Story Time at Blarney Books, Port Fairy

Well, I’ve gone & done it.  After four and a half years of kid-wrangling, something in me has decided it’s time now to offer Story Time to the children of the Port Fairy community, and any visitors who happen to catch us on the right day.  I made this decision over the last school break, so I had time to come up with vague plans for the last semester of the year.  I’ve been contemplating this for some time now (years), but I’m not very comfortable with speaking in front of groups of people, so my thought has always revolved around paying someone else to do a story session.  It’s only now for some reason that I’ve finally decided that I should just do it myself.  I read to my own kids all the time and they seem to enjoy it, so I don’t think it’s a hard audience!

Story Time with the KidsFirst up, I’ve just advertised by word of mouth through friends and acquaintances around town.  10.30 Tuesday mornings.  For the first week’s reading, I chose three books out of my son’s library – Yellow Bird, Black Spider; Tryannosaurus Drip (a personal favourite); and Russell the Sheep – and made up a couple of games to follow a book about sheep – drawing sheep faces on balloons & herding them around the shop, and some sheep races.  I’d also suggested that we could have a picnic after it all, and interested parents should bring a plate to contribute.  Our first week had 14 in attendance (9 of the 14 were kids), as well as my two boys.  It was the perfect number to start out at – not too big, and not too small.

I found I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be – the kids seemed perfectly happy with my reading.  My boys were quite proud and possessive (of their mum, the shop and the books!), and the games seemed to go well.  But I decided that perhaps running around games aren’t really good for my nerves.  Not with an art gallery attached to the bookshop!  And after the herding game and the races, the kids were all a bit wound up and hard to tame again.  (Mine especially!)  I provided a fruit platter and sausage rolls (heating in the oven out the back while they played their games), and other parents brought cheese & biscuits and popcorn.  This was fun.  Yes, it created a bit of a mess but nothing that couldn’t be quickly swept up at the end.  Floorboards are pretty easy to maintain like that.  And we don’t have tablecloths etc.  So it’s all fairly fuss-free.

The second week (the Tuesday just gone), my kids were excited and looking forward to it.  15 attended this week (10 of the 15 were kids), with some not attending from last week, and some new faces for this week.  This week I read The Gruffalo; The Way Back Home; and This is Our House.  I spent some time previously on preparation for this week, and had made up booklets, and some text for each child to create a book.  I made up 12 booklets, so I was spot on for numbers (including my boys).  We just chopped up the text, and glued on pictures out of our ‘picture box’ (cut-out images from magazines) to make entertaining stories.

The text was “One sunny day, **** went for a ride on a **** to go and see a **** but a huge **** was in the middle of the road.  Luckily, a happy and helpful **** came by and moved it out of the way.  After stopping to look at some **** and pat some ****, **** finally made it home and had a ****.  THE END”    As an example, my two year old’s story came out thus:  “One sunny day, Ferris went for a ride in a yellow car to go and see some scones but a huge cow was in the middle of the road.  Luckily, a happy and helpful dinner plate came by and moved it out of the way.  After stopping to look at some golf balls and some penguins, and pat some chooks, Ferris finallly made it home and had a piece of cake.  THE END.”  It was good fun reading all the stories created!  There was even one boy who was patting sailors on his way home!

I found I was much more comfortable with this activity, being more a bookworm than a gym instructor!!!  So from now on, I will have these kinds of activities.  I’m thinking next week we’ll make some bookworm bookmarks.

After the activities, most of the kids (who are largely friends of our kids) disappeared out the back into our house, so the parents who chose to stay back (again, friends) had a nice, quiet coffee, cake (thanks Ali & Michelle for their delicious contributions!) & chat while we pretended for a moment we didn’t have kids.  Perhaps it may turn into a gourmet picnic for the parents while the kids magically disappear “out the back”!

So, as a summary, I’d say I’m very happy with how it’s progressing to date.  There have only been two.  And being me, I can’t leave it to just a few stories and then all go home.  It’s all or nothing, usually, with me.  We’re not charging for this.  The cost of the materials will be minimal, and if everyone contributes to a picnic, then it’s all good fun.  It’s cheaper than childcare, and it’s a great way for kids and parents to get together and perhaps meet new faces, and just break up the day a bit.  If anyone out there runs anything similar, please feel free to let me know what kinds of activities have worked well for you.

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Comment (5)

    Christina Ambrosia
    October 20, 2009 - 1:48 pm

    Good luck with your story hour! Sounds like you’re off to a great start. I went from weekly sessions to monthly. Tonight is our halloween reading. The children will, those who choose, wear their costumes and we’ll have a pageant. The cost is minimal and the children love the stories, but ours really didn’t take off. Let us know how things go for you.

    Judy Mather
    October 20, 2009 - 3:49 pm

    Jo, I’ve read your posts on this blog for some time and followed your progress with interest. I’m in Adelaide and it’s great to read of another Aussie bookseller’s adventures. Your story mornings sound fantastic and I’m sure word will spread quickly and your attendance numbers will grow. My best wishes to you.

    Suzie
    October 20, 2009 - 7:05 pm

    What a cool idea. If my kids were younger I’d try and bring them down for the fun.

    Jo Canham
    December 9, 2009 - 5:35 am

    Story Time is finished for 2009, as the school term finishes, and I will be re-thinking the format for 2010. Perhaps I made it too complicated, with activities and a picnic… but when it was going smoothly, it was a lot of fun and some new friends were made (both for my kids and myself)! The other side to it, which was an unexpected result, was that my boys found it so exciting they would often muck up and drive me bonkers!!! So instead of entertaining my children, it was creating a situation that was even more difficult to handle. So perhaps in 2010 I will run it when the older boy is in kindy. And yes, perhaps even monthly instead of weekly sessions if I keep the activities. I was hoping there would be more support from the local mums, and I’m still not really sure why there wasn’t given that it was free entertainment! Perhaps they’re just not into books that much. An interesting exercise, all the same.

    Brandy
    September 15, 2010 - 8:23 pm

    Hi, I have just read about your great experience starting up a story time for your children and other children. I especially loved your idea of adding the words in the blank to make a funny story! I too do storytime at our local library and sometimes at my children’s school. I made a blog to help others who are in need of ideas or a quick craft to print, for free. Storytime Crafts. I would love it if you took a moment to see what you think of it.

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