Yoga Storytimes Help Develop Young Minds (and Bodies)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Having spent 12 years as a teacher and school librarian, Alli Bernskoetter was ready for a change.

Having obtained her yoga teacher certification in the spring of 2019, she joined the youth and family engagement team at the Kansas City Public Library in the fall.

Her first order of business? Finding a way to combine her passion for yoga with her commitment to nurturing young minds.

“From the moment I was hired, that was my dream: To do yoga storytimes,” Bernskoetter said. “It took a few months to get the hang of things, but in January we did our first yoga storytime at the Central Library (14 W. 10th St.)."

It started small, as most new programs do, with five children in a small meeting room; but within a couple of months, Bernskoetter was reading and teaching basic yoga to as many as 15 children and their parents.

Just as she was hitting her stride, though, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kansas City issued a stay-at-home-order, and the Library’s physical locations were forced to close. Suddenly, thousands of Kansas City children were stuck at home, unable to go to the Library, attend school, play with friends, or even visit extended family.

Yoga storytime reading
Yoga storytime pose
 Now available online every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the Library’s Facebook page, Bernskoetter believes yoga storytime is more relevant than ever with its combination of mental, physical, and social-emotional exercises.

“This has been a lot to adjust to for children as well as adults,” she said. “There are a lot of emotions that everyone is feeling. We start all of our storytimes talking about our feelings that day.”

From there Bernskoetter uses a combination of books and songs to tell stories, weaving in simple yoga poses as she goes. A song about a frog could incorporate “frog pose” or a book about an elephant could lead to “elephant pose.”

The stories, as well as the yoga, are geared toward children between the ages of 3 and 6, but Bernskoetter said participants a little younger or a little older could participate depending on their attention span and their gross motor skills.

Yoga storytime is a traditional Library storytime first and foremost, but the yoga is real and so is the exercise.

“For kids, the emphasis is on making this fun and exciting,” Bernskoetter said. “What it’s going to do is get their heart rate up. It’s going to increase flexibility. It helps with balance. It taps into strength. Those major muscle groups are going to be worked. And hopefully that’s not the only thing your kids are doing. Once they are moving, kids will usually find ways to stay active even after storytime is over.”

Check out the entire lineup of Facebook Live Storytimes.