Grandview Heights Public Library's storytimes still online only

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

Once upon a time, the Grandview Heights Public Library's youth-services department would be filled with youngsters and their parents ready to hear a tale during one of the library's regular series of storytime activities.

"When the pandemic hit, like everybody else, we needed some time to figure out how to transfer our program online," youth-services librarian Rachel Rausch said. 

By May, the library had a set of virtual storytime programs offered throughout the week for viewing via the youth-services department's Facebook page.

"We miss seeing the children so much," Rausch said. "It's not the same experience doing storytime without having them in front of you."

Grandview Heights Public Library children's librarian Chelsea Weissman is shown in a "Tiny Tidbits for Babies" video on the library's youth-services Facebook page.

Most storytime programs are designed for children ages 2-5, Rausch said.

"We do try to make them something that children that are younger or a little older can enjoy, but that's the target audience for most of them," she said.

Storytimes are offered on the Facebook page at 11 a.m. Mondays, 4 p.m. Tuesdays and 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays.

Virtual Tiny Tidbits, a program for babies, is offered at 10:30 a.m. Thursdays.

A weekly drawing lesson also is offered at 10:30 a.m. Fridays.

Although the programs are offered online, they still provide many of the benefits of traditional storytimes for youngsters, Rausch said.

Storytime activities are a way to introduce and familiarize youngsters with reading and books before they develop their literacy skills, she said.

"It's giving them a head start on things like letter recognition and other skills they need to become a reader," Rausch said.

The virtual storytimes also are more convenient for families, she said.

"Because of copyright issues, we can't keep a story we've read on our Facebook page for more than a day, but you do have access that day's activity for the rest of the day," Rausch said. 

Youngsters are missing out on the socialization benefits of the traditional storytime activities where groups of children gather in the library, she said.

"It's a good way to get your child a little bit familiar with a classroom setting before they start going to school," Rausch said. "It helps them learn to listen, take direction and interact with other children.

"You don't get that when you're sitting at home watching it on a computer," she said.

Library staff have adjusted the storytime programs because of their virtual nature, Rausch said.

"We've shortened them a bit because there's a bit of screen fatigue these days," she said.

When librarians hold a storytime in person, they include short periods of dancing, singing or movement to offer a break from the reading and address youngsters' short attention spans, Rausch said.

"It's harder to do that when you're online," she said. "We may say, 'Here's a shaker egg. Can you find something that you can shake?' or invite them to find a scarf they can wave along with us, and we have to rely on the parents to help keep them engaged."

Links to the music and songs used during the storytimes are available at the library's YouTube channel, Rausch said.

Although everyone wishes the pandemic were over and youngsters again could visit the library, the virtual programs have some advantages over the regular storytimes, children's librarian Chelsea Weissman said.

During regular times, Weissman leads the Music and Movement storytime program, and she incorporates a lot of music in the virtual activities she leads.

"I'm able to go a little more in-depth online and take more time showing how I play the guitar and talking about the musical scale," she said. 

The downside is having to do a program geared for an audience you can't see, Weissman said.

The presenter doesn't know how children are reacting or whether they have lost their audiences' attention, she said.

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