Storytime

Storytime: Why I Don’t Use Themes

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I don’t theme my regular weekly storytimes. I do theme Saturday Special Storytimes, often around a popular book or television character–but you aren’t often going to find a unifying theme during my regular weekly programs.

I get asked about this fairly frequently–it is the question I receive most often via email after wanting editable program files. How do I plan without a theme to ground the program? Why don’t I theme? My thoughts are below.

Storytime History

Everyone has a different storytime back story. Some great storytime bloggers and amazing librarians have been creating storytimes for much longer than I’ve been working in librarians. Themes work for many of them, and themes may work for you too–this isn’t a lesson in why you shouldn’t theme, just an explanation of what works for me.

To give some perspective on my point of view, pre-covid, I almost exclusively presented baby storytimes for ages 0-2. Many long-time storytime presenters will admit that theming baby storytimes is particularly tough. There are a limited number of books for that age range that work in a storytime setting, especially when I had large crowds that made board books impossible. There also aren’t too many songs that limit motions in a way that work for babies that may not yet be walking (while anything can be adapted, turning around, jumping, and running are actions often used in songs that aren’t traditionally motions babies can do, even with lots of adult help). Babies don’t have the attention span for many flannels. Repetition is key, and these storytimes are filled with bounces and tickles. For my in-person baby storytimes, I focused on repetition and structure instead of themes.

Also pre-covid, I filled in for other storytimes on occasion, picking up an outreach visit or substituting for a toddler or preschool storytime only once every few months. I started theming these–I had quite elaborate outreach visits planned often themed around an animal species. These were okay, but I quickly saw that my participants responded best to stuff they knew or stuff they could easily follow. Particularly when substituting, kids were already a little uncomfortable because I wasn’t their regular storytime presenter. Soon, I started to curate the material that received the best participant response, that I genuinely enjoyed, and that connected to early literacy skills appropriate for that age range. That core set of material didn’t necessarily go together–a book about dinosaurs followed by a retelling with a dog and puppet animals and a song about shaking in between. There was no overall message, but I could use this storytime at a 15-minute notice if needed, and I knew it would work well.

Enter covid times: suddenly I’m presenting storytime for all ages (virtually) once, twice, or on the very rare occasion, three times in one week. I could have used this time to create a core collection of themes for different ages with a list of content for each theme–but I chose to prioritize my time differently. While I started out with that content that was familiar to me and our patrons, I used this time to expand my storytime repertoire while also focusing on finding materials that worked well virtually, that I genuinely enjoyed, and that developed those early literacy skills that I knew would start to drop off during these very unusual times. For me, focusing my time on early literacy skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and diversity in content was more important than focusing on teaching (or forcing) a unified theme.

Why I Find Themes Limiting

There are plenty of great articles on this topic already, and I want to highlight a few of those first:

There are plenty of great reasons to theme your storytimes. Vocabulary development is a big one that I have to consciously think about adding into my not-themed storytimes, as it doesn’t flow into the conversation quite as well.

Another perk can be limiting the amount of content out there and helping you organize your plans as a presenter, though I am not a fan of using this as a reason to stay with themes. If you are on a cycle where you have the same kids week to week, it can be helpful to call back to something the week prior to make a connection rather than spending one week on dogs and the next on turtles. But, I’d also suggest thinking about narrowing down the large amount of storytime content differently. Rather than limiting the amount of content in the universe by selecting a theme, look at the content and yourself as a presenter. Do you flourish when you do a puppet activity? Does the group respond really well when you bring out a flannel set? Or do you secretly, absolutely, hate flannels? (That is okay too!)

I’m not trying to convince you to stop theming your storytimes, but I would like to convince every one of you to stop doing storytime activities that you genuinely don’t enjoy. It shows. If you hate flannels, that is fine. It doesn’t make you a bad librarian; in fact, you will be a stronger librarian for recognizing that and finding other ways to share that kind of content. If you aren’t comfortable with something, it shows. If you aren’t enjoying something, it shows. Even if your demeanor is just as chipper, your body language will reflect your frustration, and kids are experts at picking up at social cues. They will notice that their presenter isn’t fully engaged and doesn’t like the program, and they won’t want to come back.

A big exception that I want to note: generally, pick activities you are comfortable presenting. However, there are some topics that need to be discussed that may make you uncomfortable, but you need to discuss them anyway. Talk about topics like race in your storytimes. Be an example for caregivers about how they can talk to their kids about subjects that might make caregivers uncomfortable. Some great resources to get you started are Jessica Bratt’s Guest Post: Talking to Kids About Race in Storytime and the Let’s Talk About Race Toolkit and the toolkit itself. There are certain topics you need to be discussing in your programs, and that may mean pushing beyond your own personal “comfort zone.” Save your energy for the really important things instead of memorizing a three-page rhyme about a traffic light that can’t stop changing colors just because your theme of the week is traffic.

Back when I initially started theming my storytimes, music was my biggest enemy. I quickly gave up on the idea of having every single part of my storytime (except the opening and closing song) connect to my theme. I am not a person who enjoys free dancing or making up my own motions. Personally, I like having clear instructions to follow, and I like how following instructions teaches toddlers and preschoolers important skills. Some themes work better than others, but if I themed everything, all the time, when would I use Jump With Me by Bobs and Lolo again? Can I only use The Goldfish Song by Laurie Berkner twice a year, when I present a fish or ocean themed storytime?

Recently, I’ve been making an effort to diversity my storytime playlist. Promoting the voices of artists from marginalized communities is a higher priority for me than having my movement song connect to the book that I just read.

That word–“priority”–is the key to how you should plan your storytimes. Look at all of the different factors that you consider when creating your storytimes and prioritize them. You can keep your decisions personal but make a choice. Everything isn’t equal in storytime planning because every time you pick one thing over another, you are prioritizing the activity you chose. Some things that might be important to your storytime plans include:

  • Overall theme
  • Structure (what stays the same week to week)
  • Sharing voices from marginalized communities
  • Developmental appropriateness of content
  • Early literacy skills
  • Meeting state standards for early childhood development
  • Concept learning, such as a focus on the alphabet
  • Ready for Kindergarten skills
  • Audience enjoyment and engagement
  • What works best for your crowd size (very large, very small)
  • What works best with Your supplies
  • What works best virtually
  • What you have time to prep for
  • What you genuinely enjoy presenting
  • …what other factors affect your storytime planning?

Storytime Structure, Skills, Literacy Tips, and More

So how do I plan my storytimes? Well, my first step is a consistent structure. Generally, my storytime structure looks something like this:

This stays fairly consistent virtually when I am not getting participant feedback. In person, there is a bit more flexibility than this chart implies. Even with that flexibility, the core structure of my storytime is the same week to week, without fail. Virtual Toddler Storytime almost always looks like:

  • Welcome, Announcements
  • Opening Song
  • Early Literacy Conversation
  • Book
  • Movement Song
  • Rhyme or Fingerplay (most likely activity to drop)
  • Book Retelling with Props
  • Action Rhyme
  • Flannel
  • Closing Song

There is some variance, but that more often depends on the length of time those activities take up, or I will trade out an activity for a full month (instead of a flannel, we will end with a manipulative each week).

Storytime themers, I hear you! You can definitely theme and have a consistent structure each week. But, personally, I find this a little more difficult. I like that my storytime is that much more accessible by keeping this structure fairly rigid. Families know what kind of activity is coming next. If their child doesn’t like book retellings, turn the computer off after that week’s song. If they enter storytime late and we are dancing, today’s book was already read. It builds structure into the program that can be harder to stick with if I am trying to make a theme work. Maybe this theme has a particularly great flannel activity, but this month I am focusing on manipulatives instead of flannels. Or what if I just can’t come up with a great book to retell for my theme of choice? Sure, I can change my structure but that can throw off families who rely on that consistency. So, for me, consistent structure is a priority over theme.

But how do I sort my programming ideas? Enter my powerpoint. In person, I projected my storytime content onto slides behind me. Virtually, I don’t do that, but I have continued to make a powerpoint for each program so that I can keep track of what I did in a storytime and what I would like to share in the future.

My powerpoint for this week’s toddler storytime looks like this:

And my Toddler Storytime powerpoint that holds all of my content looks like this:

Slides are sorted by storytime element (early literacy tip, book, song, etc.). Each slide has the dates it was last used in the notes field (visible on the Bark George slide two images up).

Since we currently rotate storytime presenters each month, I start planning storytimes about 2-3 weeks before the new month begins. Typically this starts with a book for each week, since I make an effort to try new books at each program. Then, I start to look at what we cover in the books I selected. Are we identifying body parts? Practicing animal sounds? Completing certain large or small motions? What is already included and what hasn’t been covered yet in a particular program or in a full month?

Once I have an idea of what I want to add to my program–new fingerplays that don’t focus on counting to 5 or 10? a retelling featuring animal sounds? rhymes that focus on moving our upper body?–I look around the internet for new content, most often (lately) by watching random virtual storytime videos from other libraries. I use a combination of new material and old favorites depending what my commitments for each week look like (how much time I can dedicate to learning something new). I always focus on content that I genuinely enjoy using and learning. Do I find this rhyme fun? Then I’ll use it. Do I keep tripping over the words because I can’t get the rhythm right? Leave it behind.

Once I’ve laid out my storytimes for the month, I go back and look at each week and ask myself a few questions:

  • Does my storytime include elements of read, write, sing, talk, and play?
  • How many early literacy skills are included? (Vocabulary, Print Motivation, Print Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, Narrative Skills)
  • Have I included at least one voice from a marginalized community via a book character, book author, book illustrator, or musician?
  • Are we moving our whole bodies and practicing gross motor development?
  • What about fine motor skills? Do we practice small motions?
  • Is at least one other kindergarten readiness skill covered somewhere?

I don’t end up with a perfect storytime every week, and I’m not trying to check off every box on some large checklist. I give myself flexibility week of and day of too–I may have planned for a certain book, but morning of I really need something with a different tone. That may mean I’m not going to have the vocabulary development I was hoping for that week, but that is okay–don’t think of any of this as a reason to be hard on yourself for not covering everything in every storytime.

So, for me, the final product is a storytime where we shake our sillies out, read a book about monsters, jump with The Wiggles, identify animals eaten by one silly dog, and then roll down a hill with penguins. I’m not planning to start theming my storytimes soon–though I know many people love and thrive with themed programs. What is your preference? To theme or not to theme? Let me know in the comments below!

Virtual Baby Storytime: Week 22

Bye again babies! I’m back to toddlers next week, and I am pulling out some of my favorite content in April. We aren’t sure what summer storytimes will bring yet–fewer virtual storytimes? Outdoor storytimes? No more mask requirements from the state? My question of the week: can you require social distancing in a program if your library no longer requires it overall? Or does social distancing in a program just turn into a suggestion that is encouraged by limiting attendance? What is your library doing as you consider returning to in-person programs and events?

More Baby Storytime Content:

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

Storytime Resources (includes all storytime outlines)
Virtual Toddler Storytimes
Virtual Baby Storytimes
Virtual Preschool Storytimes
Virtual Family Storytimes (including themed special events)
All Virtual Storytime Outlines

Baby Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme – Wake Up Toes & We Clap and Sing Hello

Early Literacy Tip: Check out our new 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program!

Book Recommendation: Leo Loves Daddy by Anna McQuinn

Leo Loves Daddy: McQuinn, Anna, Hearson, Ruth: 9781623542412: Amazon.com:  Books

Song: Clap Your Hands by Old Town School of Folk Music

Action Rhyme: These Little Fingers

These little fingers go
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
These little fingers go
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
And now they’re on my…HEAD!

Continue with: tummy, feet

Bounce: A Bouncing We Will Go

A bouncing we will go,
A bouncing we will go,
Hi ho the derry o,
A bouncing we will go.

Continue with: rocking, tickling

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Bounce/Movement: Rocking Horse

Rocking horse, rocking horse, to and fro,
Side to side and away we go,
Rocking horse, rocking horse, front and back,
Don’t fall off just like that.

Woah!

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Song: Tickle Time by Moey’s Music Party

Puppets/Animal Sounds: Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon

— Find more Book Retellings in this post. —

Manipulative: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes by Super Simple Songs

Closing Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Old Town School of Folk Music

Flannel: Oh Dear!

Welcome to guest blogger Youth Librarian Sarah Simpson! Sarah is the flannel queen at my library, and I am so excited to be able to share some of her incredible flannel work on Book Cart Queens. Read on for full adorableness! – Annamarie

Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos

Oh Dear! (book)

This is an adaptation of the book Oh Dear! by Rod Campbell.

Once upon a time, a little boy named Buster went to stay on his grandmother’s farm. In the morning he heads out the door to find eggs for breakfast.  

He heads straight to the BARN where he finds the …
Hmm, what animal does he find in the BARN?  Can you guess?  Let me see …

Oh yes, the COW!…what sound does she make?
Right, Moooo, Moooo.
Does she have eggs for Buster’s breakfast? No she doesn’t.

What does Buster say? OH DEAR, NO EGGS HERE.

Next Buster goes to the STY. Who lives in a STY? Will you guess?

You’re right, the PIG!
What sound does he make? OINK OINK!
Does the pig have eggs for Buster’s breakfast?
OH DEAR, NO EGGS HERE!

Next Buster goes to the dog house. Who lives in a dog house? Do you know?

Of course, the dog!
BARK BARK!
Does the dog have eggs for Buster’s breakfast?
OH DEAR, NO EGGS HERE.

Next Buster goes to the stable. Who lives in the stable?

You guessed it! The horse!
What does the horse say? NEIGH NEIGH
Does the horse have eggs for Buster’s breakfast?
OH DEAR, NO EGGS HERE.

Next Buster goes to the HUTCH. Who lives in a HUTCH?

A bunny lives in a hutch!
Does the bunny have eggs for Buster?
OH DEAR NO EGGS HERE

Where does Buster go next?
Let’s see where he has visited so far:

First he went to the barn,
Then he went to the sty,
Next he went to the dog house,
After that he went to the stable,
And then to the hutch.

And finally he will go to the hen house.
Who lives in the hen house?

Could it be? Who do we see…a HEN!

HMMM, does she have eggs for Buster’s breakfast? YES SHE DOES! The hen has three eggs for Buster’s breakfast!




Making Flannels

When making flannels, I use these materials:

  • Stiff Felt (highly recommended!)
  • Puffy Paint
  • Hot Glue
  • Sharp Scissors (Fiskars preferred)

Learn how to use the above photos (or any pictures) as a pattern or template at
Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime.

And a big shoutout to Mr. Keith’s blog, Felt-tastic Flannelbaord Funtime, for providing inspiration for my feltboard ideas. None of my flannels are direct reproductions of anyone’s work, but I am inspired most often by his style.

Virtual Baby Storytime: Week 21

Babies, babies, babies! Continuing the storytime routine with lots of repeated favorites this week (but a new book!). I just wrapped up Brooke Newbery‘s Babies in the Library UW-Madison course, giving me some new ideas to help refresh programming for this age (and so many great play ideas…for whenever play can return!). Everything around programming is a question right now, but I’m looking forward to thinking about ways to increase services for babies in the next few years.

More Baby Storytime Content:

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

Storytime Resources (includes all storytime outlines)
Virtual Toddler Storytimes
Virtual Baby Storytimes
Virtual Preschool Storytimes
Virtual Family Storytimes (including themed special events)
All Virtual Storytime Outlines

Baby Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme – Wake Up Toes & We Clap and Sing Hello

Early Literacy Tip: Sing during everyday activities, like changing a diaper. Singing slows down words.

Book Recommendation: Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! by Ellen Mayer

Song: Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Old Town School of Folk Music

Action Rhyme: Do you Like? (adapted for babies)

Do you like to bounce around?
Bounce around, bounce around?
Do you like to bounce around?
Bounce, and now let’s FREEZE!

Bounce: Giddy Up

Giddy up, giddy up, ride to town.
Giddy up, giddy up, UP and DOWN.
Giddy up fast!
Giddy up slow.
Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, WHOA! (lift)

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Bounce/Movement: I’m Toast in the Toaster

I’m toast in the toaster,
I’m getting very hot!
Tick tock, tick tock,
Up I pop!

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Song: The Tickle Song by Rainbow Songs

Puppets/Animal Sounds: Jump by Scott M. Fischer

— Find more Book Retellings in this post. —

Manipulative: Shakey Shaky by the Wiggles (Shakers)

Closing Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Old Town School of Folk Music

Virtual Baby Storytime: Week 20

Hello babies! A new book and one new-to-me rhyme this week. Looking ahead at Toddler Storytime next month–have you found any great new toddler books lately? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

More Baby Storytime Content:

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

Storytime Resources (includes all storytime outlines)
Virtual Toddler Storytimes
Virtual Baby Storytimes
Virtual Preschool Storytimes
Virtual Family Storytimes (including themed special events)
All Virtual Storytime Outlines

Baby Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme – Wake Up Toes & We Clap and Sing Hello

Early Literacy Tip: Babies focus on word spoken immediately after their name.

Book Recommendation: I Love You, Baby Burrito by Angela Dominguez

Song: Baby 1, 2, 3 by Peter & Ellen Allard

Action Rhyme: Clap Your Feet

Clap, clap, clap your feet,
Clap your feet together.
Clap, clap, clap your feet,
Clap your feet together.

Clap them high!
Clap them low!
Clap them fast!
Clap them slow!

Bounce: Dump Truck

Dump truck, dump truck bumpin’ down the road.
Spillin’ out gravel as you travel with your load.
Bumpety, bumpety, bump, bump, bump.
Dump truck, dump truck, dump truck,
DUMP!

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Bounce/Movement: Two Little Boats

(Tilt forward and backward)
Two little boats went out to sea
All is calm as calm can be.

(Tilt side to side)
Gently the wind begins to blow
Two little boats rock to and fro.

(Bounce up and down)
Loudly the wind begins to shout
Two little boats they bounce about.

STOP! Goes the storm, the wind, and rain (freeze)
Two little boats sail on again (rock forward and backward)..

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Song: Grand Old Duke of York by Rainbow Songs

Puppets/Animal Sounds: Brown Bear Brown Bear

Manipulative: Wheels on the Bus by Jay Laga’aia (with scarves)

Closing Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Old Town School of Folk Music

Flannel: Make a Pig

While Flannel Friday posts often share the work of the amazing Sarah Simpson, this is one of my flannels! Excited to share the photos and inspiration below. – Annamarie

Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos

Make a Pig

Make a Pig has been an instant favorite with preschoolers and kindergarteners at my library for a few years. My inspiration came from Miss Mary Liberry (who was inspired by a post that doesn’t exist anymore, unfortunately).

When using Make a Pig, you start with the body. Depending how long I want the flannel to take, I may ask the kids where the head and eyes should go (and then get quite silly placing them), but more often I place those too since this flannel can take 15-20 minutes if I let it.

This is much more engaging in person, with kids responding to my questions, but it works well virtually too with a lot of pausing. In person, I ask a lot of questions like:

  • What other body parts does a pig have?
  • Is a pig’s nose bigger or smaller than this nose?
  • Where does a pig’s nose belong? Can you use your words to tell me where?
  • What color is a pig’s tail?
  • What do a pig’s ears look like?

I made a different set a few years ago, but I decided to make something fresh in the last few weeks, shown above and in action in the video below:


Little People Big Dreams Storytime: Jean-Michel Basquiat

As part of our virtual programming, I run a monthly school age storytime, designed for ages 6-8. This program highlights a different diverse individual from the Little People Big Dreams book series. In March, this program featured Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Each program features 1-2 books on the famous individual (one book being their matching title from the Little People, Big Dreams book series). I also highlight music from a diverse artist and include a link to an at-home packet to continue the fun and learning.

Explore More Little People, Big Dreams Storytime Outlines:

Ella Fitzgerald
Harriet Tubman
Martin Luther King Jr.
Muhammad Ali
Rosa Parks

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

Storytime Resources (includes all storytime outlines)
Virtual Preschool Storytimes
Virtual Baby Storytimes
Virtual Toddler Storytimes
Virtual Family Storytimes (including themed special events)
All Virtual Storytime Outlines

Watch the full storytime here:

In the event description, I included the link to the printable at home activity packet.

Storytime Outline

Intro: Teddy Bear by Jazzy Ash

First Book: Jean-Michel Basquiat by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Little People Big Dreams)

LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT /ANGLAIS: SANCHEZ VEGARA  ISABE: 9780711245792: Amazon.com: Books

Movement Break: Down Down Up Up by Kymberly Stewart

Second Book: Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

Children's Books - Mobile Museum of Art - Mobile Museum of Art

Closing Rhyme: See You Later, Alligator

See you later, alligator
In a while, crocodile
Give a hug, ladybug
Blow a kiss, jellyfish
See you soon, big baboon
Out the door, dinosaur
Take care, polar bear
Wave goodbye, butterfly!

Next Time: Malala Yousafzai

Virtual Baby Storytime: Week 19

More babies! I’m close to a full year of virtual storytimes now–not quite there yet, but more on that soon. There are more than 50 virtual storytime outlines on this blog already! We are now officially one year since my last in-person baby storytime. (And playtime! I miss playtime.) I’m proud of the virtual work I’ve done over the last year, but I am starting to get itchy for some kind of change. I don’t necessarily know if I want things to be what they were, entirely, but I want…something? Hmmmm. Not entirely sure, but for now, more baby content.

More Baby Storytime Content:

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

Storytime Resources (includes all storytime outlines)
Virtual Toddler Storytimes
Virtual Baby Storytimes
Virtual Preschool Storytimes
Virtual Family Storytimes (including themed special events)
All Virtual Storytime Outlines

Baby Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme – Wake Up Toes & We Clap and Sing Hello

Early Literacy Tip: Grasping objects helps build finger muscles that help with writing.

Book Recommendation: Welcome to the Party by Gabrielle Union

Welcome to the Party: Union, Gabrielle, Evans, Ashley: 9780062978615:  Amazon.com: Books

Song: What Shall We Do with the Sleeping Baby by Rainbow Songs

Action Rhyme: Zoom Down the Freeway

Zoom down the freeway,
Zoom down the freeway,
Zoom down the freeway,
FAST!

Continue with:
Up goes the drawbridge…a ship is going past.
Down goes the drawbridge…ship has passed at last.
Zoom down the freeway!

Bounce: A Hippopotamus on a City Bus

A hip, a hip, a hippopotamus
Got on, got on, got on a city bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
“You’re squishing us!” (hug)

A cow, a cow
A cow got on the bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
“Mooooove over!“ (tilt sideways

A sheep, a sheep,
A sheep got on the bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
“Baaaack up!“ (lean back)

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Bounce/Movement: Humpty Dumpty

Rock and rock and rock on the wall
Rock and rock; I hope we don’t fall!

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall (tilt backwards or sideways)

All the kings horses and all the kings men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Song: Hands Together, Hands Apart by Rainbow Songs

Puppets/Animal Sounds: Dear Zoo

Manipulative: Stuffed Animals & Little Red Wagon by Old Town School of Folk Music

Closing Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Old Town School of Folk Music

Flannel: Little Mouse Playing Hide and Seek

While Flannel Friday posts often share the work of the amazing Sarah Simpson, this is one of my flannels! Excited to share the photos and inspiration below. – Annamarie

Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos

Little Mouse Playing Hide and Seek

Little Mouse, Little Mouse
Playing hide and seek.
Are you behind the apartment building?
Let’s take a peak!

My library’s Little Mouse, Little Mouse flannel set has looked like this for many years:

The set is cute enough, and it helps practice color recognition, but I was inspired by the amazing Storytime in the Stacks blog to do something more with this set. More specifically, Jessica’s post Flannel Friday: Mouse House Makeover with Inclusivity in Mind makes a lot of excellent points about the need for representation and how culture and inclusivity go beyond race. I’m not going to go into more detail on that here because Jessica does such an excellent job. Go read her piece!

Similar to Jessica, I made a new Little Mouse set sharing a variety of types of homes. My set includes:

Apartment Building

Duplex

Lighthouse

Motel

Barn (to lead to a conversation about living on a farm)

RV

Assisted Living

Single-Family House


Don’t Let Pigeon Take Over Storytime!

Pigeon Storytime! Featuring the one and only bird from the Mo Willems books. I have my own personal secret: I hate this bird. The books and Pigeon’s general personality annoy me to no end. But…this ended up being one of my favorite storytimes.

The highlight, of course, was Pigeon’s attempted storytime coup:

Catch a glimpse of the whole experience in the video below.

This was another very popular program: over 600 virtual attendees!

Just like past virtual storytimes, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Many of these materials are from Mo Willems’ Pigeon website, full of great resources. Download the activity packet here.

Watch the short preview video below. This isn’t like many of my other preview videos…instead Pigeon keeps popping up all over the library!

And watch the full storytime here:

The general storytime layout–in order of what I presented–is below, with videos where applicable.

Pigeon Storytime Outline

Intro Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs

Pigeon Book: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!: Mo Willems, Mo Willems: 8601416094786:  Amazon.com: Books

Music: Wheels on the Bus by Jay Laga’aia

Action Song: If You’re a Pigeon and You Know It

If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it,
And you really want to show it!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!

Shake your tail (shake, shake)
Eat your cookies (nom, nom)
Drive the bus (zoom, zoom)

Pigeon Takeover
After If You’re a Pigeon and You Know It, I realized–oops!–I forgot our second book! I needed to step out to get it, and while I did just that, I put on some music and needed everyone watching to keep an eye on storytime. Sure enough, Pigeon attempted a takeover!

I didn’t actually leave the room–instead I had a table on wheels to the side of the screen. When I stepped off screen, I opened and closed the door to the room before wheeling the table on screen. I tested the height ahead of time to make sure Pigeon was visible but the table wasn’t.

I had the signs piled and ready on a table off screen. The sticks were attached from the top because it is much easier to drop something from above onto the screen then for me to try to lay below the camera and get up again. If I did this again, I might try to have this situated somehow so the signs were resting on the table, and I removed one at a time. My hand was shaking quite a bit during this portion (so the signs were too).

I ran through the timing of the song and the signs beforehand and made sure I had just enough signs to last the length of the song. I came back at the end of the song with another opening and closing of the door and a loud “PIGEON!” before returning on camera to “rescue” storytime.

Pigeon Book: The Duckling Gets A Cookie?!

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (Pigeon series): Willems, Mo, Willems, Mo:  8601420609846: Amazon.com: Books

Magnet: Pigeon Playing Hide and Seek

Pigeon, Pigeon playing hide and seek
Are you behind the yummy cookie?
Let’s take a peek!

Closing Song: I Know a PIGEON (Chicken) by Laurie Berkner
We very loudly shouted PIGEON in place of Chicken throughout the song.

Extra, Extra!
I filmed a few extra Pigeon videos that were on YouTube but didn’t make it into storytime:

Two Little Pigeons:

Two little pigeons sittin’ on a hill
One named Jack and one named Jill.
Run away Jack, run away Jill.
Come back Jack, come back Jill.

Two little pigeons sittin’ on a cloud.
One named soft and one named loud.
Run away soft, run away loud.
Come back soft, come back loud.

Two little pigeons sittin’ on down below.
One named fast and one named slow.
Run away fast, run away slow.
Come back fast, come back slow.

Five Little Pigeons Sitting in a Tree:

Five little pigeons sitting in a tree
One flew away! How many do you see?

One, two, three four!


And finally, I attempted to write a rhyme to the tune of the Itsy Bitsy Spider, but I didn’t get it quite right. Feel free to edit and make it your own!

The happy little pigeon
Snuck onto the bus route.
Along came the driver
Who chased the pigeon out.
Along came the kids who
Jumped onto the bus.
And the happy little pigeon
Rode along with us.

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