I had my first stint as substitute storyteller this morning, and it went very well indeed. There was a huge crowd, at least 25 two- to four-year-olds,and several babies. I had them all up and dancing (well, not the infants!), and answering questions about the books, and in general having a very good time.
I even managed the CD player OK, too -- I had burned a disc yesterday with just the songs I needed, but the CD player couldn't play it. I had figured it might not, so I was prepared to do the disc-switching as required. It worked out OK because the kids always need time to transition from story to song, or from song back to story again.
It was a good crowd, by which I mean the children were engaged and the parents kept an eye on the kids, for the most part. When it was over, there were a couple of parents who thought it was OK to leave their 3-year-olds alone in the children's section while they browsed elsewhere in the store: can you say stupid? The kids were OK, but when I realized their moms had wandered off, I asked them, "Where are your moms?" They saw one Mom halfway across the store so we walked up to her, and I refrained from reading her the riot act about leaving her kid unattended. She actually had the nerve to say to her little boy, "You weren't alone, you were with your friend." Of course, the little girl was also three -- big help, huh? Sheesh!
I was a little nervous but didn't need to be. The thing about being in front of little kids like that is you have to be completely honest about it. If you're faking it for them, they'll know it immediately. The other thing, though, is that they have very honest expectations themselves. At that age, they are completely without guile and cynicism, and they'll laugh only if something is funny, not because they think it's stupid. To run a storytime like today's, you have to be able to shed any self-consciousness and just focus on the kids. If you start thinking "I look ridiculous" (whether or not it's true), you'll break the spell, and the kids' attention will start to wander. They're bored by grown-ups' concerns and don't understand the idea of embarrassment. That's one of my favorite things about toddlers and pre-schoolers.
It was great fun and everyone was happy. And now I'm exhausted.