Navigating Parent Behavior in Storytime

children playing with a parachute and balls
Parachute play in Bloomer
It is super cool to have parents and caregivers attend storytime with their kids--it gives us a chance to model excellent early literacy practices, draws their attention to lots of amazing books and activities to share with their children, emphasizes the importance of their role as their child's most important teacher, and allows for extra hands to make the parachute work or keep the paint from spilling on the floor.

Sometimes, however, parents and caregivers can bring their own set of behavior challenges to the storytime room.  When I asked for blog content last week, I got some great guest posts, and one really excellent question:  how do you handle it when parent/caregiver behavior is a little out of control?  Many of us have experienced parents chatting with each other loudly while we are trying to engage everyone's attention in the amazing picture book we are sharing.  I've heard even more tales of parents who are present in body only, and are heads down watching their phone all through storytime.  And the question I got was about how to handle it when a parent uses "colorful" language in storytime, or when another parent is so excited that they blurt out all the answers to questions asked to the kids in a dialogic reading situation.

How do you handle these situations?

I think the key is respectful communication.  I am as terrified of conflict or hurting someone's feelings as the next person is, but I do think there is a way to have a conversation about expectations that will result in a better outcome!  Having a quick orientation at the beginning of every storytime to explain that this half-hour is a great time to engage with children (and maybe setting up a time for afterwards that allows caregivers a chance to engage with each other, which is also important) can make a difference.  If you have one caregiver who is going off the rails as far as participation (language, over-eager answering of questions), a brief, to-the-point, respectful, empathetic and private conversation can make a big difference.  Not everyone knows the unwritten rules, and it is okay to take a minute to let them know what they are!  

Any other tips related to caregivers in storytime?

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