What is the first image that comes to mind when someone says "storytime?" A librarian with book in hand and little ones gathered around at her feet listening patiently to a story. That is a nice nostalgic image. Yet, not a complete image. Reading stories aloud benefits all age group. It provides the "tool" to connect any audience to stories they may have never picked up on their own and strengthens listening skills as well as the imagination. To put in corny terms, something magical happens when a story is shared. It encourages conversations. It's sharing an emotion, whether it is sadness or happiness at the outcome of the story. Most importantly, it is the realization of the power of words.
For outreach librarians storytimes for older adults in nursing homes is an opportunity to connect to patrons who can not come through the library doors. Older patrons need social activities to stimulate their memories and listening skills. Contact the nursing homes within the library's area can be as simple as an introductory phone call or email asking to speak to the administrator of the nursing home. Once the contact has been made, describe what the library can do for the residents at the nursing home. Most nursing home administrator's will welcome the library programs. If on the off chance they don't, by all means don't give up on the idea. Try again. The relationship between nursing home and library will be well worth the time and effort of the library staff.
Planning for adult storytimes is not as difficult as it sounds. Unlike storytimes for young children, there is no need for a flannel board. All that's needed here are books, an audience and of course the reader. Three simple ingredients for an afternoon of fun and friendship. The other aspect of storytime for older adults is that it can be done with an audience of one or ten. Book selection for this program is different in that more than likely picture books will not be used. Instead short stories selections such as James Herriot's Dog Stories, is an excellent choice. If your audience is not in mood for those stories try classic children literature books that will remind them of their youth. Like a good movie, many older adults like to revisit their past with books that they cherished as a child. Of course, reading a title from the bestsellers list can also be an option. As with any group, remember that the key to a successful program is to keep the audience interested. Older adults can usually endure twenty to thirty minutes at maximum of interested listening. Follow the clues that the audience provides, and finding the right time limit should be easy to spot.
Libraries should take advantage of every opportunity to be seen in their community. Programs that run weekly, such as storytimes, are prefect to keep the library and its services in front of every citizen. Don't let the excuse of "short staffed" or not enough money in the budget prevent such an affordable program slip away. If allowing a librarian to be out of the building on a weekly basis proves to be too daunting, seek a creative solution. Every other week invite the nursing home to bring the patients to the library. This program could be a wise investment of staff and money that can pay off big in the long run.