We had our first ever Read with Us! session at Cheng San Public Library, with a group of 10 other mums-and-kids pairs. I was really nervous about it, as the reading segment in our playdates are usually much shorter, and with less kids too.
The turn-out was smaller than anticipated, as I had quite a few last minute withdrawals, and a no-show. I didn’t contact the others on the wait-list, as I figured it was too last minute to contact them on the morning itself, and thought I’d just keep the group small, especially since it was my first session. There was a “walk-in” little girl with her grandmother, and she was so well-behaved throughout! Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Noah, who was probably the most disruptive of the lot, insisting on lifting all the flaps in the books, and standing right in front of the book, blocking everyone’s view.
After singing the Good Morning Song and doing a brief introduction of colours using the Melissa & Doug Caterpillar Gear Toy
Mix it Up by Herve Tullet. I’ve heard loads of good things about his book, Press Here, but haven’t been able to read it yet, and was pleasantly surprised that Noah really enjoyed Mix it Up. I think the children seemed quite excited about interacting with the book as I read it, though I didn’t quite know how to manage letting all the kids touch all the pages, without making the session too draggy.
Good morning, everyone!
Mix it Up
Interacting with the book
I prepared a simple craft on colours for the children, to recapitulate how some colours can be mixed together to produce different colours. The preparation for this took way longer than I expected, as I had to cut so many squares of coloured paper, THEN put double-sided tape on them as well. I would have preferred it if they could use coloured pencils, crayons, or even paint, but the library wasn’t equipped for all that, so I came up with this instead. Most of the kids really enjoyed the craft, and spent ages working on it, but Noah refused to cooperate, and ran around the room instead.
The children seemed really restless by then, so I moved on to the next two books. Some of the kids were still too busy trying to complete their craft, and weren’t quite interested in either of the two stories I read. I deliberately chose to read two lift-the-flap books, Where is Milo’s Ball? by Mike Austin and Oh dear! by Rod Campbell, but not all of them were interested in lifting the flaps. I also tried to engage them by asking them to say “Oh dear!” with me as I read the story, but by then, I think they were all too cranky to be really interested in what was going on.
Where is Milo’s Ball?
Lifting the flaps
I actually planned to read four other books, but decided against it, as I didn’t think the children could sit through more stories. On hindsight, I should have added a lot more songs, as children their age aren’t quite able to sit still for extended periods of time. For those of you who might be interested, here are the other books I selected.
The librarian also very kindly selected a number of titles that tied in with the theme, and displayed them in a corner of the room, so that the parents can browse through them, and borrow them. Do check out these titles as well!
What have I learnt from this session?
1. Timing matters. – 11am is a tad too late for toddlers, which is something I should have realised, since our playdates usually start at 930am, and end by 1130am. The kids are usually cranky by then, but somehow, that didn’t register with me, when I scheduled this session.
2. Incorporate plenty of songs, preferably action ones. – After having attended so many similar programmes in Australia, I really should have figured out that there was a good reason behind all those songs we had to sing! I preferred the stories, but that’s because I’m an adult, and my attention span is longer. Toddlers can’t be expected to focus on many stories, without giving them breaks in between. Honestly, I’ve been reading at home with Noah for a long time, and he is always asking for more books. He sits quietly with me, on my lap, and we can go through at least five books at one shot. However, this also means that he is used to being the only one reading with me, and might be the reason why he kept coming forward to touch the books.
3. A small group is definitely better. – Kids this age need to be in small groups, and although it was parent-accompanied, they got distracted by each other as well. It takes time to teach them how to behave in such a setting, and for most of them, it was the first time that they actually met each other.
4. I should have taken time to introduce myself, and gotten everyone to do the same. – Having been so used to our playdates, I forgot that everyone else didn’t know each other. It would have been nice if we could have introduced ourselves, and gotten to know at least everyone’s names, so that the children could settle down a bit better too.
5. Interactive books are good for such sessions. – I do need to think harder about how to use interactive books, or to make every story interactive. The children do need to be better engaged, so that they would actually want to listen to the stories, rather than walk around or work on their crafts.
6. Craft should have been last on the agenda. – I had a tough time getting the kids to focus on the second and third books, as some were still busy with their crafts. C urged me to get everyone to put away the crafts, but I know that it isn’t easy to enforce that, especially when the kids are exerting their independence at this age. Add crankiness to the mixture, and you have a potential meltdown just waiting to happen.
7. Find simpler crafts with less preparation. – I thought that the craft I came up with was very easy, until I started preparing the materials. Then, I started wondering what I had gotten myself into, and was very thankful that there were only 11 kids involved. In the end, five kids didn’t show up, so I now have extra materials which I had painstakingly prepared. Oh well, I’ll just get Noah to use them one day!
That’s all I can think of at the moment, and I have plenty of reflection to do still, if I want to continue running such a programme. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to try this out, and it really made me wish I thanked the librarians in Adelaide properly, before we left! It’s a lot tougher than I envisioned it to be, especially when I’m used to teaching teenagers instead of toddlers. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come up with a better plan next time, IF there’s indeed a next time, since Noah starts school in two weeks! Eeeks!
*There are affiliate links in this post, which means that if you purchase the books after clicking on these links, a few cents will go into Noah’s book fund, at no extra cost to you.
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