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Story Play Time

Pierce County Library System
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Problem Statement

Storytimes provide literacy learning opportunities for children and connections to great books, rhymes, songs and the library in general. Current research identifies other skills children need to be ready for school, leading the library to add a social/emotional component.


In order to incorporate a social/emotional component in storytime, PCLS designed “Story Play Times”. Taking inspiration from the Children’s Museum “Play and Learn” sessions, storytimes were modified. Themed play boxes were added to one branch’s preschool story times and a “transition time” preceded the actual story time: Name tags were placed on the tables for decorating fun, play dough was placed on the tables for manipulation and a large selection of wood blocks on the floor. This transition time frees the librarian to visit with families and allows children to emotionally transition from the outside world to the library. The librarian then gathers families together and conducts a story time. After the storytime, the play box is opened. Inside are a selection of real world objects, toys, games, dress up items, storytelling items, puzzles, art supplies, and other realia. The librarian engages and moderates the children and their families in play activities. After the pilot, the program was expanded to a total of eight branches.


PCLS believes the program has been very successful. Through detailed surveys staff made some changes to the contents of the boxes to make them more engaging and fun. The transition time before the story time is fantastic; children have time to settle into the room and once the story time begins, they are engaged and ready to learn. The play times are sometimes orderly and sometimes quite chaotic. We feel that it’s often during the chaotic times that the true social and emotional learning happens – learning how to take turns, share, work together, and cope with disappointment; all components of Executive Function which current research tells us is the single most important predictor of school success. By the end of 2010 PCLS offered the program in eight sites. In 2010, 91 programs were offered and 2,316 children and adults attended.