We invited the talented Peggy Salwen to our library to lead a story time bonanza for children ages 2-24 months. Peggy has been a librarian for over 40 years, and is currently a Senior Children’s Librarian at the New York Public Library. Legendary for her baby skills, massive stock of songs, and playful props, Peggy expertly led a very large crowd of babies and caretakers through books, songs, and movement activities. After the program, I sat down to chat with Peggy about the tricks of her trade.
I use a lot of puppets and props with babies. When I read Peek a Moo, I have little puppets that go with every one of the characters. I have a cow puppet, and then pig, a mouse, and an owl. Some are finger puppets, some are hand puppets.
My Peek-A-Boo mittens I always use with babies. The mittens are in a box and, while I’m sure it’s a bit obnoxious for the parents, I repeatedly use the box during story time. Repetition is so important for babies, and they love it when I take the top off of the box, take Mr. Peek and Mr. Boo out of the box, and then put them back in the box. The babies just get so excited because they know what’s going to happen. It’s all ritual, and ritual is a big thing. I’ve had Poppy [a big stuffed panda bear] for a long time. He’s my “baby.” I use him to demonstrate for parents what they are supposed to do with their babies.
Yes! I don’t love the flap books as much in the library’s collections, but I really like the flap books for baby story time.
What’s the hardest thing about baby story times?
Getting the adults to stop talking and to participate, I think.
How do you get parents to stop talking and participate?
By concisely saying “This is story time. Put your phones away. Don’t talk to your neighbor. This is the one time we ask you to take 20 minutes and be with your baby.” Baby story time is really for the adults, it’s not so much for the babies! It’s for adults to learn how to do things and to show their children that they want to do these things. It’s for them to see how much fun it can be to be with their babies. You are a baby’s first teacher. I think that’s the key. You’re there to teach them how to enjoy life, how to learn. That’s what I believe is most important.
Sing a lot of songs. Say a lot of rhymes. It’s more about the songs and the rhymes than it is about the books! Do fewer books and more songs and rhymes. Being a librarian, you think you have to do the book thing. Yes, reading the books is important, but for baby story time, songs and bouncy rhymes are more important. I learned in a workshop that lyrics to songs are like syllables of words, so your child learns the syllables of words when you sing. So singing is a great way to learn language too!
Peggy’s Favorite Story Time Books
Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn
The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin
Peek-a-Moo! By Marie Torres Cimarusti
Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz
Where is Baby’s Belly Button? By Karen Katz
Tuck Me In! by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes by Annie Kubler
If You’re Happy and You Know It by Annie Kubler
Baa Baa Black Sheep by Annie Kubler
Songs & Rhymes
“Open Shut Them”
“This is Me”
“These Are Baby’s Fingers”
“Little Red Wagon”
“We’re Going to the Moon”
“Tick Tock, Tick Tock”
“Mother and Father and Uncle John”
“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
“The Noble Duke of York”