Mixed-Aged Storytimes

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:

Flexibility + Repetition + Movement + Caregiver Participation = A Good Time For All

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.

Family Storytime Planning Sheet (Word Document)

Family Storytime Planning Sheet (PDF)

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.

planning-sheet

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.

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2017 Picture Books: Cover Appeal

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.

A message for the world, really.

I just like how the title is placed. Unusual.  Another good one to use The Whole Book Approach.

Screams fun. Also love seeing boys + unicorns + rainbows + sparkles.

Slay, girl.

Another cute kid and a dog! And another person using a wheelchair on the front cover! Fist bump.

My parents filmed my first ever jump from a diving board and I cried the whole time, clinging to the teacher’s leg. I’m hoping Jabari does better than me.

THOSE EYELASHES.

It’s like they knew librarians read a lot of picture books.

Pure self-interest here. My niece’s name is Sophie and she has these exact bangs.

Very chic font. I want to know about each of the kids and why they are making the expressions they are making.

Oh, Lois, you’ve done it again.

Il Sung Na is still one of my favourites.

I have a feeling I’m going to love this one.

Cute kids? Check. Cute dog? Check. I’m telling you, folks, I’m onto something here.

I saw Laurie Berkner’s name and that’s all I needed to see.

Is it a unicorn who wants to be a narwhal? I don’t know and I don’t care, just give me this book.

If you’re looking for more booklists, check out our Storytime Resources for all sorts of picture book lists. What books are you looking forward to reading in 2017? Let me know in the comments!

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2016 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

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-salad1 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-its-springAbracadabra, 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-boredBarnacle 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-irene-dicksonBlocks 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-shapesCity 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 poemDaniel 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-inDig 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.

dont-splash-the-sasquatchDon’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.

dont-wake-up-the-tigerDon’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 dinosaurmaple-leafDuck, 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-yawningEveryone 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 edExcellent 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-meFollow 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-summerGoodbye 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-bobGoodnight 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-thisGood 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 pantsGrumpy 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-handHand 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-elephantHave 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 todayHooray 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-birdmaple-leafHungry 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!

ill wait mr pandaI’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.

im-a-hungry-dinosaurI’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 wiseIs 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-babyKing 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-swimLeo 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 worldListen 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-penguinsLittle 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 dressedMaggie 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 beautifulMaybe 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.

mixed up truckThe 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-moons-almost-hereThe 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 happinessmaple-leafMy 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 houseMy 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 meMy 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-macdonaldmaple-leafOld 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 meSing 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 petsSome 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-gorillamaple-leafStill 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.

summer-nick-taught-his-cat-to-readThe 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 pigsTen 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.

theres-a-bear-on-my-chairThere’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-catThey 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-babyThis 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 comesWhen 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.

whoopsWhoops! 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 wormWorm 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 onemaple-leafYou 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.

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Talking to Kids about Race

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?

Let’s talk.

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Colors by Kira Wiley

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?

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Early Literacy Messages: Using Personal Stories

Fostering early literacy skills, also known as emergent literacy, is one of my favourite parts about storytime.  I’ve written before about how I include early literacy tips in my storytimes here:

I try really hard to find ways to communicate these things in a friendly, approachable manner.  One of the best ways I’ve found is to couch them in a (very) short personal story.  Now I’m lucky I have a 4-year-old niece in my life that gives me tons of early literacy fodder.  If you don’t have a little one, feel free to adapt my stories!  If I hear a good story from a friend or co-worker I’ll ask their permission to share it in storytime.

reading 4
Farting pony books FTW!

Here are some of my favourite stories about Sophie I tell in storytime to communicate early literacy development.

A Bumpy Road

I used to do this bounce with Sophie when she was a baby all the time.  Then one day when she was about 2-years-old I was pushing her in her stroller and we hit a tree root.  She excitedly exclaimed, “bumpy road!”  It was amazing to see how she had learned new words and a new concept from a simple lap bounce. They really are paying attention!

We Bounce and Bounce and Bounce and Stop

Some songs grow with your child. The other day I took Sophie out to dinner and she was getting quite bored waiting for the food. I plopped her on my lap and started to do this lap bounce.  She was enthralled. Now that she’s four she was able to contribute her own verses such as “We wiggle” and “We shake.” Not only did a song keep her occupied, but it was a great chance for us to cuddle and learn together.

The Frog Goes Tissy, Tissy, Tiss

One of Sophie’s favourite songs when she was a toddler was “Mmm, Ahh Went the Little Green Frog.” However, she liked to switch the verses and insisted that the frog goes, “tissy, tissy, tiss.”  Even though she couldn’t pronounce the “k” sound as a toddler, this song helped her practice it in a fun way.  Rather than correcting her pronunciation, we just sang this verse a lot!

Sophie, Put Your Shoes On

If you’ve ever struggled with getting a baby or small child dressed I totally feel you! When my niece was a toddler I would sing this song about all the items of clothing she needed to put on – shoes, socks, gloves, hat.  When I subbed in her name for “baby” she payed more attention, and it helped turn a struggle into a more enjoyable activity.

Oh, I Wish I Was a Little Bar of Soap


When Sophie was about one she developed a fear of taking baths. She didn’t like getting wet, she would scream when we tried to put her in the tub – it was a stressful situation for all.  Then one day I took one of her toys and started to sing this song. The crying stopped! I had to sing this song about 20 times during every bath time but it helped calmed her.

Let’s Stack the Books

stack of books

It’s common for kids to go through stages where they either don’t appear interested in reading or don’t have the attention span to sit and listen to a story.  When Sophie was a toddler my focus was on making books fun, even if we weren’t reading them.  This sometimes meant grabbing a stack of board books (not the ones pictured!) and making a tower together.  We might only look at one page before getting back to building, but books were still a part of our daily routine.

I Can’t Read

moo

One time Sophie and I were reading a book and I asked her to read it to me.  She looked at me incredulously and said, “I can’t read!” We had “read” books together before where she “reads” the pictures, so I was startled by her declaration.  One of the ways I’ve tried to build her confidence since then is to find books without words or with only one word. One of our favourites is Moo! by David LaRochelle.  She loves that she knows the word in the book and can “read” the book to me.

Do you have any personal stories you share at storytime to communicate the importance of early literacy? I’d love to hear them!

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2016 Picture Book Preview, Part 2

Oh picture books, oh picture books, how lovely are your pages!

Today I am in the picture book spirit.  I recently attended another Library Bound book preview event where they showcased children’s books coming out this spring, summer and fall.  So I thought I’d highlight some of the titles that I’m especially looking forward to.  Want more? Make sure to check out Part 1!

 

sing with meSing With Me! by Naoko Stoop. A lovely collection of nursery rhymes featuring a diverse cast of babies and suggestions for actions in the margin. From the author of the Red Knit Cap Girl series.

one littleOne Little, Two Little, Three Little Children by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Mary Lundquist.  Sing this book to the tune of the classic children’s song. A celebration of a diverse group of children and families that would be perfect for storytime.

ten little fingersTen Little Fingers, Two Small Hands by Kristy Dempsey; illustrated by Jane Massey.  All about the things you can do with your hands featuring a diverse cast of toddlers. Putting this one on my storytime list.

rosco vs the babyRosco vs. the Baby by Lindsay Ward.  A cute rivalry between a dog and a baby that ends in friendship.

can i tell you a secretCan I Tell You a Secret? by Anna Kang; illustrated by Christopher Weyant. From the team behind You are (Not) Small comes this tale of a frog who is scared of swimming. Great for helping preschoolers overcome their fears.

daddies are awesomeDaddies are Awesome by Meredith Costain; illustrated by Polona Lovsin.  A gentle rhyming story about how cool dads are featuring an array of pups. Look for the sequel Mommies are Lovely.

be glad your dadBe Glad Your Dad….Is Not an Octopus! by Matthew Logelin and Sara Jensen; illustrated by Jared Chapman. Debut authors bring us this silly yet informative book about animals. Back matter includes additional facts.

grumpy pantsGrumpy Pants by Claire Messer.  Mark for storytime! A repetitive phrase frames this story of a penguin in a bad mood who needs to wash away his grumpiness. Traditional print making illustrations stand out.

splashdanceSplashdance by Liz Starin. Bear is told he can’t compete in the water ballet championship, but a group of friends make his dream come true. A lovely story of social justice and inclusion.

miles of smilesMiles of Smiles by Karen Kaufman Orloff; illustrated by Luciano Lozano. Retro illustrations fill this delightful story of why and when we smile.

it came in the mailIt Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton. Perfect for encouraging writing, this friendship story tells what happens when a little boy writes a letter asking for something in return.

a unicorn named sparkleA Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young. A little girl gets a unicorn that looks suspiciously like a goat when she replies to an ad in the newspaper. Funny and endearing.

ookoOoko by Esme Shapiro. Ooko is a fox that has everything it needs except a friend. A charming and funny story about being true to yourself.

lucy ladybugLucy Ladybug by Sharon King-Chai. Lucy gets made fun of for having no spots so she decides to find some of her own. Teaches colours, numbers, and would make a great felt story.

schools first day of schoolSchool’s First Day of School by Adam Rex; illustrated by Christian Robinson. Pictures by Newberry winner Robinson. Told from the point of view of the school as it awaits the first day with students and teachers. Try spotting school’s face in each picture.

barnacle is boredBarnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske. Oh, this is a funny one that will be great for storytime. Barnacle bemoans his boring existence but learns the grass (kelp?) may only appear to be greener on the other side of the ocean.

blobfish bookThe Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien. A non-fiction/story hybrid about blobfish that is refreshingly funny.  Blobfish may just be the new trend!

are we there yetAre We There Yet? by Dan Santat. Caldecott Medal winner Santat is back with this boredom busting tale of a summer adventure that takes the reader through different time periods.

blue boatBlue Boat by Kersten Hamilton; illustrated by Valeria Petrone. Part of a vehicle trilogy that features bold illustrations and rhymes perfect for toddlers.

mixed up truckThe Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage. If you loved Supertruck then this is a must read! A funny tale of a truck that builds a birthday cake. Marking for storytime.

fire truck named redA Fire Truck Named Red by Randall de Seve; illustrated by Bob Staake.  An intergenerational tale where a grandpa passes down his toy truck and tells his grandson the stories behind it.

I love cakeI Love Cake!: Starring Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Angie Rozelaar. A laugh out loud tale of friendship and forgiveness. Three friends prepare for Rabbit’s birthday party when the cake goes missing.

make way for readersMake Way for Readers by Judy Sierra; illustratd by G. Brian Karas. A rhyming tale from master storyteller Judy Sierra about the joys of storytime in a preschool classroom.

wally does not want a haircutWally Does Not Want a Haircut by Amanda Driscoll.  A tale of overcoming fears. Wally will do almost anything to avoid a pair of shears touching his wool.

on bird hillOn Bird Hill by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Bob Marstall. This book is loosely based on the song “The Green Grass Grows All Around.”

hello summerGoodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak. A brown-skinnmed girl takes a journey through her town and forest to note the passing of the seasons. Parts of nature respond back to her as she says hello and goodbye.

explorers of the wildmaple-leafExplorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson. A boy and a bear both take off an adventure only to have an unexpected run-in with each other other. A British Columbian author and illustrator!

good night owlGood Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli. I loved The Watermelon Seed and Number One Sam, so I am super excited to get this one about an owl who is ready to fall asleep until a mysterious noise keeps him up.

chicken in spaceChicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt; illustrated by Shahar Kober. Go on a funny adventure with the courageous and brave Zoey the Chicken as she and her friend Sam the pig venture into outer space.

dragon was terribleDragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Greg Pizzoli. A misbehaving dragon has a village in near shambles when an unlikely hero uses the power of storytelling to tame it.

playtimePlaytime? by Jeff Mack. Following his one-word trend, Mack brings us this story of a gorilla who isn’t quite ready for bedtime.

1 big salad1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina. Medina adds to photographs of fruits and veggies with her innovative drawings. Count up to ten to make a big, healthy salad.

some petsSome Pets by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. A companion to Some Bugs. Great for a storytime that celebrates pets of all shapes and sizes.

summer nickThe Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley; illustrated by Kate Berube. Debut author Manley combines cats, reading, and the library for a sure fire hit.  Really looking forward to this one!

lion lessonsLion Lessons by Jon Agee.  Agee brings his trademark humour to this tale of a boy who signs up for lion school and learns about looking out for friends.

hill and holeHill & Hole Are Best Friends by Kyle Mewburn; illustrated by Vasanti Unka.  An import from New Zealand, this book sets geometric opposites as best friends.  The ending was a bit dark.

lion insideThe Lion Inside by Rachel Bright; illustrated by Jim Field.  A mouse who yearns to be brave decides to ask Lion for help only to find Lion is scared of mice.  From the author of the Love Monster series.

little redLittle Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith.  This spin-off of Little Red Riding Hood ends in friendship and features a cast of safari animals.  I’m in love with the little girl’s ponytails!

ten hungry pigsTen Hungry Pigs: An Epic Lunch Adventure by Derek Anderson.  I loved Anderson’s first pig book, so I’m really looking forward to this food-themed one which stars a pig who wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I’ve got a hunch it will make a great felt story for storytime.

excellent edExcellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach.  Ed wants to be good at something just like the rest of his African American family.  Perfect for dog lovers.

tortoiseWho Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane; illustrated by K.G. Campbell.  When a little girl gets a tortoise for her birthday instead of a longed-for puppy, she learns that friendship comes when you least expect it.

finding wildFinding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd; illustrated by Abigail Halpin.  Two children go off an adventure to discover the beauty of nature in the wild and in their own backyard.  Illustrations are top-notch.

city shapesCity Shapes by Diana Murray; illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Not just a concept book! Explore city life and discover the shapes that are hidden there. Collier modeled his illustrations on his own daughter – adorable!

darioDario and the Whale by Cheryl Lawton Malone; illustrated by Bistra Masseva.  One of the only books I’ve seen about an immigrant family coming out this year.  When Dario and his mom move to Cape Cod from Brazil, Dario finds a friend in a creature who also doesn’t speak English.

hooray for todayHooray for Today! by Brian Won.  Super excited for this one by the author of Hooray for Hat! Owl is ready for fun, but all the other animals are ready for bed.  A tale of patience and friendship.

it is not time for sleepingIt is Not Time for Sleeping by Lisa Graff; illustrated by Lauren Castillo.  A cumulative tale of getting ready for bed even though the little boy is sure it’s not time just yet.

ada twistAda Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts.  Girls and science, heck yes! Ada loves asking why and embarks on a scientific adventure.  Love seeing girls and STEAM together.

duck on a tractorDuck on a Tractor by David Shannon.  Duck on a Bike remains one of my favourite preschool storytime books, so I can’t wait to see what mischief Duck gets up to on a tractor!

ill waitI’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony.  The animals all want to know what Panda is making, but only one little penguin has the patience to wait.  Sequel to Please, Mr. Panda.

hungry-birdmaple-leafHungry Bird by Jeremy Tankard.  One of our local authors is back with another story about Bird. Looks like someone’s stomach is rumbling!

is that wiseIs That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas.  Thomas’s books are laugh-out-loud funny and storytime gold. In this upcoming title, Pig keeps adding silly ingredients to a soup he is helping Mouse make.

returnReturn by Aaron Becker. Another wordless wonder that appears to complete the story told in Journey and Quest.

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Storytime Planning: Resource of the Week

One of the things I’ve been working on with regards to my storytimes is the concept of intention.  Being intentional about the books, songs, rhymes, early literacy messages, and flow of those precious 30 minutes.  I’ve always been a storytime planner, and I started the year by sharing how I incorporated more repetition of stories throughout a 10 week storytime session.  Today I’m sharing my idea about how to intentionally highlight and raise awareness of other aspects of the library during a storytime.

Storytime is a wonderful early literacy program we offer at my library.  But it’s only one of many different ways we serve children and families.  I had the idea recently to start planning out ways I could quickly and easily explain library resources during storytime.  I’m treating it like an early literacy tip – directed at the adults, does not take more than a minute to say, and aimed at helping families support their child’s literacy development.  As you’ll see below, some of the resources are simply parts of the collection, while others are features of my specific library.

I’m calling this the Resource of the Week.  My goals are:

  • To raise awareness of the library’s collection, space, programs, and organizational structure
  • To encourage caregivers to ask me questions about the library or for any other type of help
  • To provide better access to the library’s collection

The thing about intention is that it makes me sit down and think and plan and organize and list and hopefully, stick to my guns.  Here’s what I’m hoping to highlight over the course of my next storytime session and how I plan to say it. I’m thinking about introducing this at the very beginning of storytime after we sing our hello song and saying something like, “The resource of the week today is….”  And again, these are meant to be quick and go with the flow of the storytime.

Week 1: Library Cards

Did you know kids can get their own library cards?  They can!  To get one for your child, come grab one of these blue forms at the end of storytime.  The best thing about a child’s card is that they don’t pay late fees.  Having their own library card can make a child even more excited to check out books to take home.

Week 2: Booklists

If you’re ever wondering what to read to your preschooler, we’ve created these booklists with some fantastic suggestions.  Our 100 Picture Books to Love booklist features our librarian favourites, while our STEAM for Early Years booklist has information books on topics like science, technology, and math.  I’d be more than happy to help you find any of the books on these lists!

Week 3: Music CDs and Streaming Music

We sing lots of songs at storytime and if you want to keep singing and dancing at home we have a Music CD collection with lots of great children’s music.  They are located right behind us in the blue bins.  You can also stream children’s music straight from our website.  If you’d like any music suggestions, just let me know!

Week 4: Program Information

Thank you so much for coming to storytime! To learn more about other programs we have for kids of all ages, check out the Program Information poster board  – it’s right back there next to the puppets.  Feel free to take a picture of any of the posters, or you can grab one of these brochures to see a full listing.

Week 5: Spine Labels

Some of our picture books have special spine labels to help you find things quicker.  For example, this book has “ABC” on the spine label because it’s an alphabet book.  To find a counting book, look for the spine label that says, “123.”  If you’re looking for a specific book, you can always ask a library staff member for help.

Week 6: Non-Fiction

We have a whole collection of information books about things like nature, pets, dinosaurs, vehicles, and other topics your preschooler might be interested in.  These books are all along the back wall.  To find ones that are good for preschoolers, look for the word “EASY” on the spine label.

Week 7: Audiobooks

Listening to stories out loud provides children with a model of fluent reading which can help them when they get older and are learning to read. They also help preschoolers develop good listening skills which they’ll need when they start school.  We have audiobooks which are stories on a CD – they’re right under our Music CDs.  Some of them even come with a copy of the book so you can read and listen at the same time.

Week 8: Books for Babies

If you have a child between the ages of 0-24 months, we have a separate picture book section called Books for Babies that has great picks for you.  On the spine of these picture books it says, “J+Babes” and these books have shorter text and are developmentally appropriate for babies and toddlers. Let me know if you’d like any help finding books for your child.

What resources would you point out in your library?  How else can we bring intention to our storytimes?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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