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May 07, 2021, 07:00 PM

Keeping the Joy in Storytime: Dismantling Racism in Storytime Songs

A talk by Juana Flores, Meghan Klaus, Annie Lin and Amber Moller
Brooklyn Public Library, NYPL, NYPL & The New York Public Library

“Racism in Children’s Storytime Songs” aims to spark a discussion about the songs that are often used in storytimes. Many of these songs' original lyrics are racist— they use derogatory terms and often make light of other’s suffering. Although the lyrics have changed over the years and no longer contain hateful terminology, the history is still lurking in the background.

We view music in storytime as a celebration of joy, unity and community, and seek to create a more equitable storytime space by replacing songs with a harmful tradition with ones that our whole communities can participate in joyfully. We want to share how we have approached this difficult topic in our own storytime practices, with colleagues in our respective branches and systems, and how we feel that librarians anywhere can make small changes even if we are not musicians or music historians.

Participants can expect to learn: The importance of evaluating storytime songs with the same critical lens used to evaluate books and stories. Some of the history of popular storytime songs and tunes with hateful and racist origins. How we are moving forward by rethinking the songs we sing in storytime, drawing from the plethora of alternative songs available and reclaiming beloved songs with new tunes.

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