Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Once Upon a Storytime

Once Upon a Time, The Shields Clan went to storytime.  It was lovely, fun was had by all, and the Clan gleefully pledged to return weekly, forever and ever thereafter.

Even our dog knows how absurd this tale sounds.

She's laughing.  Or yawning.  Certainly not about to eat the camera, unless it's a gummy bear-flavored camera, in which case all bets are off.

I'll try this again...

Once Upon a Time, The Shields Clan went to storytime.  I won't name names.  Oh okay, yes I will.  It was the Lower Providence Library "Older Twos and Threes" Storytime.  We hadn't been to this particular storytime before, so we didn't know what to expect.  It took some bumbling about before we found the right room (actually, it took my sarcastically saying "I wonder where storytime is" and creepily loitering around the large crowd of children until the start time came and went, and I finally asked and was pointed to a side room.  But whatever.), so we were a few moments late.  Seriously, just a few moments - they couldn't have been more than a couple of pages into the first story.  But our late entrance was just the start of our problems.

As we entered, looking perfectly respectable and appropriately ashamed at our tardiness, the librarian stared us down, pausing her story long enough to inform us that this storytime was for "Older Twos and Threes."  We assured her that we knew (having read the signage outside), and that he was indeed 2, and then we attempted to quietly slink in without further disturbance.  The librarian really disagreed with our assessment that Aidan belonged in this storytime (instead of the Infants - 2's) and again said that this was for Older Twos and Threes (her emphasis, not mine), and that there would be lots of reading (gee, and I was hoping for lots of swimming.  Shucks.).  When we didn't vacate the premises, she said she guessed we were welcome to stay.

I do understand the reasoning behind breaking up age groups.  I understand having an age split, and I do see a natural difference between children that are nearly three and children that are newly two.  HOWEVER, this librarian knew nothing of my son other than what she saw in the first nanosecond that she laid eyes on him.  She didn't know how old he was, how well-behaved he was, or how developmentally advanced or delayed he was.  I can only assume that she quickly decided that he didn't belong simply because of something she saw - and what it was is anyone's guess.  Short stature?  A youthful face? The fact that he's not "a regular" at that storytime?  Whatever it was, it's not exactly shocking that our children are learning prejudice earlier and earlier in life.

I stand by my assessment that Aidan belonged in THAT storytime.  The books were age-appropriate and interesting to him.  He was engaged in what he saw and heard.  He even owns some of the books that were read.  With where he is intellectually, what we are working on teaching him at home, and how he personally learns best, I don't think a class full of infants would have been beneficial to him.  I didn't just stumble into whatever class I thought sounded lovely.  I considered what would best fit his needs and abilities and attended that storytime quite on purpose.

I realize how irate I sound right now.  You think I'm overreacting.  But that's only because I know how the rest of that storytime went.  Read on, friend.  Read on.

As the librarian read her stories, Aidan got excited.  He loves books!  As she read a story about animals and the sounds they make, my silly little boy started to giggle.  He was rewarded with glares.  When he imitated the animal sounds the librarian made, she answered him with shushes.  When Aidan found a stray sticker on the floor in front of the librarian and tried to give it to her, she wouldn't even look at him.  Clearly, the expectation of this group is that during storytime, a preschooler should be motionless and silent.  Who are these zombie preschoolers, exactly?

Now, I do understand that a library is a place to be quiet.  And actually, Aidan understands this too.  He was using his quiet voice and making his quiet sounds.  When the loudest sound to come out of a two year old during storytime is a giggle, I fail to see the problem.  It's not as though he was disturbing a room full of SAT-takers, either.  The rest of the group was comprised of two other preschoolers.

The best (worst?) part?  A book that was read while (thankfully) Aidan was in the restroom.  It's called Bye-Bye Big Bad Bullybug! by Ed Emberly.  I'm actually pretty appalled at the positive reviews it's gotten on Amazon.  Do parents just not actually read the words on the page?  Spoiler alert - it's about a bug that's bullying smaller bugs. Does the bully learn his lesson?  Is he sorry about what he's done?  Does everyone learn to appreciate their differences and get along by the end?  Nope.  The smaller bugs get their friend - a shoe - to kill the bully.  The end.  Not joking.

I have such a bad taste in my mouth.  I don't think we'll be going back.  We were made to feel unwelcome from the moment we walked through the door, and Aidan was made to feel as though every perfectly normal bit of toddler behavior he exhibited was wrong and unacceptable.  Lighten up.  Learning is fun.  Books are fun.  Storytime shouldn't feel suspiciously like a 45 minute time out!


  1. I think you should print this out and give it to the head of the library. You are smart and thoughtful and they should see this as an opportunity to improve. Good luck!

  2. Wow that's awful! Shame on that librarian. What a disappointment.

  3. I enjoy reading your blog, however, you don't seem to understand that you are wrong here. The age limit was clearly older 2s and 3s, and isn't Aidan newly 2? So regardless of his behavior, intellectual ability, etc, he didn't belong in that group. I agree that the librarian should not have been such a jerk and giggling should certainly be allowed at storytime, but rules are rules and I don't understand why you feel they don't apply to you and your son. Not to mention the fact that you came late and caused an interruption to the other age-appropriate, on-time children. If I was at the group, I would have given you the side-eye too.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      While, yes, coming late was a bit of a bother - your belief in a strict adherence to "rules" with regards to age are incorrect and not reasonable. The ages noted are guidelines designed to help parents make appropriate guesses about where a child will most benefit based on their comprehension level. I can only assume you do not know Aidan or you would also agree that the 2-3 age group is where he belongs. Our children are not robots and as such can not be put in boxes marked strongly by age.

  4. I'm appalled by the book they chose. That's a terrible concept to be teaching children! Especially with what's on the news these days. I would be complaining to the Head Librarian about both your treatment and the book chosen.