Guest Post: Talking to Kids About Race in Storytime and the Let’s Talk About Race Tooklkit

Today’s guest post continues a conversation about talking to kids about race in storytime that I began to ponder last year. My initial post, Talking to Kids About Race, was followed by a guest post sharing racially diverse storytime booklists.  This guest post by Jessica Bratt delves deeper into the topic of talking to kids about race in a storytime setting. Jessica shares her personal journey relating to this topic and shares a toolkit she created for library staff who do storytime. Take it away, Jessica!

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I attended the 2018 Partners for a Racism-Free Community forum entitled, Standing at the Intersections. This forum talked about racial equity and inclusion that intersects with a person’s identity. Charlene Carruthers, their keynote speaker, talked about the work she has done with BYP100, her upcoming book, and how we could take part in seeing the world as it should be. Her Q&A session resonated with me because her responses were absolutely poignant in understanding the work early literacy/youth services librarians have towards inclusion in storytimes.

The first question a person asked was how does one go about doing self-work and why do they need to do self-work. Carruthers talked about how self-work is harder, yet should be higher than self-care (Agnes Wainman explained self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”) because we are learning what we need to do to heal our traumas (big or small) to be a better person. It is learning about ourselves and how we can impact the world. Where does one begin to do the formidable process of self work? By using these questions as guidance:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What are my self interests?
  3. Who are my people?
  4. Who am I accountable to?
  5. What am I best positioned to do?

Another attendee followed up with a question of how do you get kids to intersect with others from all walks of life to have conversations about social justice terms: power, privilege, access, oppression, etc? Her response was that you create child-friendly components of whatever work you are doing and make a space to invite both groups into the room.

That self-work was how the Let’s Talk About Race series developed. It provides a child-friendly space to address inclusion and diversity to make space for everyone in the room. I saw talking about race as part of the self work that I needed to do (that we all should be doing). In part because who I am is integral to my profession. As an African-American librarian, I am a descendant of slaves and can trace back my history to 1796 when my great-great-great grandmother was born a slave in South Carolina, her father was sold when she was a baby and then she was sold to the Liddell plantation.

As a professional librarian, I am also a Youth Services Manager and it is my responsibility to help prepare children with the tools they need to be successful. That is how I settled on creating the Let’s Talk About Race toolkit.  I wholeheartedly believe that the celebration of diversity and inclusion starts at birth. I am accountable to my community, to the future generations if I do try to do my best in providing tools to disrupt biases creating a world where kids can recognize, accept, and celebrate differences. One of my favorite books is Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood because ‘you are loved and so are they’ is a world truth that has been fractured, distorted, rebranded and coded into divisive messages that one group is always better than others.

A co-worker, Jeanne Clemo, an amazing early literacy instructor, brought into one of our library’s early literacy committee meetings the Jbrary post on talking about race. She talked about how the post made her think about what we could be doing more  in our storytimes for inclusion and diversity. We had conversations about what that could look like which enabled me to sit down and create a toolkit. I realized that through our conversations talking about race, which seemed natural to me in my storytime programming others had a hard time opening up to the possibilities partially because there were no guides or blueprints developed.

In a profession that is 88% white how could I create tools necessary to make something that is natural for me empowering for others? How do I teach others to talk about race especially if it was something that they never had to do before?

I did a webinar in January for Washington State Library about the toolkit I developed in providing caretakers with simple tools to start dealing with biases that develop at an early age. We as librarians have immense power in the way we prepare kids not only for early literacy, which translates to kindergarten readiness, but we also have power in how their social interactions with “others.” The library is free and open to the community which means we have the perfect opportunity to create inclusive environments where we are fostering appropriately aged dialogue about our humanity and legit science. Skin pigment is not a magical thing that just happens.

I will give a few highlights from the webinar that I hope will challenge you to create a balance of not only whatever fun storytimes you want to do, but remembering that you have a chance to model inclusion and celebrate diversity in the books that you choose and the parent tips that you speak.

Challenge Stereotypes

The New York Times summed it up best when they wrote a recent article, “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time.” Just like you would challenge gender roles, a book of all male inventors might make you uncomfortable. Women were inventors too! Well, race should be the same way. African-Americans are more than just entertainers, musicians, and civil rights activist. Are you portraying stories to your patrons of just regular black kids like Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall or Max and the Tag Along Moon by Flyod Cooper or I Got the Rhythm by  Connie Schofield-Morrison? Native Americans are still around today! Are you only reading books in your storytime that portray them in a certain historic era?

Change Your Thinking: Not a Checklist

The biggest issue is in how you model. We talk about storytime transitions. In those storytime transitions, early literacy educators have developed practical tips for caretakers to take from our storytimes to help encourage modeling at home.  Raising socially conscious kids or just good citizens or empathetic people is the same way. You can bring up these points naturally—in a non preachy, non checklist way—or in an I’ve done my good storytime universe deed of the day. This also should not feel like OMG–ANOTHER THING TO REMEMBER. If it is detracting from your storytime rhythm you are not doing it right. I’m a black librarian and haven’t missed a beat when pointing out features to kids and I have observed my storytime instructors doing it as well.

Resources to Help on Your Journey

A simple easy way to introduce talking about race (I would say babystep #1) is introducing your read aloud by simply saying, “The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney, an award-winning African-American illustrator.” This highlights the author’s race and let’s caretakers know that the picture book section is not just filled with all white authors/illustrators. Caretakers may have no idea that the picture book section is not just filled with white authors/illustrators.  Here are other books that work great for this purpose:

These two charts can be used to help staff start to think about how they can approach race in storytime.

Here are some more resources:

I hope that you can take this as a call to action in challenging yourself to add some solidarity work to your storytimes. I hope that we can be a better society. Fred Hampton said, “we can fight racism not with racism, but with solidarity.” Alex Haley said that “racism is taught and not an automatic behavior it is a learned behavior towards persons with dissimilar characteristics.” You do not have to embrace fear. Help empower families and children that they do not have to automatically learn to embrace ignorance and fear.

Let’s Talk About Race Educator’s Guide

Strengthen your knowledge on race and its negative impacts by getting a birds eye view on different past and present racial happenings.  

Books

Other great starts are the books Tai-Nehisi Coates writes and this amazing article/thinkpiece on race from national book award winner Ibram Kendi. For intersectional feminism 101: Melissa Harris-Perry’s Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America or Tamara Winfrey Harris’ The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women are great places to start.

Videos:

Blogs/Websites

LSC Journal Club: April 2018 Recap: Play and the Learning Environment

We had our third Library Services for Children Journal meeting this past Sunday.  We read two articles that explored play and the learning environment.  Here’s a quick recap of the articles and discussion points.  This post, except for the final thoughts at the end, was written by our group leader Jennifer Streckmann. Want to get involved with the LSC Journal Club? See if you have a local group or start one of your own!

Article #1: Play and the Learning Environment

  • This was an in-depth look at child play psychology as related to the physical space of the classroom, which can be extrapolated out to the library setting.
  • Includes good materials/equipment suggestions
  • Benefits of play include: development of motor skills, vocabulary growth, sharpening of the senses, increased concentration, expression of emotions—empathy, flexibility, sharing, turn taking—harmony, role taking, ordering, sequencing, expansion of imagination and creativity, and delay of gratification

Commonly recognized types of play:

  1. Functional play or exploratory play. This type of play is a sensorimotor approach in which
    a child learns the nature of his or her surroundings. Such examples include dumping, filling,
    stacking, water play, and outdoor play.
  2. Constructive play describes children combining pieces or entities, such as with blocks.
    The purpose of this type of play is to make something and/or work out a problem.
  3. Dramatic play entails pretending. The child pretends to be someone else, for example the
    teacher or a fireman. This type of play does not require any social interaction with other
    children. See the example provided below.
  4. Sociodramatic play is a form of dramatic play with more than one player socially interacting around a theme and a time trajectory over which the play continues and evolves. Children
    enact real-life types of play activities.
  5. Games with rules encompass cooperative play, often with winners and losers. These games
    are distinguished by child-controlled rules and thus are different from the competitive games
    usually called “sports.” Children begin the games with rules stage at about age 6.

Article #2: Influence of Number of Toys on Toddler Play

  • Interesting study that involved looking at the number of toys available, and how that affects how children interact with the toys.
    The first dependent variable was the number of incidences of toy play. Toy play incidents were operationalized to include observable engagement such as physical contact/manipulation of a toy and focused attention to play. (Greater in the 16-toy variable)
  • The second dependent variable was the duration of each toy play incident. The beginning of an incident occurred when a toddler purposely touched a toy. For an incident to end, a toddler’s attention must be distracted away from the toy and refocused to another element in the room. (Greater in the 4-toy variable)
  • The third dependent variable was the number of manners of play with each toy. Unique verbs were used to describe the manners of play (Bjorklund & Bjorklund, 1979). A manner of play was anything the child did to engage in play with the toy, for example actions such as drumming, dumping, exploring, pretending, matching, gathering, or inserting.(Greater in the 4-toy variable)
  • An abundance of toys present reduced quality of toddlers’ play.
  • Fewer toys at once may help toddlers to focus better and play more creatively.
  • This can done in many settings to support development and promote healthy play.
  • This study was quite limited in its scope as the sample size was small and it captured a picture of mostly middle class white female toddlers.

Group Activity: Planning a Library Space

The group participated in a ‘blue-sky’ activity where we paired off and re-designed a library space. Each pair was given a copy of the image below that depicted a children’s department. Then they were given a blank layout to design the space from scratch. After working in pairs we all shared our designs.

Discussion points included:

  • The importance of natural light in programming spaces
  • Including interesting conversation starters that invite patrons to speak with a staff member. This could be anything from a terrarium with butterflies to an engaging display which encourages the children to ask staff a question.
  • We often want to separate different age groups from each other, however a good point was brought up that this sometimes makes it much harder for caregivers to keep track of their whole family. Thus sightlines are very important.
  • Weeding was done by all groups, in an interest of using space for programming.

Final Thoughts

One of the reasons I love the LSC Journal Club meetings is that I start to think about things in a new way. After listening to many of the challenges libraries face (budget, staff, space) on their quest to design a play-friendly space, I had an “aha!” moment where I narrowed down three important factors to consider with regards to design in general. They are:

  • Focus on the Collection: Are displays placed where community members will see them? Is the collection well maintained and weeded regularly? Is the collection organized in a way that makes sense to kids and families? Is signage clear and attractive (not too much, not too little)?
  • Focus on Play: Are there opportunities for play in the library? Are there play opportunities for little kids and bigger kids? Do families feel comfortable playing in our spaces?
  • Focus on Relationship Building: Are there elements in the space that encourage kids and families to talk to staff? Are there opportunities for kids and families to contribute their ideas or thoughts to the space? Are staff regularly in the space to interact with the community?

We also talked about how important it is to observe your space. Some of the organizations in Vancouver like Science World do a great job of testing out their spaces and regularly observing them before making tweaks and changes. This of course requires time and energy but the resulting changes can be powerful.

That’s a wrap, folks!  Did you read the articles this month? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

2018 Picture Books: Cover Appeal

Last year I wrote a few posts featuring 2017 picture books I was excited to see based solely on their covers. I had a request to do a 2018 version so here it goes!  I know little or nothing about these books unless I’m familiar with the author or illustrator.  This is based purely on cover love.

There is 99.9% chance that I will love any book illustrated by Julie Morstad. Just a fact.

We have been blessed twice this year. Hallelujah.

I’m sorry but those miniature ponies are so freaking cute. Especially the one in the glasses!

Madeline 2.0?

Do you see how her hair looks like the crows?! Canadian author and illustrator bonus points.

A book about synesthesia? Right on.

When you have a 6-year-old who loves all things spooky, books like this suddenly become much sought after.

My library just updated our preschool STEM booklists so I’m bookmarking this one for next year.

And this one too. Girls in STEM are finally getting their space in picture books.

I’m drawn to the alternating colours in the title text.

Love the rhyming name and hoping for some bilingual action in this one. Also, those hoop earrings gurl.

Smash those gender stereotypes, Teddy!

Is it just me or are there relatively few picture books starring octopuses?  I love any book that promotes writing. Could be a CLEL Bell Award nominee!

I’ve seen tons of good buzz about this one. Had me at mermaid.

I’m drawn to the subltleness of the art work here. And the title is a great oxymoron.

Noted for a child wearing a head scarf on the cover. Could be a good one to recommend to parents looking to talk to kids about race.

I hope this book is about the power of imagination. One of my favourite covers this year.

I loved Little Red and read it to every single class I visited to promote the Summer Reading Club last year. Can’t wait for more feminist fairy tales.

I’ve been loving the recent picture books about grandparents and grandchildren.

I’m adding this one slightly begrudgingly because I have had it UP TO HERE with the rain in Vancouver this winter, but I love the cloud image and think many interesting conversations with kids could be started from that alone.

Just wow. Yes to dark skinned girls on book covers. Yes to hair love.

Stack the Cats was one of my 2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books so you bet I’m looking forward to this next one!

I love her powerful stance and the power in the title. Always looking for books that encourage kids to speak up for themselves.

All-star duo, ’nuff said.

I’m getting distinct Maybe Something Beautiful vibes which was one of my 2016 Favourite Storytime Picture Books and I ain’t mad about it.

This one reminds me of my niece Sophie to the highest degree. She is a little creator and I love seeing girls featured as makers.

Oooh, I wonder if this one takes place out on in the bayou. I love Preston-Gannon’s illustrations

This book speaks to the part of me that has watched every single nature documentary on Netflix.

Whoa. Sometimes you see a cover that pretty much blows your mind. Ain’t seen nothing like this before.

If you follow me on Twitter you know about my obsession with love poetry so I am here for this.

I actually feel like I’m in space when I look at this cover. Stunning.

If you follow me on Twitter you may also know about my mermaid obsession so I am doubly here for this.

New Patricelli, yay! She’s one of my toddler storytime authors to know.

Oh god. Is it a children’s librarian best friend or worst nightmare?

I can’t help but see Hagrid in this cover. Three cheers for diversity in body representation!

A superhero kid librarian?  TAKE MY MONEY.

We have a huge Indian community here in Vancouver and I am always looking for books with more Indian representation.

I recently wondered about the amount of car-centric picture books I read in storytime and am happy to see more eco-friendly options be published.

Where will Becker take us this time? I love how the stone is glowing.

Okay, how many times did you have to look at this cover before you spotted the horse? Because mine was at least 10 times.

What 2018 picture books are you excited about? Let me know in the comments!

 

Guest Post: Storytime Out Loud: A Storytime Podcast

Are you ready to have your storytime life changed? Because I am about to introduce you to two ladies who have started the first ever (at least, the only one I know about) podcast all about library storytime! It’s called Storytime Out Loud and there are three episodes out already.  You can also follow them on Instagram and Facebook. I asked Christy and Lauren to write a guest post about who they are and why they started Storytime Out Loud. Read on to learn about this amazing new professional development resource!
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Hi, we’re Christy and Lauren! We are youth services librarians at a large regional public library in Raleigh, NC where we plan and present baby, toddler, preschool and family storytimes. We just started recording a brand-new podcast called Storytime Out Loud, where we’re having a blast talking storytime ideas, new books, and much more. Other topics include anything in the “culinary-retro-film-Gilmore Girls-Broadway” world. Is that a thing? It is now.

Our podcast is for anyone doing storytime. Especially those who enjoy modern ideas, are looking to adapt tried-and-true resources in different ways, are interested in learning about new picture books, work in libraries, preschools and daycares, and like to have fun! To be honest, it’s for anyone who will listen, but this was our purpose in creating it. It took us forever to make the leap using every excuse we could think of… kids, time, our pie-baking regimen. I mean, let’s be real, we know nothing about podcasting. But we finally took the plunge, and our hope is that we can provide fresh and modern storytime ideas, as well as connect with others who are working with young children.

Over the years we have gained a robust knowledge of storytime and surrounding topics, from songs and rhymes to books and storytelling. Our backgrounds play a big role in our book selection and storytime choices. Before working in public libraries, Lauren was a school librarian, while Christy worked with children in the performing arts, yet somehow, we ended up with similar storytime styles. We enjoy collaborating and bouncing ideas off each other. We’re like peanut butter and jelly. Mario and Luiji. Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins. You get the picture.

Our podcast topics range from what’s happening in the world around us to random things we like talking about. We can be totally crazy, but we have a lot of fun. Christy may or may not belt out the Pippi Longstocking theme song from 1988 every now and then. Ultimately, we want you to feel like you are right there at the table with us. After our chat, we present the themed content in Storytime Selections. This includes rhymes, songs, games and flannels. The ideas are explained and demonstrated. Sometimes you just have to break into song. You just do. Christy knocks it out of the park with her vocal skills, and Lauren tries her best.

Our Book Buzz segment features new and forthcoming books that we are excited about. Get ready for a lot of great new books, Lauren just can’t seem to rein it in and always leaves listeners with something to look forward to. The words/lyrics, as well as any visuals are posted afterwards on our social media accounts, so you have everything you need to weave these ideas into your own programs.

One of the books featured in Book Buzz!

Recording the podcast has been so much fun that we’ve decided to go from a monthly program to bi-weekly. Connecting with our community and listeners is huge for us, and we are really hoping that this will continue to evolve as we go. In the future, we hope we will be able to feature YOU and YOUR wonderful ideas. We would love to interview librarians and other professionals who present storytime. There are so many in this field who inspire us (Jbrary, we’re looking at you!), and we love learning from our community of fellow youth services pros. In the next few months you can expect more of our favorite storytime theme ideas, a firsthand look at School Library Journal’s Day of Dialog, information from our big in-library event called the Storybook Ball, a visit to a conjuring arts library in NYC, special guests, and our favorite recorded music. Then: some original songs? Yeah, maybe. All we have to do is learn to play the guitar, drums, and keyboard, and find someone who will produce…for free. We’ll work on it.

 You can find us on Twitter @StoryOutLoud and Instagram @StorytimeOutLoud. Our website isn’t complete yet, but you can find us there very soon at StorytimeOutLoud.com. Let us know what you’d like to hear discussed in future episodes! Anything goes!

We’ll Link to That: Spring 2018

Spring is here! Or around the corner if you’re like us and live somewhere where the skies are still filled with rain clouds. But sunny weather is ahead and with it brings our Spring 2018 YAACING column. This quarter we wrote about picture books that work great as felt stories.  Don’t forget to check out the complete issue of  YAACING, our provincial youth services newsletter filled with ideas for children and teen library staff.  Want to catch up our column? Browse through the We’ll Link to That category on our Professional Development page.  Now on to the post!

Are you getting tired of your tried and true felt story collection? Nothing rejuvenates a storytime quite like a freshly cut flannel! We’ve collected some new, or new-to-us stories which positively lend themselves to the felt board, now it’s up to you to bring them to life!

Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani
Trying to add more STEM elements to storytime? This cat themed counting book is perfect! The Lego Librarian has a version that looks identical to the book and includes a step-by-step guide to turning books into felts. Addition never looked so good.

Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau
French author Manceau is a genius when it comes to shapes. Transform a monster into a friendly neighbourhood scene in this interactive felt story. We shared this one on Flannel Friday and the early literacy messages that go along with it are not to be missed.

Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera
This book is a surefire hit with the preschool crowd and the felt version would work just as well. Check our the different versions librarians have created so far on
Storytime Station, The Buckeye Librarian, and Literary Hoots

A Good Day for Hat by T. Nat Fuller, illustrated by Rob Hodgson:
So we really like this book, could you tell?! But as Anna at Future Librarian Superhero notes it’s a perfect one to extend with flannel. She has created a simple bear for Mr. Brown and then captured the whimsy of his eclectic hat collection. Scale it up with accessories and other characters or just keep it simple with his hats- your choice!

Could You Lift Up Your Bottom? written by Hee-jung Chang, illustrated by Sung-hwa Chung
We had never heard of this book before but we saw it featured in Jen in the Library’s toddler shape storytime and then again on Storytime in the Stacks so we knew it must be good. It’s another story that includes hats and shapes and a bit of trickery.  You could reuse a lot of pieces for other felt stories which is an added bonus.

 

Hooray for Hat by Brian Won
This book (and its subsequent siblings) is highly participatory and a delight to read and tell with felt. There are a few different versions and we love both: Miss Mary uses bright animals with neutral faces and some sneaky velcro while Laura at Library Lalaland gave each animal a grumpy face on one side and a cheered-up face on the other, so all you have to do is flip. Pure genius!

 

Night Animals by Gianna Marino:
This is a perfect storytime book, especially as summer approaches and families will be heading outdoors to hike or camp. Wendy at Flannel Board Fun has done an incredible job at adapting not just the animals but some of the effects which really sell this story.

Have you fallen in love with a new felt story? Send us an email at jbrary@gmail.com to tell us all about it!N

Book Character Silhouette Scavenger Hunt

Spring break is right around the corner in these here parts.  I think the kids have seen my Spring Bunny Scavenger Hunt for the past two years so this year I wanted something new.  Then I saw this tweet from elementary school librarian Carter Higgins and I was set.

It reminded me of the Guess Who Book Character display I did last fall. When I emailed Carter she generously shared her files with me and allowed me to revise them for my library.  She has also given me permission to share original files here!  So you get two versions for the price of one, haha! Choose which one works best for you!

This is Carter’s version. You have to add a letter to each character when your print them out. Then hide them around and have the kids unscramble the letters to form the secret phrase “Reading Rocks.” Unfortunately I don’t have access to an editable version of this one. But here are the files for the document and all the images:

This is my version. I put the characters in order as I think the unscrambling part will be too tricky for some of my younger patrons.  My Word document or PDF document both have the scavenger hunt sheet as well as all the characters with their corresponding letters.  Print, hide, and let the kids hunt!

Do you have any spring break activities your community loves? Let me know in the comments!

Toddler Storytime Books: Authors to Know

One of the most common questions I get asked by people new to storytime is what to read to toddlers. Toddlers are a tricky group.  They can go from being engaged to running around the room in a matter of seconds.  I’ve written before about toddler language acquisition and how we can support it through our pacing.  Today I want to share a group of authors whose books meet the language development needs of toddlers and that work well in a storytime setting. I chose authors that have at least three books that fit within these parameters. I’m hoping this post can serve as a guide for those looking to get familiar with what makes a good toddler storytime book.

If I missed one of your favourites, please let me know in the comments! For even more toddler storytime read alouds, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my toddler storytime series and my annual storytime favourites booklists.

Keith Baker

Baker’s books often showcase an appreciation for nature.  He’s got a few nursery rhyme adaptations too.

My Picks:

  • Big Fat Hen
  • No Two Alike
  • Little Green

Byron Barton

I think I’ve referred to Barton as king of toddler books before. He just gets them.  His books feature everyday objects.

My Picks:

  • My House
  • My Bike
  • My Bus

Karen Beaumont

You can sing two of these which toddlers love.

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!

My Picks:

  • I Like Myself!; illustrated by David Catrow
  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!; illustrated by David Catrow
  • Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

John Butler

Butler’s books combine adorable animals, animal sounds, and guessing games. A classic author to know.

My Picks:

  • If You See a Kitten
  • Whose Nose and Toes?
  • Whose Baby Am I?
  • Ten in the Den

Jane Cabrera

Known for her singable books, Cabrera has an array nursery rhymes and classic songs in book format. Her illustrations are oh-so-cute.

My Picks:

  • Peek-a-boo Zoo!
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It!
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Eric Carle

One of the most well-known authors for children. If you can snag a pop-up version of any of his books they are well worth it!

My Picks:

  • From Head to Toe
  • The Very Busy Spider
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse

David A. Carter

A smart choice for pop-up singable books.  Though his books are smaller in size, they still captivate a toddler audience. Thank you to Gina (in the comments) for reminding me of these gems.

My Picks:

  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • If You’re a Robot and You Know It
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Marie Torres Cimarusti

Your go-to lift-the-flap author!  Fun and filled with animal sounds.

My Picks:

  • Peek-a-Moo!
  • Peek-a-Pet!
  • Peek-a-Choo Choo!

Lucy Cousins

Best known for her Maisy the mouse character, these three books have big pages perfect for large toddler groups.

hooray for birds

My Picks:

  • Hooray for Birds!
  • Hooray for Fish!
  • Maisy’s Rainbow Dream

Linda Davick

Her diverse set of round-headed kids are the perfect addition to a toddler storytime.

My Picks:

  • Say Hello!
  • We Love You, Rosie!
  • I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes!

Emma Dodd

Dodd’s books feature simple sentence structure and unique vocabulary.  Many of her books feature common household pets.

My Picks:

  • I Love Bugs!
  • Dog’s Colorful Day
  • I Don’t Want a Posh Dog!
  • I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!

Ed Emberley

If you need a monster book that doesn’t scare kids, Emberley is your author!

Go Away, Big Green Monster!

My Picks:

  • Go Away, Big Green Monster!
  • Nighty Night Little Green Monster
  • If You’re a Monster and You Know It; written with his daughter Rebecca Emberley

Denise Fleming

Fleming has a distinctive art style and most of her books feature sparse phrases filled with wonderful unique vocabulary.

5 little ducks

My Picks:

  • Five Little Ducks
  • Maggie and Michael Get Dressed
  • Lunch
  • Underground

Mem Fox

Fox has many books that are baby focused but most of them work really well for those just-toddlers who wobble around and explore everything.

My Picks:

  • Baby Bedtime; illustrated by Emma Quay
  • Hello Baby!; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
  • Two Little Monkeys; illustrated by Jill Barton

Emma Garcia

Garcia’s books are perfect for the transportation or construction work enthusiast. Repetition and sounds effects included.

chugga chugga choo choo

My Picks:

  • Chugga Chugga Choo Choo
  • Toot Toot Beep Beep
  • Tap Tap Bang Bang
  • Tip Tip Dig Dig

Edward Gibbs

These books straddle the toddler/preschool line, but they can work great in a toddler storytime when everyone repeats the phrase, “I spy with my little eye” all together.

My Picks:

  • I Spy With My Little Eye
  • I Spy Pets
  • I Spy Under the Sea
  • I Spy on the Farm

Emily Gravett

Gravett’s books have a great rhythm without rhyming. A few have a twist ending which caregivers and older children enjoy.

My picks:

  • Blue Chameleon
  • Monkey and Me
  • Dogs

Kevin Henkes

A master of gentle nature themed books. Great for seasonal reads.

My Picks:

  • When Spring Comes
  • A Good Day
  • Little White Rabbit

Petr Horáček

If you need a great pop-up concept book look no further. These capture the attention of wriggly toddlers and show off a wide array of animals.

My Picks:

  • Butterfly, Butterfly: A Book of Colors
  • One Spotted Giraffe: A Counting Pop-up Book
  • Animal Opposites: A Pop-up Book

Eric Litwin

Litwin’s books feature predictable text patterns with short songs interspersed. Great for preschoolers too, the key to getting them to work with toddlers is getting the caregivers to sing along with you. They make great felt stories too.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

My Picks:

  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes; illustrated by James Dean
  • Pete the Cat: My Four Groovy Buttons; illustrated by James Dean
  • Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Jonathan London

Known for his Froggy books, London also has a collection of transportation themed picture books perfect for toddlers. And don’t forget his animal walking sounds book!

My Picks:

  • A Train Goes Clickety-Clack; illustrated by Denis Roche
  • A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa; illustrated by Denis Roche
  • A Plane Goes Ka-zoom!; illustrated by Denis Roche
  • Wiggle Waggle; illustrated by Michael Rex

Bill Martin Jr.

You may recognize these from your own childhood. The repetitive structure is perfect for toddlers. Bonus tip: You can sing them to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

My Picks:

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
  • Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; illustrated by Eric Carle
  • Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
  • Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle

Flora McDonnell

Simple text and big pages make these books perfect for toddlers. These may be out of print, so grab a copy if you see one!

My Picks:

  • I Love Animals
  • Splash!
  • Giddy-up! Let’s Ride!

Mary Murphy

Murphy’s books are great for promoting a loving, positive relationship between toddler and caregiver. They’ve also got great animal sounds.

My Picks:

  • Say Hello Like This!
  • A Kiss Like This
  • Good Night Like This

Il Sung Na

Dreamy illustrations fill these wonderful books about animals.

My Picks:

  • Welcome Home, Bear
  • The Opposite Zoo
  • A Book of Babies

Leslie Patricelli

Known for her adorable board books, Patriceclli also has some picture books that are perfect for toddlers.

My Picks:

  • The Birthday Box
  • Higher! Higher!
  • Faster! Faster!

Michael Rosen

Rosen has all sorts of different stories for little ones. Try reading one of his poems to highlight poetry even for toddlers.

My Picks:

  • The Bus is for Us!; illustrated by Gillian Tyler
  • Tiny Little Fly; illustrated by Kevin Waldron
  • A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young; illustrated by Chris Riddell

Ellie Sandall

Sandall only has two toddler storytime gems so far but I’m including her here because I just know she’s bound to another soon! Her third book, Everybunny Count! comes out this year so I’ll update this page after I’ve read it.

everybunny dance

My Picks:

  • Everybunny Dance!
  • Follow Me!

April Pulley Sayre

Sayre is a prolific writer and has tons of storytime gems. Her non-fiction ones are top notch featuring wondeful vocabulary and stunning photographs of nature.

full of fall

My Picks:

  • Full of Fall
  • Best in Snow
  • Raindrops Roll
  • If You’re Hoppy; illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

Bob Shea

Shea’s dinosaur series is great for those little ones who just need to roar!

My Picks:

  • Dinosaur vs. Bedtime
  • Dinosaur vs. The Library
  • Dinosaur vs. The Potty

Nicola Smee

Join Smee’s group of animal friends for different adventures. You can act out these books or have toddler jump in a lap for some bouncing or rocking while you read. Thank you to Gina (in the comments) for reminding me of these!

My Picks:

  • Clip-Clop
  • Splish- Splash
  • Jingle-Jingle

Philemon Sturges

Sturges’s books are great for celebrating a child’s love of different things. Short, simple sentences paired with boldly coloured illustrations are a great combo.

My Picks:

  • I Love Bugs!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
  • I Love Trains!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
  • I Love Trucks!; illustrated by Shari Halpern

Simms Taback

In Taback’s series readers guess the animals hiding behind the flaps. Fold out pages make for a lovely surprise for toddlers.

My Picks:

  • Simms Taback’s City Animals
  • Simms Taback’s Farm Animals
  • Simms Taback’s Dinosaurs

Nancy Tafuri

Tafuri’s books feature repetition, short sentences, and lots of farm animals.

My Picks:

  • All Kinds of Kisses
  • The Busy Little Squirrel
  • Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails
  • This is the Farmer

Jan Thomas

Thomas has a great sense of humour and even if the toddlers don’t completely get the jokes the caregivers will.

My Picks:

  • Is Everyone Ready for Fun?
  • Pumpkin Trouble
  • Rhyming Dust Bunnies

Those are my picks for toddler storytime authors to know. Did I miss one of your favourites? Let me know in the comments!

Storytime Themes vs. Storytime Flow

The question of whether or not to do storytime themes is not new. Seven years ago Katie posed the question on the ALSC blog and I’ve seen people discuss it on list-serves, Facebook groups, and Twitter since then.  The conversation has probably been going on long before then too! This post is not about telling people what to do. I’m not here to declare that themes are a terrible idea, nor am I here to tell you that theme-less is the way to go.  I’m here to describe my journey with storytime themes and why I’ve transitioned to prioritizing what I call storytime flow.

When I first started as a children’s librarian I did themes for all my weekly storytimes. We have some of them featured here on the blog – check the bottom of our Storytime Resources page. I tried diligently to choose books, songs, rhymes, felt stories, and other extension activities that all fit in the same category. At the time, this helped me focus and search.  I know a lot of people who still like themes for this reason – it helps them narrow the possibilities of what to do at storytime. I also liked that I could introduce concept vocabulary around a theme and give caregivers early literacy tips that related specifically to the topic of the day.  Themes worked for me in the beginning and I am so grateful to everyone who has blogged about their thematic storytime ideas. I still get asked to do a themed storytime occasionally by a preschool and it’s great to have those blog posts filled with ideas.

I’ve been doing storytime for a few years and have built up a knowledge of good storytime books and songs. For my weekly storytimes, I’ve found that themes work less and less for me. Even in the beginning I found them to be limiting sometimes. This happened particularly when I chose a theme and then struggled to find good books that fit the theme. I would sometimes choose a mediocre picture book just because it fit the theme. Doing themed storytimes also meant that I wasn’t doing a lot of repetition in terms of songs and rhymes because I felt like I had to make every song about the theme. This led to less participation from kids and caregivers and was harder on me as I spent so much time trying to memorize new material.  Oof. Looking back I wish I had been less strict about the themes and more willing to do what I knew would work best for the group.

Unless a preschool or daycare specifically requests a certain theme, nowadays I don’t do them. Instead, I prioritize storytime flow.  Storytime flow means that each element of a storytime transitions into the next in a way that makes sense to kids. I try to make a connection between the books and songs which can look like mini-themes throughout a storytime. Storytime flow has a lot to do with transitioning between activities. I spend less time choosing material and more time planning on how I can transition from one topic or activity to another.  I think good transitions can help keep your audience engaged and feel like the storytime sticks together in a way that is cohesive. There is no one right way to do this.

Here’s an example of a portion of a recent family storytime where the storytime flow worked excellently.

Song: Put Your Hands Up High

Tune: Do Your Ears Hang Low

Lyrics:
Put your hands up high,
Put your hands down low,
Put your hands in the middle and wiggle just so.
Put your elbows in front,
Put your elbows in back
Put your elbows to the side and quack, quack, quack!

Transition: Oh my goodness, are we ducks?! I didn’t know there were little duckies in this room. What sound do duckies make? Quack! Quack! Duckies can do all sorts of things. Let’s look at this book. What are the duckies doing? That’s right they are Firefighter Duckies!

Book: Firefighter Duckies by Frank W. Dormer

Transition: Those duckies sure helped a lot of different creatures. I love to help people too. Let’s pretend we’re firefighters just like the duckies. We can go put out a fire! Can you get in your fire truck? We’re going to go really fast, ready?

Song: Hurry, Hurry Drive the Fire Truck

Lyrics:

Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck
Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck
Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!
Verses: Turn the corner, Put the Ladder up, Spray the Fire Hose

Transition: We put out the fire, yay! I love to play pretend. Hmm, what else can we pretend to be?  (Ask kids for suggestions. If time, act out some of them).  How about we pretend to be astronauts? Let’s take a trip to the moon. Okay, everybody rub your hands together; we need to warm up the engines.

Song: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

I put up my felt pieces one at a time when I do this.

Lyrics:

Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re going to the moon.
Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re going to the moon.
If you want to take a trip climb aboard my rocket ship.
Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon. In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Blast off!

We always do the extra verses too.

Transition:  What a journey. We went to the moon, and the stars, and the sun! Now we’re going to listen to a story about other things that are in the sky. When you look up in the sky what are some things that you see?

Felt Story: It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw

Check out Early Literacy Connection for the felt story template.

Transition: Caregivers, when you go outside today take a moment and look up at the sky and ask your little one what shapes or animals they see.  If there aren’t any clouds out, see if you can spot a bird.  You can do this rhyme about birds too that has lots of extra silly verses.

Rhyme: Two Little Blackbirds

Lyrics:

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill.
One named Jack and one named Jill.
Fly away Jack, flay away Jill.
Come back Jack, come back Jill.

I made felt pieces that I use to do the extra silly verses.

Transition: Those were some silly birds.  Can you see what’s on the cover of this book? That’s right – lots of different types of birds. Cardinals, flamingos, swallows. In this book we get to pretend to be a bird and do all the things a bird does.

Book: Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins

hooray for birds

 

And that’s what storytime flow looks like for me! Do you use storytime themes? How do you make your storytime flow? I’d love to discuss in the comments!