New to Storytime: Using Puppets

Welcome back to my New to Storytime series where I cover the basics of starting out as a storytime leader. Don’t miss the other posts!

Today we’re talking puppets. Feared by many new storytime leaders, puppets are actually an easy way to connect with kids and provide a visually stimulating storytime. This post will cover how to use puppets in different ways without having to become a voice actor. If you’re looking for ideas on how to make puppets, please read Miss Mary Liberry’s post which has fantastic suggestions for how to make a variety of cheap puppets. Seriously. Read her post, folks. She’s amazing.

Benefits of Using Puppets

Using puppets with children has myriad benefits. I’ve found during a rowdy storytime bringing out a puppet is the only way to recenter the group and regain their attention. Most kids have stuffed animals at home and have positive feelings about said stuffies, so breaking out a puppet is a familiar yet exciting thing for them to experience. Kids who are hesitant to talk to you as the adult sometimes come out of their shell when they see a puppet as it appears more friendly and less intimidating. Puppets also encourage kids to use their imagination and infuse a sense of play into storytime. If you’re using puppets to tell stories they can act as a wonderful way to build language skills too. This short video from the New Hanover County Public Library does a great job of summarizing the benefits.

Tips and Tricks

Practice Beforehand

Just like practicing reading aloud your storytime books, you also want to practice with your puppets. Here are some questions to consider once you decide to use a puppet:

  • Does it fit your hand comfortably? A too big or too small puppet may not work.
  • Do you have to put fingers in certain places for it to fit (I have an octopus puppet that can be a bit tricky!)?
  • Can you move the mouth open and shut allowing you to make the puppet speak? Or will this puppet mostly move around?
  • Will the puppet have a particular voice and if so what will it sound like? Is it comfortable pitch for you to sustain?
  • Where will you store the puppet during storytime when it’s not in use? Does it have a special home like a basket or box? Will the kids be able to reach it?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but the answers will influence how you use the puppet and how well you are prepared.

Sometimes you will end up dressed exactly like your puppet and that’s okay.

Introducing the Puppet

Think about how you want to introduce the puppet to the group. This will largely depend on how you plan to use the puppet. If the puppet is a mascot who comes out every week and has a name and personality, then you can make their appearance a special moment. Sometimes I’ll pretend that I hear something and it ends up being whatever the mascot was doing before I brought it out such as baking a pizza, playing basketball, etc. It’s really fun for the kids to get to say a special hello.

Most of the time, and especially when I was just starting though, I used puppets in a less formal way during songs and rhymes. For this purpose the puppets didn’t talk; they acted as a visual cue for kids to help them understand what we were singing about. I fill a large bag with puppets and then dramatically pull them out one by one as we sing each verse. Sometimes I’ll pause and we’ll talk about the colour, texture, and shape of the puppet to model the early literacy practice of talking.

Manipulating the Puppet

Even if you don’t have the puppet speak, the eyes and mouth are important features. Slightly bend the puppet downward so that kids can see the puppet’s eyes. If you do have a puppet speak, even just to sing a song, open its mouth on the accented syllable. If it’s talking, look at the puppet as if it were alive. Kids will follow your gaze and watch the puppet too. Similarly, when you speak have the puppet face you. Even if I’m using puppets in an informal way during songs and rhymes I still try to treat it tenderly so that kids know they are special. This also preserves the illusionary aspect of a puppet if you use it as a character.

I love grabbing a bunch of farm animals and then throwing in a random dragon, octopus, or other unusual creature to sing classics like Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

Storytime Examples

Here’s some examples of how to use puppets in storytime in a simple way.

Songs and Rhymes

My Toddler Storytime: Using Puppets blog post is chock full of easy examples of using puppets in a non-intimidating way. Have a favourite storytime song that includes animals? Try adding a puppet to help you sing a verse. I created a Puppet Songs and Rhymes playlist on YouTube as well with tons of ideas. If you’ve got a random assortment of puppets, try something like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” or “When Cows Get Up in the Morning” as you can customize the verses based on what you have available. And trust me, the weirder the animals the better! If you have a small storytime group you could pass out a puppet to each child and have them “lead” the verse by coming up to the front.

Reciting Poems or Jokes

I love bringing out a puppet to share a poem or a joke. That way I don’t have to memorize anything because the puppet reads it for me! If it’s a big poetry book I will prop it up on my easel and then have the puppet read it aloud. This is a great way to introduce a concept or theme of the day. If you’ve given your puppet a personality then having them tell a joke at the beginning or end of a storytime is fun. It doesn’t have to last long – they make an appearance, read the poem or joke, we thank them, and then they go away. This can be a great way to interact with families as they are gathering or leaving too. I’ve had many kids offer their own jokes to the puppet (but not to me!).

Mascot or Host Puppet

I don’t do this one myself, but I know many storytimes that use a puppet as their host or mascot. Usually they come out at the beginning of storytime to say hello, introduce a concept or theme, or lead a song. If you are really creative you can make clothes for the puppet that change with the seasons. You could also come up with a catchphrase or song the puppet always says. These things anthropomorphize the puppet and contribute to kids making a bond with the puppet. I’ve also heard caregivers talk about how kids will go home and use their stuffed animals in a similar way, showing how they mimic and learn from our storytime activities. The following video gives a great example of a host puppet including an early literacy tip for caregivers.

Further Learning

If you are ready to go above and beyond the basics of puppetry, you can learn how to tell puppet stories and put on puppet shows. The ALSC Blog has a great post on Puppet Shows at Storytime which gives an example of how a library used a series of puppet shows to address common childhood concerns.

There is also a 5-week online course offered through ALSC called Storytelling With Puppets that dives deeper. This course is taught by the same person who does the Storytelling with Puppets YouTube channel which is full of videos demonstrating how to tell picture book stories with puppets.

Lastly, if you are able I highly recommend shadowing someone else’s storytime who uses puppets or sharing ideas at a staff meeting. I’ve gotten so many ideas from seeing others in action!

What are your tips and tricks for new storytime leaders when it comes to using puppets? Or if you’re new, what questions do you have? I’d love to hear in the comments!

2019 Picture Books: Holiday Stories

So many holiday books coming out this year! I’ve arranged these loosely by holiday so you can order the ones that will fill any gaps in your collection. Still waiting on a more diverse array, but for now Christmas reigns supreme.

See the other books in my 2019 Picture Book Series:

An overview of major holidays around the world.
How many books do you have about Ramadan? Now you can increase that number.
Underwear for every occasion.
Santa AND trains?! It will never be on your shelf.
I forgot to include this one on my Books Featuring Babies list.
Sophie’s Grade 2 class is obsessed with Mustache Baby so I know this one will be well loved.
Fuse 8 + a Caldecott Medalist = Christmas Gold
Even Santa needs to sleep.
A story about kindness, generosity, and friendship.
Ask the tough questions, chica.
The first of two holiday themed books featuring The Crayons.
Yes, Tomie dePaola is still publishing children’s books.
A Christmas book NOT about Santa.
Move over, Rudolph.
I can’t find much about this one, but it looks cute.
Self explanatory.
Christmas and reading all in one.
Super cute illustrations!
A little girl celebrates Christmas with a trip to the ballet.
This looks like a really cool cut-out book.
If you’re into the whole zombie thing.
If Christmas gets one…
100% buying multiple copies of this one.
I could buy 50 copies of this and they would all get checked out.
Learn about the Festival of Lights.
Sure to be popular with toddlers.
A group of cat friends get ready for Halloween.
Another one in the Dino series.
This isn’t an in-your-face Halloween book, but great for the holiday anyways.
If you’ve ever seen the movie The Last Unicorn you will know why this tree looks creepy AF.
Great for fall time in general.
Halloween serves as the backdrop for this cute tale.
A rhyming spooky jaunt.
Not gonna lie, these snowmen slightly freak me out.
The only Easter book I saw out there!
American friends, take note!
My bet is on the turtle.
The Crayons are back in this sweet story.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal *bursts into tears*

Which ones are you excited to read? Let me know in the comments!

Library Services for Children Journal Club: Summer 2019

Hello friends!

I’m about to take a much needed vacation and won’t be posting on Jbrary for a few weeks. I wanted to make sure I announced the Summer 2019 LSC Journal Club articles before I go.

This quarter we’re discussing Summer Reading Clubs. Or Summer Reading Programs. Or Summer Learning Programs. Whatever you call them! You can find the articles and discussion questions on the Library Services for Children Journal Club website.

I have so many feels about SRC. So.Many.Feels. I’ve been wanting to write about it in depth for awhile and I’m hoping this will be a good push.

If you don’t have a local group to meet and discuss the articles with, try sharing them at a staff meeting. Or discussing them on social media. Or simply reading and reflecting on them yourself. I’d love to chat about them in the comments too!

Have a great start to the summer, everyone!

2019 Picture Books: Gender Expansive

These books bust gender stereotypes. They also feature LGBTQ families and kids. I couldn’t find the perfect phrase to encompass both of these, but I liked “gender expansive” which I saw in a recent School Library Journal article on gender expression and early learning. And I’m sneaking this in just before the end of Pride month (though we should be Proud all year!).

Any standouts to you? Let me know in the comments!

Here are the other posts in my 2019 Picture Book series:

The message: Kids can play with any toy they want!
AKA however you want.
Reclaiming this phrase!
There will be a female president of the U.S. one day. THERE WILL.
A fierce maiden finds love.
This one reminds me so much of my nephew who loves to paint his nails.
You don’t have to choose.
Toxic masculinity can see itself out the door.
The description describes Riley as “gender creative.”
Picture books have a bad history of only featuring men in the driver’s seat. Not anymore!
Rosenthal’s husband and daughter made this companion book. If you need me I’ll be here sobbing with my box of tissues.
Another celebration of all the ways boys can be boys.
Aidan, a trans boy, gets ready to greet his new sibling.
Ella is described as a “strong-willed character with her own ideas.”
A young girl proves she does have what it takes to be a matador (and get those churros).
Also featured on my Women Biographies list.
Yes, it sure does.
Women in STEM fields are still underrepresented. I loved the first Charlotte book and this one looks just as good.
Chicks fight back when they see a sign that says “No Chicks Allowed.” Chick power.
Lots of diversity in this one.
Meet your new hero.

New to Storytime: Using Felt Stories

Welcome back to my New to Storytime series. It’s been awhile! These posts are aimed at people just starting out as storytime leaders. It’s really fun, I promise. This post will cover the basics of picking felt stories and songs and using them with small children in storytime or circle time setting. Don’t miss the other posts in this series:

Getting Started

Choosing a felt story or song can be daunting. My tip for beginners, especially if you are new to storytelling in general, is to start with a simple song. I’ve shared many of the felt songs I use weekly and I use them because they are so easy to incorporate. Already have a favourite storytime song? Try making felt pieces to go along with it and incorporate them before or during singing. Here are some examples:

I whipped these up to act as a visual guide for toddlers and preschoolers as we sing the songs. You don’t have to learn anything new in this case – you already know the song!

If you want try a felt story, choose something with a basic plot, a manageable amount of felt pieces (sorry, Very Hungry Caterpillar) and repetition. The felt pieces themselves act as a trigger to help you remember what to say, though you can also have a printed copy of the story on your lap or beside you as a guide. Sometimes I highlight the key words on the paper to help me remember the order of things. The great thing with felt stories is that you don’t have to tell a story word-for-word. You can use the pieces as your guide and make it your own. Here are some examples of simple stories that are easy to learn. All of the pictures are from Storytime Katie because she’s the bomb when it comes to felt stories:

These three examples are based on books. Just like with books, it’s important to practice felt stories ahead of time. Grab your felt board and let’s get started!

How To Use

There are a few things to do to set yourself up for success when using felt or flannel stories. Firstly, practice, practice, practice. Consider the following:

  • Do all of the pieces fit on my felt board? Do I need to arrange them in a certain order for them all to fit or make sense?
  • What colour is my felt board? If it’s black do I have any pieces that are hard to see?
  • Where will I store my felt pieces when I’m not using them during the storytime? Do I have a place on an easel, a table behind me, a special storytime bag, etc? Are they easily accessible to little hands?
  • Do I have the words to the story printed or have I memorized the story?

Before every storytime I take the time to put all of the pieces I’m using in order. Trust me, you do not want to be scrambling to find the next felt piece in the middle of the story! Once the pieces are in order I find a secure place to store them until I need them during storytime. My felt board easel has a tray on the inside where I can tuck away my felt story until I’m ready to tell it. Out of sight is better for little ones who will be tempted to come up and grab it if they spy it!

Introduce Vocabulary

One way to use felt pieces is to introduce the vocabulary in a song or story. For example, before we sing Zoom, Zoom, Zoom I put up the rocket ship. Then I ask kids if they are ready to go on an adventure. How will we get there? I point to the rocket ship and we say it together. Where should we go? I put up the moon and get kids to tell me our destination. Next we warm up our engines (rub our hands together). All of that vocabulary frontloading is done with the felt pieces before we sing the song. After a few weeks the kids instantly know what song we are about to sing as soon as I pull out the rocket ship. You can easily do the same for a story with unique vocabulary.

Practice Early Numeracy

Flannels are a natural fit for incorporating early counting and number skills with kids because they provide a visual aid that helps little ones see numbers. Flannel Friday has a Pinterest board filled with counting ideas and Storytime Katie has a list of her Five Little Whatsits if you need inspiration. My favourite counting story to use with felt pieces or puppets is Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd. If you use a counting rhyme take some time to put all of the pieces up first and ask the kids about them – what are they wearing, how are they different, how are they the same, what do you notice? This encourages the early literacy practice of talking and incorporates math and scientific thinking in a fun way. Here are two I’ve shared on Jbrary:

Simple Games

Don’t feel like singing or telling a story? Try playing a game with your felt pieces! My all time favourite is any variation of Little Mouse, Little Mouse. Seriously. I have a blog post with a bajillion renditions. See how it’s done:

There are so many game ideas out there though! If you have a small group and can give kids the chance to take turns to come up and interact with the felt pieces that’s even better. Some librarians leave the pieces up after storytime too so that kids who really want a chance to play get access to the story. Here are some other game ideas:

Have kids build a castle using shapes by Mel’s Desk
Key Shadow Matching by Felt Board Magic – shapes, colours, similaries, and differences!

Using flannel pieces as games is a low stress way to integrate them into your storytime. You don’t have to memorize anything, there are endless options, and there is no one “right” way for kids to interact. It also encourages lots of open-ended conversations where you can model the serve-and-return model of talking to kids.

Making Felt Pieces

You do not need to be an artist or a crafty person to make some awesome felt pieces. Trust me. Here are some tips and resources for building up your collection.

  • Clipart and Google Images are your friend – you don’t even need felt! Printing some nice pictures and taping them or clipping them up for the kids to see still provides that visual cue which is so helpful in toddler language acquisition.
  • Bigger is Better: I love how Mel makes oversized flannel pieces for her babies and toddlers. It makes so much sense – they can actually see them and manipulate them better. If you have a big group I also recommend going large over small if you’re board can fit them.
  • Keep Calm and Use Clipart: In this post by Storytime in the Stacks, she walks you through how she uses clipart to create her felt pieces. She includes a list of websites where you can get clipart for a fee or for free.
  • Flannel Friday: This online community has myriad felt stories arranged by theme. They link back to the blog post where the flannel was shared.
  • Flannel Board Fun: If you do have some money to invest I HIGHLY recommend checking out Wendy’s shop. Colourful, well-made, and she shares ideas for how to use each set on Instagram!

Alright folks, what did I miss? Any tips or tricks you’d give to a new storytimer when it comes to use felt or flannel stories? If you’re a newbie and have questions, feel free to leave a comment!

2019 Picture Books: Nature

It is hiking season and I couldn’t be more excited! Growing up as a Girl Scout gave me an appreciation of nature that I treasure today. Here are some of the nature-themed titles coming out this year that grabbed my interest. Which ones look the best to you? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t miss the other books in the series:

Friendly reminder to always use the microphone 🙂
Matheson’s books are always interactive fun.
Trees are actually way smarter than you know, verging on creepy.
I love this series! It appears on my nonfiction storytime list.
This will tide me over until the next David Attenborough documentary.
You give me butterflies.
LOVE this series and can’t wait to booktalk this one at school visits.
This title is a pun, right? Right?!
Everyday diversity ftw.
Insert Vancouver rain joke here.
Pulley Sayre is still in tip top shape.
Eyeing this one for storytime.
Living for the striped leggings and cowboy boots look.
I get asked for this topic a lot.
Getting major Groot vibes and I’m here for it.
Jenkins.Never.Stops
I love Yuly’s books for babies and toddlers.
Madeline 2.0
Purty cover.
I told you.
I <3 trees.
Friends in the forest.
As the sand through the hourglass…
Yes! I wish there were more books about hiking with kids.
Winner of Best Text Design Ever.

Bilingual Storytime Presenter’s Guide

I am so excited to share this guest post about bilingual storytime today! I am even more excited because the writer is a youth services librarian from my hometown library, Sacramento Public Library!  So many exclamation points!

This post is a great follow-up to my Bilingual Storytime Resources as its written by someone who actually does these types of programs. Please welcome Adilene (Addie) Rogers, a bilingual outreach youth services librarian in Northern California. You can often find her blogging about bilingual storytimes on her blog thelatinxlibrarian.blog, arguing with someone on twitter @latinxlibrarian or taking artsy pictures of her corgi, Shakespeare.  Take it away, Addie!

¡Hola y bienvenidos! I have been creating bilingual storytimes for almost 5 years and it is still by far one of my most rewarding library programs. It feels great being able to share the joy of reading to a child in their native language or to see a child explore a new language. While an English storytime is still wonderful by all means, a bilingual storytime brings with it the opportunity to engage new families that may not be familiar with storytime or with the library. So for those of you who have ever wondered how to start a bilingual storytime, or for those who may already be seasoned pros, here are a few tips and tricks.

Can I do a bilingual storytime if I don’t know Spanish?

One of the biggest questions that I get asked is “Do I have to speak Spanish to present a bilingual storytime?” The answer is no, but you will need a little help. You can present a bilingual storytime with the help of a partner often that would be a bilingual staff member or a bilingual volunteer. The librarian will handle the english portion of the presentation while the bilingual staff member will help with the Spanish portion. Remember, this is NOT a Spanish class. Your job is not to teach Spanish. Yes, children will pick up Spanish along the way, but you are not there to teach you are there to support parents as they help develop their children’s early literacy skills.

There are two ways to present a bilingual storytime:

One PresenterTwo Presenters
One presenter presents in English and Spanish.

One presenter presents in English.

Second presenter presents in Spanish.

If you are not bilingual, then you would opt for two presenters. Keep in mind that in order for you to have a bilingual storytime at least one of your presenters should be fluent. I know that we may want to try and teach ourselves some simple phrases and words in Spanish to try and have a bilingual storytime, but unless you can answer a caregiver’s questions or concerns in the other language fluently, it is far better to get someone else to help. If your partner is a native speaker, that will also help when it comes to adding traditional Spanish songs and rhymes.

¡Libros!

When it comes to reading your books, you have a couple options. You can read one book in Spanish and then the same one in English. You could read a bilingual book which would require you read the English part first and then the Spanish part afterwards. If you have two presenters, I usually recommend bilingual books but you can also have one person read the English version of a book while the other reads the Spanish version. When you have two presenters, I usually have each presenter have a copy of the book because it makes it easier to read.

There are a lot of great Spanish and bilingual books out there. You can usually find out about the newest books through Spanish publishers and book vendors. Jbrary’s Bilingual Resources listed some great resources where you can find book reviews.

Bilingual Storytime Outline

Once you have your reading format down you can choose how you would like to outline your storytime. I usually follow the outline below:

  1. Spanish/English Opening song
  2. English scarf song
  3. Spanish scarf song
  4. Spanish Fingerplay
  5. Transition song
  6. Book 1
  7. Movement song Spanish
  8. Movement song English
  9. Transition Song
  10. Book 2
  11. Parachute or fingerplay
  12. Spanish/English Closing song

I do my best to keep my storytimes 50/50 when it comes to the distribution of English and Spanish, but this can change depending on your audience. I always recommend that you do a good amount of traditional Spanish songs and NOT just translations because it will help native speakers in the audience feel more comfortable if they hear songs they are familiar with. I do my best to translate everything I say in one language to the other which means I do a lot of talking, but it helps the parents who may not be comfortable with English only. If you have two presenters, you follow a very similar format except that when you read your stories you will have someone else reading the story in the other language as well. You will also notice that I only do two stories and that is because Spanish stories are often a lot longer, plus if you are doing it with a partner, you are technically reading 4 stories so it is best to stick to just a couple.

MĂşsica y Movimiento

I do a lot of music and movement in my bilingual storytimes and that is because it is less intimidating to learn a new word or phrase through a song or rhyme. I use shakers, claves, bells and, my favorite, the parachute which is a great way to get people up and moving! I am fortunate enough to have a projector by which I put the lyrics up on the screen. For traditional Spanish songs I do not usually do the song in English, the reason being that it can be difficult to find a translation that both fits the rhyme scheme and translates well.  I also recommend CD’s for those of us who may be a little shy to sing in Spanish, but keep in mind that even if you mess up, the audience will be happy to teach you the proper way to say something. Music and movement could be a whole blog post by itself, but the biggest take away I suggest is using instruments and props to emphasize movement and couple that with some Spanish vocabulary. For example, when I use the parachute I say “Arriba, Abajo, Adentro y Afuera” which is just “Up, Down, In and Out”. Simple movements that can be done together as a group.

Lastly, bilingual storytimes take practice. It can be especially hard if you are working with a partner because that requires good communication between both presenters. When I present with someone else we always go over our songs, books and rhymes beforehand. It will help maintain an even flow and make it easier for whoever is translating. A bilingual storytime can be a wonderful addition to any library’s programs and your families are sure to enjoy it!

2019 Picture Books: Cats and Dogs

Ahhh, librarian’s best friends! Personally, I enjoy watching funny GIFs of these furry creatures better than interacting with them in person. I couldn’t help creating list just about cats and dogs though. Also, this list is HUGE. The biggest one yet! Which ones stand out to you? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t miss the other books in the series:

I’m guessing someone isn’t too enthused.
This one is in my Top 10 Book Covers of 2019.
This one also breaks the Top 10.
LOLZ.
LOLZ LOLZ.
Look.at.the.underwear.
I wonder if this one has a social justice message?
Superheroes + Dogs = Yay!
Part of the Madeline Finn series.
I love seeing all the different dog names that pop up in books.
On the nose.
Told from the perspective of the cat.
Oates is breaking into the kid market.
Retro vibes.
Oh brother.
Mischievous cats FTW.
I love this phrase and I love this cover.
I believe there is one more Flubby book coming out this year.
I am so confused by the title and image but I am here for pugs.
It’s just so weird!
Best buds.
We’ve all been there.
I read this title in the most exaggerated way possible and it was hilarious.
Marigold is back!
Kinda creepy, not gonna lie.
Hmmmmm.
Is this not every cat and dog ever?
You do you!
I really hope this works in storytime!
Remember the first one she wrote?
Eyeing this one for storytime.
The McNames are getting a lot of attention this year.
You can also find this one on my Poetry list.
Boy’s best friend.
Welcome to Vancouver.
My MIL has that kind of dog and it is crazy big!
Notice the *
Gonna be honest, I did not get strong cat vibes from the creature on the roof.
Can I read this and not cry?
For anyone who has lost a furry friend.
I see what you did there.
Awwwww.
Juana Medina, I will buy anything you have a hand in creating.
I keep reading it as Mr. Pickles.
HIS FUR. HIS FACE.
Lemme guess.
This cat reminds me of the mean one from Cinderella.
Another winner from Cole.