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.
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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.
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!