Storytime #OnNicollet: fun with songs, words and pictures
When librarian Kelly Wavrin (pictured above in green with her colleague Hallie Bowman) selects material for Thursday morning Storytimes, she’s prefers books that are interactive, prompt questions, and draw kids in with bright colors and rhythmic narratives.
But the most important factor? “You as the librarian have to like the book that you’re reading. You have to be able to sell it.”
As she presents a stack of her favorites, it’s clear Wavrin follows her own advice. “This is Cat Tale, by Michael Hall. The wordplay in here is just great: ‘They train a duck to duck a shoe. They shoo a truly naughty gnu.’ And then it gets all screwed up…” Wavrin chuckles through a few pages that finally culminate in consternation: “‘Rock a squashberry?’ Yep. That’s a fun one.”
Wavrin’s path to Storytime led her through college degrees in English and women’s studies, and a masters in library science. After she graduated, she first went to work in technical services. “I wanted to be a cataloguer: I felt passionately about that.” But while subbing within the Hennepin County library system, Wavrin discovered a passion for working with youth. She’s been a children’s librarian at the Minneapolis Central Library for just over two years now.
Beyond Storytime, Wavrin also gets excited about the library’s federally-funded meal program, which provides meals or snacks for 40 kids every day. “I think there’s something radical about giving people free food at the library. I don’t want to be cheesy and say, ‘Nourish bodies, nourish minds,’ but… nourishing people is kind of what we’re about.”
Storytime at the Nicollet Reading Room offers Wavrin and her library colleagues, including ukulele-wielding Bowman, a weekly opportunity to interact with children and their grown-ups in a friendly public space. “When I was a kid, story time seemed more like entertainment for children. These days we focus on empowering parents and caregivers to engage their children in early literacy. It’s about modeling a way of reading to kids and singing songs”–not putting on a show.
“All story times are based on the early literacy practices: read, write, talk, sing, play,” Wavrin explains. “So we always try to incorporate those aspects into our Thursday morning sessions, through songs, books, and ‘finger plays’ or ‘hand dramas,’ to get those motor skills involved.” She presses her palms together and slides first one hand up and then the other. “You know, like, ‘Zoom, zoom, zoom; we’re going to the Moon!’”
She turns back to the stack of books at her elbow. The cover of the one she picks up next features a little girl, hair in bantu knots, clutching a book. “Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn–another one of my favorites, because, well, Lola’s adorable, and Lola’s at the library. Sometimes as a librarian you just gotta throw one in there… Look, there’s Lola at story time: ‘Lola loves that.’” Wavrin’s mirth turns thoughtful. “I also think it’s important that kids see themselves reflected in the books they read. In books you can and should learn about other people’s experiences, of course, but having characters that look like you, having positive fun–that can be powerful.”
Wavrin says she hopes kids take away from Storytime a “love and excitement for reading, and that parents and caregivers feel empowered, so that reading together becomes part of their routine. You don’t have to be a voice actor to read aloud to your child, and it doesn’t matter if you can’t really sing. I can’t really sing,” she laughs. “But I do it.”
Storytime with the Minneapolis Central bike librarians takes place on the green lawn at Marquette Plaza between Washington Avenue and 3rd Street from 10:30–11a each Wednesday through July 24, weather permitting.