Toddler Storytime Books: Authors to Know

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

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

Keith Baker

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

My Picks:

  • Big Fat Hen
  • No Two Alike
  • Little Green

Byron Barton

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

My Picks:

  • My House
  • My Bike
  • My Bus

Karen Beaumont

You can sing two of these which toddlers love.

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!

My Picks:

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

John Butler

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

My Picks:

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

Jane Cabrera

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

My Picks:

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

Eric Carle

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

My Picks:

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

David A. Carter

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

My Picks:

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

Marie Torres Cimarusti

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

My Picks:

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

Lucy Cousins

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

hooray for birds

My Picks:

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

Linda Davick

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

My Picks:

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

Emma Dodd

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

My Picks:

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

Ed Emberley

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

Go Away, Big Green Monster!

My Picks:

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

Denise Fleming

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

5 little ducks

My Picks:

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

Mem Fox

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

My Picks:

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

Emma Garcia

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

chugga chugga choo choo

My Picks:

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

Edward Gibbs

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

My Picks:

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

Emily Gravett

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

My picks:

  • Blue Chameleon
  • Monkey and Me
  • Dogs

Kevin Henkes

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

My Picks:

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

Petr Horáček

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

My Picks:

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

Eric Litwin

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

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

My Picks:

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

Jonathan London

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

My Picks:

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

Bill Martin Jr.

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

My Picks:

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

Flora McDonnell

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

My Picks:

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

Mary Murphy

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

My Picks:

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

Il Sung Na

Dreamy illustrations fill these wonderful books about animals.

My Picks:

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

Leslie Patricelli

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

My Picks:

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

Michael Rosen

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

My Picks:

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

Ellie Sandall

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

everybunny dance

My Picks:

  • Everybunny Dance!
  • Follow Me!

April Pulley Sayre

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

full of fall

My Picks:

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

Bob Shea

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

My Picks:

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

Nicola Smee

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

My Picks:

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

Philemon Sturges

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

My Picks:

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

Simms Taback

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

My Picks:

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

Nancy Tafuri

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

My Picks:

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

Jan Thomas

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

My Picks:

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

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

Storytime Themes vs. Storytime Flow

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

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

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

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

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

Song: Put Your Hands Up High

Tune: Do Your Ears Hang Low

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

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

Book: Firefighter Duckies by Frank W. Dormer

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

Song: Hurry, Hurry Drive the Fire Truck

Lyrics:

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

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

Song: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

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

Lyrics:

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

We always do the extra verses too.

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

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

Check out Early Literacy Connection for the felt story template.

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

Rhyme: Two Little Blackbirds

Lyrics:

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

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

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

Book: Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins

hooray for birds

 

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

Flannel Friday Round Up: February 9th

Hey, hey, it’s the Flannel Friday round-up!  Thanks to everyone who contributed their ideas this week. I am always impressed with your felt skills.  Need some felt story inspiration? Check out these lovelies.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Lauren and Christy from Storytime Out Loud shared a set of heart shaped riddles that are absolutely adorable! You can see their entire set on Instagram or Twitter. What’s even better? These two started a podcast all about storytime!

Kathryn at Fun With Friends at Storytime shared a collection sea creatures that comes with a guessing game! Check out her post to see all five. I love the way she used the blue background to make them pop.

Peter, also known as The Lego Librarian, shared a fantastic version of Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani as part of his numbers storytime. Also, his library hack on how to make flannels is going to save me A LOT of time in the future.

Jessica at Storytime in the Stacks made a version of I Lost My Sock! A Matching Mystery by P.J. Roberts; illustrated by Elio. I had never heard of this book before and am excited to check it out!

In anticipation for spring, Jennifer at Adventures in Storytime made a set of “Five Little Robins” to accompany her rhyme. I like how something one person thinks looks “rushed” looks to me like something that would have taken me weeks to make! You rock, Jennifer.

I was on the bird train this week too and shared my felt pieces for the extra verses of “Two Little Blackbirds.” Great for learning opposites with a touch of silliness. And yes I realize the birds are actually blue (I have a black felt board!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy at Flannel Board Fun shared a St. Patrick’s Day themed version of the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I love how big and bright her pieces are!

Thanks to everyone who participated this week! As always:

  • Check out the official Flannel Friday blog that includes schedules and other important information.  This is changing though! Soon Flannel Friday will convert to a Tumblr account where anyone can submit an idea anytime!
  • Search for images and links on our Pinterest page.
  • Discuss story time stuff (and other ys stuff) on the Flannel Friday Facebook page.
  • Follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter.

Flannel Friday Placeholder: February 9th

Hello fellow flannel and felt story enthusiasts!  I am hosting the Flannel Friday round-up this week! Please leave a comment with a link to your post by Thursday night and I will gather them all together to showcase on Friday.

New to Flannel Friday?

  • Check out the official Flannel Friday blog that includes schedules and other important information.  This is changing though! Soon Flannel Friday will convert to a Tumblr account where anyone can submit an idea anytime!
  • Search for images and links on our Pinterest page.
  • Discuss story time stuff (and other ys stuff) on the Flannel Friday Facebook page.
  • Follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter.

Want to share a flannel or felt story and don’t have a blog? Let me know and I’d be happy to host you here!

Flannel Friday: Two Little Blackbirds

Guess who is participating in Flannel Friday this week!?

I’ve had this flannel set for so long and recently started using it again. It’s been a total hit! I forgot how much the kids love to do this classic fingerplay with the extra verses.  Because my felt board is black I made the birds blue so they would stick out more. We sing, “Two little bluebirds…”  Aren’t familiar with this rhyme or extra verses? Check out our video first!

Here are the felt pieces I made and the verses I do with them.  First I put up all the different objects. Then I bring out the two birds. They always start on the hill. We sing:

Two little bluebirds sitting on a hill
One named Jack and one named Jill
Fly away Jack, fly away Jill
Come back Jack, come back Jill

Then I ask where they should fly next. I let the kids direct the rhyme in that way. Here are the places we go.

Two little bluebirds sitting on a car
One named near and one named far
Fly away near, fly away far
Come back near, come back far
(Put one finger near your body and one finger outstretched)

Two little bluebirds sitting on a stick
One named slow and one named quick
Fly away slow, fly away quick
Come back slow, come back quick
(Really draw out the slow. The kids love this verse.)

Two little bluebirds sitting on a cup
One named down and one named up
Fly away down, fly away up
Come back down, come back up

Two little bluebirds sitting on a cloud
One named quiet and one named loud
Fly away quiet, fly away loud
Come back quiet, come back loud

Two little bluebirds sitting on a lily
One named serious and one named silly
Fly away serious, fly away silly
Come back serious, come back silly
(Make your best serious face for this verse – the kids crack up!)

I’ve been using this one right after we read Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins which is one of my 2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books.

Make sure to catch the entire Flannel Friday round-up here on Jbrary at the end of the week!