for public libraries and staff is plentiful as is time for ongoing learning, observing and evaluating storytimes and early literacy programs would be not only part of introductory training, but also ongoing professional development. In reality, I know how lucky we were to be able to leave the building for 3 1/2 hours to do this. 

We were able to observe a toddler and a family storytime, a definite selling point to my supervisor when I asked if we could go. I emailed the youth services department a few weeks in advance to ask permission and they were more than happy to have us. 

I learned a lot. I learned I needed something to take notes on in addition to the peer evaluation form. The form is really more for reflection. I learned I have been entirely too timid when it comes to “mess” during my process art program. I learned my prep can most likely be cut in half. I learned a wonderful primary color nesting boxes activity I’m going to start doing with toddlers this summer. I learned there are about…well…how many people in the world provide storytime at a library or in an early childhood learning environment…let’s say countless ways to “do” storytime. 

I actually already knew that but observing strangers with two completely different styles back to back was really striking. 

Not only did our hosts allow us to observe, they made time for us to ask questions after both storytimes. I am someone who asks lots of questions. Not only the “What song was that?! I loved it!” variety, but also the “Does your library have storytime training for new employees? Are you required to include early literacy tips? How much freedom do you have with content?” variety. 

As I’ve been working my way through creating these evaluations and trainings, I’ve been surprised at how many libraries don’t seem to have a training program in place for storytime providers. At first I assumed this was something you are taught when you get your MLS/MLIS but my very informal poll tells me that’s not the case. I’ve also been surprised at how many people seem to feel training would be too restrictive. 

Good training informs an employee how storytime supports your organization’s mission. Good training gives providers common language. Good training empowers staff. 

I hope you bear with me as I work my way through this process of storytime training. I suspect it will come up on here a fair amount in one way or another in upcoming posts. And I welcome all comments and opinions. From what I’ve gathered, there are quite a few people who believe storytime training is unnecessary.

At the very least, I encourage you to reach out to your storytime neighbors and learn from each other in real life, if you are able. I can almost guarantee you will learn something!