Bilingual Storytime Resources

Over the years we’ve received many emails inquiring about bilingual, specifically Spanish language, storytime resources.  Though I grew up in California and took over four years of Spanish in high school I don’t program in Spanish in my current job. But that doesn’t stop the librarian in me from wanting to do the research! I’ve compiled all of the websites, books, and songs I could find on this topic.  If you know of something I missed, please leave a comment so I can add it in!  I view this post as a living document that will constantly be updated as new resources become available.
Looking for languages other than Spanish?  Dana wrote a guide to Multilingual Storytimes.

Courses

Professional Development Books

Webinars

All of the webinars listed here are free.

Songs and Rhyme Videos

Websites

Blog Posts

Please feel free to leave a comment with advice, tips, or resources related to running a bilingual storytime program! If you know of resources for bilingual storytimes in languages other than Spanish and English let me know and I’ll create a separate section at the end of the post for those.

Guest Post: Art Making for Earliest Learners

I am super excited to share this guest post all about art for babies and toddlers. Offering a diverse array of programs for our under 5 crowd is something I’d like to work towards at my own library and this post gave me so many ideas. Thank you to Katherine Hickey and Heather White for sharing your brilliance! Katherine Hickey is a Children’s Librarian with the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City. Heather White is an art educator in Oklahoma City. She leads workshops for the Metropolitan Library System and works as a museum educator at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

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Art-making and art instruction are staples of library programming. Most libraries offer some kind of art program on a regular basis targeted towards adults or children. At the Belle Isle Library (Metropolitan Library System) in Oklahoma City, staff had offered a “Waffles and Watercolor” class, as well as “Make and Take” craft programs for kids, and regular art activities integrated into existing Teen programs. The success of these programs reflects a high interest in art from our community. In fact, the art sections of our collections are some of the highest circulating! However, there were no art classes for those that make up a majority of the attendance at our children’s programs: babies and toddlers. In response to this need, we – Katherine, Children’s Librarian and Heather, a local art and museum educator – created a monthly art program specifically for children 18 months to 4 years old called “Little Hands Art Camp” (LHAC).

Little Hands Art Camp

LHAC occurs every Thursday at 10 AM and lasts 45 minutes. Heather selects the art project, and two age-appropriate books related to the theme for the day. Heather starts off by reading a picture book to the group, then introduces the project and materials for the morning and does a short demonstration. She then asks adult caregivers to find a spot at the table and lead their child in art making, one-on-one. Families work for 20-25 minutes, after they are finished, they are invited back to the storytime mat for a final book reading while their projects dry. The program ends with a final song (“I Had a Little Turtle”), bubbles, and handing out “I Visited the Library” stickers. The format of LHAC has undergone several iterations. We settled on its current format, with two books, a song, and bubbles, in addition to the actual art-making to elongate the program to 45 minutes.

Outcomes

The program gained a surprising momentum, at one point reaching 70 (including parents) in attendance. As a result, the program was changed to registration only. LHAC now averages 40 to 50. There are several factors attributed to the program’s success:

Positive Perception of the Library:

We found that parents at our libraries did not intuitively assume library programs could be offered for very young children. Even upon learning of our baby storytime, they often say “I didn’t know you could do storytime for babies!” This program has helped parents view the library as a place that welcomes babies and supports their growth. After the program, parents will often move to the children’s area to play with the available toys and look at books.

Developmental Growth

Art programs strengthen fine and gross motor skills, eye tracking, color awareness, vocabulary, and sensory processing. These are all skills that support early literacy. This is particularly important as researchers have noted that more children are lacking the necessary fine motor skills to succeed in school.

Materials Exploration

LHAC gives participants, both children and adults, the opportunity to explore many types of art making materials. Children have the opportunity to play with materials in a variety of textures, shapes, and sizes, and adults learn about unfamiliar age appropriate art making materials they can use at home, such as liquid watercolors, paint sticks, glitter glue, etc..

Creativity

Heather designs open-ended art making projects to encourage personal expression and freedom. These open-ended projects set LHAC apart in that participants are not tracing their hand or all making the same “snowman” or “rainbow.” Rather, children create expressive, abstract works of art that are often beautiful and surprising. Caregivers have often commented that they find the open-ended format refreshing.

Strengthened Caregiver-Child Bond

Caregivers lead their child in the activity, not the instructor. Not only does this encourage direct engagement between caregiver and child, it also provides hands-on training for parents on how to repeat the project of the day, or use the materials of the day, at home on their own.

Additionally, the name of the program has lent itself well to branding and various extension programs. The library system’s marketing department designed a button logo for the program, and each participant receives a button for attending. During the summer of 2017, we hosted a “Little Hands Art Camp: Summer Edition” which led to a collaborative mural project around the art of Eric Carle, and we have brainstormed for a program called “Tiny Hands Art Camp” for a 3 month to 18 month-old program.

Projects

Descriptions and materials for past projects can be found on Heather’s blog, Play Free and Create.

Conclusion

Art for babies and toddlers might seem particularly messy, or difficult to implement, but it is not any more work or planning than what you probably already do for a baby storytime or lapsit. With a good format and unique art projects, you have everything necessary to start a successful early childhood art program at your library!

Guest Post: Talking to Kids About Race in Storytime and the Let’s Talk About Race Tooklkit

Today’s guest post continues a conversation about talking to kids about race in storytime that I began to ponder last year. My initial post, Talking to Kids About Race, was followed by a guest post sharing racially diverse storytime booklists.  This guest post by Jessica Bratt delves deeper into the topic of talking to kids about race in a storytime setting. Jessica shares her personal journey relating to this topic and shares a toolkit she created for library staff who do storytime. Take it away, Jessica!

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I attended the 2018 Partners for a Racism-Free Community forum entitled, Standing at the Intersections. This forum talked about racial equity and inclusion that intersects with a person’s identity. Charlene Carruthers, their keynote speaker, talked about the work she has done with BYP100, her upcoming book, and how we could take part in seeing the world as it should be. Her Q&A session resonated with me because her responses were absolutely poignant in understanding the work early literacy/youth services librarians have towards inclusion in storytimes.

The first question a person asked was how does one go about doing self-work and why do they need to do self-work. Carruthers talked about how self-work is harder, yet should be higher than self-care (Agnes Wainman explained self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”) because we are learning what we need to do to heal our traumas (big or small) to be a better person. It is learning about ourselves and how we can impact the world. Where does one begin to do the formidable process of self work? By using these questions as guidance:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What are my self interests?
  3. Who are my people?
  4. Who am I accountable to?
  5. What am I best positioned to do?

Another attendee followed up with a question of how do you get kids to intersect with others from all walks of life to have conversations about social justice terms: power, privilege, access, oppression, etc? Her response was that you create child-friendly components of whatever work you are doing and make a space to invite both groups into the room.

That self-work was how the Let’s Talk About Race series developed. It provides a child-friendly space to address inclusion and diversity to make space for everyone in the room. I saw talking about race as part of the self work that I needed to do (that we all should be doing). In part because who I am is integral to my profession. As an African-American librarian, I am a descendant of slaves and can trace back my history to 1796 when my great-great-great grandmother was born a slave in South Carolina, her father was sold when she was a baby and then she was sold to the Liddell plantation.

As a professional librarian, I am also a Youth Services Manager and it is my responsibility to help prepare children with the tools they need to be successful. That is how I settled on creating the Let’s Talk About Race toolkit.  I wholeheartedly believe that the celebration of diversity and inclusion starts at birth. I am accountable to my community, to the future generations if I do try to do my best in providing tools to disrupt biases creating a world where kids can recognize, accept, and celebrate differences. One of my favorite books is Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood because ‘you are loved and so are they’ is a world truth that has been fractured, distorted, rebranded and coded into divisive messages that one group is always better than others.

A co-worker, Jeanne Clemo, an amazing early literacy instructor, brought into one of our library’s early literacy committee meetings the Jbrary post on talking about race. She talked about how the post made her think about what we could be doing more  in our storytimes for inclusion and diversity. We had conversations about what that could look like which enabled me to sit down and create a toolkit. I realized that through our conversations talking about race, which seemed natural to me in my storytime programming others had a hard time opening up to the possibilities partially because there were no guides or blueprints developed.

In a profession that is 88% white how could I create tools necessary to make something that is natural for me empowering for others? How do I teach others to talk about race especially if it was something that they never had to do before?

I did a webinar in January for Washington State Library about the toolkit I developed in providing caretakers with simple tools to start dealing with biases that develop at an early age. We as librarians have immense power in the way we prepare kids not only for early literacy, which translates to kindergarten readiness, but we also have power in how their social interactions with “others.” The library is free and open to the community which means we have the perfect opportunity to create inclusive environments where we are fostering appropriately aged dialogue about our humanity and legit science. Skin pigment is not a magical thing that just happens.

I will give a few highlights from the webinar that I hope will challenge you to create a balance of not only whatever fun storytimes you want to do, but remembering that you have a chance to model inclusion and celebrate diversity in the books that you choose and the parent tips that you speak.

Challenge Stereotypes

The New York Times summed it up best when they wrote a recent article, “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time.” Just like you would challenge gender roles, a book of all male inventors might make you uncomfortable. Women were inventors too! Well, race should be the same way. African-Americans are more than just entertainers, musicians, and civil rights activist. Are you portraying stories to your patrons of just regular black kids like Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall or Max and the Tag Along Moon by Flyod Cooper or I Got the Rhythm by  Connie Schofield-Morrison? Native Americans are still around today! Are you only reading books in your storytime that portray them in a certain historic era?

Change Your Thinking: Not a Checklist

The biggest issue is in how you model. We talk about storytime transitions. In those storytime transitions, early literacy educators have developed practical tips for caretakers to take from our storytimes to help encourage modeling at home.  Raising socially conscious kids or just good citizens or empathetic people is the same way. You can bring up these points naturally—in a non preachy, non checklist way—or in an I’ve done my good storytime universe deed of the day. This also should not feel like OMG–ANOTHER THING TO REMEMBER. If it is detracting from your storytime rhythm you are not doing it right. I’m a black librarian and haven’t missed a beat when pointing out features to kids and I have observed my storytime instructors doing it as well.

Resources to Help on Your Journey

A simple easy way to introduce talking about race (I would say babystep #1) is introducing your read aloud by simply saying, “The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney, an award-winning African-American illustrator.” This highlights the author’s race and let’s caretakers know that the picture book section is not just filled with all white authors/illustrators. Caretakers may have no idea that the picture book section is not just filled with white authors/illustrators.  Here are other books that work great for this purpose:

These two charts can be used to help staff start to think about how they can approach race in storytime.

Here are some more resources:

I hope that you can take this as a call to action in challenging yourself to add some solidarity work to your storytimes. I hope that we can be a better society. Fred Hampton said, “we can fight racism not with racism, but with solidarity.” Alex Haley said that “racism is taught and not an automatic behavior it is a learned behavior towards persons with dissimilar characteristics.” You do not have to embrace fear. Help empower families and children that they do not have to automatically learn to embrace ignorance and fear.

Let’s Talk About Race Educator’s Guide

Strengthen your knowledge on race and its negative impacts by getting a birds eye view on different past and present racial happenings.  

Books

Other great starts are the books Tai-Nehisi Coates writes and this amazing article/thinkpiece on race from national book award winner Ibram Kendi. For intersectional feminism 101: Melissa Harris-Perry’s Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America or Tamara Winfrey Harris’ The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women are great places to start.

Videos:

Blogs/Websites

2018 Picture Books: Cover Appeal

Last year I wrote a few posts featuring 2017 picture books I was excited to see based solely on their covers. I had a request to do a 2018 version so here it goes!  I know little or nothing about these books unless I’m familiar with the author or illustrator.  This is based purely on cover love.

There is 99.9% chance that I will love any book illustrated by Julie Morstad. Just a fact.

We have been blessed twice this year. Hallelujah.

I’m sorry but those miniature ponies are so freaking cute. Especially the one in the glasses!

Madeline 2.0?

Do you see how her hair looks like the crows?! Canadian author and illustrator bonus points.

A book about synesthesia? Right on.

When you have a 6-year-old who loves all things spooky, books like this suddenly become much sought after.

My library just updated our preschool STEM booklists so I’m bookmarking this one for next year.

And this one too. Girls in STEM are finally getting their space in picture books.

I’m drawn to the alternating colours in the title text.

Love the rhyming name and hoping for some bilingual action in this one. Also, those hoop earrings gurl.

Smash those gender stereotypes, Teddy!

Is it just me or are there relatively few picture books starring octopuses?  I love any book that promotes writing. Could be a CLEL Bell Award nominee!

I’ve seen tons of good buzz about this one. Had me at mermaid.

I’m drawn to the subltleness of the art work here. And the title is a great oxymoron.

Noted for a child wearing a head scarf on the cover. Could be a good one to recommend to parents looking to talk to kids about race.

I hope this book is about the power of imagination. One of my favourite covers this year.

I loved Little Red and read it to every single class I visited to promote the Summer Reading Club last year. Can’t wait for more feminist fairy tales.

I’ve been loving the recent picture books about grandparents and grandchildren.

I’m adding this one slightly begrudgingly because I have had it UP TO HERE with the rain in Vancouver this winter, but I love the cloud image and think many interesting conversations with kids could be started from that alone.

Just wow. Yes to dark skinned girls on book covers. Yes to hair love.

Stack the Cats was one of my 2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books so you bet I’m looking forward to this next one!

I love her powerful stance and the power in the title. Always looking for books that encourage kids to speak up for themselves.

All-star duo, ’nuff said.

I’m getting distinct Maybe Something Beautiful vibes which was one of my 2016 Favourite Storytime Picture Books and I ain’t mad about it.

This one reminds me of my niece Sophie to the highest degree. She is a little creator and I love seeing girls featured as makers.

Oooh, I wonder if this one takes place out on in the bayou. I love Preston-Gannon’s illustrations

This book speaks to the part of me that has watched every single nature documentary on Netflix.

Whoa. Sometimes you see a cover that pretty much blows your mind. Ain’t seen nothing like this before.

If you follow me on Twitter you know about my obsession with love poetry so I am here for this.

I actually feel like I’m in space when I look at this cover. Stunning.

If you follow me on Twitter you may also know about my mermaid obsession so I am doubly here for this.

New Patricelli, yay! She’s one of my toddler storytime authors to know.

Oh god. Is it a children’s librarian best friend or worst nightmare?

I can’t help but see Hagrid in this cover. Three cheers for diversity in body representation!

A superhero kid librarian?  TAKE MY MONEY.

We have a huge Indian community here in Vancouver and I am always looking for books with more Indian representation.

I recently wondered about the amount of car-centric picture books I read in storytime and am happy to see more eco-friendly options be published.

Where will Becker take us this time? I love how the stone is glowing.

Okay, how many times did you have to look at this cover before you spotted the horse? Because mine was at least 10 times.

What 2018 picture books are you excited about? 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!

Global Storytime Picture Books

Holy smokies, folks, am I excited to share today’s guest post! You all know I love me some storytime book lists. Today I am happy to feature guest blogger Kate Davis.  Kate is a storytime ninja, global literature fangirl, and agent of early literacy advocacy. She is based in San Diego. And she is here to provide tips on how to select and read picture books in storytime from all around the world.  I learned about so many new titles! Do you have a favourite global picture book you share in storytime? Leave a comment letting us know.

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Diversity is a mainstay in our culture and is slowly developing a presence in North American children’s literature. While we continue to fight for its presence, we can fill cultural gaps in our storytimes with global picture books that have been translated into English. These amazing publications give us the opportunity to not only help little ones develop an early understanding of diversity, but to peek into unfamiliar cultures through themes they can relate to.

Intentionally selecting global literature to read during storytime can be overwhelming. Doubts on what to choose, how to pronounce unfamiliar words, and how to answer possible questions is enough to send many of us back to our comfortable favorites, but international picture books offer so many fantastic benefits. They prompt conversation and offer variegated sounds, vocabulary and sentence structure. They develop a deeper understanding of creativity and broach unfamiliar themes. Most importantly, they normalize diversity, helping young readers to see and accept it as a natural part of civilization.

Authors and illustrators from every culture incorporate elements of their society’s history, values, and viewpoints into their picture books. Since every culture is different, we have to be aware that picture books, even when translated, can’t possibly translate into our individual sensibilities. We wouldn’t want them to! So as we read them, we need to note cultural markers such as a glass of wine on the dinner table in a book from southern Europe or soldiers with machine guns patrolling a city street in a story from Central America. Such subtle nods to cultural dynamics are eye-opening, even a little surprising to adult readers in North America. It’s important to carefully assess a global book before reading it aloud to ensure that its appropriate for your audience.

Another key difference is that many international picture books do not follow traditional North American formats. They may not adhere to build up-climax-conclusion storylines familiar to U.S. readers. Endings are often abrupt and random, even anticlimactic. While this certainly doesn’t negate the books’ integrity, awareness of it is key when reading aloud. As storytellers, we moderate our voices according to position in a story, so we can use our voices to soften an awkward transition or an abrupt ending. Fortunately, our young listeners aren’t as ingrained in standard formatting as adults are, so they won’t be dissuaded from enjoying a book because the ending doesn’t fit a predefined standard. They will relish the characters, the illustrations and differences that make the book unique.

Some global titles are less culturally specific and therefore may seem more universal in nature, such as those with anthropomorphic creatures. Subtle details, however, in both text and illustration may still convey cultural flavor that can lead to expanding young readers’ perspectives. In strong contrast, however, picture books from some regions, especially third-world countries, reflect the intensity and rawness of daily life; their narratives and illustrations may be considered too harsh for North American readers. Don’t depend on the publisher’s recommended age ranges for such titles–what may be appropriate for a five-year-old in a different part of the world may not be suitable for a five-year-old in North America.

Global picture books are an incredible resource and can truly expand the worlds of the little ones we serve. Illustrations, regardless of country of origin, always bridge cultural gaps while the narratives produce often unexpected themes, quirky details, and enchanting storylines. They’re easy to incorporate into your storytimes for any age and provide for new and stimulating conversation with kids and caretakers alike.

Tips and Tricks for Including Global Picture Books in Your Storytime!

  1. Read your global lit book in advance and really look at the details in all the illustrations. Make sure that everything is appropriate for your storytime age group.
  2. Practice reading your global lit aloud. Get comfortable with its rhythm, any unusual phrasing, and unfamiliar words/names. Don’t worry if your pronunciation isn’t perfect–have fun trying!
  3. Make notes of possible conversation prompts. Is there a different animal in the book than you usually read about? Is the character eating a different kind of food for lunch?
  4. Have a globe next to you during storytime and point out where your library is located and then where the book comes from. Toddlers and preschoolers may have little idea of distance, but you’re helping them develop a foundational awareness of geography.
  5. Encourage your storytime friends to practice saying the author’s and/or the characters’ names. Discuss how the names sound different than names they’re used to hearing. Have fun practicing new sounds and noting how different your mouth feels when you say them.
  6. Don’t stress about it! Remember that you probably already have some favorite international authors, including Marcus Pfister (Switzerland), Mem Fox (Australia), or Jean de Brunhoff (France).

Global Storytime Picture Books

The Fly (Horácek, P. (2015). The fly. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.)
Petr Horácek
Czech Republic
STEM, humor, novelty, bugs
Ages 3-7

Why is the fly always in trouble? All he wants is to do is exercise, visit the cows and eat his meals on time. But no one ever wants him around! In this clever novelty book, Horacek shares an entirely different perspective with readers while subtly sliding in some important facts about flies.

Good Morning, Chick (Ginsburg, M. (1980). Good morning, chick [Tsyplenok]. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.)
Text adapted from Tsyplenok by Korney Chukovsky
Translated by Mirra Ginsburg
Illustrated by Byron Barton
Russian Federation
Animals, farm, STEM
Ages 1-4

The farm is full of adventures for a brand new baby chick! Fun movements, sights and sounds encourage interaction from even the youngest readers as well as introduce early scientific concepts about farm animals. The illustrations beautifully portray the innocence of the chick with bright colors, simple outlines and subtle textures. Perfect read aloud for babies, toddlers and preschoolers alike.

Potty Time (van Genecthen, G. (2001). Potty time. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.)
Guido van Genechten
Belgium
Animals, concepts
Ages 2-4

Potty Time tickles toddlers with the unlikely pairing of animals giant and tiny and in between all sitting on Joe’s potty seat. It’s just the right size for Joe, but could it work for everyone else? Each animal is full of personality, from their colors and patterns to their size and speech.

Hippopposites (Coat, J. (2012). Hippopposites. New York, NY: Abrams.)
Janik Coat
France
Opposites, concepts
Ages Birth-4

Opposites don’t have to be standard when a clever hippo gets involved! This fun hippo introduces little ones to unconventional counterparts like positive and negative, clear and blurry, and opaque and transparent. Hippopposites is a great conversation starter and a fantastic way to help young readers look at things in a completely different light!

Bubble Trouble (Mahy, M. (2009). Bubble trouble. New York, NY: Clarion Books.)
Margaret Mahy
Polly Dunbar (illustrator)
New Zealand
Ages 2-8

Get ready for some bouncy adventures when a bubble floats away and causes some crazy bubble trouble! Through inventive rhymes and an infectious meter, readers young and older will be giggling by the end of the first page!

Guess What? (van Genechten, G. (2012). Guess what?. New York, NY: Clavis Publishing.)
Guido van Genechten
Belgium
Ages 1-4
Concepts, STEM

Lift the flap to see how one thing can look like another. Simple, bright and colorful, Guess What? prompts observation, inquiry, prediction, comparisons, imaginative responses and is a great conversation starter.

Millie and the Big Rescue (Steffensmeier, A. (2012). Millie and the big rescue [Lieselatte versteckt sich]. New York, NY: Walker Books for Young Readers.)
Steffensmeier, Alexander
Germany
Ages 3-8

It makes for a crazy day when all the animals on the farm end up high in the branches of a tree!
Fans of Click, Clack, Moo will love Millie and the Big Rescue–zany farm animals never fail to delight!

In the Meadow (Kato, Y. (2011). In the meadow. New York, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.)
Yukiko Kato
Illustrated by Komako Sakai
Japan
Ages 3-6

With soft greens, strong contrasts and incredible movement, In the Meadow invites young readers into the cool grasses to feel the tickle of a grasshopper, hear the song of the river and see the flash of a butterfly.

5 Cherries (Facchini, V. (2017). 5 cherries (Anna Celada Trans.). New York, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.)
Vittoria Facchini
Italy
Ages 3-8

Who knew that five red cherries could provide so much inspiration? Two small children imagine an afternoon away by finding inventive and creative uses for their special cherries. Humorous and imaginative, 5 Cherries features incredible artwork and subtle nods to a very difficult subject.

Chirri and Chirra (Doi, K. (2016). Chirri & chirra (Y. Kaneko Trans.). Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.)
Kaya Doi
Translated by Yuki Kaneko
Japan
Ages 2-5

As they ride their bikes through the forest, two little girls explore a new world filled with animals, treats, adventures and surprises. The enchanting colored pencil illustrations bring Chirri and Chirra’s world to life through texture, color and pure whimsy.

Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale
Divakaruni, Chirta Banerjee
India
Folk tale
Ages 4-up

Grandma goes for a visit, but the forest through which she travels is filled with peril. She’s tiny and frail, but oh so smart. Can she find a way to outwit the danger? This beautiful retelling of a Bengali folktale will have younger readers on the edge of their seats and rooting for Grandma!

Luke and the Little Seed (Ferri, G. (2015). Luke & the little seed. Hong Kong: minedition.)
Giuliano Ferri
Italy
Ages 3-7

When Grandfather gives him seeds for his birthday, Luke is disappointed. But with Grandfather’s a little guidance and a whole lot of patience, Luke discovers just how magical seeds can be.

The Bus Ride (Dubuc, M. (2014). The bus ride [L’autobus] (Y. Ghione Trans.). Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.)
Marianne Dubuc
France
Ages 4-7

Riding a bus all by yourself can be a big adventure. But you’re never alone when there are all kinds of friends to meet and adventures to be had!

2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

Hello, 2018! I am delighted that my first post of the year is one that I look forward to writing for many months. I’ve been keeping track of all the great picture books that work well in a storytime setting published in 2017.  I try these books out with groups of different sizes and different ages.  I give them my children’s librarian stamp of storytime approval! Before I jump into the books, visit these posts for even more storytime goodness:

I’m sure there are storytime stand-outs from 2017 that I missed, so please leave a comment with your picks! Without further ado…

5 little ducks5 Little Ducks by Denise Fleming
This one snuck in at the tail end of 2016 so I’m including it here since I just got to test it out.  This is a slight twist on the classic nursery rhyme with days of the week included and a Papa Duck who does the caretaking.  Nice big pages make it a good choice for big groups. Add this one to your singable books list.

babies can sleep anywhereBabies Can Sleep Anywhere by Lisa Wheeler; illustrated by Carolina Buzio
Perfect for babytime or pyjama storytime. Discover how different animals sleep, including the often weird positions babies find themselves in. The language is gentle and soothing but the illustrations will bring a smile to your storytime attendees.

Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke; illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
Set in a Nigerian marketplace, follow baby and his mama as they shop for food. This book can work in a babytime, just don’t feel pressure to read every single word. I think it works best with a mixed-age group.  The older kids can count along with you and the younger kids will be drawn to the baby protagonist. Bright, bold illustrations translate well for large groups.

chugga chugga choo chooChugga Chugga Choo Choo by Emma Garcia
I was SO EXCITED when I found out Garcia has a new picture book out.  Continuing with her transportation theme, this one features a train that visits different locations.  Different birds catch a ride as the train rolls along and it’s fun to count them as you turn the pages. Good for toddlers and preschoolers.  Another hit from this storytime heavyweight author.

everybunny danceEverybunny Dance! by Ellie Sandall
Sandall made my list last year too and is officially a storytime author to watch! This one is pure joy. You can have kids dance and sing along with you as you read or hold a dance party afterwards.  It’s got a sweet message about inclusion and friendship to boot. Worked best with toddlers for me, but you could definitely use for the entire 0 – 5 crowd. What’s even better? There’s a sequel coming out in 2018 called Everbunny Counts!

Firefighter Duckies! by Frank W. Dormer
Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, this is a funny storytime choice. I loved the repetition of sentences – They are brave. They are strong. – and the ultimate message about being kind too. The duckies help in all sorts of silly situations that are infused with good vocabulary. The nice big pages make this a stand-out choice!

found dogsFound Dogs by Erica Sirotich
My friend Shannon brought my attention to this gem. Count up to ten and then back down again as rescue pups get adopted. A child in a wheelchair adds much needed representation in picture books.  A great choice for toddlers and preschoolers – have them count along on their fingers as you read.

full of fallFull of Fall by April Pulley Sayre
The photograph queen returns with this leaf-tastic look at fall. Short, poetic sentences bring unique language to life.  You can also just describe the pictures with the kids and talk about what they see outside. It’s a perfect lead-in to a leaf craft project or a group walk around the neighbourhood. Pairs well with Sayre’s other seasonal books, Raindrops Roll and Best in Snow.

A Good Day for Hat by T. Nat Fuller; illustrated by Rob Hodgson
If you read one book to toddlers in storytime this year, make it this one! The repetition is built for their budding language skills. A bear finds the perfect hat to wear in every situation that appears. This one is begging to be made into a felt story.

Grandma’s Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood; illustrated by Priscilla Burris
Want a book about community, counting, and problem solving all rolled into one adorable package? I got you. I loved this family story and the fact that it counts up to 15 – rare for a picture book! Works best with small groups of toddlers or preschoolers.

hat on hat offmaple-leafHat On, Hat Off by Theo Heras; illustrated by Renné Beniot
The subject matter – getting dressed – is very toddler appropriate, and caregivers will empathize with the putting on and taking off aspect of dressing a child. The text is told in sentence fragments with an alternating “hat on”/”hat off” mantra.  Try bringing a hat with you to storytime and taking it on and off while you read to give the toddlers a clear understanding of what’s happening on the page.

hooray for birdsHooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins
If you love Hooray for Fish! then you must try this one too. Cousins is back with her large pages and brightly illustrated animals – this time with a focus on our featured friends. Have kids make the bird sounds with you or act out the bird actions. Both toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy.  I also love this book because you can skip a few pages if your crowd is restless and they’ll never know!

I am a Baby by Kathryn Madeline Allen; photographed by Rebecca Gizicki
Published in November 2016 but I’m still counting it. A new babytime gem, folks! The photographs are clear and depict a beautiful collection of diverse babies.  I love the simple sentences and repetitive sentence structure. It is baby focused featuring common things in a baby’s life such as a crib, bib, diapers, clothes, family members, and toys.

i am a unicornI am a Unicorn! by Michaela Schuett
Playing dress-up? Check. Fart jokes? Check. Annoyed friend who eventually comes around? Check. Recommended for preschool up to Grade 2. This is a silly, magical story about a frog… err I mean Unicorn who believes in themself.  You’ll get lots of giggles, I promise.

I am dreamingmaple-leafI am Dreaming of…Animals of the Native Northwest by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall
This board book features illustrations from 10 Northwest Coast Indigenous artists. Gleeson-Lyall lives in Vancouver is a Coast Salish, Musqueam writer and I love to promote a local author.  Each animal is given an action that kids can easily mimic. Because the book is small it works best with small groups of babies and toddlers. A stunning delivery.

I Got a New Friend by Karl Newson Edwards
Short, simple sentences depict a young girl and her new puppy as they get to know each other and care for each other. I recommend this one for toddler or preschool storytime – it’s a quick read but will garner lots of discussion about pets.  Some funny moments are sprinkled throughout the book.  Can’t beat those adorable illustrations.

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Nice big pages that were built for storytime. This one went over well with preschoolers but I think you could use up to grade 2. I told them my story about grabbing onto my swim teacher’s leg before she lowered me off the diving board while I screamed at the top of my lungs.  A great jumping off point for discussing emotions, especially how we overcome our fears. Use in the summer months for extra ummph.

legend of rock paper scissorsThe Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Adam Rex
You know when you have that Grade 4 class coming to visit and you can’t think of anything to read them that will have them ROFL. Look no further! This book fits a needed niche of funny, attention-grabbing picture books you can use for school-age storytimes. I found the older the better – they’ll get more of the humour.

Life on Mars by Jon Agee
A total hit with the preschool crowd. First we sang Zoom, Zoom, Zoom then we read this book about an astronaut determined to find life on Mars. It’s one of those books where the audience knows the secret that the character doesn’t which the kids find hilarious.  Perfect amount of text per page for a storytime.

Mama, Look! by Patricia J. Murphy; illustrated by David Diaz
Toddler storytime, I am calling your name! This book was pretty much built on how toddlers acquire language. It’s got the repetitive phrase (which you can change to any person! Even a child’s name!), the labeling of objects, and the big beautiful illustrations.  I’ll be using this one for years to come.

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Brian Biggs
Is there a more Vancouver book? So many people here live in apartments and high rises. As you move up the floors, kids get a chance to guess who is making all that noise.  It is required of you to sing The Elevator Song as soon as you finish this one.

Now by Antoinette Portis
The concept of this book is simple and beautiful. Follow a little girl as she points out all her current favourite things. The language has a nice rhythm and the amount of text works for as young as 1-year-olds. The cover captivated me. A gentler read that is perfect for the end of storytime.

Peek-a-Boo Zoo! by Jane Cabrera
I’m always hesitant about books about zoos, but this one doesn’t feature the zoo at all until the last page and even then not heavily. Use with babies and toddlers – it’s short, sweet, and interactive. It’s got good repetition and you can talk about the importance of play with caregivers after reading it. Cabrera’s a storytime staple.

plant the tiny seedPlant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson
The interactive book trend continues and I’m not complaining. Kids love to tap, clap, and wave while you read and watch the flowers bloom. This is a secretly STEM book too – it’s all about a plant’s life cycle. Even with big groups where it’s too hard to have every child touch the page, you can still do some of the actions as a large group.  Grab all of Matheson’s books for your storytime shelves.
Spunky Little MonkeySpunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson; illustrated by Brian Won
Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, this is an active one.  Have kids do all the actions with you – clap, stomp, shake, cheer.  I had one preschool class stand while we read the book to make it extra fun. Follow up with Let’s Get the Rhythm.  An all-star team created this one and it shows.

Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani
A good choice for toddlers or preschoolers, this book features adorable cats and math all in one. I am dying to make a felt story version of this one – someone beat me to it, please! Take your time when reading it to practice counting and basic addition. Works best with smaller groups due to the size of the pages.

Thank You Bees by Toni Yuly
Perfect for babies and toddlers, this book expresses thanks to things in our natural world such as bees, clouds, the sun, and sheep. On every other page you get to utter a simple thank you to those things. Simplicity at its best and perfect for building mindfulness into storytime.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

I bought this one for my 4-year-old nephew and we had to read it multiple times and then tell it orally over and over again. Pinkney brings his award-winning illustrations to the classic tale. Highly recommended for preschool – grade 2 storytimes. Getting the kids to act out the trip trapping will help hold their attention. I like using the one story, may ways method and retelling it with a felt story the next week.

Truck, Truck, Goose! by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Zoe Waring
A funny tale of friendship and working together. This one works best with preschoolers – point out the words as you read to incorporate some print awareness. Since a lot of the story is told through the illustrations, take your time as you read and ask questions like, “where is goose going?” or “what happened to the truck?” If you have a small enough group it’s fun to play the classic game when you’re done reading.

maple-leafUp!: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes; illustrated by Ashley Barron
A good one for babytime, especially if you have a smaller crowd as the book itself is on the smaller side. The phrase “upsy daisy” is on every page and you can have caregivers lift babies as you read. I loved how it showed people outside of the parents (aunties and uncles, yay!) who care for children.  A truly diverse look at something every baby experiences.
We are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner; illustrated by Ben Clanton
I have been excited about this book since I found out it was being published. I love Berkner’s songs for storytime and this is one of her top tracks put into picture book form. If you know the song, you can sing the book. The side conversations the dinosaurs have can be skipped if you have a restless group or hammed up if you’ve got preschoolers. Lovely bright, big pages are an added bonus.
We Love You, Rosie! by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Linda Davick
I love Davick’s Say Hello for storytime and am happy to see her partner up with Rylant for this storytime gem. Explore opposites with the help of an adorable pup. The repetitive phrases and bright, bold illustrations make it an A+ choice for toddler storytimes.
maple-leafWet by Carey Sookocheff
There are so many moments in this book that kids will relate to. The length makes it good for toddlers, but preschoolers will have the most fun talking about the situations as you read. Explores the concept of being wet – the good and the bad. The last page features  wet kisses from a dog and cat which sealed the deal for me.
Where is Bear? by Jonathan Bentley
Nice big pages make this an excellent choice for large storytime groups. A little boy searches for his bear while the audience sees glimpses of the furry animal on each spread. A surprise ending adds a nice twist. The amount of text makes it passable for toddler storytime, but preschoolers will have the most fun pointing out the bear one each page.
Whose Poop is That? by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Kelsey Oseid
I really need to do a better job at incorporating non-fiction into storytime. This one was a total hit with preschoolers, not surprisingly. Not only do they get to guess about poop they also get to learn about different animals. Don’t worry about reading every single fact if the group is squirmy. Caregivers can check out the book and spend hours on the details. Poop books never stop being popular.
maple-leafWild One by Jane Whittingham; illustrated by Noel Tuazon
So fun fact – Jane and I are children’s librarians in the same library system! Jane wrote the perfect storytime book with this metaphorical journey through a child’s day. A little girl’s actions are compared to different animals and you could totally act them out while you read. The short text makes it a great choice for toddler storytime or a restless group of preschoolers. Bonus: I can tell families about the local connection!
maple-leafYou Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith; illustrated by Danielle Daniel
I’d read this one for any age but it’s got just the right amount of text for babytime and toddler storytime. This book is needed in the world and can help foster discussions around supporting each other and fostering empathy. Smith and Daniel are Indigenous women who have brought us the perfect storytime book that portrays First Nations people in the present day.  After reading you can ask kids how we can hold each other up.

 

Guest Post: Modeling Pretend Play at Storytime

At our November Library Services for Children Journal Club meeting we discussed executive function.  One of the ways we can help children develop executive function skills is through pretend play.  Stephanie M. Carlson is a professor and director of research at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota. She wrote an article about why pretend play helps executive function and states, “We think it’s because pretending puts “psychological distance” between a child and the task at hand. Pretending helps a child step back from a problem and think about it from multiple angles. It helps him see different options for finding a solution. Pretending also uses the same brain networks as real behavior. So if a child practices using pretend play, it’s more likely he’ll use those same brain networks in real situations. It’s similar to the advice “fake it till you make it.”

Today’s post is a guest post by my friend and colleague Kate Lowe. Kate Lowe works as a children’s librarian in Vancouver, BC.  She enjoys testing out new storytime material on her 4 year old son. She is also living proof that anyone can learn to play the ukulele.  She’s here to share 9 ways we can encourage pretend play in storytime.  We’re taking the research and putting it into practice!

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Research shows that there are a million and one great reasons to encourage children to engage in pretend play. So how can we encourage the parents, caregivers, babies, toddlers and preschoolers at our library to play “make-believe”? By showing them how it is done and reminding caregivers to try this at home.

1.  Lay an Egg

If you’ve got egg shakers at your library you have everything you need to demonstrate imaginary play. Well, an egg shaker and a willingness to make a fool of yourself in front of a room full of storytime families.

  • Step 1: Take an egg shaker
  • Step 2: Sit on it
  • Step 3: Squawk and flap like a chicken
  • Step 4: Lay the egg
  • Step 5: Cradle it in your hands and treat it like a delicate baby. Proudly show the egg to the audience.
  • Step 6: Ask if they are ready to play with shakers too

2.  Row, Row, Row Your Ukulele

Pretend your trusty uke is an oar to help you paddle down the stream. Try putting the instrument down and all of you can paddle together. It’s a nice variation on the traditional rowing actions. You can even change the words to “Paddle, paddle, paddle your canoe gently down the stream…”

3. Felt Piece Meet and Greet

Before starting a felt story take two of the felt pieces and bring them to life with sounds and movement in the air. You only need a few moments of clip clopping the horse along the top of your felt board, or having a cat chase the mouse up your arm to give your audience the idea.

4. The Original Hand Puppet

Turn your hand into a puppet named Herbert. After a fun storytime activity turn to your hand and have a conversations:

  • You: “Did you like that Herbert?”
  • You (aside to the audience): “This is Herbert.”
  • You: “So did you like the song Herbert?”
  • Herbert (nodding): “Yep I did!”
  • You: Let’s give ourselves a round of applause for that song!
  • Herbert: “Good idea”

Best advice I ever got from a puppeteer was: Look at the puppet when you’re have a conversation with it. Look at the audience when you are talking to them. The audience will follow your attention.

5. Sweep Up

Storytime scarves are the ideal pretend play tool. They are light, colourful, and they provide have endless possibilities for play. Remind caregivers that most homes have a rag, cloth or small blanket that will work for at home. Before you do a song or rhyme, take a scarf and turn it into a duster, or a broom and pretend to sweep. Clean the dust off your chair, your legs, some of the children’s feet…

6. Costume Change

The song “My Hat it Has Four Corners” demonstrates how a scarf can be a hat or a superhero cape.

7. Grow a flower

The rhyme “Here is a Green Leaf” demonstrates how a scarf can be a beautiful flower.

8. Baby Doll

Children have a special skill to turn any object into a baby doll. Take a puppet and start to rock and burp it. Pretend for a moment or two that the puppet is your baby to love and care for. A few scarves stuffed inside another scarf then tied with an elastic makes the head and wispy body of a lovely little doll. After a minute of caring for your baby you can tell the audience you are ready to move on to a song or book. Ask the audience to say goodbye to your little friend. If you are finished with the puppet or scarves, carefully place them somewhere safe to keep the illusion going.

9. Book Time

Library staff are always trying to model how to treat a book gently, but you can take it one step further and pretend the book is a baby, a piece of glass, or precious friend. We can talk to the book, hug the book, and cradle the book. Especially if it is a favourite book that you decide to bring out a number of times during a series of storytimes. The book can become a familiar friend and treated with special care. You could make the book a special sleeping bag, a coat, or give it a special box to sleep in. There are endless possibilities.

What storytime objects have sparked your imagination in storytime?  Let us know in the comments!