Are you new to storytime? Welcome to the family! Storytime is probably my favourite part of being a children’s librarian. I’m writing a series all about the basics in hopes of helping those who are just starting as storytime leaders. This post will discuss tips and tricks for reading books aloud to a group. Don’t miss the other posts in the series:
Read the book ahead of time. Check to make sure it’s in good condition and there aren’t any ripped, damaged, or missing pages. Practice saying the words out loud so you get a feel for the rhythm or flow of the story.
In storytime, find a place to sit (usually at the front of the room) where everyone can see you. My storytime groups are big so I sit on a chair. If you have a small group (5 or less children) you can get away with sitting on the ground with them.
Before jumping into the story, take time to read the title, author, and illustrator. I like explaining to kids that the author writes the words and the illustrator draws the pictures. Point out things on the cover and ask kids to guess what the story will be about. You can run your finger along the title to draw their attention to print. If the book has a unique orientation, like Shake the Tree, take a moment to talk about how the book is different. All of these things help kids understand how books work and boost their reading confidence.
Something I was taught in one of my MLIS courses was the mechanics of reading aloud. I highly recommend this video of Dr. Brian Sturm from the School of Information and Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill that covers how to hold a book, how to position your body, and how to turn pages.
Another thing to consider is how to arrange your storytime space in general to allow families to view the book. I place little cushions around the room in no particular order. I don’t mind if kids sit near me, in fact sometimes kids with vision impairment need to be closer to see the pages. In the video Dr. Sturm recommends a 90 degree angle for best viewing. The size of your group and the size of your space will affect how you configure your read aloud experience.
Slow Your Pace
Almost everyone I’ve ever observed at storytime reads too fast. Me included! Working on slowing my pace has been a goal of mine every since I read Megan Dowd Lambert’s book. Kids need time to process language and answer the questions you ask as you read. Toddlers especially benefit from a slow paced reading.
Scan the Book
Because my groups are quite large I do have to scan the book while I read. Scanning is when you turn the book from one side to the other so that everyone has a chance to see the pictures. Trust me, kids will let you know if they can’t see! If I know the book by heart, I will do this as I say the words. Otherwise I do it after I read the words which helps slow down my pace.
Make it Interactive
Find ways to model interactivity while you read. Examples include asking open-ended questions, adding a movement, or having everyone say a word or phrase together. Saroj Ghoting has an excellent brochure on interactive reading with a list of open-ended questions to choose from. When I read books like Firefighter Duckies! by Frank W. Dormer I teach families the repeating phrase and correlating made-up gestures before we read the book so they can do it with me as I read. You can also pause at the end of a sentence and have the kids fill in the blank. For babies and toddlers, labeling objects on the page is a great way to support their language acquisition. Making the read aloud an interactive experience models to caregivers ways to make reading engaging for their little one.
Kids will often do this naturally, but it’s great to make a connection between the book and something in the child’s life. Anchoring information to something they already know helps the information stick. You can also help them learn new words by explaining their meaning and connecting them to the picture by pointing to it as you read.
Try New Things
Try reading a book standing up. Try reading a book with a partner. Try “reading” a wordless picture book and have the kids tell the story. The smaller your group the more flexibility you’ll have to try new things, but even with large groups I encourage you to take chances and evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
Use Your Voice
If you have a big group like me you have to be able to turn on your “storytime voice.” This voice is louder, more exaggerated, and more outgoing than my usual voice. If you are reading a book with different characters you can experiment with different voices. Try using dramatic pauses and emphasizing the words that appear bigger on the page. A quick search on YouTube for library storytimes will result in multiple videos featuring examples of how to do this effectively.
One of the ways we can support the early literacy development of our storytime kids is by extending the book. You can do simple things like ask the kids what their favourite part was or pick a stamp that matches something from the book and tell caregivers to use the stamp as a conversation starter later in the day. Some libraries are able to offer a craft component to storytime. I recommend choosing a process art activity related to the book. If you’ve got space for a book display, put out books connected to the theme that might feature similar or related vocabulary and concepts. Lastly, try retelling the story, either that day or the following week, in a different form. When kids hear the same story in a different format it helps reinforce the narrative structure and vocabulary. I love reading a book one week, doing the felt story version the next week, and doing a puppet version the following week. See my planning a storytime session post for examples of how I do this.
What are your tips for reading a book aloud to a group? I’d love to know what works best for you in the comments!
Raise your hand if you forget to read information books at storytime.
It’s true. It’s not that I don’t want to read information books at storytime. I think it’s mostly that I’m more aware of fiction and thus more likely to try it out in storytime. But I would really like to change that. Not only would reading information books in storytime raise awareness about that part of our collection, it also caters to kids who like facts. So I’ve done some digging and gathered resources for all of us who would like to be more intentional about including nonfiction books in storytime.
Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge that some books blur the line between fiction and nonfiction. Just checking a book in two different library catalogues will often give two different results. Nonfiction Monday had a recent blog post with some examples. Some of the books listed here may be catalogued as children’s fiction in your system. Cross checking these one with your library’s holdings is a great way to get to know your library collection better.
Let’s start with other people who have shared their wisdom on this topic. Check out these webinars and blog posts:
And here are some of my favourite nonfiction books to use in storytime. I’ve given ideas for books you could pair them with if you wanted to stick to a theme.
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins The super large format makes this a great choice for large groups. Have kids come up and put their hand next to the animal on the page so they can compare. With only 1 -2 short sentences per page this one works great for toddlers and preschoolers. Pairs great with From Head to Toe by Eric Carle where you can act out animals of sizes.
All Kinds of Friends by Shelley Rotner; photographs by Sheila M. Kelly I love the big photograph spreads and the short amount of text. Perfect for babies and toddlers alike. A true celebration of friendship. There are so many great options to read along with this one if you want to stick with a friendship theme.
Baby Animals Moving by Suzi Eszterhas This one is a little text heavy so recommended for smaller preschool groups up to grade 2. Surveys a variety of animals and how they get around in the natural world. The wildlife photographs are the star. Don’t miss the author’s second book Baby Animals Playing.
Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young by Marianne Berkes; illustrated by Cathy Morrison Inquisitive preschoolers will love learning about how different animals keep their babies safe. I like how each spread focuses on one animal so you can spend time discussing it or quickly move on to the next. If you have a small group it would be fun to pass out stuffed animals or puppets after reading and have the kids practice carrying their “babies.” I’d pair this with a lively book like The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz.
Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer; illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon A short and sweet journey through the circle of life in the forest. Good for small groups due to the size of the book. Read it with toddlers and label each object; read it with preschoolers and help them make connections between the objects. Pair with a fall themed book like The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri to see how animals fit in the ecosystem.
Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre Sayre is a master of nature photography and lyrical writing that feels like poetry. I love reading her books at the start or end of seasons. Don’t miss Raindrops Roll and Full of Fall for autumn and her upcoming Bloom Boom in 2019. For another snow-filled story read Snowballs by Lois Ehlert and make some snow people.
Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins; illustrated by Richard Jones Yes, it’s about birds but it’s also about forces! Follow Bird as she pushes and pulls things in nature to build a nest. Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. If you focus on the concept of building try Bigger Bigger by Leslie Patricelli too.
Birds Make Nests by Michael Garland Someone once told me, “The world would be a better place if everyone was a bird watcher.” This book helps fulfill that wish. Simple sentences show a variety of nests. Each bird is labeled so you can give specific names if the kids have the attention span. Any bird themed book would pair well, and I’d definitely use my Two Little Bluebirds rhyme.
Bubbles: An Elephant’s Story by Bhagavan “Doc” Antle I sent this book in with my niece’s Grade 2 class and they loved it as a read aloud. It’s narrative nonfiction, telling the story of Bubbles and how he was saved from ivory poachers. I think Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown ties in nicely with the message around the hope of animals being able to live freely in the wild.
Counting on Fall by Lizann Flatt; illustrated by Ashley Barron Part of a Math in Nature series that goes through the four seasons, this book has a counting challenge on each page. Best for preschoolers – Grade 1. The spring and winter books are more challenging, so I’d stick with this one for an under 5 storytime. I encourage caregivers to take the book home so they can spend more time on each page. I’d pair with something lighthearted such as Everybunny Count! by Ellie Sandall.
Different? Same! by Heather Tekavec; illustrated by Pippa Curnick This one is so clever! Each spread shows four animals and the kids have to guess how they are similar. Perfect for preschool groups who can’t read yet (the answer is written on the page). Really stretches the kids to think creatively.
Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater; illustrations by Dylan Metrano Perfect for toddlers, this book describes one bird per page in a simple sentence. The illustrations are bright and colourful. For a funny tale featuring an assortment of feathered friends use Froodle by Antoinette Portis.
Fabulous Frogs by Martin Jenkins; illustrated by Tim Hopgood A wonderful introduction to our amphibian friends. This one works well with preschool – grade 3. I admit Darwin’s Frog kind of grossed me out but still cool to learn about! Bust out Big Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems after reading this one.
Families by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly Diverse families are photographed and featured in this text that describes what different families look like and how families interact. Great for toddlers and up. I love reading with one of Todd Parr’s books about families.
Fantastic Flowers by Susan Stockdale I love the use of metaphor in this flower book. Try asking the kids what they think each flower looks like. Perfect for springtime when flowers are blooming so you can encourage families to spend time comparing what they find outside. Pairs perfectly with Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert.
A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Emily Sutton One of my co-workers starts every storytime with a poem which I think is a lovely idea. Living right on the ocean, I’m drawn to this collection about the sea. The pages are large and the poems are filled with unique vocabulary. A beautiful start to an under the sea storytime.
Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell; illustrated by Bob Shea An animal guessing game that uses the poetic form of haiku. Works great with preschoolers who will feel proud when they know the answers. A great way to show caregivers how fun poetry can be! Pair with another guessing game like I Spy With My Little Eye by Edward Gibbs.
I Am the Rain by John Paterson A poetic take on the water cycle and all the ways water exists in the world. I like it for the short text that allows you to add in more detailed explanations as you read with preschoolers. The book is written from the point of view of water which is also unique. Pair with a rain-filled story such as A Good Day for Ducks by Jane Whittingham.
I’ve Got Eyes: Exceptional Eyes of the Animal World by Julie Murphy; illustrated by Hannah Tolson From my 2018 list, this one is perfectly illustrated for large groups. For older groups read the complete text, with toddlers read the first sentence on each page and label the animal. Pair with a fun body part book like We’ve All Got Bellybuttons by David Martin; illustrated by Randy Cecil. And don’t miss Murphy’s companion book I’ve Got Feet: Fantastical Feet of the Animal World.
Life-Size Farm by Teruyuki Komiya Similar to Actual Size listed above, this book lets kids see farm animals up close and personal. There’s two more in the series Life-Size Zoo and Life-Size Aquarium. Great for big groups. Pair with any farm animal story of your choice.
Mama Dug a Little Den by Jennifer Ward; illustrated by Steve Jenkins Longer rhyming text makes this a good choice for preschool – Grade 2. Discover all the burrows and nooks animals carve out for their babies. Storytime Katie has lots of other ideas for houses and homes themed storytime.
Mice Mischief: Math Facts in Action by Caroline Stills; illustrated by Judith Rossell Follow Mice on their silly adventures as you figure out different ways to add numbers to equal ten. The text is very simple. You can have kids use their fingers to count on each page. It pairs great with Balance the Birds by Susie Ghahremani which also deals with number combinations to figure out balance.
Neighbors: The Yard Critters by George Held; illustrated by Joung Un Kim Another storytime poetry read aloud win. Bright, large pages feature poems about all the little critters we find outside. Try reading one of the poems during a bugs and insects storytime. Don’t miss the others in this series: The Yard Critters Too and The Water Critters.
Once Upon a Jungle by Laura Knowles; illustrated by James Boast Follow the life cycle as you venture deeper into the jungle. I love the way the illustrations pop off the page due to the dark background. The repetitive phrase “Once upon a…” is a great for toddlers and the text is brief. Preschoolers will engage more with what happens to each animal and how it contributes to the ecosystem. I think this one works great with The Wide Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner; illustrated by Jonathan Lambert which also features wild animals and what they eat.
Roar: A Dinosaur Tour by Michael Paul A simple introduction to dinosaurs that is perfect for babies and toddlers. The pages are big and bright, the sentences simple. Go the extra step by learning how to pronounce each of the labeled dinosaurs to wow your crows. I love the end pages with include a phonetic spelling guide. Choose your favourite dinosaur book to read with it.
Shades of People by Shelley Rotner; pictures by Sheila M. Kelly I’ve done a series of blog posts on the importance of talking to kids about race from a young age. They are naturally inquisitive. This book introduces the concept of race and ethnicity and encourages us to celebrate all skin colours. Any of the books on All About Me theme would pair well.
Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley A simple depiction of the range of emotions “tough guys” experience. The text is straightforward and short, making it suitable for toddlers and preschoolers. Pause on each page to identify the emotions of each character. A wonderful example of how feelings know no gender. I’d pair with my new favourite board book Why the Face? by Jean Jullien.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney Don’t forget fairy tales are catalogued as nonfiction! From my 2017 list comes this classic tale retold by a master storyteller. Try doing it as a felt story or puppet story the following weeks to practice telling stories in many ways.
Water is Water by Miranda Paul; illustrated by Jason Chin This one has spare text and lends itself well to discussion as you follow two kids through the water cycle. Also a great everyday diversity title. Read more about the physical properties of water in Wet by Carey Sookocheff.
Where Will I Live? by Rosemary McCarney Written as a series of questions a child asks about where they will live after being displaced. A serious topic and the photographs don’t shy away from showing sadness and worry. A great choice for fostering empathy. I think the diverse version of Little Mouse shared by Storytime in the Stacks further illustrated the places people call home.
Who Eats Orange? by Dianne White; illustrated by Robin Page From my 2018 list, this one teaches the concept of colour with an amazing variety of animals. Go the colour route with another storytime pick or go the food route or stick with a book about wild animals.
Who Has These Feet? by Laura Hulbert; illustrated by Erik Brooks I love me a guessing game book. The repetition of the question is great for toddlers and preschoolers will love to correctly identify the animals. An all-star choice. Definitely don’t miss the companion book Who Has This Tail? Goes perfectly with Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig; illustrated by Marc Brown.
Whose House Is This? A Look at Animal Homes – Webs, Nests, and Shells by Elizabeth Gregoire; illustrated by Derrick Alderman and Denise Shea A question and answer book that explains the purpose behind each creature’s home. I love the repetitive nature of the question and the rhythmic language. Great for preschoolers who are learning about the creatures around them.
Whose Poop is That? by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Kelsey Oseid Look if it has poop in the title you know your under 5 crowd will love it. Skip the longer facts if you got a high energy group and just identify each turd pile. I encourage caregivers to take the book home to scour the details. I think Dinosaur vs. the Potty by Bob Shea is a perfect match with this topic.
Dana and I may live on opposite sides of Canada right now, but that doesn’t mean we don’t swap storytime ideas through text messages! Dana sent me an “I love storytime” moment the other day when she shared a picture of a felt story she made of the traditional children’s song, “A Peanut Sat on a Railroad Track.”
Sad to say we don’t have a video of this song on Jbrary. You can find it on YouTube easily though, like this one described as a “gross kids song.” Why stop at one verse though? My co-worker Adam Smith wrote additional verses that Dana based her felt pieces on. He’s given me permission to share them here. If you’ve got a silly preschool group or a K – 2 class visiting, you’ve got to try this out. Trust us.
Dana made her felt pieces by printing clipart images and pasting them to felt, then cutting around the edges. So easy! I love how she put a number 10 on the train to match the first verse. Here are the other verses:
A potato sat on a railroad track To see which way the train goes Around the bend came the Number 10 Toot Toot Mashed Potatoes!
An apple sat on a railroad track Feeling a little lost Around the bend came the Number 10 Toot Toot Apple Sauce!
A chickpea sat on a railroad track Wondering what that sound was Around the bend came the Number 10 Toot Toot Humous!
An avocado sat on a railroad track But it got up too slowly Around the bend came the Number 10 Toot Toot Guacamole!
An olive sat on a railroad track Feeling a little sad Around the bend came the Number 10 Toot Toot Tapenade!
A sesame sat on a railroad track Roasting a little weenie Around the bend came the Number 10 Toot Toot Tahini!
A tomato sat on a railroad track having a little poop Around the bend came the Number 10 Toot Toot Tomato soup!
An eggplant sat on a railroad track listening to the wind go wooooosh Around the bend came the Number 10 Toot Toot Baba ghanoush!
And here are some bonus holiday verses:
A pumpkin sat on the railroad track Having a little cry Around the bend came number 10 Toot toot Pumpkin pie!
A loaf of bread sat on the railroad track Huffing and puffing Around the bend came number 10 Toot toot Stuffing!
A soybean sat on the railroad track Enjoying a cup of tea Around the bend came number 10 Toot Toot Tofurkey!
Can you think of any other verses? Hit me up in the comments with your rhyming geniusness.
Four years ago (HOW HAS IT BEEN THAT LONG?!) I wrote a series of blog posts about babytime. You can find them all on the newly reorganized Storytime Resources page. In one of the posts I shared some of my favourite books to read at a baby storytime. My baby storytimes are aimed at ages 0 – 18 months. I have large groups of 50 – 90 people so I tend to choose books that are interactive, short, and grab the babies’ attention. I’m back today with part 2 of my favourite babytime books! Some of them are new, some of them are old. All rocked my storytimes.
5 Little Ducks by Denise Fleming I ask the caregivers to sing this one with me. The pages are bright and big making it an excellent choice for large groups. Sometimes I pause between pages and have caregivers count the duckies on their baby’s toes or fingers.
Animal Opposites: A Pop-Up Book by Petr Horacek Each spread shows two opposing animals. There’s only an adjective + noun for each one so I encourage the caregivers to read this one with me. The pop-up elements grab the attention of little ones and caregivers can point and label the animals as we read. Super bright and colourful.
Babies Can Sleep Anywhere by Lisa Wheeler; illustrated by Carolina Buzio This one made my 2017 Favourite Storytime Books list. When I read this one I talk to caregivers about making reading part of their everyday routine. Bedtime is a great place to start!
The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz Look, you could probably read any Karen Katz book at babytime and be golden. I love this one because you can sing it and bounce babies at the same time. I encourage caregivers to make up their own verses as they travel around Vancouver on the bus and Skytrain.
Baby Faces Peekaboo! by DK Publishing This is an older, oversized board book filled with the most adorable baby photographs. On each page you turn the flap to find the baby who is feeling happy, sad, grumpy, silly, or sleepy. Short and sweet!
Baby’s Firsts by Nancy Raines Day; illustrated by Michael Emberley Find this one on my 2018 Favourite Storytime Books list. I think this also makes a great book to buy for expecting parents.
Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes From my 2015 favourites, this book is all about the love! I have caregivers touch baby’s body parts that are mentioned in the book as we read. For caregivers struggling to connect with their baby, just saying the word “love” can help. A great choice if you do a Baby Welcoming event too.
Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker Baker turns the classic rhyme into a short picture book. I have caregivers count their fingers or their baby’s fingers as we read the book. Keep your pace slow. It’s so short that sometimes I read it twice in a row.
Chick by Ed Vere This one always gets a laugh. Caregivers can easily relate to the daily tasks of their baby eating, pooping, and sleeping. Super short but super engaging.
Clive and His Babies by Jessica Spanyol I love all of the Clive books because they break gender stereotypes. They aren’t big so they work better for smaller groups, but they showcase all the ways kids love to play.
Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon This rhyming, silly book is great for introducing animal sounds. Babies will love the lift-the-flap feature. Also check out Do Cows Meow? if you like this one.
Dot, Stripe, Squiggle by Sarah Tuttle; illustrated by Miriam Nerlove This one is also on my 2018 Favourite Storytime Books list too. I got creative by having caregivers make the pattern on their baby’s back or tummy. Great for smaller groups as the pictures aren’t super big.
Everyone is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch Find this gem on my 2016 Favourite Storytime Books list. I have caregivers yawn with me as we read this book. We watch for any babies who mimic us which is a nice tie-in to talking about facial expressions and how to use your face as a toy.
Face to Face Safari by Sally Hewitt We don’t circulate these giant pop-up books so it’s quite a treat to bring them out in babytime. There’s lots of text in this one but I skip it in favour of labeling the animal and describing it as I scan the room so all the babies can see. Always a stand-out!
I Am a Baby by Kathryn Madeline Allen; photographs by Rebecca Gizicki Around 6 months of age babies will start to gravitate towards books with pictures of other babies. This one is perfect for showcasing diverse babies with all their everyday things.
It’s a Little Baby by Julia Donaldson; illustrated by Rebecca Cobb Perfect for small groups, this is a rhyming lift-the-flap board book that you can sing! Donaldson is a master rhymer and she transfers this skill to babies seamlessly.
King Baby by Kate Beaton Sometimes you pick a book for babytime that is solely meant for the caregivers. That is this book. Funny, clever, and definitely relatable. I keep it with me for any age group.
A Kiss Means I Love You by Kathryn Madeline Allen; photographs by Eric Futran Another beautifully photographed book featuring close up facial expressions and words babies hear in their daily lives. The picture book version is out of print but you can still get the board book version.
Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn; illustrated by Ruth Hearson All of the Leo books make a great addition to babytime and the title of this one pretty much says it all. I like having some of the Lola books on display so caregivers can continue with this series as their babies grow.
My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith; illustrated by Julie Flett Flett is one of my all-time favourite illustrators. This board book is perfect for smaller groups and shows present-day Indigenous families celebrating things that bring them joy.
Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton I have the oversized board book version of this well known story for little ones. I think the rhythm of the text and length of the story is perfect for babytime. Plus you can sneak in an early literacy tip about how animal sounds help babies with phonological awareness.
Nose to Toes, You are Yummy! by Tim Harrington From my 2015 list, this one is brightly illustrated and provides ample opportunities for caregivers and babies to interact while you read. It’s also a song which can you either sing yourself or play during storytime.
Pop-Up Sea Creatures by Sally Hewitt; illustrated by Chris Gilvan-Cartwright This is another giant pop-up book that I talk about more than read. The babies love the way the sea creatures jump off the page. I especially love sharing it during the summer when families spend time at the beach or the aquarium.
Say Hello! by Linda Davick I think you could get away with reading this book every single week as part of your welcome routine. That would give caregivers a chance to really learn the words. Plus we know how important repetition is to learning. A wonderful book to practice the skill of waving too!
Say Hello Like This! by Mary Murphy Murphy is one of my Toddler Storytime Authors to Know, but her books work great for babytime too! I love how this one encourages a loving interaction between baby and caregiver. Plus you get to make animal sounds and have fun!
Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort There are tons of singable books to choose from for babytime, but I love this one because of the diversity of animals and familiar tune. It works great with any age and you can easily translate it to a felt story or puppet story.
What Does Baby Want? by Tupera Tupera I guess you have to judge your crowd for this one, but my caregivers loved this story of an upset baby who just wants to breastfeed. Some reviews call it “shockingly shaped” but I’m all for the normalization of something that is…totally normal.
You Are One by Sara O’Leary; illustrated by Karen Klassen From my 2016 list, this one is great to read at the end of a babytime session and have caregivers reflect on the things their baby has learned. If you have a small group you can even go around and have them share a milestone. A Canadian series that continues up to three.
What are your favourite books to read at babytime? I am always looking for new ones to feature so please leave a comment sharing what has worked for you!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thread of Love by Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal; illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang Written by a mother/son duo, this book highlights the Hindu festival called Raksha Bandhan which celebrates brotherly and sisterly love. You can sing it to the tune of Frère Jacques which adds to the storytime appeal. Pictures are bright and big – great for a large group!
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!
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:
Reading Picture Books with Children by Megan Dowd Lambert: Lambert changed the way we read books aloud in storytime. Her book is written in an accessible style which helped us slow down and focus on the child’s experience of picture books as works of art. Great for anyone working with school-age kids too!
Zero to Three: Our go-to resource for anything related to early brain development and language acquisition. Research-based!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.