In the mid-1950s, the American Library Association grew concerned over research that showed Americans were “spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments.” In response, the ALA launched the first annual National Library Week in 1958 with the theme “Wake Up and Read!”
Since then, National Library Week has been observed across the country each year during the second full week in April, as a time to “celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.” (For more on National Library Week, check out this ALA fact sheet.)
The 2017 theme is “Libraries Transform,” and preschool storytime today was transformed into a jubilant celebration of all the things we love about being kids at the library! It was difficult to choose which picture books about libraries to share with the children – there are so many good ones in our collection (see photo). I finally settled on Bonny Becker’s A Library Book for Bear, a side-splitting read-aloud with sweeping watercolor illustrations about a bear’s first experience of the library – he’s initially skeptical (who needs more than seven books, really?) but is won over when he stumbles onto a storytime featuring a book about pickles and bears (subjects that resonate with him). We also read Deborah Bruss’s Book Book Book, a fun read-aloud about a group of farm animals attempting to make themselves understood by the librarian and receive the books they’re after – a book that engages young listeners with a series of participatory animal sounds.
We sang a wacky song called “Bananas Unite,” with plenty of movement, silliness, and an eventual invitation to “GO BANANAS!” I told the children I selected this song not only because it’s super fun, but also because it’s okay to go a little bananas in the children’s library! We don’t have to whisper or tiptoe, but can get excited about books and be regular kids in the children’s department. We also shook egg shakers to the beat along with Tom Knight’s boogie-woogie tune “The Library Song,” a little ditty that lists the wonders to be had at the library – “all you need is a library card!”
Finally, we capped off our half-hour of library love with a mini “behind the scenes” tour of the library – we put some books through the book return slot, then went to the “other side” of the book return to find our books there. While we were there, several patrons passed by and put materials in the slot – the children gasped and cried, “WHOA!” as they watched the books tumble through the slot and thump into the bins below. They seemed content to hang out and watch the book return in action for as long as I might let them, but we eventually returned to the storytime room to watch a hilarious classic Sesame Street clip wherein Cookie Monster nearly gives a straight-laced librarian an aneurysm by repeatedly requesting a box of cookies.
If you couldn’t make it today, don’t despair! National Library Week storytime is happening again on Saturday, April 15 at 10:30am, with some new books, songs and activities. Come celebrate libraries with us!