Storytimes creator Rob Reid discusses his new "greatest hits" collection
Original and adapted fingerplays, poems, activities involving movement and music, participation stories, felt stories, imagination exercises, spoonerism stories, and library raps: Rob Reid's book 200+ Original and Adapted Story Program Activities is packed from cover to cover with fun ideas for storytimes. And it happens to be his thirteenth book for ALA Editions—surely a lucky number in a writing career that spans more than two decades! We were thrilled to talk with him recently about his time with ALA Editions, how he chooses picture books for storytimes, and his tips for being a great storytime leader.
You’ve described this book as a kind of “greatest hits” collection. How was working on this book different from your previous ones?
This time around, I had the luxury of selecting my favorite creations that I wrote for my ALA programming books as well as various magazine articles. I updated some of the lines in different song lyrics and fingerplays to reflect the alterations that naturally occur from years of presenting them to families (like a folktale changes over time). The project also inspired me to write a few more new movement rhymes.
If you could time travel back to 1995, when you published your first ALA Editions book Children’s Jukebox, what advice would you give yourself?
I think instead of advice, I’d pat my younger self on the back for choosing the ALA family. The different editors, publishers, and crew have been so good and nurturing to me over the years – we are talking about 23 years of working together. How rare is that? Many times, we would finish one book and the editor would immediately ask, “What ideas do you have for another book?” Often, I would look around to see what has already been published, and more specifically, what has not been published, and try to fill those holes.
In your introduction you note that for these story programs you’ve taken care to limit your use of picture books to those published between 2012 and 2017. Did that pose any challenges?
I thought it would be more of a challenge than it turned out to be. We are so lucky to have such a rich collection of books out there on the market that many times, the more recently published books made an even tighter fit with a particular rhyme I wrote than the older books. I was also glad to be able to add more culturally diverse books this time around, something that was much harder to do even ten years ago.
As a storytime leader, getting over one’s fear of being silly and acting ridiculous seems really important! What are some good ways to loosen up and ward off self-consciousness?
I come from a theater background and think of how actors get into character while they are still backstage and then walk onstage ready to go. That can transform into the story program. Be excited to start before the kids even come into the area and hit the floor running. Your energy will help set the mood. That’s why I wrote many of the Hello activities – to set the mood for the program. In my workshops to librarians, I also tell them to give themselves permission to go with their strengths. If they feel most comfortable with felt stories, go heavy with felt stories. If they like musical activities, sprinkle a lot of music throughout. Don’t feel that you have to do everything. For example, I like oral storytelling and music but I’m not comfortable with puppets. So, I finally told myself, I don’t feel like I need puppets. For those who like puppets, go for it.
What advice can you offer storytime leaders for preventing kids and their parents from getting distracted?
Add variety to a story program and keep it moving. Don’t read more than two books in a row without adding an activity like a song or fingerplay or everyone-stand-and-move activity. Keep up your own energy and that will influence the audience. If there are some kids/parents who are not into what you are doing, don’t worry. Focus on the kids who are totally with you. I’ve often been surprised by kids who I didn’t think were having a good time come up to me afterwards and talk about a book or activity we shared together.