2017 Favourite Storytime Picture Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

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

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

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


We’ll Link to That: Winter 2018

Hey, hey, the Winter 2018 edition of the YAACING newsletter is here!  This quarter we’re sharing our favourite oral stories to use with kids from a wide range of ages.  We encourage you read to the entire issue though for even more youth services ideas. You can find all of our columns for the YAACING newsletter on our professional development page.


The art of storytelling is an important aspect of a children’s librarian’s job. Oral storytelling can be daunting, so we’re sharing ten of our favourite oral stories that can be used with kids of any age. Try these in a storytime, a spooky stories around the campfire program, or at your next Summer Reading Club visit.

  1. Chicken in the Library
    This must have been written by a librarian- it allows you to talk about your collection, explain how to seek, locate and check out books at your library AND finishes with a goofy frog pun. Adapt to fit your library and group, this would work for toddlers up to school age kids.
  2. Mr. Wiggle and Mr. Waggle
    You might not think of fingerplays as stories- but trust us, the narrative patterns, characters and story arc all fit the bill. This is fun and easy to do and your toddlers will be asking for it each week, especially as they master the motions with their fingers and hands. Feel free to add in extra bits or shorten it up if kids are getting squirrely.
  3. The Mouse Family Takes a Walk
    We learned this story that uses ASL at a Mother Goose training. We love how the ending includes a positive message about bilingualism. Great for toddlers and up, especially when you repeat it each week.
  4. Grandfather Bear is Hungry
    If you’ve got a bear and chipmunk puppet, you’re all set for this one! This story gives a reason why chipmunk has stripes down his back. It works well in the spring when animals are waking up from hibernation.
  5. Pigeon and Turtle Go to New York City
    This folktale is from Haiti and includes poop jokes and chances for the audience to participate. Recommended for preschoolers or school-age kids.
  6. 10 Fuzzy Chicks
    Short rhymes can function as introductory oral stories for babies and toddlers. This one uses our hands to tell the story of ten chicks hatching. Perfect for spring and summer storytimes.
  7. Little Clapping Mouse
    This story’s got rhythm! Add in some clapping to help those kids that need to move while talking. We love how this one rhymes and we recommend it for toddlers on up.
  8. Billy Goats Trip Trap
    Speaking of rhythm, this story’s got a real beat too! The rhyming couplets make this an easy way to share the classic story with little ones and even infants if parents try it as a bounce. Want to spice it up? Try incorporating rhythm sticks or other musical instruments.
  9. The Three Little Pigs
    Another classic story told through rich rhyming language. This version was written by Carol Ashton and is fun to do with children young and old. Encourage little ones to hold up their fingers and tell the story along with you.
  10. Be a Seed
    This little rhyme reminds us that stories are taking place all around us- even in nature! Have kids try it first with their hands and arms and then tell it again from crouching to standing. A great little story for spring.

Do you have a favourite oral story you love to share with kids? Send us an email at jbrary@gmail.com with your suggestions!

Guest Post: Modeling Pretend Play at Storytime

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

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


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

1.  Lay an Egg

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

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

2.  Row, Row, Row Your Ukulele

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

3. Felt Piece Meet and Greet

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

4. The Original Hand Puppet

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

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

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

5. Sweep Up

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

6. Costume Change

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

7. Grow a flower

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

8. Baby Doll

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

9. Book Time

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

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

Pacing a Toddler Storytime

You all know I have a soft spot in my heart for toddler storytime.  I encourage you to check out the posts on our storytime resources page to learn more about how I plan, what books I read, what felt stories work, what songs I sing, and how I incorporate props.  But recently something about how I do toddler storytime has changed and it has everything to do with pacing.

Awhile ago I read a book by Megan Dowd Lambert called Reading Picture Books with Kids. That link will take you to my review of the book and why I think every person doing storytime should read it.  It taught me how to read picture books with kids and the value of slowing down while reading. Over the past year I’ve taken that philosophy and applied it to toddler storytime in general. If there is one thing I could teach my former storytime self it would be to SLOW DOWN.

I think there is an unspoken pressure to try and cram as many components into a storytime as possible. Read three books! Sing 10 songs! Do two felt stories! Bust out the puppets and the egg shakers and the scarves! And don’t forget the bubbles! While all of those things are great to feature in storytime, we do our toddlers a disservice when our pace quickens in order to get it all in.  When you look at toddler brain development and language acquisition, you find that toddlers need:

  • Repetition: They learn through repeated singing and reading of the same songs, rhymes, and stories.
  • Time to Think Before Responding: When you ask a toddler a question you need to give them time to process the question and then form an answer. I like asking yes or no questions or questions with two choices in toddler storytime because those are the first types of questions toddlers learn to answer.  You may not get a chorus of yeses, but adding in an extra 10 seconds to your wait time will help you slow down.
  • Serve and Return Conversations and Sentence Elongation: Babies begin learning language through the conversations adults have with them. We ask a question, pause, listen to them gurgle and coo, and then respond back. This encourages them to keep making an effort at language. Toddlers also benefit from this serve and return model. You can add in sentence elognation to build their vocabulary. For example, if they point to something and say, “bird!” then you can say, “Yes, it’s a bird. A big blue bird.” This helps build their vocabulary and understanding of how language works.

I’ve found that these things can’t all occur when I’m jumping from one song to the next without hardly a breathe in between.  Sometimes it feels like the only way to control the chaos is to just keep plowing through the material. Not only does that have the potential to further lose the attention of the toddlers, it also makes it hard for any newcomers or ESL attendees to follow along.

I’ve had a few people ask me to film my storytimes so they could see what slowing down really looks like. Unfortunately I am unable to film due to the privacy of my storytime attendees at the library. But I can provide a toddler storytime outline that describes where I take moments to pause and engage.  I didn’t include any props besides puppets in this storytime.  These 10 things take us 30 minutes.  Of course, this is just one way to do a toddler storytime and I am by no means an expert! This is just what has worked for me.

  1. Welcome Songs
    I’ve got big storytimes (60+ people), so I usually come into the room, walk around and say hello to everyone, and then start singing “Well Hello Everybody, Can You Touch Your Nose?” as a gathering song. It signals to caregivers that it’s time to start and it gets the kids engaged. We do at least five verses: touch your nose, clap your hands, stomp your feet, jump up high, sit back down. A few of them are always action-oriented.  If people are still coming in the door I’ll add a few more verses. Once we’re finished I do my welcome message (a modified version of #2 in this blog post) every single week – you never know who is new! Then we sing Hello, Friends and end by turning to the person sitting next to us and introducing ourselves with our names. Before we sing Hello, Friends I go over the signs for hello and friends every single week. I don’t rush this part. Because we’re a big group and can’t do songs that use people’s names, I really want to build in a chance for people to get to know each other.  It also helps slow down the pace of the storytime and gives caregivers a chance to get settled if they came in a few minutes late.
  2. Roly Poly
    At this point I used to jump right into my first book and with smaller groups that still works. But when I’ve got a big group I find that caregivers are still coming in at this point.  It makes it really hard for the toddlers to focus on a story when people are trying to find a seat. I do not blame caregivers at all! In fact, I always smile and welcome them in. It just means I sneak in another song before reading the first book. One way to slow down the pace of your storytime is to break down a song before singing it. With Roly Poly, first I have everyone hold up their hands, then we squeeze our hands and make a fist, then we put one hand over the other, and then we roll our hands. Toddlers get really excited because they know we are about to sing their favourite song.  Adding this step scaffolds the song in a developmentally appropriate way that makes it more accessible for toddlers.  We sing it at least two times through.
  3. Read a Book
    Don’t know what to read at toddler storytime? I’ve got you covered. Here’s part 1 and part 2 of my favourite read alouds for toddler storytime.  Here’s where I try really hard to consciously make an effort to slow down. Before we read we look at the cover and talk about what we see. I say the author and illustrator’s name and say something like, “She wrote the words and she drew the pictures.” When reading I keep my pace slow and steady and ask only a few questions as  I read.  Toddlers are at a language acquisition stage where pointing and labeling is key. So I point and label a lot of the images in the book. It’s also a great chance to use sentence elognation. You can ask what they see and then expand on the word they provide.  My favourite part is getting everybody to say, “The End!” together when we finish the book. I also love to hug the book when I’m done and say something about how much I love stories.  A really easy way to incorporate an early literacy tip in storytime is simply telling caregivers why you picked the book to read.
  4. Song with Felt Pieces
    To help toddlers match words with objects I put up pictures or felt pieces that match the songs we sing.  There are so many to choose from. Some of my favourites are Baby SharkSlippery Fish, Bananas Unite, or Knife, Fork, Spoon Spatula.  Rather than jump right into singing, I’ll pull out one of the felt pieces and say, “We’re going to sing a song now. And it’s a song about a….shark!” When we do Baby Shark I then take a moment to put the shark on the felt board, ask what colour it is, ask if they like sharks, etc. Here’s where it’s important to build in that wait time when you ask questions.  Once the song has been introduced then we start singing. If it’s a longer song like Baby Shark I’ll probably only do it once through, but for shorter songs I do them 2-3 times. I repeat these songs every week because that’s how toddlers learn.
  5. Felt Story
    My preference is to do a felt story version of the book we read. I’ve written about how to do one story many ways before and believe it offers toddlers a chance to practice the language and internalize the story featured in the book. If I can’t find a felt story version of the book then I’ll try to pick something thematically related to the book. Again, just as a way to build the vocabulary around a certain topic.  As with reading a book, I’ve tried hard to slow down my pacing with felt stories. I try to pick ones that have audience participation elements or repetitive phrases caregivers can say with me. Here are my favourite felt stories to use: Part 1 and Part 2.
  6. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
    At this point we need to get up and move!  I like doing Zoom, Zoom, Zoom for multiple reasons. Firstly, toddlers love it.  Secondly, you can do multiple verses that encourage caregivers to play with lyrics. I made a felt set that helps me slow down my pacing.  Before we start singing I pull out the rocketship felt and say, “Wow, what is this? It’s a rocketship!  Where should we go in our rocketship?”  Then I pull out the moon piece and say, “The moon! It’s a big, round, yellow moon. Let’s go to the moon. First we need to warm up our engines.”  Then we rub our hands together and start singing.  We go to the stars and the sun. Before going to the sun we put on sunblock and sometimes our spacesuit. Adding in these elements slows down the pace naturally and allows toddlers a chance to process the language before you sing.
  7. My Two Hands
    This is my go-to transition song. I like it because the first part still has lots of action in it.  I use this one every week and once the toddlers learn it they are so into it.
  8. Farm Animal Puppet Song
    At this point I sometimes pull out scarves or shakers, but most of the time I feature some puppets. Puppets grab a toddler’s attention unlike a song itself.  I try to stick with familiar tunes like Old MacDonald or The Cows on the Farm Go Moo, Moo, Moo (Tune: Wheels on the Bus).  Then I rotate through different animals. I like throwing in an oddball animal like an octopus because it’s fun and gets the kids to help me think of the sound. To slow down my pace, I’ll pause between each verse and do a reveal game. Try pulling the puppet’s leg or tail out of your bag and asking what animal it could be. They love to guess and it gets caregivers to help their toddler focus their attention.
  9. Rain is Falling Down
    At this point we are nearing the end of storytime and the focus is on calming and settling.  Any lullaby or gentle song will do. I like Rain is Falling Down because you can have caregivers move their fingers down their child’s back or arms and then play peek-a-boo on the second verse. I’ve added a third verse about snow which goes, “Snow is falling down, shhhh.” Before singing this song I’ll put up the felt pieces that match the song and we’ll talk about making rain with our hands. After the song I put my hand on my heart and say, “My body is feeling nice and calm now. I feel very peaceful. How do you feel?” Build in some wait time to see if toddlers will answer.
  10. Goodbye Song
    And that brings us to the end!  We sing Goodbye, Friends three times through and then the kids come up to get their stamp. We’ve got lots of ideas for goodbye songs though.  In an attempt to get to know the kids I’ll ask them to say their name when they get a stamp, but realistically this doesn’t always happen with such big groups. Of course I walk around afterwards and talk to kids and caregivers one-on-one. I like to take the book we read with me and ask them if they liked it or just point to the cover and say, “We read a book about dinosaurs today. Big, green dinosaurs!” I’m all about modeling to caregivers.

And that fills 30 minutes. Sometimes I can get a second short or singable book in there, but usually not. And that’s okay! The focus for me is on strategies that cater to a toddler’s language development, enjoyment of stories, and caregiver participation.  In terms of repetition I will switch out the book and felt story from week to week but I keep all the songs the same for an 8-10 week session.

How do you pace your toddler storytimes? Any tips for slowing down? Please leave a comment with any thoughts!

Flannel Friday: Come Under My Umbrella and Rain is Falling Down

It’s time for Flannel Friday’s Winter Extravaganza!  Amy at Catch the Possibilities is hosting this week’s wintery round-up so be sure to check out her blog for more winter ideas.

I’m sharing some super simple felt pieces I whipped up to go along with two songs I love to sing in the fall and winter.  I live in Vancouver, otherwise known as Raincouver, so these are very relevant to my storytime kiddos!

Come Under My Umbrella

Come under my umbrella, umbrella, umbrella
Come under my umbrella, it’s starting to rain
With thunder and lightning and thunder and lightning
Come under my umbrella, it’s starting to rain.

Before I sing this one, I ask the kids what the weather is like today.  Then I pull out the rain felt and we practice making the sign for rain.  Then I ask what we use to stay dry and pull out the umbrella piece and we practice making the sign for umbrella. Then we talk about how sometimes there is thunder and lightning and I put up the lightning pieces as we practice the sign. Then we sing the song together.  This really helps me slow down my pace, especially for toddlers.


Rain is Falling Down

Rain is falling down. Splash!
Rain is falling down. Splash!
Pitter patter, pitter patter,
Rain is falling down. Splash!
Sun is peeking out. Peek!
Sun is peeking out. Peek!
Peeking here, peeking there,
Sun is peeking out. Peek!
Snow is falling down, shhh!
Snow is falling down, shhh!
Falling here, falling there,
Snow is falling down, shhh!

I love using this one at the end of any storytime – babies, toddlers, preschoolers. It gives a nice calming vibe and can be done with scarves too. The sun is from my Zoom, Zoom, Zoom set and the rain is from the set above.  The snow verse is not in the video as I’ve only recently added it. All I had to make were some snowflakes to complete the song!

What are your favourite winter songs and rhymes? Let me know in the comments!

Guest Post: School-Age Filler Activities

Today I am excited to share another guest post!  We are accepting guest post submissions on an on-going basis so feel free to contact us if you’d like to share something related to youth services. We are open to ideas! This week our guest poster is all the way from Australia. Welcome Kristy Baker who is sharing ideas for filler activities for school-age kids.  For the past ten years Kristy has been working in a variety of learning environments in a variety of roles with young people. More recently, she worked as a Teacher Librarian before moving to the public library sector and is currently working in a public library in a rural part of north-west New South Wales, Australia. She can be found from time to time on Twitter at @kristybaker663.

I have been programming and facilitating two face-to-face Junior Book Clubs since the beginning of 2016. The programs are under development and include various activities aimed at promoting a love of reading, literature, and public libraries in young people and their families. The participants create and contribute in their public library by building displays or writing pieces for the eNewsletter. We used to facilitate a Maker Space and have run creative writing workshops in the school holidays – a lot of the ideas for book clubs crossover. One club is aimed at young people in kindergarten or prep – grade 2, and the other club is aimed at young people in grades 3-6. The younger club meets weekly, and the other meets fortnightly; both for one hour each. The need for a suitable activity spontaneously comes up during the meetings and I have found that planning meaningful activities for these instances can be just as useful as planning the main body of the meeting.

Fillers are activities that are implemented ‘on the spot’ in a moment when you have time to spare (such as waiting for a clip to load, everyone finishes the main activity with a lot of time remaining, waiting for everyone to arrive).

Hot Seat

Hot seat is a drama game that can be really effective and lots of fun. One participant takes on the role of a character that the audience is familiar with, and sits in the Hot Seat as questions are asked of them. The answers may not always be obvious and the aim is for the person in the Hot Seat to really consider the point of view of the character based on their knowledge of the story or character. Answers should be longer than ‘yes’ or ‘no’! Depending on when this filler comes up, you could use a character from a story shared in that session, or choose a well-known character.

Library Charades

This is a fun one that you can personalise to reflect your library space or activities. It is based on traditional charades with the element of mime, however all of the topics are about the library. For our Library Charades we take photos of the book club participants doing various library ‘things’ – activities or using particular equipment or within specific spaces – and the photos are used as prompts for the charade. Things like:

  • reading the blurb
  • browsing
  • using the OPAC
  • researching on a computer
  • walking up the stairs to the meeting room.

As we come across new topics or activities, or things change at the library, we can add new photos.

The game does take a bit of practice and demonstrating of clear actions! Participants take 3 guesses from the audience before volunteering clues. We have some really tricky ones that the participants wanted to include – such as book titles, and even verso page – for these ones we give some verbal clues up front! Participants, one at a time, select a piece of paper with a photo and act out the content. I play the game in this format with the younger club and I quietly double check with the person doing the actions if they understand what the topic is first. I’ve found it’s highly necessary for me to know what will be acted out too because sometimes the participants misunderstand or may not see the connection between a guess and the topic.

Activities for Early Finishers
Not every child will finish an activity, such as craft, at the same time. (If this is your goal, using timers – such as sand timers – can be really useful). There are some simple activities that can be employed for individual early finishers that won’t take your time away from the whole group. The first example, below (Story Tree) is specific to one of the Book Clubs I run and relates to a broader idea.

Story Tree

We have been ‘growing’ the Story Tree as a part of the younger Book Club since the club commenced. All of the leaves feature the title and author of the stories we read each session. (Participants can also add a pear to the tree. Pears feature a text a child has read outside of Book Club & has shared with the club). A child can colour a leaf for the Story Tree for a book read in that session (the leaf can have the title and author/illustrator details written by you, or the child) and stick it on the tree. If you don’t have wall space available to display something like this, you could possibly make a scrapbook. Older children could do something asking for more detail about the text, as well as choose their own display theme.


As a part of being in Book Club, participants are the first to preview new items from the Junior collections. Early Finishers can browse these items, with or without some targeted direction such as – who would you recommend the items for, how would you describe the style, what’s your favourite part – depending on the text type and length. Again, sand timers as a time management tool can be useful so kids know how long they’ve got with the activity.

Why plan fillers and early finisher activities when you may not need them?

  • You will end up needing them, at some point!
  • They can become regular, or routine, activities that participants get to know and can either run themselves or are just very seamless to employ – not taking much time or preparation.
  • They are activities that you can add to your repertoire!

What activities do you employ for early finishers or as time fillers?

We’ll Link to That: Fall 2017

Did you see my recent post about the Library Services for Children Journal Club?  If not, read that post first!  Then come back and read our Fall 2017 YAACING column which is all about where to find current child development research.  Research informs our practice and we are here to help you find it.  You can find all of our columns for the YAACING newsletter on our professional development page.


Today’s column is all about research! Being familiar with child development research makes us better able to speak to the why behind the what we do. So we’ve rounded up 10 of our favourite places to look for research articles and reports on child development and early literacy. Many of these resources focus on the early years, ages 0 to 5, as this time period is crucial for future brain development.

  1. HELP Reads and Literature Reviews: The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC compiles bibliographies and citation lists of child development research articles published by their staff and affiliates each year. The lists are extensive and organized by topic for easy browsing. You could spend hours here, folks!
  2. Academic Journals: Reading peer-reviewed academic journals is a great way to stay on topic of current research. Check your library’s databases such as Academic Search Elite to see if you can get free access to Child Development, Journal of Early Childhood Research, or Early Childhood Research Quarterly for the newest findings.
  3. Science of Early Childhood Development: The British Columbia Office of the Early Years provides free access to this incredible resource for those of us in B.C. This initiative is “designed to make current research accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the impact of early experience on lifelong health and well-being.” Includes interactive activities such as videos, questions for reflection, and links to further information.
  4. Journal of Childhood Studies: This peer-reviewed journal comes from the The Canadian Association for Young People. All articles are published freely online and focus on issues  “pertaining to young children in the Canadian context as well as Canadian young children in relation to the global stage.”
  5. Center for Childhood Creativity: The CCC is the research and advisory division of the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) and provides a link between academic research and adults’ work with children ages 0-10. Their white papers, literature reviews, and position papers give evidence-based expertise in children’s creativity development. A great resource for planning school-age programs!
  6. Saroj Ghoting’s Early Literacy Research Round-Up: The name says it all, Ghoting’s Round-Up covers a variety of topics organized by categories like demographics, child and brain development and literacy skills. She links to seminal works as well as collects wider ranging articles from diverse publications. An excellent place to start if you are new to the field or check back if you need some inspiration.
  7. Zero to Three: Where to begin?! This site it a wealth of resources- all with an emphasis on supporting parents and caregivers. Check out their baby brain map, stay up to date with early literacy research and policy and point families to the articles on common topics like sleep, nutrition, social skills and so much more.
  8. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 3: This is the third volume edited by Susan B. Neuman and David K. Dickinson. Building on Volume 1 (2003) and Volume 2 (2007) Neuman and Dickinson provide updates to core topics like Basic Developmental Processes and Supporting Code-Related Abilities while expanding on Development among Diverse Populations. They then support this research with findings on early literacy interventions, curriculum and social policy. Lindsey refers to this as her early literacy Bible- and she isn’t far off- a text to read slowly, mark up, digest and discuss!
  9. Reading Rockets: is an organization dedicated to “offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.” They have an incredible section on early literacy research as well as printable materials for caregivers and teachers, videos and booklists. We like the focus on reading not just from the early years but well into school years and as a process with many parties- caregivers, librarians, teachers, book creators and beyond.
  10. Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky: There are many fabulous parenting books out there which cover early brain development but we particularly love Galinsky’s focus on the essential skills of “focus and self control, perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges, and self-directed, engaged learning.” Recommend this one to caregivers or read it yourself; it is engaging and informative.

Where do you look for research on child development and early literacy? Send us an email at jbrary@gmail.com with your go-to resource.

LSC Journal Club: November 2017 Recap

Yesterday we had the inaugural meeting of our Vancouver Library Services for Children Journal Club! If you missed my post about the LSC Journal Club, go read it now and find out all about this free professional development resource aimed at anyone serving children in libraries.

The articles we read and discussed were about executive function skills in early childhood development. Our discussion leader started by recapping the articles and giving us a clear definition of executive function. It can be broken down into the following three dimensions:

  • Working Memory: The ability to hold and use information in our minds over a short period of time. For example, a child being able to follow three simple directions is using their working memory.
  • Inhibitory Control: The skill we use to think before we act and resist temptations. A child would use this skill to refrain from hitting another child who has taken their toy.
  • Cognitive/Mental Flexibility: The ability to switch gears or tasks and take on different perspectives.  A child uses cognitive flexibility, for example, when trying different ways to get a science experiment to work.

Executive function skills support the learning process and develop over time with the preschool years being a prime developmental window.  Stress in early childhood can affect the development of executive function, but interventions have been shown to help kids overcome this deficit.

We spent a large portion of our discussion talking about ways we can support the development of executive function at the library.  As a place, we are one of the key environments kids spend time in as they grow.  There are so many storytime examples in particular that we are already doing such as: having a mystery box or having kids practice taking turns or doing deep breathing and asking kids about their emotions.  The list goes on! For even more examples, I encourage you to watch the webinar Using Storytime to Grow Executive Function and Self-Regulation in ECE.

We noted though that as a library we often only have kids in our programs for 30 minutes to an hour. It can be hard to build relationships with the kids or between kids in such a short time span.  We felt that early childhood educators such as preschool and daycare teachers who see little ones all day long would benefit from learning about executive function too. We offer professional development programs for ECEs and brainstormed ways we could include this content in some of our workshops.  Finding ways to make the language around executive function accessible to all is another point we stressed.

Here are some questions we continue to ask ourselves:

  • How can we take the academic lingo in these research articles and translate it into layman terms that would be appropriate to use in storytime or other programs for adults?
  • What are some ways to incorporate executive function scaffolds into school-age programs, especially for the kids who would otherwise be deemed a “problem'” or “lazy”? How can we make adjustments, not punishments?
  • What types of play-based programs for the 0-5 crowd can be utilized to fill the gap for families who for whatever reason don’t come to storytime?

What I love about the LSC Journal Club is that even if I don’t come away with all the answers, I do come away with more knowledge of the why we do things and the confidence that it is rooted in research.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about executive function! Let me know what you think in the comments.