What is Pre-K Read and Play Storytime?
Pre-K Read and Play (PKRP) is a storytime specifically designed to help prepare children to enter kindergarten. Library programs for preschoolers are typically designed to develop early literacy, or pre-reading, skills. PKRP still focuses heavily on these skills, but also features other topics in the wide range of skills that children need to be developing before they enter school, including math, science, and motor development. The emphasis in these storytimes is on fun, so skills are not taught in a classroom setting. PKRP storytimes are very much like any other traditional library storytime. The difference is in the way the storytimes are planned and some of the activities included. The emphasis is on learning through books, music, art, and other FUN activities. That’s why “play” is part of the name of the program.
How Pre-K Read and Play Started
Several years ago (2009, I think?) I attended a session at ALA Annual Conference about rethinking preschool storytime. One of the presenters was a children’s librarian from Ohio named Kevin Delecki. He discussed the storytime he had developed based around his state’s early learning standards. Each storytime was planned around a particular “indicator” and how to reinforce that particular skill in preschoolers. I loved the idea of being more deliberate with storytime planning rather than just picking a random theme each week. So, I went about planning a storytime based on my own state’s standards. At the time I lived in North Carolina and used the standards developed by the NC Office of Early Learning. I moved to Tennessee in 2010 and revamped the program using the Early Learning Standards developed by the Tennessee Department of Education.
Tennessee Early Childhood/Early Learning Developmental Standards
The standards have been updated since I started my program here in Knoxville in 2012. The updated standards can be found here.
To make planning easier, I pulled out the standards for children ages three to five and created my own document with each standard on a separate page. Since the standards have been updated by the state, my document may no longer line up exactly with the official guide, but you can find a copy of it below.
Planning a Pre-K Read and Play Storytime
I start by mapping out my storytimes a few months at a time. This way I can spread out the different learning areas ( Early Literacy; Math and Science; Creative Arts; etc.) to have variety. If someone else were planning, they might like to stick to the same area for several weeks in a row. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way.
Once I have a season of programs mapped out, I start planning the individual storytimes. This is where having each standard on a separate piece of paper comes in handy. I just pull out the sheet for the standard I’m working on and get started. The blank space at the bottom of each page is also a good place to list ideas that come to me even when I’m not necessarily planning a storytime for that standard, like when a great new picture books comes in that I want to be sure to use the next time that standard rolls around.
For each storytime I find a particular idea within a standard to focus on because some of the standards are quite broad. For instance, for the early literacy standard of print awareness, I’ve done several different storytimes – one on writing, one on books and reading, and another on names. I then pull as many picture books (both fiction and nonfiction) as I can find related to the idea I’m focusing on and narrow it down to the three or four that seem to work best. I then look for music, rhymes, and fingerplays that fit with the books and relate to the standard. Some of these activities relate more closely than others. Sometimes kids just need to move a little, so I will include general movement songs and rhymes as needed. Finally, I find a craft or activity to do at the end of the storytime to reinforce the skill we’ve been working on. This can sometimes be the most difficult part of the planning process. I don’t like doing a craft just to do a craft (although crafts are always good for developing fine motor skills).
What does a Pre-K Read and Play Storytime look like?
In many ways, PKRP storytimes look like a traditional library storytime for preschoolers. I start all my preschool-age storytimes with Raffi’s “Shake Your Sillies Out” as a way to get everyone on the same page. Then I introduce whatever that day’s topic will be. The storytime usually consists of three or four books with music, rhymes, and activities such as learning games or flannels interspersed. At the end we do our artwork, craft, or other hands-on activity. For more specific storytime plans see the Storytime Shares link to the right under Categories.
As a side note: I used to give parents and caregivers a handout each week listing that week’s standard as well as other ideas for reinforcing the standard at home. Unfortunately I found that the bulk of the handouts were ending up in the recycling bin, so I stopped doing them. I now have the standards listed on large poster-size signs. I hang the sign that corresponds to our storytime at the front of the room each week for adults to be looking at while storytime is in progress. I also hope this blog is a useful resource for them.