Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Story Time Music: Saying Hello

For the past few weeks, I have been sharing my experiences using music at story time. I have posted about recorded music, a cappella singing, and live music, but I have yet to say very much about the specifics of choosing story time songs. Today, I'd like to share my thoughts on the hello songs (and rhymes) librarians use to open a story time session.

Whether you start story time with a song or a rhyme, the opening activity is a crucial part of the session. Your opening routine represents the first impression you make on your audience, and also your opportunity to set the tone for story time and get everyone’s attention. In my opinion, a great hello song or rhyme includes a greeting to the audience and a set of simple motions for the audience to imitate. The greeting lets everyone know that this song marks the start of story time, and also welcomes the group to the library. The motions encourage everyone to begin paying attention, and to look to you to lead them through the story time experience. I also think it’s important to repeat the same hello song week after week so the audience becomes conditioned to associate it with the start of story time.

Here are some of my favorite hello songs:
  • Hello, How Are You? is great for really large groups, classroom visits, and mixed age groups. I always have the kids wave during the first verse, then I choose motions for subsequent verses based on the age and activity level of the kids. I have had many families tell me that this hello song has become their children's favorite song.
  • Say Hello is a good choice for small groups where there is time to greet every child by name. I used to use this song quite a lot in baby story times, until the groups got a bit too large, and the hello song started taking up half the session. If you're new to your library, or just have a new group of kids, this song will help you learn names quickly.
  • This is the Way We Wave Hello is a short and sweet hello song that works really well with babies and toddlers. For this one, I never vary the motions I ask the kids to do. I find that repeating the exact same motions week to week encourages the kids to learn them and perform them along with me. 
  • Say Hello to Your Toes is another short and sweet opening song that works best with babies. Parents and caregivers can hold the kids in their laps and point to each part of the body as it is mentioned. I like this song because it sets a tone for lap time wherein parent/child interaction is the central focus.
With preschoolers, and at class visits, I also like to sing a second song after the opener, which is usually If You’d Like to Read a Book. While the hello song signals that we have started, this song reminds the kids that we’re about to hear a story, and, because I ask them to “whisper hooray” at the end of the song, it gets them into that quiet place where they’re ready to hear what I’m about to read.

How do you open your story time sessions? Share your favorite hello songs and rhymes in comments! Check back next week for my thoughts on extension songs.
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