If your child loves storytime at your local library or bookstore, he’ll be excited to have storytime at home too! Though it may be an audience of one, your storytime at home can be just as engaging and interactive. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to creating a storytime similar to those your child has enjoyed at school, the library or bookstore.

Pick a theme... or not!
Decide if you want to have a theme for your storytime. A theme can be a great starting point for choosing books and activities, especially if it centers around your child’s favorite interests. Let your child help plan what he wants to read and learn about. Or tune into the household mood. For example, if you see that everyone could use some laughs, plan a storytime filled with Books to Get the Whole Family Giggling or Funny Books for Kids.

Choose the books
There’s a lot you can consider when choosing books to read aloud with your child. Think about your child’s age and interests and look for both fiction and nonfiction titles that are colorful, engaging, rich in robust language, and lead to questions, exploration, and discussion.

You’ll also want to choose books that you will enjoy reading aloud. Preview the books you plan to read so that you can:

  • Pace yourself: Use rhyme, repetition and pauses in a book to full effect.
  • Look for a hook: Point out an item hidden in the illustrations or a favorite topic or character.
  • Add drama and sound effects: Be a ham, change your voice and facial expressions, and move around.
  • Gather props, hats, or costumes to make the story come alive.
  • Ask age-appropriate questions as you read and give your child time to think and answer or predict what will happen next.
  • Make mistakes on purpose as you read aloud and let your child correct you.
  • Prepare for discussion and your child’s questions about what you’ve read.

Select songs
If you’ve attended a library storytime, you know that singing and rhyming are an important part of the program! They also play an important role in your child’s early literacy development. Singing and rhyming are wonderful language-rich activities that help kids develop the skills they need as they grow into readers. Incorporate songs, rhymes, fingerplays, and movement activities into your storytime. Plan to use them to begin and/or close your storytime, or as a break between books or whenever you need a transition.

  • Play recorded music or a video that you have cued up on your digital device or sing and make your own music with your child. You can even make up your own silly songs about the books your read!
  • Find rhymes and fingerplays to share in Action Rhymes and Fingerplay Books or learn from the extensive video collection of songs, fingerplays and movement activities from Jbrary.

Use the welcome and closing songs your child is familiar with from visits to library. Or you can choose or make up new songs that are just for your home storytime.

Prepare activities and/or crafts
Crafts are optional. If making things is something your child enjoys, plan something that fits into your storytime.

It could be TP Roll Maracas for your child to play as you sing songs or to add sound effects as you read aloud. Or it could be something related to your theme and as simple as a coloring page. Activities and crafts can also include explorations and experiments which pair nicely with great informational titles. Plan to have everything laid out for your activity or craft before your storytime begins.

Roll out the reading mat
Make storytime different from your regular read aloud routine by creating a designated space that includes a place for your young reader to sit, like a blanket or mat on the floor. Try to choose a space in your home where there are few distractions.

Invite a special guest
New voices sharing stories can make storytime at home extra exciting. You might ask a far-away friend or family member to read aloud via a video chat app such as Skype or Facetime. Or try mixing things up with read aloud videos from Brightly Storytime, Storyline Online, Story Time from Space or the PBS KIDS Read-Alongs for videos of authors and celebrities reading aloud! Plan to have the excitement of a special guest and videos at the end of your storytime.

Additional ideas and resources
If you need more help, your local library may have storytime kits available to check out with everything you need to make your own storytime. Kits are usually based on a theme and typically include several books, an activity guide, a music CD, storytelling props, puppets, fingerplays and rhymes.

If it isn’t possible to get to your local library for storytime or to check out a kit, you can still bring library storytime and early literacy support into your home! Two amazing librarians, Lindsey Krabbenhoft and Dana Horrocks, have compiled a growing list of online storytime resources that include libraries that are livestreaming their storytimes, videos, websites and podcasts.

Creating a storytime at home program for your child can be fun for both you and your child. It’s also something the whole family can enjoy, especially if you’re stuck at home. And while this isn’t an activity to replace the everyday quality reading time with your child where all you need is a good book, it is a great opportunity to learn more songs and rhymes to share, learn how to help your child make connections between books and the real world, and to engage with your child in activities that encourage thinking, creating and exploring.