Storytime Picks of the Month: December

In this monthly feature, I pick my favorite storytime reads of the month–one from my baby storytime, one from toddler storytime, and one from preschool storytime.

Peek-a-mooBaby Storytime Pick: Peek-a-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti. Something I love for baby storytime: books that encourage participation with the babies and parents! And this book did just that–parents could play peek-a-boo along with their babies as we read, could make animal sounds, and could guess what the animals were going to be. Plus, this is a lift-the-flap book which is always very exciting for the babies. As are animal noises. And it’s nice and short, with very few words on the page, and would be easy to make even shorter if you need to, which again makes it a great baby storytime pick.

Can you cuddleToddler Storytime Pick: Can You Cuddle Like a Koala? by John Butler. John Butler’s books are pretty perfect for toddler storytime, and I’ve been using them a lot lately. This one was no exception and was also an excellent example of a great “middle of storytime” book. It allows a lot of participation for the toddlers, so we stand up during it and try all of the actions along with the book. A great way to get wiggles out, and model to parents how they can read a book with a very active child who never wants to sit still–with this book, they don’t have to! Also, while I feel like normally I would find Butler’s illustration style a bit too sweet, for some reason his adorable animals just work for me. And the parents and kids seem to love them as well.

Storytime Picks of the Month: DecemberPreschool Storytime Pick: All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle. I picked this one because it might have been my biggest surprise of the month. This was part of a winter storytime theme. I enjoyed it when I read it, but wasn’t sure how it would work in storytime. It was a hit! the kids loved guessing what would come next and what else you might need for a snowman, and they loved seeing the snowman grow. At the end, they all couldn’t wait to tell me about what kinds of snowmen they would build when it snowed enough (we’ve been having a mild winter in Colorado, but got a lot of snow over the past few days, so I’m hoping my kiddos got to go out and make their own snowmen). This book just has a lovely rhythm and use of the word EXCEPT that makes it a fun, participatory story. Perfect for preschoolers!

Things I Wish I’d Known: Toddler Storytime

Welcome to Things I Wish I’d Known, a semi-regular feature in which I talk about things I wish I’d known when I started my job as a children’s librarian.

It has been a long time since I last posted! I got sick, the holidays happened, life happened, and suddenly I realized that a post I wanted to post weeks ago hadn’t even been written yet. So, finally, I’m coming back to blogging and talking about what I wish I’d known when I started toddler storytimes. I also wrote about my toddler storytimes and what they look like here if you’re new to doing a toddler storytime or are just curious to see how different librarians run theirs.

I absolutely adore toddler storytime. It’s a great storytime to let loose and be as silly as you like, it always ends with a ton of toddler hugs that make my week, and it’s just filled with movement and singing and giggling. That being said, it took a while before I felt like I had a handle on toddler storytime. Toddlers are full of emotions, ups and downs, and a need to be moving all the time. This can make storytimes a roller coaster of an experience for everyone involved! Here’s what I wish I’d known when I started doing toddler storytimes:

photo credit: jessicafm via photopin cc

photo credit: jessicafm via photopin cc

1. Perfect behavior is never going to happen with toddlers–and that’s completely okay. Toddlers like to move. They are constantly exploring the world around them and like being up, touching things, looking at things, etc. all the time. This is what they are wired to do. Expecting toddlers to sit and listen quietly to a bunch of books is completely unrealistic and won’t make your storytimes fun for you, the parents, and the kiddos. That being said, it’s completely okay for you, the librarian, to set behavior expectations (a bit more on that later). As part of my opening spiel, I say “I know that toddlers need to move and we incorporate lots of movement during toddler storytime. We try to sit on our bottoms during the books. If that’s not happening today, that’s okay, just try to redirect toward the back of the room so that everyone can see the books.” This does a couple of things–it shows caregivers that I don’t expect that all kids in the storytime will be able to sit through the books. It lets caregivers of active toddlers know how they can help their kiddo have fun in storytime. And it lets my older toddlers, who can sit and listen throughout the stories, to be able to see and enjoy the books. I know everyone is soaking it up just by being in the room–this seems to work for me and help everyone have the best experience possible.

2. Toddlers need time to get used to new rhymes/songs. With babies, I mentioned that I try to keep my baby storytimes about 80% similar from week to week. With toddlers, I aim for more like 40-50%. I can do a lot more variety with toddlers, and try new songs and rhymes more often. But I do try to keep in mind that it can take a while for toddlers to catch on and get excited about new songs/rhymes. When I was a newbie at toddler storytime, I tried a fingerplay I found on a storytime blog called “Here’s a Cup.” The toddlers looked at me like I was crazy and did not seem to be into it at all. I thought it was a rhyme that just didn’t work for me. But then I tried it again. And again. And now it’s a favorite rhyme that we do often in toddler storytime and it always ends with lots of giggles. Toddlers like repetition just as much as babies do. They like singing songs they know and reciting rhymes they know. So if you think something looks like a fun thing to try in toddler storytime, but it doesn’t work the first time, I’d encourage you to try it for a couple of weeks in a row. Generally, that gives everyone time to learn it and you can better gauge if something will truly work for you or not.

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Toddler Storytime: How Mine Works

Toddler storytime is a ridiculously fun time. There’s always such emotion and joy in the room, and it’s the storytime that always leads to lots of giggles and silliness. I love toddler time, and wanted to share what mine looks like, in case it helps anyone else plan their own!

At our library, toddler time is about 25-30 minutes. Our toddler time is advertised for 18 months through 2 years. We do have some younger and some older kids, and that’s totally fine. Like I said in my baby storytime post, I just tell parents to see where their child seems to fit and go with that. Obviously, we’re not carding at the door.

Although I mix up the rhymes quite a bit more in my toddler time than I do in my baby storytime, I still stick to a structure every week. Here’s the plan from my most recent toddler time: toddler_storytime_12_3_14. The basic elements stay the same.

photo credit: roxeteer via photopin cc

photo credit: roxeteer via photopin cc

Opening Spiel: I welcome everyone to storytime and go over the guidelines for toddler time (i.e. we try to sit on our bottoms during the books, but we have a lot of movement in between them, where the exits are, what to do if someone is fussing, etc.).

Opening song(s): These are the same every week: “I Am Special” and “Open Shut Them”.

Books: If you look at the plan, I have 3 books on there. It’s very, very rare that I get to all of them. Usually, we just get to 2. Flexibility is the name of the game in toddler time!

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Storytime Picks of the Month: November

In this monthly feature, I pick my favorite storytime reads of the month–one from my baby storytime, one from toddler storytime, and one from preschool storytime.

Baby Storytime Pick: the-babies-on-the-bus-coverThe Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz. This is one of my favorites to use in baby storytime. I love Katz’s illustrations for babies–they are big, clear, bright, and colorful. I also love that it’s a diverse group of babies. And I love to use a book I can sing. This one has some silly changes the the original song which makes it fun, but there are still the old standbys that keep it familiar. If I had any quibble with this book in the context of baby storytime, it would be that it is a little long. I’ve actually not had to shorten it too much, although occasionally I just end on the page where the babies fall fast asleep. But because it’s a song, it usually holds my babies’ attention all the way through.

Toddler Storytime Pick: oh noOh, No! by Candace Fleming. Speaking of books that are longer than I would usually pick for a specific age range, this book might be just a touch too long for a lot of toddler groups. But I love it and use it anyway. I find that the rhythmic language and beautiful illustrations keep my toddlers engaged, and it’s fun to make all of the animal noises and yell, “Oh, no!” together. I’m not sure why, but I’ve actually never used this book with preschoolers–I need to change that posthaste. It’s just a really great picture book with really wonderful illustrations that work. A couple of things: I usually have a backup for this book when I’m reading it in toddler time. If the energy is too high for a longer read, I will put it away to use next time. And I always read this one first, to keep everyone’s attention. But it really is one of my favorites, and one that I come back to again and again.

Preschool Storytime Pick: little mouseThe Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood. I had so many great books to choose from for preschool storytime this month, but this pick (from a food themed storytime) was my favorite, mostly because of the reaction from my kiddos. When I was holding it up, a boy who’d obviously read it at home many times was telling everyone about how they eat the strawberry before the bear comes. And one little girl interjected: “And then the bear comes and eats the mouse! There will be blood!” This gruesomeness injected into such a sweet book made me laugh and made all of the kids very curious about what was actually going to happen. I’m pretty sure the little girl was sad that there wasn’t any blood in this one. Also, our storytime collection version of this is a big book, which is always fun to use in storytime–the kids are always a bit dazzled by big books. Those were my picks from the month of November! I’m starting to wonder if I should change this feature to a weekly one–there are so many great books that I’d like to talk about that I don’t get to when only picking once a month.