Organizing my storytelling library

Confession time: my storytelling library was a blot on the escutcheon of librarians everywhere for the last year and a half. My books were not in any order. The house needed so much work, I just plunked my work books on shelves willy-nilly. This is what about half of them looked like:


Oh, they looked nice. Those homemade bookshelves garnered attention when I posted this picture on Facebook. But, sheesh, when I needed to find a particular book, I spent way too much time searching. Can you see that there's a collection of cat stories right next to a big book of world tales? Sacred Stories is right next to a collection of Scottish folktales, which is next to French stories. 

I know better. My first professional job was as a Slavic cataloger. It's important to have a system, in order to find materials easily. 

Last week, I organized my books. Not exactly Dewey Decimal, but close.


Here's the order I use:

  • General reference
  • Books on creativity, including writing books
  • Reference books relating to folklore and storytelling
  • How-to books on storytelling
  • Collections of world folktales
  • Story collections by topic (e.g. folktales of cats)
  • Story collections by geographic area (e.g. folktales from France)
  • Literary (that is, not folktale) collections by author

It's not exact. Some areas are a little slushy. Eagle-eyed readers will see that stories from Shakespeare are tucked into the English folktale collections--that's mostly because the literary tales are on a shelf that's harder to reach, and because I have a program of folktales related to Shakespeare's plays. No, I don't have a card catalog (though I was lusting after a small one at Habitat Restore last week). Still, it's a great improvement. 

I think I'll go browse my collection for a bit.

The power of quiet

I'm not a loud storyteller.  I prefer to invite listeners in to my story world, rather than grab them by the lapels and drag them in. I'm an introvert, so maybe that's why this is my style. Oh, sometimes I get loud, sometimes I wind the kids up, sometimes the decibel level gets high, but I like to bring everybody back to a calm state where we can all enjoy the story connection. I love seeing kids really listening to stories.

This past week, I had the pleasure of working with individual classes of second-graders (7-8 year olds) at Quail Run Elementary School in Lawrence, KS on the Learning about the environment through the arts program, through the Lied Center of Kansas. This was the project on lifecycles, dragonflies, puppets and storytelling. I've worked with these teachers before and was impressed once more by their powerful classroom management skills. All three teachers spoke quietly and calmly with the students, giving instructions without raising their voices. On top of this, they were kind. The children were attentive. They weren't automatons, they weren't stressed, they were just enjoying the sessions without getting wild. The teachers understand the power of quiet. I don't know if this is a school attitude or just these three teachers, but it's a wonder to watch. Afterwards, I was talking with one of them about this. She laughed and said she thought the kids were a bit wired. She also mentioned that when she has a student teacher, she often has to tell them to take the intensity and volume down a notch, as the kids will always ramp up higher than the teacher. 

Another way this teacher used the power of quiet in her classroom management style was at the end of the session. She needed to tell the kids what was going to happen next. She said something like, "Okay, everybody, now look at me. Put your hands on your head. Good. Put your hands on your knees. Good. Now put your hands on your ears. Hands to your sides. I'm going to give you the instructions for what's going to happen next. I'd like you to walk back to the classroom without saying anything. Put your puppets on your desks and line up for gym." She only had to remind one kid that it was time to follow instructions. 

Children don't need to be yelled at all the time. Quiet works. Respect works as well. 

Thanks to the teachers, Peggy, Shawn and Paula, for using the power of quiet.

P.S. One of Peggy's students came back about an hour after the session with a story he had written about what we had done. Fabulous!