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Using Costumes in Library Storytimes

Updated on September 13, 2016
I'm the one in the Little Bo-Peep outfit. The other 2 costumed characters are librarians too.
I'm the one in the Little Bo-Peep outfit. The other 2 costumed characters are librarians too. | Source

Storytime Costumes for the Librarian or Nursery School Teacher

Make storytimes extra-special for children by adding a costumed character to the program. It can be a visit from a character after you've read or told a story about it or you can dress in character for the whole storytime. Gradually I built up a good selection of costumes that the library used for summer reading programs, storytimes, city parades and other events.

You can assemble your own, sew one if you are handy or buy a ready-made costume. Sometimes the Friends of the Library will fund such frills for use in storytime.

(photo of me as Little Bo-Peep with two library friends dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz)

Dress up as Mother Goose

You can get an apron and cap to go with an ordinary shirt and long flowing skirt with a mob cap or buy a whole Mother Goose costume. Team this up with a good-sized basket to tuck the storytime books into.

Dressing as Mother Goose is perfect for story time and easily identified by children. It's a good idea to get the costume a little loose if different people will wear it on various occasions.

Red Riding Hood Costume

Red Riding Hood Deluxe Costume - Large - Dress Size 12-14
Red Riding Hood Deluxe Costume - Large - Dress Size 12-14

There are a number of skimpy Red Riding Hood costumes for adults to wear but this one seems more appropriate for a library program and also more true to the original folk costume from the era of the story.

 

Care of the Costumes

After each wearing, the costume should be checked for needed repairs and cleaned. Sometimes this is as simple as throwing it into a wash machine, but the furry costumes may require dry cleaning. You can try some of those home dry cleaning kits to spot clean as needed.

Arrange for adequate storage to hang the costumes so they won't be crushed and crumpled. Check them before each planned use to see if they need pressing.

Have the staff member or volunteer try on the costume before the event to be sure they fit in it. If the costume is too big for the person who is to wear it, they can add padding or use safety pins in spots to make it fit better. If it is too small, you are out of luck, and need to find someone else to dress in the costume.

Woolite Dry Cleaner's Secret Dry Cleaning Cloths - to freshen up costumes that can't be washed

Woolite Dry Cleaner's Secret Dry Cleaning Cloths, 14-Count Box
Woolite Dry Cleaner's Secret Dry Cleaning Cloths, 14-Count Box

Regular dry cleaning can be quite expensive. Give this a try if the costume just needs freshening up.

 

Invite Cosplay Enthusiasts to Show Off Their Character Costumes at the Library

This is my niece and a friend in their amazing costumes.
This is my niece and a friend in their amazing costumes. | Source

Look How This Library Used Costumed Characters for the Opening of Its New Children's Room

Pirate Storytimes Are Popular

Libraries can have a storytime or other program on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Librarians in Pirate Costumes

Clifford, the Big Red Dog Costume - for storytimes

Clifford the big Red Dog Adult Costume
Clifford the big Red Dog Adult Costume

Clifford will be a popular visitor to your library storytime or summer reading event. Read some Clifford stories to the kids before he makes his appearance.

Don't surprise them, prepare them for meeting Clifford (or any costumed character).

 

Word of wisdom - never, ever, ever, ever be tempted to have a favorite character arrive at a toddler storytime unannounced. Clifford came in this morning and immediately about 20 toddlers began to cry. Total disaster.

— Tara K.

More Storybook Character Costumes - to use for storytimes in the library

Usually a full costume like the dinosaur or dragon shown here can be a trip hazard. The ideal thing is to have someone walk with the costumed character to watch for things he/she could trip over and steer them away from those. The eye-holes can be hard to see out of at times.

Sometimes children run up and grab the character around the legs making it difficult to walk. Once in awhile, a child may be aggressive towards the costumed storybook character and start punching it or pulling on it. Having a sidekick lets them deal with this behavior.

Any Disney Character Will be a Hit with the Children

Source

Example of Using Costumed Librarians in a Video to Promote Reading

Curious George Costume

Forum Novelties Plush Monkey Mascot Costume, Brown, Standard
Forum Novelties Plush Monkey Mascot Costume, Brown, Standard

Another very popular storybook character. Great for storytime or for the library's storybook parade. The one shown here is rather expensive but the cheaper one available had an unfriendly expression.

This one has a face that the children will find approachable.

 

Renting or Borrowing Costumes for Storytimes and Library Events

Consider working out costume swaps with other libraries in your region. It helps if someone sets up an online database listing what is available, who to contact, and setting some guidelines on who is responsible for cleaning and transporting the costume.

Snow White - One of Our Most Popular Costumes - The children loved this

For our summer reading fun fair at the end of summer, we would have a photo shoot with Snow White. The kids left the bounce tent, the games with prizes and refreshments to line up for a photo with Snow White. You can schedule this early, then go print out the photos for the children to pick up later at the event.

California Costumes Women's Snow White,Blue/Yellow, Small Costume
California Costumes Women's Snow White,Blue/Yellow, Small Costume

We had a staff member who worked in the reference department who had dark hair and features very much like Snow White. She was perfect in the costume. The kids loved meeting her and getting their photo taken with her.

This was in a disadvantaged area and it was most unlikely that the children would get to go to Disney World.

 

Cinderella - Another Very Popular Character for Library Events

Click on the photo to see various sizes and prices of costumes. This one is top-of-the-line, but there are some budget versions available.

InCharacter Costumes, LLC Women's Enchanting Princess Costume, Blue, Medium
InCharacter Costumes, LLC Women's Enchanting Princess Costume, Blue, Medium

A lovely costume, but if you want one with a little more coverage at the top, browse the other ones shown at this link.

 

Look for a Free Costumed Character - to visit your library

Sports teams (high school, college, professional sports) have mascots in costumes. These will visit for free.

Keep in mind when trying to book a sports figure or the mascot for a visit, that you need to work around their game schedule and travel times.

Broose the Moose - Mascot of the Mainer's Collegiate Baseball Team

Kids love seeing live sports figures and mascots that they've seen on TV.
Kids love seeing live sports figures and mascots that they've seen on TV. | Source

Inviting Commercial Costumed Characters to Visit the Library

You can hire a character for a special event, but we found many free ones who would come visit the library. Usually they were promoting a local fast food chain or a supermarket and would give out keychains, bookmarks and other advertising gear. This might be an issue with your city, but to the children and parents, Ronald McDonald or the H.E.B. supermarket character that they see on TV ads are celebrities.

Example of Using a Costumed Character with Summer Reading

Captain Crab visits the San Juan Public Library in South Texas. This is the kick-off event for their 2015 summer reading program.
Captain Crab visits the San Juan Public Library in South Texas. This is the kick-off event for their 2015 summer reading program. | Source

Be on the Lookout for Costumes Wherever You Go

Here's Juan Valdez (the coffee guy) in a local parade. You can find costumed characters in parades, local theater productions. Renaissance fairs, pirate festivals, Scottish events, etc.
Here's Juan Valdez (the coffee guy) in a local parade. You can find costumed characters in parades, local theater productions. Renaissance fairs, pirate festivals, Scottish events, etc. | Source
Source

Zazzle graphic: I Love Storytime T-Shirts & Gifts by konceptskids

© 2011 Virginia Allain

Are you planning some storytimes?

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    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 5 years ago

      I have always believed in the value of costumes for storytelling to make the stories come alive for the children.

    • profile image

      grifith 5 years ago

      Wonderful Way to Tell a Story

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Oh these are wonderful ideas! I never dressed up in a costume when I read to the children in the library but I did use different voices for the characters in the story. Blessed!

    • profile image

      GrowWear 5 years ago

      Love story time at the library. It's been a while, though. Have been to some where they dress up. It really does make it extra special, as you say.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      This is what I tried to comment before: Our library had a story lady every Saturday morning. She didn't dress up, but she always told the story with lots of acting and voice for the characters. She made us all smile or laugh, and for some of us that was an extremely precious thing. You have another winner here, Virginia.

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