Link Extravaganza!

Time for another link round up! One of my 2019 blogging goals is to share resources throughout the year that support library staff working with children. These will be short and quick. Here’s what caught my eye in the last few months related to youth services. What’s been on your radar? Let me know in the comments!

Staying Connected

  • Did you see we are on Instagram now?! We’d love to connect with people there so feel free to follow for storytime content and more.
  • If you haven’t already signed up for The Cardigan newsletter then you are missing out. These gals are rocking it!

Books and Music

  • CanLit for Little Canadians shared a huge list of upcoming 2019 Canadian books for kids and teens. Can’t wait to get my hands on these!
  • If you do any sort of programming where you play music then definitely check out this list of great new music for kids by Library Makers.


  • ALSC offers all of their live webinars for free to anyone! There are lots of good ones coming up, and I’m especially looking forward to the ones on child development, serving refugee families, and music and movement in storytime.
  • The Wild Wisconsin Winter Web Conference (try saying that three times fast!) is coming up and there is a youth services track featuring three free options.

Blog Posts

  • My fellow Canadian all-star blogger Karissa shared her program details on how to teach kids to play the ukulele.
  • The Buckeye Librarian gives you all the details on how to plan a STEAM program for preschoolers called Little Scientists. This one is perfect for Dinovember!
  • What is Bridget Reading? shared the most adorable Panda and donut felt story that pairs perfectly with the books by Steve Antony.

Let me know of your recent favourite read or discovery related to children’s librarianship!

Early Readers Book Club

One of my goals this year is to write more about the school-age programs I deliver at my library. A favourite of mine is the Early Readers Book Club aimed at kids in grades K – 2. I love this program because it supports the emerging literacy of kids who have graduated from storytime and are being introduced to more formal “learn-to-read” techniques in school. This program does not teach kids to read. This program is meant to introduce kids to awesome books for emerging readers, to get them excited about books and reading, and to help them develop social skills through interacting with their peers. Another goal is to connect them to an adult in their community (me!) with whom they have a positive, supportive relationship.

Here’s how I run the program. Firstly, this program is registration based and I take about 12 kids at a time. We meet once a month after school. My library system has special book club sets I can use which come with non-circulating copies of the book. When kids arrive their book is waiting for them in a circle formation where we all take a seat. I do a quick icebreaker activity where I pass out an M&M to each kid. Then I ask a different question based on the colour and kids respond according to the one they got. They also introduce themselves (every single month!).

Next we spend about 10 minutes “investigating” the book. What is on the cover? Who is the author? Who is the illustrator? How long is the book? What could this book be about? Then we either read all, most, or part of the book depending on how long it is. The goal here is to introduce them to the main characters and get them excited to take the book home to read.

After that we jump into the activities. This usually involves some sort of craft or game. Not all kids are able to write so I don’t choose writing heavy options (like making a poem or writing a story). We do draw though. I keep this part pretty informal. We all gather around a group of tables and help each other and talk while we play. I try hard to encourage them to ask each other for help before coming to me and it’s so rewarding when they start doing it on their own! Here are some of the books I’ve featured and the activities I did for each.

Chester by Melanie Watt
Who doesn’t love Chester? To inspire the kids to get creative in their own storytelling, I passed out discarded picture books and red markers. Then we spent time “decorating” the books just like Chester. They loved this activity! We ended by playing Pin the Award on Chester.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
To begin the activity I placed different types of books around the room – dictionaries, atlases, chapter books, graphic novels, information books, phone books, joke books, etc. To get the kids moving a bit, I had them each go to one of the books and see if they could figure out which type it is. Then we rotated in a circle until everyone had seen them all. We discussed the similarities between books and which ones we’d eat if we were like Henry. Afterwards we created our own plate of food using paper plates and images the kids cut out from discarded cookbooks. Each person got to present their ideal meal for brain power.

The Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems
The book club set we have has copies of different titles in the series so kids can pick which one they want to read. I read “There is a Bird on Your Head” to the whole group. Then we made Elephant and Piggie paper bag puppets and acted out the story again in pairs. There are so many Elephant and Piggie ideas out there – check out my Book Character Parties Round-Up post for a huge list.

The Disgusting Critters series by Elise Gravel
Step 1: Teach kids the Herman the Worm song. Step 2: Convince them to stop singing it (harder than you think!) Step 3: Make our own disgusting electric critters. Using a clothespin, a lithium battery, 2 LED lights, a paperclip, electrical tape, pipe cleaners, and scissors I walked the kids through how to create a circuit which lights up their critters’ “eyes.” Then we decorated them with pipe cleaners.

Here’s my disgusting critter

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
We read about the first 15 pages of this one by our fellow British Columbian and take note of the structure and sound effects. Then I walk kids through how to make their own paper aliens (aka ants). Next we designed spaceships for Binky to blast off in. I traced a basic shape of recycled cracker boxes and cut out holes on paper towel rolls to make the parts. Then I printed pictures of Binky on cardstock so kids could put him in the driver’s seat.

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile
Kids get to choose which of the books in this series to take home. I read them the scene about the goldfish and then we make our own paper plate aquariums filled with cracker goldfish, plus extras for snacking. All you need for this are paper plates, construction paper, plastic ziplock bags, and colouring utensils. As we worked we talked about what would live in our aquariums and kids got super creative with names and backstories of all their goldfish.

Fancy version by Crafts by Amanda

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton
After reading part of this graphic novel, I split the kids into two teams: Team Narwhal and Team Jelly. Then we plated a trivia game where I asked them true or false questions about these sea creatures. Afterwards we created our graphic novels using “miximals,” something I saw on Clanton’s blog. I had each kids draw two pieces of paper from a bag. Each piece of paper had the name of an animal on it. Then I used the Narwhal and Jelly graphic novel template and kids created a story by combining their two animals. This activity requires the most amount of writing so I saved it for later in the year.

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
Dory is the longest book we read in this club, so it’s best to feature it towards the end of the year when kids have had more time to learn how to read. I read the part where Dory pretends to be a dog and then we make our own set of dog ears. Kids can decorate them however they’d like. After everyone has their ears, I take the kids through a series of commands and they have have to learn how to be good puppies. Things like jump, sit, lay down, roll over, bark, etc. We end with them eating a snack “puppy style.” This probably sounds weird but trust me they will love it.

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
After reading the entire book together we play a memory game. I gathered a bunch of “emergency” items (whistle, paperclip, tape, etc.) and put them on a tray. The kids get to look at the tray for 2 minutes. Then I take it away and they see how many items they can remember. You can also take away an item and see if they can work together to figure it out. After, we created a parachute for Scaredy Squirrel. We used plastic bags, cups, yarn, and tape. Trace a circle on the plastic bag, cut it out, cut out 4 holes in it and reinforce with tape. Then tie yarn through each hole and connect it to the cup with tape. I had pom pom balls the kids could fill their cups with to see if they would work. Lots of experimenting with this one!

These activities take us right up to the full hour and caregivers are encouraged to come in and talk to their child about the book and what we made each week. One thing I’d like to add is some sort of take-home activity or discussion guide for the caregivers to encourage them to read the book at home with their little one. I just don’t want it to feel like homework, you know? The kids take the book home and bring it back the next month.

Do you run any sort of book club for this age group? I would love to swap ideas! Please leave a comment below with any tips or tricks you have.

2018 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

Happy New Year everyone! I’m kicking off 2019 with a Jbrary tradition. I keep track of the picture books published each year that work well in a storytime setting.  And I swear the list gets bigger every year despite feeling like I haven’t had a chance to review all the books out there. In fact, I may end up adding to this list as I get my hands on late 2018 titles. Did I miss any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments! And don’t miss my lists from previous years:

Without further ado, here are my favourite storytime books published in 2018 presented in alphabetical order.

Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex
A funny and engaging school-age readaloud, great for up to Grade 4. Because book is a conversation you either have to be good at making distinct voices or get a kid to read one of the parts. Lots of spooky characters make it a great choice for Halloween time.

Baby’s Firsts by Nancy Raines Day; illustrated by Michael Emberley
A year in the life of a baby perfectly summarized with short phrases and a diverse array of families. Definitely add this to your babytime line up! I especially appreciate the inclusion of breastfeeding and male caregivers.

Balance the Birds by Susie Ghahremani
Ghahremani is back with another math-tastic book for toddlers and preschoolers (her first one made my list last year!). This one focuses on weight and balance. Highly recommended for STEAM storytimes. And it’s begging to be made into a felt story!

Bark Park! by Trudy Krisher; illustrated by Brooke Boynton-Hughes
This is rhyming done well. Short, simple sentences mixed with some repetition make this dog lover’s book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. I had the kids bark along with me and we talked about the differences and similarities between the dogs. The the illustrations are detailed at times for a large storytime group, but the size of the pages helps them translate.

The Bear in My Bed by Joyce Wan
Wan made my list three years ago with the first book in this series featuring a whale. This time a little boy discovers a bear in his bedroom and they go through a series of hilarious steps to get ready for bed. Seriously, the pictures will have your preschoolers ROFL. Short, crisp sentences and big pages make it a great choice for toddlers as well. Grab for your next bedtime storytime.

Beware the Monster by Michaël Escoffier; illustrated by Amandine Piu 
Silly and fun, I’ve been taking this one on all my preschool outreach visits. As the monster’s appetites grows I ask the kids to figure out what he’s eaten on each page. A friendly burp ending takes away any scare element. Kindies will get the humour even more.

Bigger! Bigger! by Leslie Patricelli
Patricelli is on my Toddler Storytime Authors to Know list and this one is a great example of why. She writes about things toddlers do – play with blocks – using toddler friendly language that builds and is repeated. I especially love that it’s a little girl who’s doing the building.

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
I’ve been reading this one to all my school-age storytimes. Even though it is calmer in tone than most books on this list, the illustrations are gorgeous and the origin story of the phases of the moon is captivating. And I’m always on the lookout for picture books with Asian families due to my city’s demographics. Hopefully Lin writes more!

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child; translation by Gordon Jourdain; illustrations by Jonathan Thunder
I discovered this book in my library’s new Indigenous collection for children. Due to the length, I’ve only read it to school-age groups but you could swing it with an engaged group of preschoolers too. The story follows Windy Girl as she attends a Powwow and then dreams of her own dog-filled Powwwow inspired by her uncle’s stories. Debbie Reese summarizes it’s strengths perfectly: “It is tribally specific, and it is set in the present day, and it beautifully captures Ojibwe people.” Told in both English and Ojibwe.

Crunch, the Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap; illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
An interactive hit with preschoolers. Help coax shy Crunch out from the bushes by learning about personal space, voice level, and singing a classic song. One of the kids I read this to thought Crunch was a worm at first which only endeared the book to me more.

Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton; illustrated by Brian Lovelock
A New Zealand import, Sutton has done it again with a construction themed storytime gem. This one is a guessing game infused with the most wonderful made-up sounds. The big colourful pages are icing on the cake. This one will be much demanded after storytime by your toddlers and preschoolers.

Dot, Stripe, Squiggle by Sarah Tuttle; illustrated by Miriam Nerlove 
Sometimes you have to get creative with your babytime picks. This board book stood out to me because it was a little larger than most and it had to do with patterns. Before I read this one I had caregivers practice making each pattern on their baby’s stomach or back or hand. Then as we read we said the words together and did the motion. It was a great chance to show caregivers how to interact with their babies as they read.

Everybunny Count! by Ellie Sandall
This is Sandall’s third year on my list so it’s safe to say she’s a storytime star. In this sequel to Everbunny Dance!, the focus is on play and friendship. With toddlers and preschoolers we pause on each page to count with the bunnies. Cute and interactive!

Every Color Soup by Jorey Hurley
Toddler storytime gold, right here folks. Bright pictures with few words fill this recipe book. Spend time naming colours and counting the ingredients. Sneak in an early literacy tip about all the opportunities to do math while cooking with your little one.

Go Fish! by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Zoe Waring
Sauer and Waring made my list last year too and their Goose and friends are back for a fishy tale. When I read this with a mixed group of toddlers and preschoolers we pretended to throw our cast out as I read. We imagined if we caught anything and compared it to the characters in the book. There’s sparse text which leaves time to talk with your storytimers as you read. Underlying it all is a subtle message about pollution which you can choose to point out or not.

A Good Day for Ducks by Jane Whittingham; illustrated by Noel Tuazon
My colleague and fellow children’s librarian Jane is back with another storytime hit. Made for the Pacific Northwest crowd, this one features a fun-filled rainy day. The simple plot makes it great for wiggly toddlers and the rhythmic text keeps the story chugging along. Keep this one on hand all throughout the fall and winter!

Goodnight, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
Panda is back and better than ever. Perfect for pajama storytimes, Mr. Panda reminds all his friends of the things they need to do before going to sleep. Practice your voices before reading this one aloud to distinguish between animals. Great for toddlers though preschoolers will get more of the humour.

Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang; illustrated by Max Lang
I sent this book in with my niece for her teacher to read aloud to their Grade 2 class. Sometimes you just feel grumpy and that’s okay! A great jumping off point for discussions around feelings and social emotional learning. Plus, that monkey is pretty darn cute despite being in a bad mood.

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel
Another animal-filled stunner from Wenzel. The short poetry-like text can be read through quickly for wiggly toddlers, or you can spend time finding the traits each animal set has in common with preschoolers and school-age kids. Wenzel provides a perfect jumping off point for further discussions about wildlife and conservation.

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino
In this beautifully illustrated imaginative work, a young girl hypothesizes about having a horse. The short, crisp sentences make it perfect for toddlers though preschoolers will engage more with questions about their own imagination. A perfect book for encouraging the early literacy practice of play.

It’s a Little Baby by Julia Donaldson; illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
If you’ve got a small babytime group, definitely grab this interactive board book. It comes with a tune that you can sing while you read and flaps you can lift. I had a couple parents ask for it at the end of storytime which is always a sign of success.

I’ve Got Eyes: Exceptional Eyes of the Animal World by Julie Murphy; illustrated by Hannah Tolson
A non-fiction title that centers on the specific characteristic of animals eyes. The illustrations are bright and bold and the information is presented clearly. Each spread features an animal and how their eyes help them survive and thrive. Perfect for grades K – 2, but preschoolers will also enjoy learning about this body part. You can stop at any page too if they get restless.

Kat Writes a Song by Greg Foley
This book first caught my attention when I saw it on the 2018 CLEL Bell Awards shortlists. It absolutely highlights the early literacy practice of singing and exemplifies the power of song to brighten the mood. Use it with preschoolers and encourage them to make up their own songs to make themselves and others feel happy.

Kiss by Kiss / Ocêtôwina: A Counting Book for Families by Richard Van Camp; illustrated by Mary Cardinal Collins
This bilingual (English/Plains Cree) board book is one of my favourites of the year. As you read it with babies and toddlers you can encourage caregivers to either kiss along with the caregivers in the photographs or help their little ones count. I’m always looking for books that promote bonding and secure relationships between infants and caregivers and this one is perfect.

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner; illustrated by Heidi Smith
Another stellar non-fiction title perfect for preschool and up. Gardner demystifies animals who get a bad rap and provides interesting facts about their life in the wild. With younger kids there is no need to read all of the text, while older kids will enjoy hearing about the intricate details. Like many information books you can stop at any point and either read the next week, the next day, the next hour.

Monster Boogie by Laurie Berkner; illustrated by Ben Clanton
Based on Berkner’s popular song, this book is a filled with dancing fun. I read it to a preschool group and a mom came in a few days later saying her son loved it and wanted to read it again. I had the kids stand up as I read/sang the book and we all danced together. Have I mentioned I get paid to do this?

Pet This Book by Jessica Young; illustrated by Daniel Wideman
Kids get to pretend to be veterinarians in this interactive animal care taking title. Pet the cat, wash the dog, feed the lizard, and more. Perfect for a pet-themed storytime with preschoolers. Don’t miss this duos other 2018 title, Play This Book, for a music filled adventure.

Shake the Tree by Chiara Vignocchi, Paolo Chiarinotti, and Silvia Borando 
One of my top ten this year! Firstly, you get to turn the book sideways which is a great conversation starter with kids about how picture books are art. Then you get to go on a silly adventure where animals try to eat each other to much chagrin. Funny and clever. It’s been an absolute hit with every group I’ve read it to.

Sleepy Bird by Jeremy Tankard 
Bird is back with sass! I love reading any of the books in this series to visiting preschools and school-age groups. They get the humour and love to hear that Tankard is a local Vancouver author. I feel like exhausted caregivers will especially relate to this one as Bird insists he is not ready for bed yet.

Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins
Also a Toddler Storytime Author to Know, Cousins delivers a delightful baby and toddler storytime book this year. You can quack along on every page as you follow Ducky in the rain. Bright and colourful pages grab the reader’s attention and the rhythm of the text keeps it.

Stick by Irene Dickson
Dickson made my list two years ago with her awesome book Blocks, and this year she is back with more toddler goodness. Her books are what I call “Storytime Size” – perfect for big groups! Short, simple sentences punctuate this story of a boy and his stick. If you’re brave, pass out some rhythm sticks and have kids mimic the actions of the boy in the book. Like her previous title, this one ends with a new friend.

Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins
The perfect little title to read around Halloween. All Stumpkin wants is to become a Jack-o-Lantern like the other pumpkins on his stand. Works great for preschoolers and up who will relate to feelings of being left out, wanting to fit in, and being proud of who you are.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Man, Higgins really knows his preschool humour. I love his Mother Bruce series too. In this one we follow Penelope Rex as she enters school and learns what she can and can’t eat. I read it to a preschool and kindergarten class and they all thought it was hilarious. I recommend it to all teachers at the beginning of the school year too!

Who Eats Orange? by Dianne White; illustrated by Robin Page
Another stand-out non fiction title this year. Learn about colours by exploring which animals eat that coloured food. I love the inclusion of rarer animals such as the quetzal, marmot, and waxwing as it adds a vocabulary boost. You could read to toddlers and focus solely on the colours or labeling of animals, but it really shines with older kids who will be interested to learn more about each creature.

Why the Face? by Jean Jullien
This larger board book comes from someone I’m starting to think of one of the most innovative board book designers out there. This one focuses on feelings and acts as a guessing game for babies and toddlers. The fold-out pages make for a hilarious read that even preschoolers will enjoy. Definitely one to snag to engage your audience and have fun with reading.

That’s it, folks! Did I miss one of your favourites published in 2018? Please leave me a comment so I can check them out!

We’ll Link to That: Winter 2018

Hooray, the Winter 2018 edition of YAACS is here! The YAACS newsletter is written by youth services staff from across British Columbia, and we’ve got a column called We’ll Link to That! where we feature cool stuff we’ve found online. Our column this quarter features some of our top professional resources. Check it out!

We recently received an email from an MLIS student asking us for our favourite resources that have made a lasting impression on us. What a great question! So this quarter we thought we’d share the websites, books, and toolkits that have helped us on our journey as children’s librarians.


  • Mel’s Desk: Mel has been blogging for years and shares her storytime plans and reflections on her blog. She’s pushed us to think critically about early literacy and how we can model and support it in our programs. One of our great models for sure!
  • The ALSC Blog: The Association for Library Services to Children has an excellent blog where people from all over share ideas. Every post is different and it’s a great way to stay up-to-date with the professional world of children’s librarians.

Professional Development Books:

Organization Websites:

Tools of the Trade:

  • The Community-Led Libraries Toolkit: This toolkit provides a framework for how to implement the community-led model at a library which aims to reach underserved and marginalized communities.This framework guides our community outreach efforts as children’s librarians and also supports our values as social justice advocates.

What resources have had a lasting impact on you? We’d love to hear about them! Shoot us an email anytime at

Community Mapping

One of the things I’d like to write more about is community-led children’s librarianship.  A few years ago Dana wrote an introductory post about this topic with great examples. She also pointed to the Bible of community work: The Community-Led Libraries Toolkit.  This model of service positions the community members as experts and asks library staff to examine the different barriers to access users face.  I believe community outreach is a key part of our job, one I’m not willing to outsource to volunteers.  So let’s dive deeper into the toolkit strategies that help me better understand my neighbhourhood. We’ll start with community mapping.

When I moved to my current library branch a year and a half ago I had a fair idea of the demographics. I looked up data from the Human Early Learning Partnership based out of the University of British Columbia which shows me the level of vulnerability and developmental health of the early years and middle years children in my specific catchment.  I knew the types of stores and restaurants in the area because I don’t live far away.  What I didn’t have a good grasp of were the key services for kids ages 0 – 12 years old: daycares, preschools, schools, and out-of-school care facilities. These were the groups I wanted to reach out to but I didn’t know where they were located.

Enter community mapping and Google maps. I’m a visual learner and have a much easier time keeping track of information when I can look at a picture. In the Community-Led Libraries Toolkit one of the strategies for getting to know your area is called community asset mapping. Community asset mapping “focuses on learning about the organised or formal groups in a community. It helps you learn about the services provided in the community and identify potential community partners, providing a launch pad for you to enter the community.” I decided to create a Google map specifically mapping those three groups to better understand the spread of services. Here’s what my map looks like.  The yellow book icon is the library, the blue children are out-of-school care facilities, the purple houses are elementary schools, and the pink babies are preschools and daycares.

To create a map first open Google My Maps then select “Create a New Map.” There are tons of customization options. I didn’t do anything fancy. This website has a short video tutorial if you’d like to see a step-by-step guide. I like how you can colour code points, change the icons, and add notes.

Now I can easily spot daycares and preschools not within walking distance to the library or on an awkward public transit route. It’s also easy to spot the services that are clustered around a school, something I keep in mind when visiting classes.  When I schedule an outreach visit I look at the map and check to see if there is another centre nearby I can visit, either to drop off information, do an informal storytime, or simply collect more information.

There is a notes field attached to each point on the map that allows me to track how often I visit, the centre’s access to books, if the centre has an institutional library card, the socioeconomic status of the families, language spoken in the centre, etc. You can write in anything you find useful! It’s great for an at-a-glance summary of the spaces families are using for childcare and learning in my neighbourhood. Here’s an example:

Community asset mapping can be used for much broader purposes too. In the toolkit, they list the following questions to consider when creating your map:

  • Who lives, works, or visits around here? Where do people go?
  • What do they identify as the best places to shop for groceries, stop for coffee, check a bulletin board, or relax in a park?
  • Are there different “best places” for youth, families, seniors, or specific ethnic or economic groups?
  • What types of services and resources are available in the community?
  • What kinds of places or activities do people feel are missing from the community?

You can also invite the community to help you create your map. I’ve seen libraries make giant maps that they put on display and ask library users to add the places they frequent. You can also have staff go on community walks and come back and add any new developments they spot.

How do you get to know what’s in your library’s community? I’d love to hear about any other ideas!


Social Media Changes

Hello, friends. It’s time for some changes. As our intentions in our personal lives change, so will Jbrary.

At the end of this week I’ll be deactivating our Facebook and Twitter accounts. On the plus side, I created a Jbrary Instagram account where I’ll be posting updates, throwbacks, and all sorts of children’s librarianship goodness.  I do hope you follow us there!

I still plan to blog and occasionally upload to YouTube (still need to figure out how to use my new video editing software…).  You can, of course, always reach out to us via email too.

I’m hoping this leads to a more consistent social media presence on one platform, while also allowing me to carve out some time and head space for myself.  It is time for a change.



New to Storytime: Choosing Songs and Rhymes

Welcome back to my new to storytime series! This series of blog posts breaks down the different components of a storytime and is aimed at people who are just beginning as storytime leaders. Check out the other posts here:

How do you decide which songs and rhymes to sing at storytime? Why do we sing at storytime in the first place? How do you incorporate songs and rhymes into a storytime?  This post will try to answer these questions. It’s important to remember that everybody does things differently and that’s okay! Finding what works for you is part of your development as a storytime presenter.

Singing and rhyming are an important early literacy component of storytime. Not only are songs fun, but they also serve as a learning tool for children as they reinforce early childhood concepts. Songs and rhymes boost memory as children absorb new vocabulary and learn how to follow directions. They also break down language into smaller parts, called phonological awareness, which allows kids to hear the smaller sounds in words as they learn to speak.  Many songs have hand or body movements that accompany them offering kids a chance to be active participants using their bodies. Fingerplays in particular help children strengthen their finger muscles which they need to hold a pen or turn the page of a book. Lastly, singing as a group is a great way to build a sense of community and friendship among your community members. It fosters a sense of belonging and connectedness, one of my storytime goals.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some strategies I’ve learned when it comes to the “how” questions.


To me, what you sing at storytime is far less important than how often you sing it. Kids learn from repetition.  They learn sentence structure and vocabulary words when they hear a song again and again.  When I start a storytime session I choose about 8 – 10 songs and rhymes I’d like to feature as my “core” group for the 10 – 12 weeks. I try my best to use these songs every storytime. They make up about 80% of the music I use each week. That extra 20% is saved for other songs and rhymes I rotate in. Sometimes they are connected to a particular theme or book I’m featuring. If I find something that’s a total hit then I make an effort to put it into more frequent rotation.

Providing Lyrics

This depends on your community, but I’ve found that providing the lyrics to the songs either on a flipchart or projected onto the wall/screen helps caregivers participate in storytime. This is partly because I have a high number of ESL caregivers in my community who have asked for lyrics to guide them.  Because I repeat so much though they learn the songs eventually. Just something to consider as you get to know your storytime audience.  Some people provide lyrics on a piece of paper or on a bookmark at the end of a storytime session instead.

Using Felt Pieces to Accompany Songs

I created super simple felt pieces to accompany the songs I do most often. I use these felt pieces to introduce the song’s vocabulary, an especially helpful practice for toddler language acquisition.  Having a visual representation connected to the lyrics helps kids understand the meaning of a song.  Alternatively, you could print a picture and hold it up. Doesn’t have to be fancy! My favourites to use are Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Baby Shark, and my food themed set.

Using Recorded Music

I don’t use a lot of recorded music in my storytimes because I think it’s important to model to caregivers that it doesn’t matter what your voice sounds like, but when you are new to storytime it can help you feel more comfortable. I used to play “Jump Up, Turn Around” by Jim Gill at the end of all my toddler storytimes because it helped kids learn how to follow a few simple directions. Other people play music as families enter the room.  If you’re looking for good recorded music to play in storytime check out Recorded Storytime Music: A Primer.

Multilingual Songs and Rhymes

Don’t be afraid to add in songs and rhymes from languages besides English. Perhaps you speak another language or you have community members who do. They can be a great resource to finding out which songs are popular in another language.  Using  multilingual songs and rhymes exposes kids to a variety of cultures and can help make people from different backgrounds feel welcome in your space. I’ve gathered lots of Spanish song resources on my Bilingual Storytime Resources post, but I also love the multilingual selections on StoryBlocks.

Types of Song

I weave in these five categories of songs into all of my storytimes. There’s no hard and fast rule about how many songs to do from each. Instead, I’m intentional about planning a storytime that involves a variety of songs that match the energy of the group and the early literacy goals I’ve set.  If you’re looking for a certain type of song, please make sure to check out all of our thematic YouTube playlists!

Opening and Closing

I do the same welcome/hello song and the same closing/goodbye song every single week. This helps provides a consistent opening routine to your storytime and signals to kids that storytime is starting.  I wrote about my favourites a few years ago, but I actually do three opening songs in a row because it gives caregivers who are a bit late a chance to get settled before we read the first book. My current rotation is Well Hello Everybody, Can You Touch Your Nose (verses: clap your hands, stomp your feet, jump up high, shake your hips, beep your belly, sit back down), Hello, Friends, and Roly Poly. I make sure at least one of the songs involves movement because I like giving kids a chance to get their wiggles out before I read the first book. My closing song is Goodbye, Friends. There’s so many options though! Check out our Hello and Goodbye Songs playlist.


Hand rhymes, aka fingerplays, are great for strengthening finger muscles. I usually do one of those right before or after a book and connect it to the content of the book. For example, if we read Mama, Look! by Patricia Murphy I would follow it up with Here is the Beehive to continue the conversation about nature and insects.  Check out our Fingerplays and Tickles playlist for tons of ideas.  I’ve also written about my favourite fingerplays and tickles for babytime and my favourite

Action and Movement Songs

Kids need to get up and move. Not only do they get heir wiggles out but they also learn through movement.  I pull these out mostly during the middle part of my storytime when kids have already sat through a book or two and need a chance to burn off some energy. As mentioned above, I use felt pieces with a lot of my movement songs.  I usually do about 2 -3 in a row before transitioning to a more literacy based activity like a felt story. Sometimes though you end up moving and grooving the bulk of storytime if that’s what is keeping the crowd engaged. Check out our complete Movement and Dancing Songs playlist and my Songs to Get the Wiggles Out and Favourite Dancing Songs blog posts.

Transition Songs

A good stroytime leader knows how to move kids from one activity to the next. That’s where transition songs come in. The hardest transition for me is getting the kids up and moving and then getting them back down on the floor to listen to a story. My go-to transition song is My Two Hands. I also like Everybody Take a Seat.  Dana wrote an excellent blog post with tons of other ideas for songs and rhymes that help kids transition between activities.

Soothing Songs and Lullabies

After we’ve read books and danced and sang and amped ourselves up, I end storytime with a few gentle, soothing songs and rhymes. I like to model taking deep breaths during this part as well. My go-to songs are traditional nursery rhymes like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and the ABC song because they are well known and have a lullaby quality to them. I also use Rain is Falling Down with my felt pieces.  We’ve got some other great suggestions on our Lullabies and Soothing Songs playlist.

How do you choose which songs and rhymes to feature in a storytime? What are your favourite song and rhyme resources? Let me know in the comments!

It Takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian: Introducing “The Cardigan”

I can’t even tell you how much excitement I have for this announcement! When Katherine and Allie told me about The Cardigan I immediately asked if they would write about it so I could help spread the news.  Read on to learn about this amazing resource for library staff serving children.

Who We Are and the Vision

We (Allie & Katherine) are two Children’s Librarians working together in a public library in Oklahoma. Katherine primarily works with early childhood kids and Allie works with elementary kids.

Before working with Katherine, I (Allie) worked in a small rural public library in another state. It was my first full-time Children’s Librarian position out of library school. In this new position as a solo Children’s Librarian, it wasn’t long before I began to feel a little alone. I spent my free time researching great resources (like Jbrary!) to help me feel connected and up-to-date, but soon finding the time, support, and energy to research the relevant information left me exhausted.

This is a trend we have both noticed since becoming Children’s Librarians:  finding relevant and current professional development resources can be challenging, tedious to sift through, or costly. So we dreamt up the idea of a newsletter: a visually appealing platform made up of high-quality, bite-sized information related to the profession with real-world implications. Articles posted on social media can be difficult to keep track of, so the newsletter format allows us to preserve all of our resources in one place. Each newsletter will be turned into a PDF and accessible through a Google Drive folder. In this way, we hope to create a repository of the best tools available to help us become excellent at our jobs.

The Cardigan Newsletter

This newsletter is called “The Cardigan” and drops in your inbox on the 20th of every month. In every newsletter, we will explore the following topics with links to professional resources:

  • Learn. Deepen your knowledge on a topic related to Children’s Services.
  • Play.  Play is a right! Learn quick tips to optimize play experiences in libraries.
  • Plan. Learn about an interesting program you can easily replicate at your library.
  • Consider. Libraries are for everyone! Read resources about the importance of inclusive Children’s Services.
  • Connect. Discover new places to find content.
  • Reflect. Where we reflect on the deeper questions regarding Children’s Librarianship.
  • Read.  Check out some of our favorite books.
  • Ask. Where we answer your questions!

After some reflection, we settled on “it takes a neighborhood to nourish a Children’s Librarian” as our motto because we want to center in on the reality that we need each other to be happy, healthy, and effective librarians. We are both relatively new to the profession, and we hope to create a digital “neighborhood” with Children’s Librarians of all strengths and competencies.

This will happen in three ways:

  • Our “Celebrate” section: We want to celebrate your awards, promotions, and hard work!
  • Our “Share” section: You can e-mail us your cool programs and initiatives related to Children’s Services and we will select a few to feature each month.
  • Our Instagram and hashtag: We are going to use our Instagram (@thecardigannewsletter) to feature other ideas and programs, and the “shares” we aren’t able to fit in the newsletter. Tag your library-related Instagram and Facebook posts with #thecardigannewsletter so that we can see what you are up to!

How to Join the Neighborhood

We hope you’ll join the neighborhood and subscribe to The Cardigan! This little newsletter is our humble attempt to contribute to the need for professional development in our field; we know it won’t solve all of our problems, but we are excited to do our part and would love to have you along for the ride.

Here are four action items:

  • Subscribe to the Cardigan here.
  • Contribute to our first “Ask” section. Email us at with “Ask” in the subject line with any library-related question.  We will do our best to answer, but if we can’t, we will bring in an expert.
  • Contribute to our first “Celebrate” section. E-mail us at, with “Celebrate” in the subject line, along with a brief description (2-3 sentences) of your successes. Celebrating coworkers is also welcomed; please ‘cc them in the submission e-mail so that we can get their permission to be featured. Examples of things to celebrate include: trying something new, practicing radical self-care, getting a job, getting published, being a great coworker… Whatever you deem to be an accomplishment!
  • Contribute to our first “Share” section. You can e-mail us your cool program ideas at, with “Share” in the subject line. Please include at least one photo, along with a short (100-150 word) description.

We can’t wait to see you around the neighborhood!

Katherine & Allie