(If you count the number of people present, that is: 27!)
Our first French storytime at the Lafayette Library made me happy. A room full of parents and kids, all gathered because they wanted to hear stories and songs in French. There clearly is a need for something like this in this area!
The kids ranged in age from 1 to 10, which was much wider than we had expected. On the other hand, we deliberately scheduled it after school hours, so perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised to see elementary schoolers there. And since we'd publicized it heavily at the Monday morning French playgroup in Boulder, it makes sense that toddlers and their parents showed up too.
Some of the librarians have mentioned to me that they find planning for the all-ages storytimes very challenging, because it is nearly impossible to find materials that appeal to and are appropriate for toddlers, fifth graders, and everyone in between. I so understand that now! It didn't help that the older boys at our French storytime were more interested in chatting with each other and comparing their rubber band bracelets, and unfortunately, they were sitting in the front, so they disrupted everyone. (I had never chastized a misbehaving French child in front of his mother before that day!)
I was anxious about co-leading the storytime, especially when the room started to fill up with Real French People. I would turn to my cohort Delphine and point to a family that had just entered and ask if she knew them. And usually she didn't! At least half of the attendees were strangers to us. When we went around the room to do introductions, it sounded like just about everyone was a native speaker of French--maybe two other American moms (including my sister-in-law, who brought Carl!) plus a nanny for a girl from a French family. Nerve-wracking!
Delphine and I also hadn't planned carefully enough--we had too many CDs, for example, with too many different versions of the songs and rhymes, without choosing ahead of time which one to play. It took a while to cue up the CDs when really we probably should have just sung a cappella. (I can't really carry a tune, but maybe that doesn't really matter when singing in a group.) She also had brought a portable DVD player to show a video of one of the songs, but that also took a couple of minutes to set up, and then there were too many kids for them all to see it clearly.
We also didn't realize how long it would all take. We were aiming for 20-25 minutes, but it was more like 40 by the end, and that's with dropping one of the stories I had planned on reading! The first book took ten minutes, which now we know is too long. We had also hoped to play a game, but even if we had had time, it would have been impossible with so many children.
So what went well, then? The parents and some of the kids joined in on the songs. Some of the kids paid attention to the books, too. And I felt like the reading and the rhymes that I led worked. (My extemporaneous speaking, on the other hand, not so smooth--blame the nerves.)
Picking a theme for the storytime also turned out to be a good idea. Given the recent change in season and temperature, we chose "autumn and forests" as our theme. We did a few songs and rhymes, like "123 je vais dans les bois" and "Dans sa maison un grand cerf" (which has gestures to accompany it), plus two of Delphine's stories whose titles I don't remember because I was focusing on keeping Griffin (and my nerves) quiet, and also a nonfiction book about how a cherry tree changes from season to season. It served as a springboard to talking about what happens in the different seasons--the kids answered my questions and offered examples. That was cool. (Especially when I showed the picture of the cherry tree at the end of the summer and asked who or what had eaten all the cherries--according to the book, it was "les oiseaux," the birds, but according to Griffin, who answered with confidence, it was "Papa"!)
We also decided on two songs that we would include in each session: "Dans la foret lointaine" for the opening (because it concerns a "coucou," a cuckoo, which is also a way to say "hi" in French) and "Ainsi font font font les petites marionnettes" because it concludes with the line "et puis s'en vont" ("and then go away"). We want the attendees to know that they can expect each meeting to begin and end in a familiar way--that helps them transition from their daily day to this special French hour.
So with the conclusion of our first French storytime, Griffin and I have now transitioned into another regular activity in French, which will be si bon for the both of us!