We’ve all been there. You’re doing a storytime based on a theme and you’re drawing a blank on books. Depending on how long you’ve been in your role as a storytime presenter this problem can cause all levels of anxiety.
Today I’m sharing my top five strategies for finding a storytime book based on a theme in hopes of empowering others in their search skills.
First I’d like to draw attention to three things. If you are looking for an alternative way to plan storytimes check out Storytime Themes vs. Storytime Flow. Secondly, if you need help figuring out how to evaluate a book for read aloud potential check out Choosing Storytime Books. Thirdly, if you want to see all of my favourite storytime books check out my Storytime Resources page.
Now on to the Top 5!
Storytime Blogs and Wikis
Who knows what makes a great storytime book better than those doing storytime on a regular basis? A very high percentage of online storytime outlines follow a theme. Even if the blog is inactive, you can search or browse posts by topic. Most blogs also tell which age group the book works best for. Here are my favourite blogs listing storytimes by theme:
- Abby the Librarian
- Adventures in Storytime
- Bayviews ACL Storytimes
- Esther’s Storytime Wiki
- Intentional Storytime
- Let’s Get (Early) Lit!
- Literary Hoots
- MCLS Children’s Services Wiki
- Mel’s Desk
- Storytime Katie
- Storytime Source Page
Search the Catalog
An easy way to see which books you actually have at your library is to search the catalog. It’s hard to give exact tips on this one because libraries use different catalog platforms. In the video below I demonstrate how to use filters, advanced search, and subject headings to find books by theme.
Once you’ve found these books you can evaluate them for read aloud potential. This method not only helps you become more familiar with your collection, but it also helps you get to know what features to look for when reading aloud to a group.
Or any other search engine of your choice! Try searching terms like “cat storytime theme” or “dog storytime books.” Often times you will be pointed to a storytime blog like above or to other credible early childhood sources. Pinterest results can give you a good lead especially if you find a particular board or account that focuses on storytime. Be aware that the word “storytime” is used liberally with the general population and may refer to any book that can be read to a child, rather than a book that is particularly suited to a group. That is where your professional judgment comes in. Find the books on your shelves, read them, and see what you think. Nothing wrong with using Google as a launching point though.
Ask Your Colleagues
If you work with another person who does storytime, ask them for their favourites. They may know about hidden gems you’ve never heard of. At my library each children’s librarian also has a storytime shelf kept in the back as reference. I love visiting other branches and seeing what each person has set aside as great picks for storytime. If you are isolated, try getting in touch with your state or provincial library organization. Often times they have list serves where you can ask these types of questions to people who can become local(ish) mentors.
This isn’t the first place I check, but library databases are a great resource. For example, NoveList is a reader’s advisory tool many libraries have access to. In the picture below it shows a list of themes in the left column for ages 0 – 8. Once you click on a title it gives you further options for searching by theme. As always, you’ll need to evaluate the books you find here for read aloud suitability, but NoveList has done the grunt work for you. TumbleBook Library is another database that lists books by theme.
Fellow storytimers, what are your top tips for finding books on a theme? Any favourite resources to consult? Please leave a comment with your recommendations and thoughts.