This year I delivered over 150 storytimes. 150! I’ve actually never counted before, but this year was definitely a busy one.
Over the course of the past 11 months I’ve kept track of all the picture books published in 2016 that work well in a storytime setting. There were so many favourites this year! I swear this list gets longer with each rendition. If you missed other round-ups, here they are:
- 2013 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2014 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2015 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2018 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2019 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2020 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2021 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2022 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
- 2023 Favourite Storytime Picture Books
Here are my picks for outstanding storytime books for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary-age kids. If I missed one of your favourites, please leave a comment sharing yours!
1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina. A creative and fun counting book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Not only does this book introduce food vocabulary, it’s also a great jumping off point for an art or drawing activity. Have kids count on their fingers to strengthen early numeracy skills.
Abracadabra, It’s Spring! by
Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske. Short enough text to read to toddlers (caregivers will get a laugh), but the humour in this one is aimed at preschoolers to Grade 2 kids. Give Barnacle a dramatic voice and the kids eat it up. This one reminds me a mix between I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry and I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.
Blocks by Irene Dickson. A toddler storytime gem. Simple sentences tell the story of two kids learning to share. The best thing about this book is the emotional connection many kids will have to the story. A great chance to give an early literacy tip about social emotional learning. The big pages and large illustrations are the cherry on top.
City Shapes by Diana Murray; illustrated by Bryan Collier. I love this book so much I suggested it for a CLEL Bell Award. Follow a young girl through her neighbourhood as she discovers shapes everywhere. A diverse title ripe with follow-up activities. Also a great chance to tell caregivers about how shapes are the first step to learning letters.
Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer. I am always looking for ways to include more poetry in storytime and this book is the perfect lead in. Daniel discovers the poetry in the world around him. Simple enough for toddlers and preschoolers to grasp. I followed it up by reading a poem from Neighbors: The Yard Critters Too by George Held; illustrated by Joung Un Kim.
Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliot; illustrated by Mary Peterson. I also suggested this one for a CLEL Bell Award. Perfect for spring and summer storytimes, this one encourages kids to get out and play and get a little messy. Short and sweet text makes it great for extra wriggly toddlers.
Don’t Splash the Sasquatch! by Kent Redeker; illustrated by Bob Staake. A wacky and fun read perfect for summer storytimes. This one is great for older preschoolers. Have them join in yelling the repetitive title phrase. I like how it encourages kids to make up their own words and have fun with language. Squizzilefied is one of my new favourite words.
Don’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup. Another interactive win from Teckentrup! If you have a small group you can have the kids come up and pet tiger’s nose and tummy. There’s also perfect opportunities to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Happy Birthday. Great for preschool outreach visits.
Duck, Duck, Dinosaur by Kallie George; illustrated by
Everyone is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch. Perfect for babies and toddlers! A gentle bedtime book where you get to practice yawning together. The lift-the-flaps are an added bonus. Babies often mimic the facial expressions of their caregivers as they learn language (hello, mirror neurons!) and you can practice that skill by yawning along to this book.
Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. I learned about this book from Anna’s Everyday Diversity blog. Ed, the dog, worries that he’s not good at anything unlike the 5 kids in his family. Luckily Ed does discover his talent by the end of the book. Recommended for preschool – Grade 2 kids. And dog lovers.
Follow Me! by Ellie Sandall. Before I read this one to my toddler group, we all practiced chanting the repeating phrase, “Follow me, follow me, follow me!” It was a great way to get caregivers involved as we read the book. I love the repetition and unique choice of animal (lemurs!). Highly recommended for the younger groups.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak. Another CLEL Bell Award suggestion. When reading this one aloud I had to use different voices to model the conversation the child has with the natural world. A great way to promote the early literacy practice of talking. Encourage caregivers to continue this story when they go outside.
Goodnight Bob by
Good Night Like This by Mary Murphy. Similar to Say Hello Like This, in this book animals take turns saying goodnight to their babies. I like sharing this one at babytime. We either make animal noises together or snuggle the babies as we say good night together on each page. I often include an early literacy tip about making reading part of your daily routine and bedtime is the perfect place to start.
Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer. Another toddler storytime gem. Simple text and bold illustrations convey how penguin is able to help himself out of a bad mood. After reading this one we sing many different feeling versions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” My favourite verse is “If You’re Mad and You Know It, Take a Deep Breathe.”
Hand in Hand by Rosemary Wells. A top choice for baby and toddler storytimes. Nice big pictures are good for developing eyesight and the short rhyming text has a nice rhythm. I always tell my families that storytime is a place to develop a loving bond with their child and this book illustrated that concept beautifully.
Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow. Elephant claims he is very good at hide-and-seek in this delightfully funny book great for toddlers and preschoolers. I had the kids tell me where Elephant was hiding on each page and we talked about good hiding places. Play is one of the five early literacy practices and this book encourages it.
Hooray for Today! by Brian Won. The sequel to Hooray for Hat! is here and it’s just as good as the first. It’s still got a repetitive phrase that lends itself well to group participation. The thing I like best about it though is that it shows animals feeling tired, a feeling that can be hard for kids to notice in themselves. Definitely a feeling to point out related to social emotional learning.
Hungry Bird by Jeremy Tankard. Bird is back and this time Bird is hangry! Your preschoolers who know Bird from Tankard’s other two storytime gems will love this third installment. I love talking to preschoolers about the colour choices on each page and what foods they find gross and delicious. Bonus: Tankard is a local author!
I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony. I think I like this one even better than the first. When reading with toddlers and preschoolers, we practice saying the phrase, “Wait and see” together and making the signs too. Turn-taking, patience, and self-regulation are key themes here.
I’m a Hungry Dinosaur by Janeen Brian; illustrated by Ann James. A baking themed follow-up to I’m a Dirty Dinosaur. I sing this one to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot” and we all do the actions like dinosaur. I’ve tried it in babytime and toddlertime to much success. You can mention that baking with kids is a great way to practice math.
Is That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas. I mean it’s another Jan Thomas title so you knew it was going to be storytime magic, right? Have families join in asking the title phrase and giggle along to Pig’s soup additions. Perfect for any age.
King Baby by Kate Beaton. This is the perfect book to read at babytime. I was ROFL the first time I read it, and I think this book does a great job setting a fun and playful tone of storytime. If you have younger siblings who often sit-in at babytime, they will get a kick out of it too. An apt metaphor for the life changing event of having a child.
Leo Can Swim by
Listen to Our World by Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson; illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Travel around the world and hear all the different sounds animals make. Make it participatory by having kids and caregivers make the sounds with you. Accurate habitats are depicted and back matter gives more detailed information. Use with toddlers and preschoolers.
Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Christian Robinson. Now this is what happens when two all-stars join together. A perfect winter themed read aloud for babies and toddlers. The simplicity of the language is perfectly suited for your younger groups. Would also work well for a getting dressed theme.
Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming. A new toddler classic. Big page spreads feature a little boy who tries to get dressed with the help of his dog. Not only are the sentences to the point, they model sentence extending: “Look, Maggie – socks. Yellow socks.” The colour words are printed in their corresponding colour to draw attention to print. A funny tale packed with early literacy goodness.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by
The Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage. Definitely add this to your transportation or construction themed storytimes. Follow the little cement mixer as it accidentally makes a cake! I talked about print awareness before reading this book as I pointed out the different names of the factories. The kids loved shouting, “Presto!” with me as we read.
The Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan; illustrated by Tomie dePaola. A gentle bedtime story with repetition and the option to add in animal sounds. If you’ve got huge groups of babies and toddlers, the big pages will help all see. Before I read this one we practiced the title phrase as it repeats on each page and offers a chance for participation.
My Heart Fills With Happiness by
My House by Byron Barton. I think almost all of Barton’s books are surefire hits with toddlers. With his bright colours and simple text, Barton showcases a home in this one. I would love if he followed it up with My Apartment which is an underrepresented dwelling in picture books.
My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo. A sweet story of adoption that is easily accessible by preschoolers. I am always looking for diverse representations of family to read in storytime. Even if kids haven’t been adopted themselves they can relate to the feelings of fear, nervousness, and ultimately belonging.
Old MacDonald Had a Truck by
Sing With Me!: Action Songs Every Child Should Know by Naoko Stoop. I pull this one out at babytime almost every week. It’s great if you just want to practice one song. If you have a large population of newcomers or ESL families, it provides a good introduction to common Western rhymes. Stoop also provides recommended hand motions.
Some Pets by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. This one has all the right elements – repetition, unique vocabulary, adorable illustrations, and a diverse cast of kids. I read it to my mixed-aged storytime group and they all wanted to tell me about their pets afterwards.
Still a Gorilla by Kim Norman; illustrated by Chad Geran. Repetition? Check! Humour? Check! Positive message about being yourself? Check! When reading with toddlers and preschoolers, I teach the sign for gorilla and we all beat our chests whenever we say the title phrase.
The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley; illustrated by Kate Berube. My love for this book knows no bounds! I love the characters, I love the cats, I love how it’s about following your interests, I love how it’s funny, and I especially loved reading it to a kindergarten class. I recommend this one for older groups, K-2 especially, who are learning to read themselves.
Ten Hungry Pigs by Derek Anderson. A follow-up to Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure, one of my 2015 favourites. In this absurd tale, the pigs keep piling up more and more ridiculous ingredients. So many giggles at storytime! It has a surprise ending similar to the first book. Great for food themed storytimes.
There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins. This is rhyming text done well. A very frustrated mouse just wants Bear to get out of his chair! I read it to a Grade 1 class and we talked about why some words are printed in red. The older crowd got more of the humour in the illustrations too, but I think this one could go as young as preschool.
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. A stand-out picture book this year, for storytime and otherwise. Great for toddlers through Grade 2, this book is all about perspective. I love the conversations that will stem from sharing this one with a group, and the language has a beautiful flow to it. Highly recommended.
This is Our Baby, Born Today by Varsha Bajaj; illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. I loved reading this welcoming tale at babytime. We all say the “Born today” refrain together on each page. As a super involved aunt, I was delighted to see them mentioned as a key part of baby’s world. The text is lyrical and the illustrations are warm and inviting.
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes; illustrated by
Whoops! by Suzi Moore; illustrated by Russell Ayto. One of my favourite picture books in general for 2016! The kindergarten class I read this to absolutely loved it. There’s a cat, a dog, a mouse, an old lady, and some very funny spells. I love the repetition and getting all the kids to say “Whoops!” together.
Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian; illustrated by Mike Curato. Anyone can love anyone and that includes Worm and Worm. Love wins out in this celebratory tale despite objections from other critters. Due to the length, recommended for older preschool and school-age crowds as a read aloud.
You Are One by Sara O’Leary; illustrated by Karen Klassen. A year’s worth of baby milestones are featured in this diverse title. I read it at babytime and afterwards we went around and caregivers shared a baby milestone they were excited about. This is the first book in a three part series, so look for You Are Two and You Are Three coming soon.
What a great year for picture books! I’m sure I missed some superb read alouds, so please let me know your favourites in the comments.