My Instagram peeps finally came through and voted for my favourite category! Being *a bit* of a fantasy lover, I couldn’t pass up a chance to feature new releases starring magical creatures. Unicorns, fairies, mermaids, dragons, giant fish monsters. They are all here, folks. You’ll have a hard time keeping these on your shelves.
Check out the other posts in my 2019 Picture Books series:
Kids are never too old to read picture books. Heck, even adults still enjoy them! Kids of all ages also love being read to, so today I’m sharing some of my favourite picture books for school-age children.
I love having my local elementary school classes come to the library for a visit, and I’ve built up a collection of go-to books I can grab when they drop in. Most of these books work best with grades K – 2, though I’ve had Grade 5 students sitting rapt with attention. It really depends on the kids!
Have fun reading these to school-age kids and testing out which grades like them the best. Did I miss a favourite of yours? Let me know in the comments!
After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat A clever take on the classic nursery rhyme with themes of overcoming fears and resilience. Beautifully big pages make it good for large groups. I think the message strikes home the most with kids in grades 1 – 4.
Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex Perfect silly read for those Star Wars obsessed K – 2 students. Practice your Darth Vader voice before reading or enlist a strong reader to help you out.
The Bad Seed by Jory John; illustrated by Pete Oswald One of those magical books that works for any age. Older kids will get the humour, while your K – 1 kids are just beginning to have more complicated discussions around good and bad. I hear there’s a sequel coming out this year too!
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin Perfect for grades K – 3, this origin story of the moon offers an opportunity for soothing storytelling. There’s so many art extension activities you could weave in if you’re a teacher.
Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child; translation by Gordon Jourdain; illustrations by Jonathan Thunder A bilingual tale of a real and imaginative powwow. Can be used with any grade to show present day Ojibwe people.
Brief Thief by Michaël Escoffier; illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo Mistaken identity and a creature’s conscience make this a great choice for grades 2 – 4. You can swing it with younger kids but they often don’t get the concept of an inner voice. Funny, unique, recommended for fans of Klassen.
Chester by Melanie Watt Oh, Chester. I read this one in my Early Readers Book Club and then we create our own masterpieces. Best read aloud in two distinct voices. Look for the whole series if it’s a hit with your crowd.
The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell This cumulative tale features a brave girl and lots of scary funny monsters. Recommend for K – 2. My niece’s grade 2 class LOVED it.
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael Lopez Inspired by a true story, this book tackles sexism and a girl’s fight to overcome it. Even kindies are attuned to what’s fair and what’s not, but it packs the most punch with grades 2 – 4.
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld What do *you* see? This optical illusion book is highly engaging for your K – 2 crowd and will have them talking about it long after.
Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach An animal antic with a theme of belonging. Perfect for kindergarteners but can stretch up to grade 2 in my experience. I like asking the kids what they are excellent at after reading it.
Froodle by Antoinette Portis Kindergartens will adore this goofy sound book. I like how some of the words are in big word bubbles so you can encourage the emerging readers to help you pronounce them. Because they are made up words, there is no pressure to get them right!
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems I’ve read this successfully with many ages, but I actually think older kids appreciate the humour the most. Twisted fairy tales in general make great read alouds for school-age kids. And Willems is a master.
Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde; illustrated by John Parra I love story’s about the community coming together to do something mutually beneficial. An inspiring story that will encourage young activists.
Horse Meets Dog by Elliott Kalan; illustrated by Tim Miller Great for grades 2 – 4, this one works best with two distinct voices. Try asking a kid to read one of the parts. They definitely nail the school-age kid level of humour.
In a Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton; illustrated by Brian Deines. This one made my 2015 Favourite Storytime Books list too. As I said there, I love showing kids how other kids live around the world. There’s the perfect amount of text per page for preschool – Grade 2 in this one.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein Kids who are well versed in fairy tales will enjoy this one the most. A laugh out loud bedtime story. I highly recommend the sequel that came out last year, Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen This is my favourite of his “something gets eaten” books. I know a lot of people read these to preschoolers but I think they work the best with school-age kids. They get the humour and are much more versed in the art of someone getting their due. You could choose any Klassen book from the shelf and be all set though.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall I love reading this one to kids in preschool up to Grade 3. I *still* remember the terror I felt when faced with jumping off the diving board. Great to read during the summer time, obvi.
King Baby by Kate Beaton So fun. So funny. Any kids with younger siblings will especially love this one. When Sophie was 5-years-old she couldn’t get enough, especially when the baby learns to crawl.
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Adam Rex This one works best with older kids. I’m saying Grade 4 – 6. They get the jokes. They may even be inspired to write their own “origin” story.
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Basically all of Mo Willems books work great for school-age kids. This 2005 title is one of my favourites for grades K – 2. If they like it you can read them the companion book at your next visit.
Little Red by Bethany Woolvin This book has seen me through so many Summer Reading Club school visits. I can read it to any grade. One kid looked at me afterwards and said, “Savage.” That about sums it up. Woolvin’s got a few other fairy tale retellings too.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell; illustrated by Rafael Lopez. Another story about transforming a community through art. I love that this one is based on a true story. Great for grades K – 3.
Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos; illustrated by Joy Ang I sent this one in with Sophie’s Grade 2 class and they LOVED it. The teacher has requested all the other books in the series. It’s got some great metaphors and a twist ending to boot.
Moo! by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. This is one of my favourite books to read to kindergartners because even if they can’t read yet they can still help me tell the story. Great for building self confidence and a love of books.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown This one also works great for preschoolers. Fits in great with any themes about individuality or finding your own beat.
Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems As I said, basically all of Willems’ books could be on this list. I wanted to shine a light on this one because the rhyming is top notch. Perfect for kids who are learning to read! Recommended for grades K – 3.
Potato Pants by Laurie Keller So funny! I mean, it’s a potato with an eggplant nemesis and they are fighting over PANTS. Perfect for K – 4.
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton Beaton’s second appearance on the list! I took this to a school outreach event and a Grade 2 boy demanded that I read it aloud. It’s got a biracial princess and a farting pony. What more can you ask for?
Rot the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton Man, do I have a soft spot in my heart for this book. I love Rot so much. He believes in himself and isn’t afraid to take a chance. I also like how the other animals learn to love Rot too. Perfect for K – 4.
Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins Grab this for all your fall visits. It’s not an in-your-face Halloween story, but it can stand in if needed. We all have dreams, even stemless pumpkins. Great for K – 3.
Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Tony Ross. This is a lesser known choice, but you won’t be disappointed. It reads like a folktale with a twist ending that will leave kids gasping. I’ve had success with all school-age kids.
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora This one’s got awards all over the cover for good reason. A generous grandmother feeds the whole community who return her in kind. A beautiful uplifting story. I love to read it to grades K – 2 and talk about family and favourite meals.
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel The kindergarten classes I’ve read this to have been fascinated. Such a wonderful way to talk about perspective. I love teaching the song by Emily Arrow after reading the book.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciezka; illustrated by Lane Smith A classic. I remember reading this when I was in school. And you know what? It still pulls its weight. If you’ve never read this fractured fairy tale, you’ve got to put it on hold straight away.
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins You can find this one on my 2018 Favourite Storytime Picture Books list. As I mentioned there, the Mother Bruce series is also great for school-age kids. This one works great as a back-to-school read when you are meeting kids for the first time.
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Zachariah OHara Dyckman snags the last two spots on my list! This one is a funny tale about an adopted sibling. Great for when you want to liven up storytime and get the kids guessing about a character’s intent. I read it to kids in grades K – 2.
You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Liz Climo I bought this one for my nephew and he demanded multiple readings. It’s got the rainbow factor. It’s got the poop factor. It’s got the silly factor. What other animals would you definitely not want as a pet? Just the right amount humour for preschool – kindergarten kids.
There you have it! Certainly not a comprehensive list, but these are some of my favourites to read to school-age kids. Did I miss one of your favourites? Please let me know in the comments!
To infinity and beyond! Check out these 2019 picture books about space, the moon, stars, planets, and everything else out there in the great void. I am sad to report that Mythical Creatures lost out to this category once again in my Instagram poll. One day!
Which ones are you looking forward to reading? Or have you read one and loved it? Let me know in the comments!
Here are the other books in my 2019 Picture Book series:
Four years ago I shared the Spring Bunny Scavenger Hunt I created as a passive spring break program. It features 9 book character bunnies you can hide around your library for kids to search and find.
Since it’s been four years and the kids at my library have seen these bunnies already, I enlisted the help of my lovely co-worker Laura F. to create 6 new bunnies we could swap in. Thank you, Laura, for your amazing artistic skills!
I ran an Instagram poll this week asking which booklist you wanted to see next: Feelings or Mythical Creatures. I have to admit, I was rooting for the magical, but I stick to my word!
Social emotional learning is the process by which children understand and manage their emotions, show empathy towards others, and maintain positive relationships with the people around them. Asking children how a character feels when reading a book is a great way to help them develop these skills. Here’s some 2019 picture books that make it really easy to do just that.
See the other posts in my 2019 Picture Book series:
In my first post about repetition I discussed what happens in the brain when we repeat information to young children and how repetition can benefit learning and language acquisition. In Part 2 I’m going to explore how we can incorporate repetition in storytime. What does it actually look like? How much is too much? Will the families get bored? Will I get bored?
I don’t think there is one answer to these questions. My aim here is to share what some storytime experts have recommended and to share what I do in my storytimes. What do you do in your storytimes? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Repetition Within a Storytime
Matching Hello and Goodbye Songs
One way to include repetition within a storytime is to pick a matching hello and goodbye song. Something with the same tune and mostly the same words. It’s easier for families to pick up. I also like how it makes the storytime come full circle. Two of my favourites are Hello, Friends and Bread and Butter.
In babytime especially, I always sing a song or rhyme more than once. At least twice but sometimes even three times. When I’m teaching a new song or rhyme I will do it twice at the beginning of storytime and then repeat it twice at the end of the storytime. I explicitly tell caregivers that we’re going to repeat the song a lot because it helps us learn. It’s a great chance to give an early literacy message about the power of repetition!
One of the things toddlers and preschoolers love is when you repeat a song but change it slightly or add a new verse. Think of songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and try adding verses with different emotions. Or a classic like “Open, Shut Them” – have you ever tried the extended version? You can sing songs like this back-to-back or sing one verse at the beginning of storytime and do the second verse at the end of storytime. Either way you are helping to reinforce the words and concepts in the music.
One way to repeat the information in a story is to choose books that have a repetitive phrase or sentence. Before I read these books I introduce the phrase and have the whole group practice it together. I ask them to say it with me as I read. Not only do kids get practice saying a phrase over and over again but the storytime becomes interactive. If it’s a short phrase I will also point to it as I read. Here are some of my favourite storytime books with repetition.
There are some books where it’s easy to add an action with the phrase too. Here are some examples:
In addition to books with repetition in them, I’ve also done storytimes where I repeat the story in 2 -3 different formats. I always start by reading the book. Then I usually either do it again as a felt story or with props like puppets. This works especially well with toddlers. Older preschoolers may get bored if the story isn’t challenging enough, but toddlers will eat this up. If I have a small enough group I will pass out the felt pieces before I tell the story and have the little ones help me tell it by taking turns coming up to the felt board. This “one story, many ways” is highly recommended for sensory storytimes and for making storytimes inclusive to children of all abilities. I make a point to tell caregivers why we are repeating the story in a different format. They are sold though when they see how engaged their little ones become. You can do this with any book, but here are some I’ve shared on Jbrary before:
Pick a Sound of the Day
This isn’t something I’ve done a lot myself, but I’ll never forget the kindergarten teacher who told me she’d rather have a classroom full of kids who know the sounds of each letters than a classroom full of kids who can write each letter. I’ve seen many people blog about “Letter Storytimes” where they plan a storytime around a specific letter of the alphabet. That’s not really my style, but I could definitely see choosing a “Sound of the Day” like the “sss” sound or the “chh” sound and then choosing a book and song that both have that sound in it. Throughout the storytime you can draw attention to the sound and practice it repeatedly. I’d encourage caregivers to look for things throughout their day after they leave storytime where they can continue to repeat the sound with their little one. What a great way to support phonological awareness!
Repetition Across Storytimes
How Much To Repeat?
In Storytime for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy, authors Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin Diaz state, “Repetition is important for preschoolers, but even more important for babies from birth to age two. About two-thirds of the items are repeated in each storytime. Some items from the first storytime are skipped over for new items, and then we comeback to them during the last couple of weeks. Sometimes you’ll get requests for a favorite – never turn them down! Children need repetition to learn.” In STEP Into Storytime, Ghoting again notes that “Storytimes for infants often repeat 70 to 80 percent of materials from week to week.”
In my babytime programs I follow this loose guideline. I repeat about 75% of the songs and rhymes each week so that caregivers learn them and have a higher rate of singing them at home. Every session I’ll pick about 10 core songs and rhymes that we repeat each week and about 5 more to rotate in to add a bit of variety, especially for using props like scarves and egg shakers.
For toddlers and preschoolers, here are the things I repeat each week:
It’s not a coincidence that the songs I repeat are the ones the kids ask for again and again. They get a boost of confidence when they know them and can sing along. On my first post about repetition, a storytime presenter named April left a comment describing her “rhyme time” portion of storytime where she repeats the same three stretching and movement songs every week with great results. I’m here to confirm that you do not need to think of new songs and rhymes for every single storytime. Especially if you are doing themes. If I do a theme I pick a book, felt story, and one song that all connect but the rest of the content I keep consistent from week to week.
Repetition with Variety
Repetition is important, but as Betsy Diamant-Cohen, Melanie Hetrick, and Celia Yitzhak note in their book Transforming Preschool Storytime, “Repetition with variety is the name of the game… in order to make things really stick, in order to facilitate learning and improve our memory, we do not just need repetition – we also need variation. Psychologists have shown that repetition with added variation in context or task demands can strongly enhance learning and memory.”
So what does this look like in storytime? With songs and rhymes, I like to introduce the first verse one week and then expand upon it in the coming weeks. For example, I love teaching the kids Bananas Unite and then introducing subsequent fruits and vegetables over the course of the 10-week storytime session. Even better, I ask kids to help me make up our own verses!
Here are some of my other favourite songs to adapt and change over the course of a storytime session:
Another way to repeat with variation is through stories themselves. As I mentioned above, I love doing the “one story many ways” model. Instead of repeating the story within a storytime, you can also repeat the story in different formats over the course of a storytime session. This requires more prep work – choosing the books, gathering props, figuring out the extension activities, etc. In my Planning a Storytime Session post I shared how I implemented the model over the course of 9 weeks. Here’s what it looked liked.
I chose three books that I also had the felt and puppet version to. There are lots of different ways to add variety while also repeating information though! The Transforming Preschool Storytime book provides 8 recommended books with 6 weeks of extension activities if you want to see some clear examples. I also recommend the books Read! Move! Learn! and Books in Motion.
How much of your storytime do you repeat from week to week? What are your storytime tips and advice for implementing repetition? I’d love to chat in the comments!
You all said you liked posts where I showcase new picture books based on a theme so I’m making this a huge series! Seriously. There will be about 15 more of these.
I’m kicking the whole thing off with a list perfect for International Women’s Day. Check out these 2019 picture books featuring fierce girls and women. Get your collection development budget ready, friends, because you’re going to want them all.
Here are the other posts in my 2019 Picture Book series (links will be added as as each post goes live):
I know Flannel Friday doesn’t do weekly round-ups anymore, but I still love the flannel community. When I saw Brooke post a picture of Mr. Panda on Instagram I begged her to write it up as a guest post here. Luckily, she agreed!
Brooke Cusmano is a recent graduate of the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She loves her new gig as a Youth Services Librarian at Rolling Meadows Library, which is located in a northwest suburb of Chicago. You can follow her on Instagram @brookethelibrarian. Take it away, Brooke!
Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony is one of my favorite books to read for either a preschool or toddler storytime. It’s a versatile book that can be used for a variety of themes such as manners, kindness, bears or the letter P. It makes a nice flannel, too, with the colorful donuts contrasting against the gray background and simple black and white animals. And because of the repetition, Please Mr. Panda is also an easy book to do from memory or from a few notes.
6 Tips for Creating Awesome Flannel Stories6
1. Bigger is Better
As long as you have the storage and a big enough flannel board, make the pieces big enough that everyone in the back can see them.
2. Photocopy the animal from a book (or use an image /clipart from online) and then trace the outlines onto a piece of felt.
This is a technique that Miss Darlene from the Rolling Meadows Library taught me. It is a fool-proof / non-artsy-person way to create a flannel.
For Please Mr. Panda, I first photocopied all of the animals from the book, increasing the size of the penguin and the skunk, yet still keeping within proportion to the rest of the animals.
Once photocopied and cut, I traced the panda flippedover so that the lined side became the backside of the flannel piece.
3. It’s Not You, It’s the Scissors
If you find yourself struggling to cut through felt. STOP, and get a new pair of scissors.
This freshly cut white felt outline is the piece in which all other colored felt pieces will be glued onto, which brings me to my 4th tip…
Layering felt pieces brings a thickness and brightness in color to the flannel. It’s also a lot easier than trying to color felt with a marker.
Once you’ve completed the white felt piece, layer all of the other black and colored pieces on top of it. I cut out the next pieces from the original photocopy. In the picture below I am cutting out the arm and the legs.
Flip these pieces over as well and trace the outline onto black felt. I used a SILVER SHARPIE for dark felt.
Once these pieces are cut, we glue them in place onto the white outline.
5. Use Elmer’s Glue, lots and lots of Elmer’s Glue
Especially around the edges. The felt absorbs the glue, so you basically need a puddle to get the layers to stick together. When the glue dries the felt hardens and becomes nice and stiff.
We continue on this way…cutting from the photocopied panda, tracing onto the felt, and then gluing onto the white template until the panda is complete. I actually decided to make the Panda two-sided so I could turn him over every time he says, “No, you cannot have a donut. I have changed my mind.” Unfortunately these two pieces did not fit seamlessly, so I built the gray piece to fit in between them. This ended up being a much thicker piece than I usually like, but it didn’t fall off the flannel board – so a win!
6. Google Eyes!
I love the use google eyes whenever possible on flannels because…umm…google eyes. In this flannel I used them on the whale, penguin and skunk.
I hope these tips help you to create the flannels of your dreams. 😛 These techniques can be used with any illustration or clip art you find, whether in a book or online. Happy Flannel Making!