One of my favorite-ever public library programs is Stuffed Animal Storytime. The last time I did this was back in June 2012 – my last year (so far) of public librarianship – and it was a huge hit. Kids ages 2-6 brought their favorite stuffed friend to a late-afternoon storytime. We had snacks and made blankies for the stuffed animals (using cheap fabric, pre-cut into appropriate sizes, that kids decorated with fabric markers). Then the kids said goodbye to their creatures, and the adventures began!
We photographed the animals doing fun things in the library (reading with the staff, climbing on our reading hut, doing puzzles, playing games on the early literacy computers, etc.) Then we created a book outlining their adventures – making sure that each animal was in at least a few of the pictures – to give to each child.
When the kids came back in the morning, they loved their new books. We heard from parents for weeks afterward that their child was “reading” the homemade book to their animal every night. Shut up, that’s too cute.
Anyway, what made me think of this five (eek) years later was this article on CNN: “After a night at the library, stuffed animals help kids read.” I’m going to be honest: I just thought this activity was fun and cute – but a Japanese study showed that this program creates real gains in students’ literacy skills! Just like our parents reported, students in their study started reading to their animals and showed greater interest in books. So awesome.