Storytime

Storytime Spotlight: Favorite Reads

I am always on the hunt for the best upcoming or recently-released storytime books. I love getting suggestions from other librarians or storytime presenters when they have discovered a  winning title. I have been presenting storytime in some form or fashion for ten years, and there is nothing worse than a book that falls flat by either not engaging the kids or being too long. That can lead to unwelcome storytime chaos and having a real Ben Stiller/Bueller moment, where I really lose the crowd.

I’ve certainly learned some lessons while presenting books in storytime. This series will regularly spotlight books that really work for storytime (at least for me). In Storytime Spotlight, I will focus on titles for Baby Storytime (ages 0-2), Toddler Storytime (ages 2-3), and Preschool Storytime (ages 3-6), as well as some titles that may work for kindergarten and first grade audiences. Feel free to comment with your recent favorites as well!

Baby Storytime (ages 0-2)

Step By Step - By Guido Van Genechten (board Book) : Target

Step by Step by Guido Van Genechten

This is a large-format board book (which may not work for a big storytime crowd), but I love it for it’s simplicity. As the title suggests, it focuses on the steps involved in learning to walk. The cute twist is the narrator is coaching adorable animals on the foot and body position needed for walking. The animal element is great, especially because it lends itself to adding puppets to the story. Puppets are an excellent way to extend the story and actions beyond the page.  Babies can really engage with puppets as they are easy to see. Incorporating animal sounds as well supports early literacy because they are often some of baby’s first words. On the final page, we finally meet our baby who has a non-white skin tone. My storytime book choices feature all types of skin tones, ethnicities, abilities, and gender identities.

Applesauce Is Fun To Wear – LD Shoppe

Applesauce is Fun to Wear by Nancy Raines Day and illustrated by Jane Massey

Another baby title that features a diverse cast of characters; this one is made for baby storytime. It is currently published in hardcover, but I could imagine it will be released as a board book at some point in the future. The title features babies eating, and of course, making a huge mess. The illustrations are relatively delicate and simple, but they work because both the babies and the text are large in relationship to the overall size of the book. And this book incorporates an element that is always baby storytime gold—simple and relatable actions for caregivers to do along with their babies while reading. In Applesauce is Fun to Wear these actions focus on body parts. Being able to name at least two body parts by 12 months is a milestone for neurotypical kiddos. Parents and caregivers will appreciate the extra body part-naming practice.

Toddler Storytime (ages 2-3)

The Sea Knows: McGinty, Alice B., Havis, Alan B., Laberis, Stephanie:  9781534438224: Amazon.com: Books

The Sea Knows by Alice McGinty & Alan B. Havis, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

Finding books for toddler storytime is always a challenge for me. I feel like it is somewhat of a market deficit to find books that truly suit the 2s and 3s in a storytime setting. The Sea Knows sits comfortably in that age range for several reasons. It deals with both concrete concepts (the ocean and it’s critters) and the more abstract (opposites). I find toddlers (especially 3s) are really able to engage with both as long as the idea is simple and the illustrations are vivid and bold. This book ticks both of those boxes. When read to a large group of toddlers, I would suggest shortening it with the old librarian trick of paperclipping pages together, especially towards the end (“The sea knows crash. The sea knows trouble”). This could be a juncture at which the toddler crowd may be lost as those are difficult concepts for toddlers to grasp.

One of These Is Not Like the Others: Saltzberg, Barney: 9780823445608:  Amazon.com: Books

One of These Is Not Like the Others by Barney Saltzberg

Barney Saltzberg is a favorite author, and this title is perfect for large crowd sharing. The background is entirely white, which allows the Sandra Boynton-esque animals to be easily seen from far away.  Older toddlers will  be able to identify the outlier on each page, and if there are preschool siblings in the toddler-preschool crowd, they will likely get the relationships between the creatures (i.e. sheep and a wolf, dogs and a cat). It moves quickly through the story, and the theme repeats throughout, which adds to the predictability of the story. Being able to predict what happens next in the story is an important early literacy skill that is important to highlight during storytime.

Preschool Storytime (ages 3-5)

Mel Fell: Tabor, Corey R., Tabor, Corey R.: 9780062878014: Amazon.com: Books

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor 

As a snail owner, I am always seeking out snail stories like Tabor’s Snail Crossing (another terrific preschool storytime read), and I was anxious to read Tabor’s latest critter adventure. Mel Fell did not disappoint with its sense of humor and charming illustrative style. The concepts of book handling and print orientation are turned on their heads with this title. Preschoolers are just beginning to understand the significance of text and its placement in a book, so sharing Mel Fell will invite a conversation where they can “correct” your orientation of the book. What is even cooler about this idea is that it is flipped—literally—when our  protagonist Mel begins to fly instead of fall. Mel meets all kinds of critters that add potential for asides while reading (for example, Mel meeting the hive of bees gives an opportunity to encourage the kids to buzz like a bee). And of course, all preschoolers love a story of overcoming adversity and learning new skills. 

Amazon.com: Pigeon Math (9781943147625): Citro, Asia, Watson, Richard: Books

Pigeon Math by Asia Citro and illustrated by Richard Watson

Asia Citro’s first foray into the picture book world is a charmer. Unless you have a crowd of extremely precocious preschoolers, the math concepts will fly (pun intended) well above their heads. Nonetheless, the pigeons are silly and engaging enough to entertain preschool-aged kiddos.  The action of the birds can be extended easily by having the participants join in with what the pigeons do on their wire throughout the book.  And when reading to an older group of kindergarteners or early school-agers, the kids can shout out the answers to the math problems. All around, this one appealed to me for many reasons, and I’m always going to gravitate towards books about pigeons, the true underdog (underbird?) of birds.

Storytime: Movement Rhymes

Rhymes designed to get kids up and moving are a staple of any storytime. These aren’t quite Fingerplays (but there may be a lot of overlap). Sometimes they can include Flannel or Magnet pieces. Rhymes are often (but not always) shorter than a song, as they are often used as short breaks to get some wiggles out between longer material. They often develop fine and gross motor skills, practice following directions, and can also connect to any number of other concepts like counting, letter sounds, animal sounds, and more.

I separated Baby Bounce Rhymes, designed for babies in arms or in laps, into a different post. Find those here.

Rhymes with Problematic and Racist Origins

You won’t find many nursery rhymes on this list. The problems with Five Little Monkeys (which derives from Shortin Bread) and Ten Little Indians are talked about fairly frequently. I don’t regularly see Eeny Meeny Miny Moe used in storytimes but, just in case you do use that tune, know that some of the original words were racial slurs. Do You Ears Hang Low has a dark history. You may think differently of Shoo Fly Don’t Bother Me when you read Urban Dictionary’s definition of “fly in the buttermilk.”

Beyond the songs that had racial slurs in their origins–stop and think for a minute about the words in Baa Baa Black Sheep or I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. Goosey Goosey Gander made me pause when I first heard it in a Mother Goose on the Loose storytime–and the suggested origins of that rhyme don’t make me want to teach it to babies and toddlers.

Before I get further into this conversation, check out this wonderful document with many sources cited regarding the history of some of the songs and rhymes mentioned above and more. I’m sure there are more popular tunes I have missed too. Please comment below, and I’m happy to add and adjust.

I understand that there can be value in the rhythm of Mother Goose and other “traditional” nursery rhymes–but frankly, I grew up only learning a handful of these, and I don’t think I lost much of my childhood from not growing up with the Mother Goose canon. There are plenty of other songs that can teach kids how to count or practice identifying body parts–and once you become aware of the origins of certain songs, they are easy enough to avoid.

But what about the familiar tunes (changing those words)? For me, this comes down to the grandmother in one of my in-person Baby Storytimes who proudly sang “Indian” instead of “finger” when we sang “Ten Little Fingers” to the tune of “Ten Little Indians.” She told her little one that she was so excited to sing a song she grew up with–so she sang the words she knew instead of the words on the screen behind me. The short answer is–let these rhymes–and their tunes–go.

I struggle with this just as I am sure some of you do. Put Your Hands Up High is my hardest rhyme to let go of because I love the motions so much, and it is part of my default, go-to storytime routine. But, it is to the tune of Do Your Ears Hang Low. I’m sure that other problematic tunes have slipped through too in my work–on this post and others on this blog. But there are plenty of other rhymes out there–on this blog and many others–that none of us have an excuse for continuing to use these problematic works.

Looking for more storytime tools? Check out our Storytime Resources page for links to more content.

Movement Rhymes

Baby Hokey Pokey

You put your arms up,
You put your arms down,
You put your arms up,
And you wave them all around
You wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,
And you tickle, tickle, tickle
That’s how the baby pokey goes (clap along)
Yeah! (arms in the air)

Continue with: legs, whole baby


Bananas Unite

Bananas unite!

Peel bananas.
Peel, peel bananas.
Peel bananas.
Peel, peel bananas.

Continue with: Chop, Mash, Eat

GOOOOOO BANANAS!


Bubble Bubble Pop

One little red fish
Swimming in the water,
Swimming in the water,
Swimming in the water.

One little red fish
Swimming in the water,
Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble (roll arms)
POP! (clap)


Bubble, Bubble, Pop: Baby Shark

One yellow baby shark, Swimming in the water,
Swimming in the water, Swimming in the water.

One yellow baby shark, swimming in the water,
Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble pop!

Continue with:
One blue daddy shark
One pink momma shark


Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands

Clap, clap, clap your hands,
Clap them now with me.
Clap your hands, let me see!
Clap them now with me.

Continue with:
Tap your knees
Shake your feet
Tickle your tummy


Clap Them

Clap them, clap them, clap them so.
Clap them high!
Clap them low.
Clap them left.
Clap them right.
Clap them, clap them, out of sight!

Continue with: roll them, shake them


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.

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


Cool Cat Boogie

Slide right, shake your tail!
Slide left, shake your tail!
Now clap, clap, clap.
Jump front!
Rock and roll!
Jump back!
Rock and roll!
AIR GUITAR!


Dino Ditty

A hungry dino walking down the street
Singing dino ditty ditty dum ditty do
He’s looking for something good to eat
Singing dino ditty ditty dum ditty do
He’s big! (He’s big!)
He’s strong! (He’s strong!)
Won’t be hungry very long…


Do You Like to Jump Around

Do you like to jump around?
Jump around,
Jump around?
Do you like to jump around?
Jump and now let’s FREEZE!

Continue with:
Roll
Clap
Shake
Jump


Five Little Eggs

Give it a whack, (clap)
Hear it crack, (hand behind ear)
Drop it in the middle, (pat hands on your lap)
One egg frying on the griddle.


Galoomp Went the Little Green Frog

Galoomp (hop) went the little green frog one day
Galoomp (hop) went the little green frog
Galoomp (hop) went the little green frog one day
And his eyes went blink blink blink

Repeat with new line added on each time:
Arms went flop, flop, flop
Feet went splash, splash, splash


Head and Shoulders

Head and shoulders baby 1, 2, 3
Head and shoulders baby 1, 2, 3
Head and shoulders,
Head and shoulders,
Head and shoulders baby 1, 2, 3

Continue with:
Knees and ankles
Tummy and back
Fingers and toes
Shake them all


Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (audiation)

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes!
Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes!
And eyes and ears and mouth and nose!
Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes!


Horns and Fangs

Horns and fangs, knees and claws,
Knees and claws, knees and claws,
Horns and fangs, knees and claws,
Eyes, ears, tail, and paws!


I Wake Up My Hands

I wake up my hands with a clap, clap, clap,
Clap, clap, clap,
Clap, clap, clap,
I wake up my hands with a clap, clap, clap,
And I wiggle my wiggles away!

Continue with:
Feet…stomp, stomp, stomp
Belly…beep, beep, beep
Body…wiggle, wiggle, wiggle


If You’re a Pigeon

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)


If You’re Fancy and You Know It

If you’re fancy and you know it give a curtsey!
If you’re fancy and you know it give a curtsey!
If you’re fancy and you know it and you really want to show it,
If you’re fancy and you know it give a curtsey!

Continue with:
Take a Bow
Wave to All Your Fans
Shout Ooh La La!


If You’re Ready for the New Year

If you’re ready for the new year, clap your hands!
If you’re ready for the new year, clap your hands
If you’re ready for the new year,
If you’re ready for the new year,
If you’re ready for the new year, clap your hands!

Continue with:
Stomp Your Feet (Stomp, Stomp)
Wave Bye-Bye (Bye Bye 2020)
Give a Shout (Happy New Year!)


I’m a Little Dump Truck

I’m great big dump truck
Full of rocks.
Here is my engine.
Here is my box.
When the crew is ready,
Here me shout,
“Pull the lever and dump me out!”
Shhhhhhhhh!


Magic Butterflies

Five fuzzy caterpillars spinning cocoons
Hoping spring will come real soon!
With a little bit of magic
And the warm sunshine–
Clap, clap, clap, there’s a butterfly!


Mix a Cake

Mix the batter, stir the batter
Shake some flour in
Mix the batter, stir the batter
Pour it in a tin

Sprinkle in some chocolate chips
Put it in to bake
Then open wide the oven door
And out comes the cake!


Mix a Pancake

Mix a pancake.
Stir a pancake.
Pop it in a pan.
Fry a pancake.
Toss a pancake.
Catch it if you can!


Move Your Arms

Move your arms up and down,
Up and down. Up and down.
Move your arms up and down,
Just like me!

Move your hands and clap, clap, clap.
Clap, clap, clap. Clap, clap, clap.
Move your hands and clap, clap, clap,
Just like me!

Continue with: feet…stomp, body…up and down


My Heart Is A Zoo

Sometimes my heart wants to clap like a seal.
Sometimes my heart wants to hop like a bunny.
Sometimes my heart wants to jump like a frog.
Sometimes my heart wants to roar like a lion.
Sometimes my heart wants to fly like a blue jay.


One, Two, Peek-A-Boo!

One, two, peek-a-boo!
You see me, and I see you.
I see your nose; yes I do!
Time to play peek-a-boo!

Continue with: Hands, Feet, Belly


Open Shut Them

Open, shut them.
Open, shut them.
Let your hands go clap, clap, clap!

Open, shut them.
Opem, shut them.
Drop them in your lap, lap, lap!

Walk them, walk them,
Walk them, walk them,
Right up to your chin, chin, chin!

Open up your little mouth,
But do not let them in!


Pinkalicious Turn Around

Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious turn around.
Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious touch the ground.
Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious jump up high!
Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious touch the sky.

Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious bend down low.
Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious find your nose.
Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious dance to the beat.
Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious take a seat!


Put the Beat On

Put the beat on your toes, on your toes.
Put the beat on your toes, on your toes.
Put the beat on your toes,
Put the beat on your toes,
Put the beat on your toes,
Now we stop!

Continue with:
Tummy
In your hands (clap)


Roll Roll Sugar Babies

Roll roll sugar babies,
Roll roll sugar babies,
Push and pull
And clap, clap, clap!

Roll roll sugar babies,
Roll roll sugar babies,
Push and pull
And clap, clap, clap!

Roll up high!
Roll down low.
Roll real fast!
Roll real slow.

Roll roll sugar babies,
Roll roll sugar babies,
Push and pull
And clap, clap, clap!


Roly, Poly

Roly Poly, Roly Poly,
Up, up, up!
Up, up, up!

Continue with: Down, Out, In, Fast, Slow


Row, Drive, Fly

Row, row, row your boat (sway)
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.

Drive, drive, drive your car
So quickly down the street
Merrily, merrily, merrily
Driving can’t be beat!

Fly, fly, fly your plane
Fly your plane so high
Merrily, merrily, merrily
Way up in the sky!

Chug, chug, chug the train
Goes quickly down the track
Merrily, merrily, merrily
Hear it click click clack!


Slowly, Slowly

Slowly, slowly, very slowly,
Creeped the garden snail.
Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Up the wooden rail.

Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Ran the little mouse.
Quickly, quickly, very quickly,
Round about the house!


Show Me How You Move

Show me how your hands can move,
Your hands can move,
Your hands can move,
Show me how your hands can move,
Now show me how they STOP!

Continue with:
Feet…stomp
Elbows…bend
Body…jump


There Was a Crocodile

There was a crocodile,
An orangutan,
A flying eagle,
And a silvery fish.

A bunny,
A beaver,
A crazy elephant,
Da na na na na na
Da na na na na na


This is Big

This is big big big.
This is small small small.

This is short short short.
This is tall tall tall.

This is fast fast fast.
This is slow slow slow.

This is yes yes yes yes.
This is no no no no.


Tiny Tim

I have a friendly frog.
His name is Tiny Tim!
I put him in the bathtub,
To see if he could swim.

He drank up all the water!
He ate up all the soap!
And now he’s home sick in bed,
With bubbles in his throat!

Bubble bubble bubble
Bubble bubble POP!
Bubble bubble bubble
Bubble bubble POP!

Repeat with tiny frog and giant frog.


Up, Down, Turn Around

Up, down,
Turn around.
Touch the sky!
And touch the ground.

Wiggle fingers,
Wiggle toes,
Wiggle shoulders,
Wave hello!


We Clap and We Clap and We Stop

We clap and we clap and we stop
We clap and we clap and we stop
We clap and we clap and we clap
We clap and we clap and we clap and we STOP!

Continue with: Wave, Jump, Roll


Well Hello Little Baby

Well hello little baby, can you touch your nose,
Touch your nose,
Touch your nose?
Well hello little baby, can you touch your nose?
Touch your nose.

Continue with:
Clap your hands
Stomp your feet
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle


Where Is Big Toe

Where is big toe? Where is big toe?
Here I am! Here I am!
Wiggle waggle big toe.
Wiggle waggle big toe.
Here I am. Here I am.

Continue with:
bendy, bendy elbow
squishy, squishy tummy
happy, clappy two hands


Where Oh Where

Where oh where are baby’s fingers,
Where oh where are baby’s toes,
Where oh where is baby’s belly button,
Round and round it goes!
(tickle)

Additional verse, not shown:

Where oh where are baby’s eyes,
Where oh where is baby’s nose,
Where oh where is baby’s belly button,
Round and round it goes!
(tickle)


Zoom Zoom Zoom

Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We’re going to the moon.
Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We’ll get there very soon.

If you want to take a trip,
Climb aboard my rocket ship.
Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We’re going to the moon.

In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
BLAST OFF!


Zoom, Zoom, Zoom A New Year’s Coming Soon

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
The year is changing soon.
Zoom zoom zoom
The year is changing soon.

If you want to make a wish,
Hold it tight inside your fist!

Zoom zoom zoom
The year is changing soon.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!

Little People Big Dreams Storytime: Malala Yousafzai

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

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 Black artists and include a link to an at-home packet to continue the fun and learning.

Note: I did not present this program–my fantastic coworker presented this for me since I was out sick. I’m still happy to share these resources with all of you!

Explore More Little People, Big Dreams Storytime Outlines:

Ella Fitzgerald
Harriet Tubman
Jean Michel Basquiat
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

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: Malala Yousafzai by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Little People Big Dreams)

Malala Yousafzai (Little People, Big Dreams) - Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara,  illustrated by Manal Mirza - 9780711259027 - Murdoch books

Movement Break: Super Shaker Song by Culture Queen

Second Book: Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Malala's Magic Pencil: Yousafzai, Malala, Kerascoët: 9780316319577:  Amazon.com: Books

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: Maya Angelou

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!

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!

Find more Flannel Fun:

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




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
Malala Yousafzai
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

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