I’m back with part three of my Cover Appeal series! This time I’d like to shine a light on the covers of 2017 Canadian picture books that have caught my eye. There are a few Canadian titles scattered throughout Part 1 and Part 2, but this post is dedicated to all the wonderful titles being published by Canadian authors, illustrators, and publishers this year. Which ones are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!
I love the striking yellow colour of this one. Colette’s got a kind of Madeline vibe I’m digging. The author hails from Montreal.
Part of a series from this author/illustrator duo. This one is set in Vancouver, wahoo!
A boy writes an email to his friend after arriving in Canada from Jamaica. I like how the colours of Jamaica’s flag are woven into the cover.
Did you ever sing this little rhyme as a kid when walking on the sidewalk: “Step on a crack, you break your mama’s back”? I did and this book is living up to my childhood imagination.
This book gets all the weird points. Weird title. Weird illustrations. Possibly weird storyline? I love it.
Grumple! A grumpy animal? I can just imagine that name becoming a family saying after reading this book. “Looks like someone woke up a grumple today!”
Canadian illustrator Matthew Forsythe is set to stun with this one if the cover is any clue to what’s inside.
No title or author given on the cover, but this one’s from Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. I think it would be fun to ask kids what they think the title is based on the cover. Tree? Monster? Triangle? (yes).
I just love the contrast between the muted greys outside and the brightness under the umbrella. I already know my niece is going to ask why the man has a blue nose.
From Canadian publisher Groundwood books. This one hits a personal note for me as my niece is Colombian. Not sure where the story is set but both the author and illustrator live in Colombia.
My niece used to ask me this question at least 20 times a day when she was in preschool. Based on the cover, I hope one of the answers is reading!
I’ve loved the first two in this series. The perfect gift for birthdays!
It is the year of yellow covers! Set in Brazil, follow the boat to see who you meet. I believe it was translated by Canadian Jane Springer.
The title + the illustrations have me wondering if this one will be a tear jerker. Sad books get me every time.
The cover caught my attention because I know Crozier’s poetry. Looks absolutely adorable.
Mermaid alert! I repeat, mermaid alert! Told by Inuit elder Donald Uluadlauk.
You guys, the dog! It’s the cutest dog I’ve ever seen! From the West coast to the East coast, journey across our country in this one.
Looks like a great new addition for talking about comparison and contrast.
What I see on this cover is pride and community. From a First Nations author/illustrator duo.
New Ashley Spires, yeehaw! You can do it, Lou!
Look, this wouldn’t be a Canadian list without at least one moose on it, right?
Pure imagination on the cover. Knitting in children’s literature is really having it’s heyday.
Originally published in French by Montrealers author and illustrator. You don’t see many bald children on the covers of picture books and it’s a shame.
This could be the cover of a book for ANY AGE. It’s mysterious and a little spooky. My favourite part is the kid in the back raising their ski in a fist bump.
Sneaking this one on even though it’s a board book. It just looks so happy!
Which ones are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!
A few weeks ago I shared some 2017 picture books I’m looking forward to reading based solely on their covers. I had a lot of fun writing Part 1 and lately I’ve been needing things that are fun and give me a renewed sense of energy to keep going. Self care, friends, is so important.
So here is Part 2! Again, I don’t know much about these books except for the fact that their covers got me like gimme gimme gimme. Here’s what’s on my cover appeal radar.
Does anyone else immediately think of the movie Amélie when they see gnomes? Just me? A pun-tastic cover.
Neil deGrasse Tyson once tweeted, “I wonder who was the first person to see a bird soaring high above & think it a good idea to capture it and lock it in a cage” and that’s what this cover makes me think of.
Adorable snail alert! I repeat, we have an adorable snail alert!
There is a complete lack of mermaid picture books and I know this because I’ve read all 5 that exist to my niece at least 100 times each. Excited for some new material!
The title is Strange. The little girl looks a bit Strange. The perspective is Strange. I’m all about it.
Existential crisis, anyone?
Oh please, please, please, please get library representation right!
A narwhal in a fish tank, what is this madness! I must read immediately.
Look, I never thought I would say the word “cute” and “octopus” in the same sentence but here we are.
Digging the retro feel of the illustrations and the technology. Also I feel like being allowed to chew gum is this distinct childhood memory for a lot of people that no one talks about.
Where is the title?! Is this a new trend? Is it snowing? So many questions…
I think this one could be great for school-age groups. And I’m always excited for books that teach resilience.
This cover is literally my 8-year-old self’s dream. Like I actually dreamed about riding a pegasus against a beautiful sunset.
We do a Family Fort Night program at my library and I think this would make a great book to read at the beginning. As we say, fort building is in kids’ DNA.
I would like to stand by my original claim that cute kids and dogs on cover is THE TREND of 2017.
Honestly, I just can’t get over how adorable the kid is. The headbands, man!
Looks like a fun take on a very important life lesson – failing and learning.
Neil Gaiman writes picture books? Surprise! This cover is WOW.
The happiest little gardener that I ever did see. I am so pumped for more stories about community building and environmental awareness.
What does the fox play?
Do you know that Portlandia skit where the store owners coin the phrase “stick a bird on it” to sell more products? That’s me and donuts and picture books. STICK A DONUT ON IT.
Hope you enjoyed Part 2! Let me know which books you’re looking forward to reading in 2017!
Awhile back I wrote a post about talking to kids about race. Should we talk to kids about race in storytime? This post is the second in a series I hope to continue throughout the year.
Picture books can be a great tool to start these conversations with children. If you need help finding racially diverse picture books that work well in a storytime setting, look no further (actually you should look further, specifically at the wonderful blog Everyday Diversity which reviews storytime books featuring people of colour, First Nations, and Native Americans).
In this post I’d like to welcome guest blogger Echo. Echo is the Children’s Librarian at an urban library in Washington State. She loves playing the ukulele and trying to convince her family that anyone can sing, even them. Echo is here to share an amazing resource she created – thematic storytime booklists featuring characters of colour. Take it away, Echo!
When I was first learning to prepare story times, I was trained to choose a topic, select thematic story time elements, then go through our story time books and children’s collection to find titles that fit the story time theme. This made for cohesive, successful story times, but artificially limited which titles I would consider for story time; making it more likely to include books that were about a topic, rather than about a character. I was frustrated by how difficult it was to find good story time books about a particular theme that included characters who were people of color so, I intentionally changed the way that I plan story time from the start of the process. Now, rather than choosing a theme and finding books to fit, I find a specific title, use it as a base on which to build the rest of story time, and allow themes to emerge naturally. This change in my planning process made the books the first priority and the most flexible element in story time.
This change empowered me to be more intentional about the books I share in story time and made it much easier to include diverse books. I evaluate every book that I use in story time, looking for excellent titles that: make good read alouds, are about interesting topics for preschoolers, have believable characters rather than relying on stereotypes, and treat the characters that are people of color as normal rather than other or different. This last criterion is particularly important for the library where I work. My library is located in an incredibly diverse city and a book about being a person of color, and so different from most of your classmates or friends, does not reflect the experience of most of the children who live here.
When children see themselves in the book, they are more engaged and make richer connections. I share all kinds of books in story time, but when I’m looking for a book to build a story time on, I choose books that portray children who are people of color doing simple, every-day things in familiar environments like Mice Squeak, We Speak by Arnold Shapiro. I recently shared this book at a story time in a local day care center. Excited preschoolers yelled out, “He’s like me!”, “I do that too.”, and “She looks like my friend!” The smiles and excitement of these children made it clear that they felt valued in that moment. It would have been a bigger stretch for these young children to make these kinds of connections with characters who did not look or act like themselves or the people around them.
Rudine Sims Bishop talked about books as windows to see into the experiences of others and mirrors that reflect ourselves. For many of the children I serve, these windows are everywhere, and mirrors are few. I am a white woman with the privilege and opportunity to work in a diverse community; I may not be a mirror, but I can help these children find them in the books I share.
What do you do when you’ve got a storytime crowd full of babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and maybe even a few school-age kids too? This, my friends, is the beauty of a mixed-age storytime. At my library we call them Family Storytimes. Family storytimes are great because they allow caregivers with multiple children to bring them all together. We also know younger children learn from older children, and having kids of different ages interact can lead to some beautiful learning moments.
But we also know that trying to prepare a developmentally appropriate storytime for such a wide age group is a challenge. Or even just a storytime where everyone is engaged. I’ve been asked to share how I plan my family storytimes and ways to adapt things for a mixed-age group. You can also check out Mixed-Age Storytime Gold by The Neighborhood Librarian.
Planning a Mixed-Age Storytime
My planning for this crowd is very similar to my planning for toddler storytime. I stick by my original recipe of:
And I overplan. I always have more felts, puppets, and books than I could ever actually cover in 30 minutes. Overplanning allows me to go with the flow of the group and adapt to their needs. For example, if I have an older crowd one week I may be able to sneak in a 2nd book. Conversely, if I’ve got a younger crowd I may need to be up and moving more. I created a new planning sheet that I use for family storytimes. It’s an adapted version of my toddler storytime planning sheet.
As always, feel free to edit to suit your needs! Before storytime, I fill in all the boxes and shoot for about 80% repetition from week to week. I also use felt songs and rhymes A LOT, like almost every song, because it has helped the younger kids and ESL families participate so much more. If I’m doing a prop activity one week such as scarves or shakers, I’ll re-purpose one of the bottom two boxes. Again, I never get through all of this! Here’s a picture of my planning sheet post-storytime with checks next to the items I actually did.
Hopefully you can read my chicken scratch!
Songs and Rhymes for a Mixed-Aged Storytime
Here are some of my go-to songs and rhymes for this type of group. I’ve included suggestions for how to adapt them to different ages. It’s great to explain the adaptations to caregivers before singing or to model them with a puppet.
My favourite hello song for mixed-age groups because you can include actions for all ages. Touch different body parts for babies, clap and stomp for toddlers. Preschoolers love the sillier ones like blinking eyes, beeping bellies, shaking your booties 🙂
Great rhythm and the counting is perfect for babies and toddlers. Preschoolers will enjoy coming up with funny rhyming body part combinations. I encourage caregivers of babies to touch their corresponding body parts as we sing.
Bounce babies and toddlers while preschoolers row along with you. The extended verses have some fun animal twists that allow for more participation. Many kids will know this one already which will increase participation.
Ya’ll know how much I love Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. I highly recommend making these easy felt pieces to go along with it. I tell caregivers they can lift babies and toddlers, while the older kids and I practice our jumping. Lifting songs are great for mixed-age groups for this very reason.
If you’ve got a younger crowd, this is a great way to help them get out their energy while also teaching them a fun way to learn to stop. I like this one for it’s adaptability – you can bounce, tickle, jump, clap, etc. Whatever works for your group!
This song doubles as an action song and as a diaper changing song! Have the older kids get up and do the motions with you while caregivers with babies can move their arms or legs (if laying down) back and forth. I model how to sing it as a diaper changing song with a puppet beforehand to give caregivers a clear example.
Every week I like choosing three children to be our cool cats. Then we insert their name into this song. The older kids will have fun dancing, while younger ones can be bounced and lifted. The ch ch ch ch sound is so great for phonological awareness. I’ll never forget when a 13-month-old made the sound right when we finished the song and we all applauded!
I have a set of coloured fish that I put up when we sing this song. Toddlers and preschoolers practice counting on their fingers and making a loud “pop!” sound with their hands, while babies can be lifted into the air at the end of each verse. The simpleness of this song engages the toddlers and allows the preschoolers to sing along with you.
I love using scarves with my mixed-age groups. This is my favourite scarf song – watch the older kids throw them into the air or have caregivers make their babies “pop.” Before we sing this one we talk about what colour popcorn everyone is making – it’s hilarious and fun.
Another Get the Wiggles Out activity. Toddlers and preschoolers will be able to move around with you while caregivers can wiggle their baby’s thumbs, hands, arms, legs, etc. It’s fun to ask the kids for body part suggestions. You may find yourself wiggling your bum or your armpit.
I try to use puppets at least once during my family storytimes. They get the attention of any squirmers better than anything else I’ve tried. I like using this simple rhyme because I can talk about the power of surprise for baby learning. I adapt it by saying, “Little creature in my hand” and then I can use any pop-up puppet or any puppet and a blanket. The older kids like singing the puppet a nursery rhyme like “Twinkle Twinkle” when it’s time for the puppet to go to bed.
Practice pointing to different body parts in this body positive song. If we have room I encourage caregivers to lay babies down on their backs when we sing this one so babies can see their smiles as they sing it. Challenge older kids to think of rhyming body parts you can sub in for extra verses.
How do you play for a mixed-age storytime? What songs and rhymes do you use? I’d love to hear about your process in the comments.
Welcome back, friends! I’m starting off 2017 by sharing some of the picture books I’m looking forward to reading this year. The criteria? Cover appeal. That’s right, I know little about these books except for the fact that their covers are enticing in some way and make me want to flop on my couch, sip hot chocolate, and read away. Here’s what caught my eye:
Babies playing instruments? Sold.
Capitalization out the door! Notice the shape of the book follows the art.
I’m having flashbacks to the 1956 horror film my grandma showed me when I was a kid. Interest piqued.
I can’t recall any picture book with a person using a wheelchair on the front cover. More, please!
Huge fan of Pak’s illustrations after he made my 2016 Storytime Favourites list. This cover fascinates me because it’s spooky and playful simultaneously.
The freaking troll on the left! Sucker for nostalgia.
Cuteness overload. Too much cute. All.the.cute.
Basically I will read anything Kallie George makes. Also, is this the year of cute kids and dogs on covers?
Yes, yes it is. Also – is he kneeling or sitting on his bottom? Are those pockets or butt cheeks? Are my eyes playing tricks on me?!
I’ve got a feeling I’ll be suggesting this one for a CLEL Book Award nomination!
That’s right, Pete, throw away those threads of conformity! You Be You!
Ooooo, pretty. Very pretty. I feel like this cover is hypnotizing me into reading it.
You’re not a true child of the 90s if you didn’t sing the title of this book à la Montell Jordan.
This year I delivered over 150 storytimes. 150! I’ve actually never counted before, but this year was definitely a busy one.
Over the course of the past 11 months I’ve kept track of all the picture books published in 2016 that work well in a storytime setting. There were so many favourites this year! I swear this list gets longer with each rendition. If you missed past round-ups, here they are:
Here are my picks for outstanding storytime books for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary-age kids. If I missed one of your favourites, please leave a comment sharing yours!
1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina. A creative and fun counting book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Not only does this book introduce food vocabulary, it’s also a great jumping off point for an art or drawing activity. Have kids count on their fingers to strengthen early numeracy skills.
Abracadabra, It’s Spring! by Anne Sibley O’Brien; illustrated by Susan Gal. The lovely Rebecca tipped me off to this beautiful story about the changing of the seasons. The fold-out pages work perfect for storytime as you can have kids predict how things change from winter to spring. We also had a blast saying the magical phrases together. Great for toddlers and preschoolers. Be sure to check out the sequel called Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall!
Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske. Short enough text to read to toddlers (caregivers will get a laugh), but the humour in this one is aimed at preschoolers to Grade 2 kids. Give Barnacle a dramatic voice and the kids eat it up. This one reminds me a mix between I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry and I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.
Blocks by Irene Dickson. A toddler storytime gem. Simple sentences tell the story of two kids learning to share. The best thing about this book is the emotional connection many kids will have to the story. A great chance to give an early literacy tip about social emotional learning. The big pages and large illustrations are the cherry on top.
City Shapes by Diana Murray; illustrated by Bryan Collier. I love this book so much I suggested it for a CLEL Bell Award. Follow a young girl through her neighbourhood as she discovers shapes everywhere. A diverse title ripe with follow-up activities. Also a great chance to tell caregivers about how shapes are the first step to learning letters.
Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer. I am always looking for ways to include more poetry in storytime and this book is the perfect lead in. Daniel discovers the poetry in the world around him. Simple enough for toddlers and preschoolers to grasp. I followed it up by reading a poem from Neighbors: The Yard Critters Too by George Held; illustrated by Joung Un Kim.
Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliot; illustrated by Mary Peterson. I also suggested this one for a CLEL Bell Award. Perfect for spring and summer storytimes, this one encourages kids to get out and play and get a little messy. Short and sweet text makes it great for extra wriggly toddlers.
Don’t Splash the Sasquatch! by Kent Redeker; illustrated by Bob Staake. A wacky and fun read perfect for summer storytimes. This one is great for older preschoolers. Have them join in yelling the repetitive title phrase. I like how it encourages kids to make up their own words and have fun with language. Squizzilefied is one of my new favourite words.
Don’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup. Another interactive win from Teckentrup! If you have a small group you can have the kids come up and pet tiger’s nose and tummy. There’s also perfect opportunities to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Happy Birthday. Great for preschool outreach visits.
Duck, Duck, Dinosaur by Kallie George; illustrated by Oriol Vidal. Big pages make this a good choice for larger preschool groups. There’s an underlying message that families can look like anything. Great for a dinosaur or sibling themed storytime. The author lives in Vancouver, so I love sharing this one and giving the local author a shout-out.
Everyone is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch. Perfect for babies and toddlers! A gentle bedtime book where you get to practice yawning together. The lift-the-flaps are an added bonus. Babies often mimic the facial expressions of their caregivers as they learn language (hello, mirror neurons!) and you can practice that skill by yawning along to this book.
Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. I learned about this book from Anna’s Everyday Diversity blog. Ed, the dog, worries that he’s not good at anything unlike the 5 kids in his family. Luckily Ed does discover his talent by the end of the book. Recommended for preschool – Grade 2 kids. And dog lovers.
Follow Me! by Ellie Sandall. Before I read this one to my toddler group, we all practiced chanting the repeating phrase, “Follow me, follow me, follow me!” It was a great way to get caregivers involved as we read the book. I love the repetition and unique choice of animal (lemurs!). Highly recommended for the younger groups.
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak. Another CLEL Bell Award suggestion. When reading this one aloud I had to use different voices to model the conversation the child has with the natural world. A great way to promote the early literacy practice of talking. Encourage caregivers to continue this story when they go outside.
Goodnight Bob by Ann Hassett; illustrated by John Hassett. Perfect for pyjama storytimes, a little boy keeps seeing pairs of eyes in the dark. Encourage kids to guess who the eyes belong to. Every toddler I know is obsessed with flashlights – bring one in as a special prop!
Good Night Like This by Mary Murphy. Similar to Say Hello Like This, in this book animals take turns saying goodnight to their babies. I like sharing this one at babytime. We either make animal noises together or snuggle the babies as we say good night together on each page. I often include an early literacy tip about making reading part of your daily routine and bedtime is the perfect place to start.
Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer. Another toddler storytime gem. Simple text and bold illustrations convey how penguin is able to help himself out of a bad mood. After reading this one we sing many different feeling versions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” My favourite verse is “If You’re Mad and You Know It, Take a Deep Breathe.”
Hand in Hand by Rosemary Wells. A top choice for baby and toddler storytimes. Nice big pictures are good for developing eyesight and the short rhyming text has a nice rhythm. I always tell my families that storytime is a place to develop a loving bond with their child and this book illustrated that concept beautifully.
Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow. Elephant claims he is very good at hide-and-seek in this delightfully funny book great for toddlers and preschoolers. I had the kids tell me where Elephant was hiding on each page and we talked about good hiding places. Play is one of the five early literacy practices and this book encourages it.
Hooray for Today! by Brian Won. The sequel to Hooray for Hat! is here and it’s just as good as the first. It’s still got a repetitive phrase that lends itself well to group participation. The thing I like best about it though is that it shows animals feeling tired, a feeling that can be hard for kids to notice in themselves. Definitely a feeling to point out related to social emotional learning.
Hungry Bird by Jeremy Tankard. Bird is back and this time Bird is hangry! Your preschoolers who know Bird from Tankard’s other two storytime gems will love this third installment. I love talking to preschoolers about the colour choices on each page and what foods they find gross and delicious. Bonus: Tankard is a local author!
I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony. I think I like this one even better than the first. When reading with toddlers and preschoolers, we practice saying the phrase, “Wait and see” together and making the signs too. Turn-taking, patience, and self-regulation are key themes here.
I’m a Hungry Dinosaur by Janeen Brian; illustrated by Ann James. A baking themed follow-up to I’m a Dirty Dinosaur. I sing this one to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot” and we all do the actions like dinosaur. I’ve tried it in babytime and toddlertime to much success. You can mention that baking with kids is a great way to practice math.
Is That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas. I mean it’s another Jan Thomas title so you knew it was going to be storytime magic, right? Have families join in asking the title phrase and giggle along to Pig’s soup additions. Perfect for any age.
King Baby by Kate Beaton. This is the perfect book to read at babytime. I was ROFL the first time I read it, and I think this book does a great job setting a fun and playful tone of storytime. If you have younger siblings who often sit-in at babytime, they will get a kick out of it too. An apt metaphor for the life changing event of having a child.
Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn; illustrated by Ruth Hearson. Another babytime hit. Showcasing a father-son relationship, this one depicts a common childhood experience – swim lessons. Fun to share in the summer when families are more likely to head to the pool.
Listen to Our World by Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson; illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Travel around the world and hear all the different sounds animals make. Make it participatory by having kids and caregivers make the sounds with you. Accurate habitats are depicted and back matter gives more detailed information. Use with toddlers and preschoolers.
Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Christian Robinson. Now this is what happens when two all-stars join together. A perfect winter themed read aloud for babies and toddlers. The simplicity of the language is perfectly suited for your younger groups. Would also work well for a getting dressed theme.
Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming. A new toddler classic. Big page spreads feature a little boy who tries to get dressed with the help of his dog. Not only are the sentences to the point, they model sentence extending: “Look, Maggie – socks. Yellow socks.” The colour words are printed in their corresponding colour to draw attention to print. A funny tale packed with early literacy goodness.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell; illustrated by Rafael Lopez. An uplifting story about the power of art. I shared this one with a Grade 1 class and we talked about ways we could make our community better. I love that it’s based on a true story.
The Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage. Definitely add this to your transportation or construction themed storytimes. Follow the little cement mixer as it accidentally makes a cake! I talked about print awareness before reading this book as I pointed out the different names of the factories. The kids loved shouting, “Presto!” with me as we read.
The Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan; illustrated by Tomie dePaola. A gentle bedtime story with repetition and the option to add in animal sounds. If you’ve got huge groups of babies and toddlers, the big pages will help all see. Before I read this one we practiced the title phrase as it repeats on each page and offers a chance for participation.
My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith; illustrated by Julie Flett. A beautiful board book featuring a First Nations family that encourages everyone to celebrate the simple joys in life. Highly recommended purchase especially if you buy sets of board books to read together at babytime. I also recommend Flett’s second board book this year with author Richard Van Camp called We Sang You Home.
My House by Byron Barton. I think almost all of Barton’s books are surefire hits with toddlers. With his bright colours and simple text, Barton showcases a home in this one. I would love if he followed it up with My Apartment which is an underrepresented dwelling in picture books.
My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo. A sweet story of adoption that is easily accessible by preschoolers. I am always looking for diverse representations of family to read in storytime. Even if kids haven’t been adopted themselves they can relate to the feelings of fear, nervousness, and ultimately belonging.
Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz; illustrate by Eda Kaban. My new favourite book to sing at storytime! The littles who love things that go will delight in this take on the traditional song. I personally enjoyed the woman’s (maybe she’s Old MacDonald!) active role in the story. I had multiple requests to take this one home after storytime.
Sing With Me!: Action Songs Every Child Should Know by Naoko Stoop. I pull this one out at babytime almost every week. It’s great if you just want to practice one song. If you have a large population of newcomers or ESL families, it provides a good introduction to common Western rhymes. Stoop also provides recommended hand motions.
Some Pets by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. This one has all the right elements – repetition, unique vocabulary, adorable illustrations, and a diverse cast of kids. I read it to my mixed-aged storytime group and they all wanted to tell me about their pets afterwards.
Still a Gorilla by Kim Norman; illustrated by Chad Geran. Repetition? Check! Humour? Check! Positive message about being yourself? Check! When reading with toddlers and preschoolers, I teach the sign for gorilla and we all beat our chests whenever we say the title phrase.
The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley; illustrated by Kate Berube. My love for this book knows no bounds! I love the characters, I love the cats, I love how it’s about following your interests, I love how it’s funny, and I especially loved reading it to a kindergarten class. I recommend this one for older groups, K-2 especially, who are learning to read themselves.
Ten Hungry Pigs by Derek Anderson. A follow-up to Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure, one of my 2015 favourites. In this absurd tale, the pigs keep piling up more and more ridiculous ingredients. So many giggles at storytime! It has a surprise ending similar to the first book. Great for food themed storytimes.
There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins. This is rhyming text done well. A very frustrated mouse just wants Bear to get out of his chair! I read it to a Grade 1 class and we talked about why some words are printed in red. The older crowd got more of the humour in the illustrations too, but I think this one could go as young as preschool.
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. A stand-out picture book this year, for storytime and otherwise. Great for toddlers through Grade 2, this book is all about perspective. I love the conversations that will stem from sharing this one with a group, and the language has a beautiful flow to it. Highly recommended.
This is Our Baby, Born Today by Varsha Bajaj; illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. I loved reading this welcoming tale at babytime. We all say the “Born today” refrain together on each page. As a super involved aunt, I was delighted to see them mentioned as a key part of baby’s world. The text is lyrical and the illustrations are warm and inviting.
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes; illustrated by Laura Dronzek. The perfect title to read when the weather starts to brighten. The text is just right for toddlers and young preschoolers, and the bright illustrations work perfect for a read aloud. Pair with Abracadabra, It’s Spring! for a season themed storytime.
Whoops! by Suzi Moore; illustrated by Russell Ayto. One of my favourite picture books in general for 2016! The kindergarten class I read this to absolutely loved it. There’s a cat, a dog, a mouse, an old lady, and some very funny spells. I love the repetition and getting all the kids to say “Whoops!” together.
Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian; illustrated by Mike Curato. Anyone can love anyone and that includes Worm and Worm. Love wins out in this celebratory tale despite objections from other critters. Due to the length, recommended for older preschool and school-age crowds as a read aloud.
You Are One by Sara O’Leary; illustrated by Karen Klassen. A year’s worth of baby milestones are featured in this diverse title. I read it at babytime and afterwards we went around and caregivers shared a baby milestone they were excited about. This is the first book in a three part series, so look for You Are Two and You Are Three coming soon.
What a great year for picture books! I’m sure I missed some superb read alouds, so please let me know your favourites in the comments.
About a year ago I read a book called NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It’s a thought-provoking book. Many of the chapters hit home but none quite as much as the one called “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race.” It had a concrete impact on the way I talk and read to my 5-year-old niece Sophie about race. It made me think about the ways my white parents did or didn’t talk to me about race as a kid. This blog post is informed by my experiences as a white person and a children’s librarian.
Let me start by recapping what the chapter is all about. It starts by describing a study done in 2006 by a doctoral student at the University of Texas named Birgitte Vittrup . She investigated whether children’s videos featuring multicultural characters improve white, kindergartener-aged children’s racial attitudes. What she found surprised her – families starting dropping out when asked to also talk about skin colour with their children. Though the families may have said things like, “everybody’s equal,” very few of them felt comfortable talking to kids about race openly and directly. The 6 families that did saw greatly improved racial attitudes.
From there, Bronson and Merryman look at child development. They talk about how young children are “developmentally prone to in-group favoritism.” Kids are visual learners and rely on what they see – hair colour, height, weight, and yes, skin colour. Babies as young as 6 months will stare longer at photographs of faces that are a different race than their parents because they are trying to make sense of them. Even if no one talks to kids about race, they notice. And when we don’t talk to kids about race they are left to make their own assumptions and judgments.
The authors also coin the phrase Diverse Environment Theory which means, “if you raise a child with a fair amount of exposure to people of other races and cultures, the environment becomes the message.” So basically, we white people don’t have to talk about race with our kids because they will learn about equality just from seeing all these diverse people! It’s one of the leading arguments behind school desegregation (which they talk about at length). But the authors also come to the conclusion that just being in a racially diverse environment is not enough for kids to have better racial attitudes. We still have to talk to them.
Here are some of their key messages for caregivers when talking to kids about race:
Treat it the same way you do boy-girl stereotypes. Just like we point out women who are doctors, astronauts, construction workers, we can tell children that people of any skin colour can be those things too. Enforce this message often.
Don’t shush kids when they say embarrassing or racist things. Their brains are prone to categorization. When we shush them or shut down the conversation, we are telling them that race is a scary topic. Instead, engage them in a conversation and directly explain their fallacy.
Help children of colour develop a sense of ethnic pride. Studies have found improved self-confidence when this occurs. White children will “naturally decipher that they belong to the race that has more power, wealth, and control in society…so a pride message would not just be abhorrent – it’d be redundant.”
Since reading this book, I make a point to talk about race with Sophie on a regular basis. Of course, it is a privilege for me as a white person that I haven’t had to have these conversations with her since she was born, and an even bigger privilege that our conversations can focus on the positive. We are lucky to live in a racially diverse city like Vancouver so that we can have those conversations about people we know and people in our neighbourhood. When we read books together, I point out the skin colour of the characters and relate it to something positive. For example, we read Double Trouble for Anna Habiscus! the other day and we talked about how the mommy’s skin is white and the daddy’s skin is brown and how they have a beautiful loving family. I believe these conversations are crucial to being an anti-racist advocate and to raising an anti-racist child.
So now here I am, wondering if I can take what I’ve learned and practiced into my job as a children’s librarian. The folks at Reading While White have started this conversation in a variety of ways already. My questions are storytime specific. Is storytime a space where we can start to have conversations about race with kids and caregivers? Are you already using anti-racist practices in storytime?
Whew! I don’t know about everyone else but I’m hitting that point in the year when I feel like I have a million things to do and not enough time to do them. There’s so many things I want to write about – the recent British Columbia Library Conference I attended, Summer Reading Club, some LGBTQ booklists I helped create….. I do hope to write about those things at some point. But today, I’m sharing something simple and fun: a new song.
Sometimes you find new storytime material in the most unlikeliest of places. The other week I was watching 22 Minutes when during a commercial break I heard a lovely song that immediately caught my attention. When I looked to the screen it was a commercial by Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism trying to get people to come visit the province.
The song it turns out is by a children’s musician names Kira Willey. It is called “Colors” and it’s from her 2006 album Dance for the Sun.
Oh this song, this song! It’s just so beautiful. The melody is sweet and simple enough to pick up after only one listen. I love the figurative language, particularly the chorus:
“I’m a rainbow today All the colors of the world. I’m a rainbow today All the colors of the world. I’m a rainbow today All the colors of the world are in me.”
This song would be perfect for storytime. I imagine using it with scarves and having the kids wave their matching colour as the song progresses. Or with a parachute during babytime. It’s a gentle song, perfect for the end of storytime or when you want to bring the kids’ energy back down.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve discovered a new storytime song or rhyme?