Some libraries have adopted an alternative to face-to-face storytimes: Dial-A-Story, a free program that allows patrons to call the local library and listen to taped stories. Many libraries record their own staff reading stories, but not all have the extra time. Dial-A-Story offers a starter program with fifty-two taped stories but has more than seventy-five additional titles libraries can choose from. Many libraries change the story by the week, but some leave the same story up for as long as a month.
Santa Clarita Public Library (CA) started their Dial-A-Story program in January 2017. Stories are selected by staff librarians and recorded by staff and local storytellers. City Librarian Kelly Behle said, “Dial-A-Story is a creative way that librarians are able to extend the storytime experience at home.”
Dial-A-Story can also be a supplement to children’s reading lessons at school. Many libraries list the stories that will be played each week so parents can check out the book ahead of time, and children can read along with the taped version. According to a 2013 study, 65 percent of fourth graders were reading below the proficiency standard. Dial-A-Story can help students with their vocabulary, listening skills, and reading comprehension, all of which contribute to greater reading proficiency.
Dial-A-Story en Español encourages Spanish speaking families to read together in the language they are most comfortable with. More and more libraries are adding this option as their number of Spanish speaking patrons increase. Seattle Public Library also offers their stories in Chinese. The Denver Public Library offers a variety of recorded stories: bilingual preschool stories and songs (English and Spanish), stories for children from kindergarten through fifth grade, and some longer stories for older children.
Dial-A-Story is a great way for parents to spend time reading with their children outside of the library. The free program can help children escape digital media and learn to enjoy the simple act of reading. Dial-A-Story will also help young children get ready to read and help school-aged children progress better when taking standardized reading tests. Reading is an important aspect of everyday life and Dial-A-Story can help foster a love for reading early in childhood.