New to Storytime: Choosing Storytime Books

Welcome to my new series, New to Storytime! One of the most common emails I get is from people who are just starting storytime and need help figuring out where to start.  Sometimes they’ve been thrown into a children’s library position due to an illness or staff vacancy and all of a sudden they’ve got storytime tomorrow! So I’ve decided to write a New to Storytime series where I focus on the basics. Each post will cover a different topic and I will link them all as I write them.  I’m going to start with how to choose books to read at storytime because books remain a key focus of storytime and there are just so dang many of them. I’ve compiled my tips, all of the storytime booklists I’ve written, and additional blog posts and booklists I’ve found elsewhere that are useful.

What other topics would you like to see as part of my New to Storytime series? What tips would you give someone on how to choose books to read at storytime? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

Things I Look for in Storytime Books

Clearly Visible Illustrations

Because my storytimes are large (50+ people in one room) I go for picture books that have large pages with vibrant illustrations that are easy to see from a distance.  It’s essential your audience can clearly see the pictures as kids give about 90% of their attention when reading to illustrations.  Two examples of books that I think are ideal storytime size are Blocks by Irene Dickson or I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry. It’s not just about the size of the pages though. Look for illustrations that aren’t busy, detailed, or crammed onto the page. Those types of books are great for one-to-one reading but make a poor read aloud because the meaning conveyed in the illustrations gets lost with distance. Finding the right size book will depend on the size of your group. If you have a small baby or toddler group you can get away with reading a board book sometimes, especially if you walk around the room while reading.

Interactive Elements

Does the book have a repeating phrase I can have caregivers and kids say with me?  Are there actions in the book we can do together as we read?  Can I sing part of the book? Does the story line or illustrations provide good opportunities for me to ask questions as I read? Are there animal sounds we can all say together? Does the book have a good rhythm that caregivers could bounce little ones to as I read? These are the questions I ask when searching for books that build participation during reading, leading to greater engagement.  Excellent examples include Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr. and From Head to Toe by Eric Carle.

Developmentally Appropriate

This phrase is kind of loaded as kids develop at different rates, but there are some things that work best for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Babies love high contrast books and books with pictures of other babies, especially their faces. For example, You and Me, Baby by Lynn Reiser. Toddlers thrive on simple stories with 1-2 sentences per page and objects that are easily labeled. Definitely read my Toddler Storytime Authors to Know post. Preschoolers will enjoy more sophisticated stories filled with interesting vocabulary words, humour, description, and  chances for them to connect personally to the book.  Preschoolers especially love books with a surprise element.

Clear Narrative

For toddlers and preschoolers, I look for picture books with an easy-to-follow narrative. Something with a clear beginning, middle, and end. If I find a book is confusing or goes all over the place then I skip it.  My end-of-the-year storytime favourites booklists are filled with examples of clear narratives.

Everyday Diversity

I look for books that show people from a variety of backgrounds. Due to a lack of diversity in picture books in general it’s really easy to go an entire storytime session featuring books with only white, middle class, typically developing children.  So this is something to be aware of and to seek out in order to reflect many ways of being in the world.  Definitely check out the blog Everyday Diversity for recommendations.

Genre Variety

I’m trying to get better at this one, but I look for storytime books in our fiction and non-fiction section.  Information books make great pairings with story books and can appeal to children who enjoy learning facts. I have a co-worker who starts every storytime with a poem and I think that’s a great way to expose caregivers to our poetry collections.  I’ll be writing a blog post soon with my favourite information storytime books.

Books You Love

When you pick a book you personally enjoy your love for the story will show.  Maybe you are drawn to the artwork. Maybe it’s a book you remember reading as a child. Maybe it made you laugh so loud your partner looked at you like you are from another planet. Choosing books these types of books allows you to bring your enthusiasm for stories into circle time in an authentic way.

Choosing Storytime Books

Want more tips? Check out these blog posts from around the web with additional tips for how to choose storytime read alouds.

Jbrary Storytime Booklists

You can also browse our Pinterest boards for books by theme.

Additional Storytime Booklists

  • Everyday Diversity: This blog is a “tool to help librarians find storytime books that predominantly feature People of Color and Native Americans as main characters in contemporary everyday life.”
  • Storytime Share: This blog hosted by Saroj Ghoting features book reviews and more that include early literacy messages you can pair with picture books when reading them at storytime.
  • New Books for Storytime: A 2017 Infopeople webinar that features “new picture books that will engage the storytime audience.”
  • New Books for Storytime: A 2016 Infopeople webinar by the same presenter, Penny Peck.
  • What’s New for Storytime: A 2012 Infopeople webinar that “give you ideas to refresh your storytimes with new books to engage your audience.”

A Link Extravaganza!

Anyone binge watching RuPaul’s Drag Race right now? Just me? Anyways. One of the things I said I would blog about are all the cool things I find online that relate to the field of serving children.  So here is my first link extravanganza! Check out these awesome resources.

Webinars

New Ways to Supercharge Your Storytimes
October 9th, Free! Archived version available.
“With early literacy instructor Saroj Ghoting and other experts in the field, WebJunction recently updated and expanded the training to fully cover the early literacy components, to consider storytimes through an equity lens, and to strengthen assessment of the impact of library storytimes. Find out why HOW you interact with children and families is as important as what you do or how frequently you do it.”

Story-times and Transitions with Heart: Lessons for Early Educators from Youth Librarians
October 24th, Free!
“Participants in this webinar will learn simple ways to make whole group experiences more lively and inclusive by incorporating the power of music, rhyme, and social-emotional concepts. These same building blocks can be used to ease transitions and make for a happier classroom environment.”

Trauma-Informed Care in ECE: Key Strategies for Healing and Behavioral Change
October 17, Free! Archived version available.
“Children with a history of trauma often “act out” their distress through behaviors that are challenging for adults to understand.  This session, presented by Barbara Sorrels, Ed.D., author and child development expert, will focus on understanding the message of challenging behavior and strategies to help children heal.”

Blog Posts

Teaching Poetry to Middle Graders
Chalk full of resources that are super helpful to anyone running a writing program for school-age kids.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) Book Award Finalists Announced
Check out some amazing Canadian children’s books for the 8 award categories.

2019 Picture Book Preview, Part 5
So many good books coming out next year!

Monolingual in a Multilingual World? Let’s Talk (and Maybe Sing) about It
I loved this post on the ALSC blog that pushes us to incorporate a variety of languages in storytime. Videos included!

Feel free to leave a comment with a professional resource you’ve recently discovered!

 

Guest Post: Using Mirrors in Storytime

Did you know we have an open invitation to write a guest post? Well we do! Today I am delighted to feature a guest post by Katherine Hickey, a Children’s Librarian with the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City.  She also wrote about Art Making for Earliest Learners awhile back and folks, let me tell you, she needs a blog of her own! Now she’s here to teach us how to use mirrors (squee!) in storytime.  Take it away, Katherine!


Mirrors are often present in early childhood play areas as they help support important developmental milestones.  French psychiatrist Jacques Lacan even named an entire developmental stage associated with the use of mirrors, called “the Mirror Stage.” In this stage, infants and toddlers learn to recognize their reflection which is a crucial step to later being able to identify themselves as “I.” Even though the Mirror Stage has been replaced and renamed in other more popular Child Development theories, reflection and recognition remain essential.

My library has handheld mirrors for children to play with during our playtimes which are always wildly popular.  This got me ruminating on ways to use them during storytime to build early literacy skills, and so I bought a box of 24 mirrors and did some experimentation.  They have been a fun alternative to the traditional props like bells and scarves, and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned so far! All of these activities can be modified for a baby, toddler, or preschool audience.

Here are a few logistical considerations and suggestions:

  1. Hand the mirrors to the caregivers, not the child, for safety reasons. The caregiver can then decide if they want to hold it or allow their child to hold it.
  2. Clearly communicate the “ground rules:” if a mirror gets broken bring it to the librarian and we will hand you another one, be gentle with your mirror, when you are not using the mirror, keep it next to you.
  3. Decide when you are going to gather up the mirrors (at the end of the program, at the end of the activity, etc.) and communicate this to the group so that the children can anticipate when they will have to hand them back.

Developmental Tips to Share with Parents:

  1. Children begin to develop self awareness (e.g. recognizing self in a mirror) between 15 and 24 months[1].
  2. Using mirrors with infants is a great practice, even if they are not yet developmentally able to recognize themselves. Mirrors provide sensory exploration and encourage curiosity. They are also great for bonding between caregiver and baby, which helps form a secure relationship to later learn how to read. [2]
  3. Self-awareness can take a while to develop.  It’s normal for children to be inconsistent in their self-awareness. Sometimes they’ll recognize themselves in a mirror or picture, sometimes they won’t. [3]
  4. After the age of two, this self awareness leads to the development of “self consciousness.” They are becoming aware of how they are perceived by others. [4]
  5. Having your child grip the mirror will help them strengthen their motor skills and hands.  This is important for them to learn how to hold a book and turn a page, and later learn how to write.[5]

Mirror Activities:

  1. Exploration before storytime.  Handing out mirrors to children as they enter the storytime space gives them something to explore and fidget with while waiting for the program to begin.
  2. Learning facial features.  Have the grownup hold the mirror up to their child’s face and point to their facial features while singing songs like “This is the Way we Wash our Face,” “Eye Winker,” or “Here Are My Knees.” This helps reinforce vocabulary.
  3. Looking at clouds. Take the group outside and have them set the mirrors on the ground and look at the reflection of the sky.
  4. Looking at scarves. Put the mirror on the ground and have the child float a scarf above it to see its reflection.
  5. Peek-a-boo. Have the child play peek-a-boo with themselves while looking in the mirror. You can pair this with the song “Peek-a-boo.”
  6. Mirrors to see behind you.  Have the caregiver hold up the mirror above the child’s head, slightly tilted forward. The child should be able to look in the mirror and see what’s behind them. You can use this as a prompt to learn directional words, like “in front of” “behind” “to the side,” etc.
  7. Counting.  Hand every other caregiver some kind of plastic toy (a ball, a block, in this case, a little frog). Have two caregivers pair up and put their mirrors together, with the toy on the ground. Have the children count how many frogs their see.

Book Pairings:

  1. Eye Color: Brown, Blue, Green, and Other Hues by Jennifer Boothroyd. Talk about different eye color and have the children try to identify their own eye color by looking in the mirror.
  2. Find a Face by Francois Robert.  This simple book is all about finding faces in every day objects.   There are few words on each page so it’s great for a baby or toddler audience.
  3. Fiona’s Feelings by Dr. John Hutton. Caregivers can hold the mirror up to their baby’s face and try to replicate Fiona’s facial expressions. This is also a great prompt to talk about feelings!
  4. What I Like About Me! By Allia Zobel Nolan and Miki Sakamoto. Each page of the book celebrates a body part. Have the children point to the corresponding body part while looking in the mirror as you read.  This rhyming book is a little text-heavy for babies and toddlers so I usually just read a few of the words on each page. You can also have the child look at themselves in the mirror and say what they like about themselves.

I’ve just started scratching the surface of all of the early literacy activities that can be done with mirrors, so please feel free to comment with your own ideas!

References:
[1] http://www.parentingcounts.org/information/timeline/baby-begins-to-develop-self-awareness-15-24-months/
[2] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10862960109548129
[3] Courage, M., Edison, S., & Howe, M. (2004). Variability in the early development of visual self-recognition. Infant Behavior and Development, 27(4), 509-532.
[4] Vyt, A. (2001). Processes of visual self-recognition in infants: experimental induction of ‘mirror’ experience via video self-image presentation. Infant & Child Development, 10(4), 173
[5] Julius, M., Meir, R., Schechter-Nissim, Z., & Adi-Japha, E. (2016). Children’s ability to learn a motor skill is related to handwriting and reading proficiency. Learning and Individual Differences, 51, 265-272.

We’ll Link to That: Fall 2018

We are so lucky to have a provincial newsletter written by youth services staff in British Columbia. Every quarter we contribute a column called We’ll Link to That! where we share our favourite resources. The Fall 2018 edition is here! Be sure to read the whole thing for some excellent youth services ideas. Want to catch up on our column? Browse through the We’ll Link to That category on our Professional Development page.

We’re kicking it old school this time around with a link round-up of some amazing ideas we’ve seen floating around the web. Need some fall inspiration? We’ve got you covered.

Over on our Jbrary blog we’ve been fortunate to have some amazing guest bloggers contribute to our Talking to Kids About Race series. Use a curated list of racially diverse storytime books and learn how to give early literacy tips around the topic of race. Following the social justice topic, we also wanted to share an inspiring post by Hi Miss Julie about Outreach in a Time of Uprising where she addresses how to be vulnerable in our work and how to pay attention to the needs of a community. And you know how strongly we feel about community outreach!

Looking for new ideas to serve your early years community? Short on funds? Check out these Homemade Interactive Play Stations intended to foster creative and imaginative play without costing a fortune. If you’re looking to build up your STEM programming for preschoolers, this Computational Thinking in Storytime with Robots blog post shows you the books, songs, felt activities, and extension activities that blend early literacy and technology seamlessly. Over on the ALSC blog we found these visual schedules a great first step in making storytimes inclusive for all families. We are so excited Miss Meg is back blogging and were wowed by her Fairy Tale Ball that capitalizes on the lasting power of folk and fairy tales for a wide age range. Lastly, we had heart eye emojis for this Mini Masters of Library Science program that is sure to inspire a new generation of youth services librarians!

Summer Reading Club is officially over (thank GOODNESS!) but how are you going to keep those eager readers plugged into the library? We got you. LibraryLaura and her coworker Jen reminded us that book character parties are a blast any time of the year. Their Elephant and Piggie Party is full of fun ideas for budding readers and could honestly be a monthly program. For more book character program ideas, check out our round-up post. Another Mo Willems inspired program (but you could use your favourite rhyming read) celebrates Nanette’s Baguette and its glorious rhymes. We love how Allison the Lightsome Librarian focuses on the importance of rhyme beyond the early years crowd and includes an awesome BINGO template in her School-Age Storytime. You might be all slimed out but Karissa the Ontarian Librarian shares some brilliant new stations for a slime program and also why libraries are the perfect place for slime. Finally, if you’ve been itching to try an escape room this post if for you! We love how Jennifer Johnson breaks down her process, shares resources and makes this Battle of the Bands Escape Room for Tweens and Teens seem downright doable.

The Fall is a wonderful time not only for new books but to start checking out what’s coming out next year too. Mile High Reading has not one, not two, but three glorious posts (so far!) featuring 2019 picture books to feast your eyes upon. And finally, we leave you with an absolute gift of a post by Abby the Librarian. Abby is new to her collection development role and her post on Building a Collection Development Toolkit is incredibly helpful if you purchase for all ages, but even her strategy of subscribing to a blog or weekly email would be helpful for youth services folks.

Have you seen any amazing program or collection resources out there? Send us an email at jbrary@gmail.com to tell us all about it!