Storytime Picks of the Month: January

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.

Oh, I’ve been so behind on blogging lately. Nothing shows that more than this “monthly” feature, which I haven’t updated in almost a year! But, back to it now. This month I was super inspired by Jbrary’s list of favorite storytime books for 2015. My baby and toddler choices are ones I discovered from that list, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I urge you to! (Also, check out their 2014 & 2013 lists, as well. Great stuff!)

This month, I really tried to focus on trying new books for all of my storytimes. I’ve been doing storytimes for over 3 years now, and it’s easy to fall back on old favorites and standbys you know work. But I really wanted to push myself this year, to expand my favorites, and to try new things in storytime. So, without further ado, here are my favorite books from storytime this month:

baby loveBaby Storytime Pick: Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes. The caregivers in storytime LOVED this one. There were so many ooohs and aaahs at the end. I got a little chocked up myself, to be honest. It’s a simple, sweet book, with interactive elements–caregivers can touch the body parts on baby as the book identifies them–which makes it perfect for baby storytime. This will definitely go into my baby storytime rotation!

supertruckToddler Storytime Pick: Supertruck by Stephen Savage. Trucks are always a big hit with toddlers, and this was no exception. They were riveted by the pictures and the story. The parents all loved the disguise that supertruck wears at the end–while the toddlers didn’t really get that part of the book, they were enthralled by the overall story. Another book that I see myself going back to again and again.

white rabbits color bookPreschool Storytime Pick: White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker. My coworker and I share storytime planning, and this is one that she discovered for a colors themed storytime. There are lots of books like this: Color Dance, Mouse Paint, and Blue Goose are three I can think of right off the top of my head, but I’d never read this one before and it absolutely delighted the kids. They loved the rabbit, and the fact that colors blended to make other colors was just magical to all of them. This is one of those simple concept books that works really well with preschoolers.


Throw a Noon Year’s Eve Party!

I’ve been thinking about a Noon Year’s Eve party for the last year or so. I’ve heard librarians talk about them, and I’ve thought, “That would be fun!” (I got some great ideas for mine from this Facebook post on Storytime Underground.) And let me tell you, IT IS! We did one this year at my library and it was fabulous. We had a great time, a GREAT turnout (125 people!), and if you are like me and have been thinking of throwing one, I think you should mark your calendar for next year and do it.

What We Did:

1. Explained New Year’s Eve. Our party was aimed at ages 2-5, and for a lot of those kiddos, this might be the first time they are really aware of the new year. So I talked about how we were in 2015, but soon it would be 2016, and that lots of people like to celebrate that. Mostly, I tried to set the tone that this was a party!

Hooray for Hat2. Read a Book. To span the age group for our party, I read Hooray for Hat by Brian Won, and it was the perfect book! All of the kids loved yelling “HOORAY FOR HAT!” with me, and it was a fun book to set the tone.

Party Hat

photo credit: new year’s hat via photopin (license)

3. Make a Craft. To go along with our book, we made party hats. A coworker and a volunteer manned this station. Our hats were really easy: we put out paper bowls (the hats), a bunch of craft supplies (tiny cut out hearts and stars, sticky jewels, pompoms, and feathers), glue, a hole punch (to punch holes in the hats), and yarn (to tie the hats onto heads, if people wanted to). The amazing creativity we saw from the kids was wonderful. There were lots of beautiful hats. Since we had such a big group, this took a lot longer than I anticipated, and meant I had to shuffle around the rest of the party plan, but it worked out just fine.

Balloon Drop

photo credit: IMG_7218 via photopin (license)

4. BALLOON DROP AT NOON! To me, this is the essential part of the party. It was so magical! I made the balloon drop using the instructions on this site. I actually had to make two of them to accommodate all of the balloons. It was amazing to see the looks on the kiddos faces when the balloons dropped. The countdown, the balloons, the joy–it was amazing to watch! One thing to be aware of: it’s super cheap to make the balloon drop using the site I did, but it is time consuming to make and to set up. Next year, I’m going to look into buying a balloon drop kit. If you want to see pictures of the event, my library has some on its Facebook page.

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Storytime Picks of the Month: March

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.

we've all got bellybuttonsBaby Storytime Pick: We’ve All Got Bellybuttons by David Martin. I love this book, for both babies and toddlers. Our copy is falling apart and it’s out of print, which is always so sad. This is a great, interactive book to read in baby storytime, and it rhymes! What I like most about it is that this book encourages parents and babies to identify different body parts (hands, necks, etc.) and move them along with the book. For wiggly babies with short attention spans, this book is an excellent choice! Plus, the illustrations are adorable.

sheep in a jeepToddler Storytime Pick: Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw. Another favorite that I use quite often in toddler storytime. The rhyming makes for a good read aloud, and the kiddos like the illustrations. There’s always a toddler that says, “Uh oh!” when the jeep gets stuck. And parents love the joke in the last line, “Jeep for sale–cheap!” so it’s a good parent pleasing book, as well. Just a fun read aloud that combines animals and vehicles–always favorites for toddlers!

hungry henPreschool Storytime Pick: Hungry Hen by Richard Waring. I just love this book. It’s short enough to read with toddlers, which I’ve done before, but preschoolers really get the joke at the end. I read it as part of a bird themed storytime, and it was fun to watch the tension build with the kiddos until they couldn’t wait to know what was going to happen with the hen. They were so worried about her! And then when (spoiler alert) she just gobbled the fox right up–they loved it. So many giggles. This is a fun book to read with preschoolers that is always a hit (as a bonus, parents always find it funny, too!).

Storytime Picks of the Month: February

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.

This is an extremely late Storytime Picks of the Month! So without further ado, here are my favorite storytime books from February:

brown bearBaby Storytime Pick: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. This is a classic for a reason. It just works! Whenever I read this in storytime, I know that a bunch of babies are going to run up to see the book, point things out, and just generally get really excited about it. It’s also a great book for encouraging parental and baby participation. We can all say together what the different animals and their colors are. It’s just a book that works, and one that my babies always love. Definitely a go-to for baby storytime.

spots feathersToddler Storytime Pick: Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails by Nancy Tafuri. This book hits all of the fun notes for toddler storytime. There are animal noises and guessing the animals, and just a bunch of fun. Toddlers love to guess which animal is coming next. Basically, this is at the perfect level for toddlers and their development–it seems like all toddlers love farm animals and it’s a participatory book that all my toddlers are able to participate in. Another go-to for me for my toddler storytime.

where's my teddyPreschool Storytime Pick: Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough. This book has the benefit of being both adorable and allowing you to read it in a crazy, over-the-top way which is always fun. I love yelling “Where’s my TEDDY?!?!?!” dramatically. Also, we have a big book of this book in our storytime collection, which also always makes for a fun experience for everyone. We used this as part of an opposites storytime this month (which was a really fun theme if you’ve never done it), and it was a great choice for preschoolers.

Storytime Picks of the Month: January

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.

tuck-in-timeBaby Storytime Pick: Tuck-In-Time by Carole Gerber. Books like this are a great choice for baby storytime. There’s a lot of rhyming, and it allows for parent and baby participation. This book lists lots of different body parts on baby, so caregivers can identify the parts on baby as you read together. It also depicts the common scene of bedtime, which makes it identifiable to all the babies in storytime. The cadence makes it a great read aloud. I had never read this book before, and it will definitely go in my rotation for good books to use in baby storytime.

monkey see look at meToddler Storytime Pick: Monkey See, Look at Me! by Lorena Siminovich. This month, I made it a point to only use new books in my baby and toddler storytimes. It’s so important to keep it fresh and try new books. I’m so glad I tried this one! The bright illustrations and fun story made this a perfect story for toddlers. My toddlers are usually pretty quiet while I’m reading the books, even when I ask them questions while reading. But they LOVED responding to the question: “Is he a rabbit? Is he a lion?” I got a resounding “No!” and a lot of giggles every time. There’s also a lot of opportunity to have your kiddos do animal noises and participate as you read the story. This was just a really fun crowd pleaser.

snip snapPreschool Storytime Pick: Snip Snap!: What’s That? by Mara Bergman. This was another book I had never read in storytime before, and my kids LOVED it! It’s also a great book for many different themes, as my coworker who introduced it to me pointed out. It can work for a noisy storytime (the theme of the storytime I read this in this month), a reptile storytime, a scary storytime, and more. It’s just fabulous. You can ramp up the scary factor and the kids love it. While it is suspenseful, and my kids were on the edges of their seats throughout, it never crossed the line into too spooky. They all had big grins on their faces and couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. This was definitely a winner!

Things I Wish I’d Known: Preschool 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.

In some ways, the learning curve I had when I started preschool storytimes was the biggest one for me. I was worried about how to do a good baby and toddler storytime–it felt foreign, and like I had a lot to learn. I knew the learning curve would be steep. But preschool storytime felt like it was more intuitive. I felt like it was something I could do without much of a problem. Which meant when I ran into the inevitable problems that come with learning how to effectively do a storytime, I had a lot of angst about it. Here’s what I wish I’d known when I started my preschool storytime. If you want to look at what my preschool storytime looks like, I talked about it here. I’ve also blogged about what I wish I’d known when I started my baby and toddler storytimes.

1. Baby and toddler storytimes are more about the rhymes. Preschool storytime is more about the books. To be fair, I did know this. My coworker at the time, who mentored me A LOT through my first year of storytimes, told me this. But it took me a long time to figure out how this worked for me. I had to spend a lot of time reading, reading, reading to find engaging and age-appropriate books for preschoolers. And I tried many, many books that I liked, but that just didn’t work in storytime. Now I have a much better idea after reading a book if it will work for me or not. At the time, I didn’t have that, and felt like every book was a dare–was it going to work, or was it going to flop?

photo credit: JBLM MWR Marketing via photopin cc

photo credit: JBLM MWR Marketing via photopin cc

2. That being said, the rhymes/songs/fingerplays/etc. are still important! I also took the advice in the first point a little too literally when I started doing storytimes. My preschool storytimes were quite small at the time, and I had trouble engaging a small group of preschoolers with the rhymes and songs. I wasn’t as silly and crazy with them as I was in toddler time, and that was a mistake. Preschoolers love silliness, too! They love singing and dancing. They like doing silly fingerplays and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Just go with it! Now no matter the size of the group, I let myself be as silly as I can during the rhymes and activities

3. Look for books with really great stories. My old coworker was the champion of using long folktales or classic books in preschool storytime, and the kids would sit, rapt with attention, while she read them. She made me realize that longer books can work in storytime, as long as the story is captivating (and having a repetitive refrain doesn’t hurt, either). When I started doing preschool storytimes, I used a lot of shorter, rhyming books. Now I very rarely use rhyme-y or “list” books in preschool storytime. I’d rather read a story that we can talk about. It lets the kids predict what’s coming next, allows us to use our words, and is more fun for me.

4. Really love the books you read. I try to pick books that I can’t wait to share with the kids. My goal is no “throwaway” books just because they fit the theme (more on that in a second). It’s true that your enthusiasm for a book carries through and the kids can tell. Choose books that you love!

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Preschool Storytime: How Mine Works

Ah, preschool storytime. It’s a completely different beast than either baby or toddler storytime. This is the storytime where the kiddos can talk back. And we want them to! First of all: we know from the research that encouraging kids to talk is so important for their developing brains. Also, as a bonus, preschoolers say the funniest things. I love preschool storytime. Since I’ve talked about my toddler and baby storytimes before, I also wanted to give a breakdown of what my preschool storytime looks like.

photo credit: maryfrancesmain via photopin cc

photo credit: maryfrancesmain via photopin cc

Our preschool storytime is 30 minutes long (not including the craft at the end) and is aimed at ages 3-5. Here’s the plan from last week’s preschool storytime, which was a dance themed storytime: Preschool 1_14_15_Dancing. As you can see, it’s a pretty unstructured list. In preschool storytime I always choose way more books then I plan on reading for two reasons. First: my coworker and I share storytime planning. We are a small library, light on staff, and we are each responsible for 3 storytimes a week. It’s just much more efficient if we switch off on planning on storytime. So I grab a lot of books so that she has options to choose from, and she does the same for me. Second: I just never know what I’m going to feel like reading on storytime day. I want to have some options, in case it’s a crazy day and the longer story I wanted to read won’t work out. Or in case my kids just want story after story and ask for longer stories to read. I want to be prepared.

Also, as you can see, preschool storytime is the only storytime where I use a theme. I think it works really well with preschoolers to have a theme. It gives you great things to talk about with the kiddos. You can talk about how stories tie into each other: what is similar about them? How are they different? It also helps me mix up my books. A theme makes me try new books and find new favorites for both me and the kids.

So, keeping in mind that my preschool storytime is much less structured than my baby or toddler times, here’s what mine looks like:

Opening spiel: This is the perfect place to let my kiddos use their words. I ask them what the “rules” of storytime are. We talk about sitting criss-cross-applesauce and listening during the books. We talk about the rule of the purple circle–my library has a multicolored carpet, and I let the kids sit wherever they want, except for on the purple circle. That’s where the storytime chair is, and gives me a little room to move around. It’s a pretty short spiel, but I’ve found having the kids tell me the rules makes for a lot of buy-in and a smooth storytime.

Opening songs: I have two. “These Are My Glasses” by Laurie Berkner and “Open, Shut Them.”

Talking about the theme: Another great chance to let the kiddos use their words! I always ask what they think the theme of the week is, based on the books on display on the storytime table. It’s always interesting to hear their guesses, and help guide them to the theme, especially if it’s not an obvious one.

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