Librarians today provide a wealth of resources to support learners of all ages. From introducing early learners to beginning reading practices to facilitating middle and high school students’ first foray into independent research, librarians help students mature in their academic identities.

While library technology has continued to advance in a variety of areas and spaces, from the introduction of digital media tools to enhance information literacy lessons, some aspects have rightfully remained consistent. And as collections are rapidly becoming digital and often more immersive, library storytime maintains its significance in helping students develop effective early literacy practices.

The Ongoing Significance of Library Storytime

Storytime is a critical literacy intervention for early learners for a variety of reasons. In addition to introducing learn new words, sentence structures and modes of communication, storytime helps students engage with new perspectives. As educators provide diverse points of view in their storytime instruction, they introduce effective literacy development practices while engaging with students directly.

Even though library storytime has been under scrutiny since the turn of the twentieth century through the advent of different technological advancements, it has continued to remain a staple in the elementary school curriculum. An article from the School Library Journal focused specifically on how storytime in the library enhances literacy development. Linda Jacobson, a staff writer at the organization, noted that,

“Storytimes in libraries and other learning opportunities in the community are now viewed as a critical component of young children’s preparation to enter school. They are also vehicles for giving parents guidance on how to encourage early literacy skills at home.”

Even after students enter kindergarten and through age 12, storytime can serve as a vessel to give students a literacy foundation. At the same time, Jacobson noted the importance of educators building specific competencies for effective storytime delivery:

  • Storytime planning
  • Establishing a context for the plot explored in the text’s narrative
  • The presentation of the text
  • Student engagement during and after the storytime delivery
  • Debriefing sentiments on the literacy lesson
  • Real-world applications of the story and literacy lesson

When educators give these competencies necessary attention, they are better equipped to host an interactive library storytime. And when school librarians can connect through storytime, students build positive associations with learning.

The Benefits of Reading to Children

These library storytime benefits don’t have to be limited to the physical library space, either. According to a report from the Journal of Research in Reading, when educators give storytime support to parents, children can build effective literacy-development practices. The best way to ensure students can effectively learn to listen, communicate and engage with texts is to make sure storytime takes place at school and home. Because home and school literacy environments each play unique roles in promoting literacy, storytime specifically needs to feature prominently in the library, in the classroom and at home. While the report focused on children’s literacy development as uniquely “influenced by their home literacy environment (HLE), which may also be bound up with socio‐economic factors, such as parental education levels,” it also discovered that children’s interest in literacy is often more significant. In other words, when students have an interest in what they’re reading or what’s read to them, they’re much more likely to learn effective literacy practices.

School storytime is one of the central ways to get students motivated to read, write and develop advanced vocabularies. And when librarians and teachers can give support to parents to provide meaningful storytime opportunities at home, children’s literacies will develop more productively.

The earlier children can begin understanding basic literacy practices, the better they will learn across school disciplines. Researchers have paid close attention to how children’s brains develop when they start to develop literacies. A breakthrough report on cognition titled “Quantity and Diversity: Simulating Early Word Learning Environments” details the indirect significance of storytime practices. The researchers noted that when it comes to children adopting new vocabularies and a burgeoning understanding of language, the number of introduced words matters far less than their function and use.

Specifically, the paper presented a new model for understanding the different learning environments that motivate students to engage with and use new words. While the research points to gaps that need to be filled concerning children’s cognitive ability to develop new literacy functions, its model proves students learn new words more quickly and more effectively when they experience words in different contexts. One of the best ways to introduce these new contexts for children is through library storytime, which the researchers stated: “includes more rare words and greater lexical diversity.” When educators invite students to learn these new words through dynamic, interactive storytime activities, students are given a foundation to succeed academically.

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Balancing Print and Digital Resources for Storytime Development

Advancements in technology have given librarians new, vibrant ways of reaching students through innovative storytime activities. Some librarians have taken advantage of virtual and augmented reality to make storytime activities more immersive and memorable. And separately, because e-books, e-readers and video projection technology have also rapidly become accessible, educators have utilized new digital resources to captivate students in school storytime.

With digital resources becoming more widely available for educators, many librarians have considered modernizing their collections. An article in The Reading Teacher, a scholarly journal for educators focusing on literacy building practices, focused on the benefits of building an e-book collection. According to the article, e-books enable students to:

  • Zoom in and out of illustrations in digital picture-books
  • Listen to supplemental music
  • Highlight text to return to later
  • Quickly look up unfamiliar words through built-in dictionaries
  • Engage with foreign language translations for bilingual storytime

While e-books certainly shouldn’t replace storytime, they can certainly complement the literacy benefits attached to the activity. As school librarians have ultimately introduced new technologies to help engage students more effectively in storytime, they have also found supplemental learning materials to give students a stronger introduction to developing literacy.

Digital resources have begun to help librarians facilitate learning in digital spaces, too. As remote learning has become increasingly important, educators have started conducting storytime digitally. And as librarians have begun to reach students virtually, they have also begun to support each other with digital means.

Recent research in the Association for Information Science and Technology has highlighted the benefits of bringing together a community of school librarians to improve storytime development methods dramatically. Of the surveyed librarians who engaged in the study, 87.5% found that the new community – which meets primarily in digital, online spaces – is overall helpful for the lesson planning process. According to the researchers, this new group “worked to develop shared understandings and a common vocabulary regarding storytime techniques, early literacy principles, parent communication techniques, and the tools they were being trained on.”

As technology is improving the opportunities for student learning in digital media spaces, it’s also benefiting educators. Through this new community that expands throughout the United States, the researchers noted that “librarians were able to create a community of practice, share their library cultures, and make connections between their collections regardless of technology issues and limited time for the training.”

With technologically integrated storytimes and digital media literacy on the rise, educators need to stay ahead of the curve. An excellent way to join a community of educators and grow more confident in storytime development and delivery is through an online Master of Education in Library Media. With the University of West Alabama Online, you will expand your knowledge through courses covering topics like instructional media, library media cataloging and library media center management. As a result, you will gain a unique skill set to prepare you to modernize a school’s library – and storytime. Learn more about the program today and make plans to join a network of committed library media educators.