Last year I created the Under the Shady Tree Story Time in my community. It has been a wonderful experience sharing books with families and getting to meet lots of new friends.
Many of you followed along on our reading adventures last year and I’m excited that we will be starting our second summer season soon.
I’ve had lots of questions about how to start a story time. So today I’m sharing how I got started and some of the issues I had to problem solve along the way. Plus, I have a FREE printable planner to help you get started. My hope is that you will be inspired to start your own story time in the park in your community!
How Do I Start a Story Time Program
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Who: What age group do you want to target? I chose ages 2-5 because my kids fell in this age range. You will most likely have older and younger siblings that attend too. But, you want to gear the activities to a specific group.
Will the sessions be open to the community or to select invited group? We do an open group. Anyone in the community is invited to attend. The challenge with this is that you never know how many will show up each time. I’ve had anywhere from three families to thirty families arrive to hear a story.
Where: Decide where the group will meet. If you don’t personally know the families, you will want to make sure you are meeting in a public space. We meet at a local park.
If you are meeting with a small group of people that you know, you may choose to meet at your house or alternate houses.
When: Will the group meet weekly, monthly or for special holidays? During the summer we meet for nine weeks straight. I’ve also done a five week fall session. We tried a spring session but the weather wasn’t very cooperative. If you are holding sessions outside, you have to take the weather into account.
Time: Aim for your sessions to last 20 minutes to 1 hour. We have about a 20-30 minute session followed by a free play time at the playground. Mornings generally work best. The sweet time for us is 9:30am.
Planning Sessions: This is the part I love the most!! Select the book(s) you will use each session. I like to have a theme for several sessions. Last summer we did books that took place outdoors. During the fall we did all autumn theme related books. This summer we are doing colors, bears, fairy tales, classic and new releases, and rhythm and rhyme topics.
Her is what a typical session schedule looks like for us.
There are lots of resources to help you figure out themes, book choices and activities. Jbrary and Mommy and Me Book Club (no new posts but you can access the archives that are full of great ideas) are two of my favorites!
Here is a peek at our schedule for this summer!
Getting the Word Out: If the sessions are open to the public, make flyers to hang at local libraries and grocery stores. Once people start attending, word will spread!
Talk to families in your neighborhood or church to create a smaller intimate group if you prefer.
I find it very helpful to create a Facebook group to send out weekly reminders and cancellations if necessary.
Cost: It doesn’t have to cost much to host a story time program. You can check the books out from the library. There are lots of activities and games that can be played with minimal supplies.
I have had success in getting local businesses and community members to donate money for supplies and book giveaways.
I do offer a book giveaway each week. This is a nice perk but not necessary!
Expectations: Be clear with participants about what you want them to bring and do. I ask all families to bring a blanket to sit on each week. Also, let caregivers know if you want them to participate in the songs and activities. I highly encourage you to do so!
What You Need: Here is a checklist I use to make sure I have what I need each time we head to the park for story time.
I use a handy dandy rolling cart to keep everything neat and organized.
Handouts of the Songs
Tickets and Container for Giveaway
Free Book for Giveaway
Tips and Tricks
- Sun and wind can be enemies to you as you read. Try to pick a shady spot to read so everyone can see.
- Then there is rain and cold temperatures. Have a back up plan for moving to a covered pavilion or cancel. You may need park permission to use a covered area.
- Plan activities that don’t have lots of pieces that can blow away. Think gross motor whole group games.
- Don’t share a book you haven’t read several times. All eyes will be on you. Read with expression and enthusiasm and make sure the kids can see the pages as you read. I invite little ones to sit on a blanket right in front of me if they can’t see.
- Start on time! If you get around for everyone, your start time will get pushed later and later. It’s not fair to those who arrive on time.
- I’m thinking of investing in a set of clipboardsthis year to hold our song sheets so they don’t blow away.
Because I want you to be successful in this new venture, I created a set of planning sheets for you! You can download this FREE resource to help you make each story time session successful!
I hope you are inspired to start your own story time in the park!
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