23 September 2009

Why I Am Fussy About Story-Time

After much trial and error in this department, Cha Cha and I have two story-times that we like to attend. One is held at our local Barnes and Noble, the other at one of the many branches of our local library. The reason we stick to these sessions, and these sessions only? Believe it or not, the idea of putting a group of kids and parents in a room, reading an innocuous book and singing familiar nursery rhymes can go so far wrong it is almost no laughing matter.

The problem with story time is not the annoying time at which it runs. Ten in the morning is neither late enough to get lots done before said event, nor early enough to guarantee that you can do anything after without risking the pre-nap melt-down. It pretty much sucks up the day, but whatever. The problem is not the other kids. Cha Cha seems to be just as willing to avoid the biters, hitters and snivelers as the next, so I really can’t say we have ever had an issue with that. The problem isn’t even the other moms. Despite the cut-throat blood-sport that mothering has become, most of us can keep our shit together long enough to survive half an hour of finger plays and Sandra Boynton books then just move on with our lives.

The problem is the generally insipid and irritating so-called “childhood development experts” that run the programs.

For some inexplicable reason the people who get hired to run children’s programming are, for the majority, fussy little mousy women who clearly have never spent more than 4.2 seconds near an actual child. (See disclaimer below, lest I offend anyone with this statement.) Take our experience last week as an example. We show up for our usual story time at the library and there is a substitute. I should have left right then, I can see that now. This gal, we will call her Miss B*, was all a twitter since Miss D** runs her program “completely differently from the rest of us. The rest of us followed the video we saw in training. Miss D does not.” That statement was pretty much the high point of the whole experience.

The session continues to include:

- much deliberation and shuffling of kids and moms so as to make our circle acceptable, because toddlers really care about such things

-seeking the help of not one, but two people to get the CD player to work (never mind that we are still using a CD player when roughly a million better methods are available right there in the library)

- arguing with a 2.5 year old about giving up a Bumbo seat “just in case a smaller kid needed it.”

- forcing said Bumbo seat on a 10 month old under the declaration that “children that small cannot be expected to hold themselves up for longer than a few minutes.” Umm...at 10 months Cha Cha was walking around Target and climbing the jungle gym on her own, so not really sure about that one.

-opening up the main toy area only to realize that those are not the “special story-time toys”, get said toys, then spend the next 20 minutes policing any toddler who dared try and bring a “shelf toy” near the “story-time toys” or the other way around

-informing me that we were using the toys incorrectly. Apparently the clear tubes filled with balls (tee-hee…balls, okay, got it out of system) were not for counting or identifying colors, but were to be used as a set to learn bigger and smaller/ lighter and heavier. Someone call social services! We have illicit toy usage over here.

Oh my god, shoot me in the eye just so it will end!

And that, my dear friends, is why we attend only the two select sessions of forced toddler fun time. Because Miss D and Miss D***, of the library and Barnes and Noble respectively since they, interestingly enough, share similar names, do not run sessions that make me want to kill myself. Or anyone else for that matter. These are women who recognize that brevity and liveliness are key to keeping toddlers engaged and who really don’t give a hoot if the circle is “circle-y enough.” They actually care that the kids like the event and learn to enjoy reading. It is almost as if they actually get the point of early literacy programs. Crazy!

As for the rest of you, with your little degrees in early childhood development and your hideous “G is for Grover” drivel: CAN IT! You could all learn a lesson from the Divine Miss Ds. I know your hearts are in the right place, we all want to increase literacy here, but really, get with the program. And I don’t mean the one outlined in the training video.

*Names modified so as to protect the truly irritating and stupid.
** My personal hero for designing an infant /toddler program that does not, in fact, suck the life right out of me.
***Ditto for this rocking chick who runs the best damn story time I have ever seen. It includes a craft project and snack. Oh baby!

Disclaimer: I do not mean to imply that all people with degrees in early childhood education are stupid, or insipid, just stating that all the formal education in the world will not make you good at working with kids. There is a special place in heaven for those who choose to work with kids, and do so with excellence. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to those who make good children's programming available to all of us.


Anonymous said...

Story time at my library was God awful! I think I took the big E twice, then dropped out. The story time leader was much like the woman you described--someone who has never been around kids and insisted on keeping all of her "special" toys locked in her office away from children who actually want to--you know--PLAY with them rather than admire them as objects of learning.

E and I have much more fun checking out kid's books and reading them at home in funny voices. At this early stage, you want to make learning FUN! Story time on lock down is just turning kids off reading.

class-factotum said...

I volunteered for the first time at a reading program last week. I got a tiny bit stressed when my second group of four year olds wanted me to read the same book over and over, but then I thought, "Whatever. This is supposed to be fun for them. It's not about how I think this should happen." So I just read what they wanted and let them talk and tell me about the book. Hopefully, they will turn into readers someday.

Alexis said...

Great point about the 4th graders. It IS supposed to fun! Thank you for doing such volunteer work and getting kids to like reading.

Heidi Maxwell said...

We are currently boycotting our "Books and Babies" deal at the library. Not due to the librarians tho - they have a general 'anything goes' attitude toward how the program runs and how kids behave. But because I am convinced that every book and toy in that place is covered with H1N1 and other scary bits. Every time I have taken her in the past 4 months, she has gotten sick!