Mixed Feelings: a Virtual Storytime about Emotions

Today was my last virtual storytime, at least for a while. As our libraries have been reopening in different capacities, first just for walk-up at the door and curbside pick-up of holds, and now for in person browsing and computer use a few days a week, we’ve gradually scaled back our virtual storytimes to once a week. These were shared among different staff across our system, so I was only doing one a month, and we are taking a break for the summer.

It was a bittersweet feeling, preparing for this morning’s storytime. It’s been a long and interesting journey, moving storytimes online. At first, I absolutely hated it. Since we were still trying to work out the technical and legal details of doing interactive kids programs (which are complicated by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), for a long time we were only offering pre-recorded programs on YouTube, which made me feel completely isolated and weird.

After several months of recorded storytimes, our library system decided that what kids were really missing was the chance to see other kids, so we switched to interactive storytimes over Zoom. This was SO much better, because I could see the kids again, and they could see me. I’ve always incorporated a lot of back and forth with the audience into my storytimes, asking kids for suggestions, and I could do all of that again. Still, it’s never felt completely natural, and I’ve always worried about lots of issues that would never come up in real life: my Internet crashing, the ebook not loading, sending out the wrong Zoom link by accident, or even losing track of time and forgetting to start the program.

Still, there will be some things I will miss if we drop the virtual storytimes altogether, once we go back to in-person events again. It’s nice to see kids from all over our county, or even outside of it. Also there’s something weirdly intimate about Zoom: we can all see a little slice of each other’s homes and pets and families, which is something the kids seem to enjoy. They love it when my cat unexpectedly bites my leg mid-story, because she has dragged her toy across the room and is waiting for me to play. They love to show their favorite toys, or an ukulele of their own that they might not allowed to bring to the library. And the virtual programs do provide more flexibility for families and preschools who might not be able to come to the library in person. Plus, sharing the e-books on screen makes it much easier for the kids to see the illustrations. I can even share the link to the ebook, so they can check it out after the storytime, especially if it’s on Hoopla, which has unlimited copies.

Given all these feelings, I guess it was appropriate that I did a storytime about emotions. Here’s what I did:

OPENING SONG: Do As I’m Doing

A really easy, fun song that allows the kids to suggest different actions. Today we jumped, ran in place, made funny faces, and wiggled our fingers, and waved our arms in the air.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

SONG: The Handwashing Song

Our library has a grant to help share information about COVID-19 resources, so we have been asked to highlight our webpage for that and do a song for kids about handwashing. My favorite one is The Handwashing Song from JBrary (click on the link to hear the tune and see the motions). I usually ask the kids to pretend we’ve put our hands in something sticky, so now we need to wash them. Today they suggested applesauce and honey.

SONG: If You’re Happy And You Know It

I think most people know the tune to this already, but if you don’t, here’s a video from Barefoot Songs.

To introduce the topic of feelings, I printed out this page of faces, cut them out, and put them in a paper bag. Each time we sang the song, I pulled a face out the bag, held it up to the camera, and asked the kids to name the feeling. Then we sang about it.

Our verses were:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…

If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad”… (and stomp your feet)

If you’re scared/shy and you know it, hide your face… (I had told the kids to find a cloth or tissue at the beginning of the storytime, so they could put the cloth in front of their face and then pull it away quickly and say, “Peek-a-boo!”)

If you’re sad and you know it, cry “Boo hoo!”…

If you’re silly and you know it, make a face…

If you’re happy and you know it, shout “Hooray!”…

The chords are:

[C] If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [G7] hands.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands.

If you’re [F] happy and you know it, and you [C] really want to show it.

If you’re [G7] happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands.

BOOK: The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

I love this book about a little boy named Taylor whose tower is unexpectedly destroyed by a flock of birds. While he sits in the wreckage, different animals come by with suggestions. The chicken wants to talk about it, the bear wants to shout about it, the elephant wants to remember how the tower was built, the ostrich wants to hide, and the snake wants to ruin someone else’s tower. But Taylor doesn’t want to do any of those things. He is miserable until the rabbit comes along and just sits close for a while, and then listens while Taylor talks and shouts and remembers and plots revenge, and then finally decides to build a new tower. It’s such a beautiful lesson for grown-ups, as well as kids. (I’ve been plenty guilty myself of just trying to jump to the solution to my kids’ problems, instead of just listening and supporting them). I shared this book on Overdrive, and held a rabbit puppet up the camera when the rabbit appeared.

SONG: Did You Ever See a Rabbit?

To the tune of Did You Ever See a Lassie (again this is a familiar nursery song, but if you don’t know the tune, here’s a video from Rock N Learn).

I used my rabbit puppet for this, and had the kids copy the motions with the cloth or tissue they found, or with their hands. Here are the lyrics:

Did you ever see a rabbit, a rabbit, a rabbit?

Did you ever see a rabbit go this way and that?

Go this way, and that way,

Go this way, and that way,

Did you ever see a rabbit, go this way and that?

We had our cloths/rabbits move from side to side, up and down, up in the air and down, and round and round in either direction.

BOOK: Crunch the Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap; illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

This is a fun interactive story, about a dinosaur who is frightened by the audience. The book prompts the kids to say hello in different ways, sing Happy Birthday, shout their names, and say “Good night!” Although the kids were mostly muted, a few unmuted themselves for the prompts, and it was gratifying to hear them playing along. This one was also on Overdrive.

SONG: We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner

As usual, I ended with a playalong, asking the kids to make noise with whatever they had on hand (a paper cup, a shaker, their hands or feet, etc.). Here’s a link to the chords and lyrics (the chord charts here are for guitar, but I played it on ukulele).

ENDING SONG: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

[C] You are my sunshine,

My only sunshine [C7]

You make me [F] happy

When skies are [C] gray.

You’ll never [F] know, dear,

How much I [C] love you [Am].

Please don’t [C] take my [G7] sunshine a- [C] way.

If you’ve been performing or attending virtual storytimes or other programs, what are your thoughts about them? Is it something that libraries should continue offering even when in-person programs resume? Please share your comments below.

2 thoughts on “Mixed Feelings: a Virtual Storytime about Emotions

  1. I’m so sad that you won’t be doing virtual storytimes anymore! We started Rosalyn in pre-school recently, and she hasn’t been able to attend your storytimes in person, but we still watch the recorded sessions from a while back.

    Are you guys re-starting in person storytime?!

    • Aww, I’ve missed seeing you all! Please say hi to Rosalyn for me. I hope she loves her preschool. We don’t have a timeframe yet for starting up in person storytimes. Hopefully by fall though–I definitely miss them! I also hope we can keep doing virtual ones in some capacity for families who can’t make it to the library.

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