In-Person Storytimes are Back!

Johnson County Library is poised to bring Storytimes back to nine of its branches, starting Sept. 12. And staff and patrons can’t wait.

“We’re looking forward to offering a really robust schedule of Storytimes over the next couple of months,” said Shannon Goebel, early literacy coordinating librarian. “Our community has really missed in-person Storytimes and so have our Librarians. Working on how to bring it back has been a priority.”

Before COVID, Johnson County Library’s Storytimes were booming in 2019. About 45,000 children and adults flocked to the Library’s popular early literacy programs. 

The pandemic forced a pivot to online Storytimes, with many youngsters and caregivers watching the Facebook Live programs from home. It was a great way to connect with families while the virus posed a serious health risk. The Library estimates it served about 10,000 families with children from birth to age six.

But many children and caregivers missed direct personal interaction with cherished Storytime leaders and the chance to socialize and learn together. As virus restrictions were lifted, Library staffers eagerly planned for a resumption of in-person gatherings.

“We know patrons want it,” Goebel said. “They tell us.”

The Storytime schedule is available in the Library’s Fall printed guide. Programming runs until mid-December and will be updated for 2023. The Library will also continue to offer some online Storytime programs, plus Storytime On Demand.

Managers and youth specialists were involved in the planning over many months, to ensure a safe return to in-person programming. They dealt with staffing shortage challenges and worked to make sure programming was equitable and sustainable across the branches.

Goebel was especially appreciative of the core team who worked on details: Sarah Mathews, Christi Haines, Becky Carleton, Grace Bentley and Sarah Aanestad.

In a phased return to in-person programming, Johnson County Library successfully teamed with the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department in September/October 2021. They provided young children with movement activity programs at five parks spaced in strategic geographic locations.

“We did that at county parks, which was so much fun,” Goebel said.

The craving for in-person children’s programming was also readily evident during 2022 Summer Reading events. Family Storytime programs at four outdoor locations quickly filled up, with waitlists, confirming the need for expanded offerings for the fall. Early literacy staffers anticipate hosting about 18,000 people through the end of the year.

Programs will be offered for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and families, including some bilingual Storytimes. Locations include Antioch, Blue Valley, Cedar Roe, Central Resource Library, Corinth, Gardner, Leawood Pioneer, Lenexa City Center and Monticello. About 20 staffers will lead the various Storytimes, including some returning veterans and some new.

Storytimes emphasize 6 by 6 early language and literacy skills, to prepare children to love reading and learning. Leaders read aloud from favorite books and engage children with fun songs and sounds, rhymes and movement activities.

“It’s all carefully planned based on a child’s age and developmental abilities,” Goebel said.

The Library will build on its pre-pandemic Storytime success.

“It’s really going to be about what people knew and loved from before,” Goebel said. “We are really thankful that we have so many people that are engaged Library users and we anticipate they will be excited.”

Help Us Make Our Storytimes Even Better!

We'd love to hear your thoughts about our Storytimes! Please share your comments and suggestions here.