Toddler Storytime

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.

Virtual Toddler Storytime: Week 16

More toddlers! I like the variety of toddler activities so much, though it will be fun to be back to babies next week. Lot’s of polar bear content this week (not intentionally, but here we are). My library reopened to the public this week for browsing, though I’m writing this before that happens…so hoping all goes well.

More Toddler 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

Toddler Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Early Literacy Tip: Read books with excitement and enthusiasm—this can be much easier with books that encourage silly actions or behaviors. Try being extra silly! Nothing is over-the-top for your child.

Book Recommendation: The Doghouse by Jan Thomas

The Doghouse (The Giggle Gang): Thomas, Jan: 9780152065331: Amazon.com:  Books

Song: Jump with Me by Bobs & Lolo

Fingerplay: Here Is the Beehive

Here is the beehive,
But where are the bees?
Hidden away where nobody sees.
Watch and you’ll see them come out of the hive…
1, 2, 3, 4, 5…They’re alive!
Buzzzzzzzzz

— Find more Fingerplays in this post. —

Retelling: Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

— Find more Book Retellings in this post. —

Action Rhyme: The Elevator Song

Oh the city is great and the city is grand
There are lots of tall buildings on a little piece of land
And we live way up on the 57th floor
and this is what we do when we go out the door.

We take the elevator up and the elevator down,
take the elevator up, take the elevator down
Take the elevator up and the elevator down
and we turn around.

Flannel: Polar Bear’s Underwear (Song/Rhyme)

Oh where, oh where did my red underwear go?
Oh where, oh where can they be?
I looked up high, and I looked down low?
Did someone hide them from me?

— Find more Flannel & Magnet Activities in this post. —

Manipulative: Scarves (something to wave)

Shake Freeze by Little Maestros (opens to Spotify)

Closing Song: The Popcorn Song by Laura Doherty

Diversify Your Storytime Music

Edit: A fantastic commenter pointed out the inaccuracy of the word “diverse” to describe these artists, and I’m working to correct that. You will see a mixture of terms used in this post as I take the time to better prepare for future posts in this series. The artists highlighted below are all from typically underrepresented backgrounds, including a mixture of Black, Latinx, Asian, and LGBTQIA+. I’ll better distinguish this on future updates to this post and blog series.

Are you using music from a diverse group of artists in storytime? I’ll ask another way: are the artists of all the songs you use in storytime white? There is a ton of conversation in the library world about the need to make sure your collections, displays, reader’s advisory, and programming books include underrepresented populations. Rudine Sims Bishop is often quoted, citing her wonderful Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors essay. That work is very important, and books are at the core of library services. But, we also highlight other forms of media in our programming, storytimes, and events. Think about your hired presenters and performers (virtual in 2020 and in-person in 2019). How many were white? Who are you supporting with your library’s limited funds? What about your storytime music playlist? How often do you share music by Black artists? Latinx artists? LGBTQIA+ artists?

Since my time on the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings committee, I’ve been thinking a lot about children’s music, especially the music we use in storytime. Most of the artists I use are white. Jim Gill and Laurie Berkner are great, but there are some really fantastic Black, Latinx, and Asian artists that out there. There are artists from so many underrepresented groups–you just need to put in the time to look for them.

And it does take time. The music world is hard to break into at any level. Getting an agent isn’t easy or cheap, and the children’s music world is competitive. An artist might be able to self publish or perform locally, but that creates a very limited audience for a time consuming and costly pursuit. In some ways, the pandemic has opened up more opportunities for smaller presenters and performers to perform, virtually, on a national scale. But, the pandemic has also made it harder for those same smaller performers to survive. Money is tight everywhere, and many libraries who could never afford to bring a big name performer in person, might be able to afford them virtually. Libraries want to attract a large virtual audience, and that is easier with a name that caregivers will recognize. Caregivers recognize children’s musicians that they hear a lot–which they may mostly hear in storytime. So we are back to the beginning again: what musicians are you highlighting in storytime?

I am picky about my storytime music. I present for all ages now, but mostly babies and toddlers. I want music selections that are:

  • Short. Preferably 1-2 minutes, though I’m flexible with this (I can always stop the song myself where I need to).
  • Clear actions that are preferably repeated in a straightforward way. And actions that are appropriate for the age range. We can always adapt words and motions, but it is hard to spin a squirming one-year-old sitting on your lap.
  • Good pace. For me, I don’t want something too slow, but it also needs to be at a speed that is feasible for a toddler or preschooler to follow.

Your storytime music preferences might be very different. Some of my coworkers only use songs that have a rhythm that is way too slow for me, while others really want to theme their music to their storytime topic.

One more note: look at artists that you haven’t heard of. It’s great that you are highlighting Ella Jenkins and other artists that have been around for a few decades–but there are many new, modern artists creating amazing music right now that would appreciate your support.

I’ve been rambling on for months in other blog posts on how I have been working on a spreadsheet with artists from underrepresented populations and songs that particularly work for storytime. That full document isn’t ready yet, but I want to start to highlight diverse musicians regularly in preparation for that longer post. Many of these names may be familiar if you follow my weekly storytime outlines.

Children’s Musicians: A Starting List

All of these artists come from backgrounds that are typically underrepresented, particularly in storytime playlists: some are Black, some are Latinx, some are Asian, some identify as LGBTQIA+, and more. Some of these artists are my personal favorites while others are ones I plan to explore over the next few months. Who am I missing? Let me know in the comments!

Also, not a specific music group, but check out the Trans & Nonbinary Kids Mix by Ants on a Log and Friends.

Storytime Music: Favorite Songs

Again, I haven’t listened to every song by every artist listed above (yet–that is the plan by the end of the year), but if you are looking for some storytime music by artists from underrepresented populations to add to your storytime playlist *right now*, I’ve highlighted some of my current favorites below!

Jazzy Ash

Teddy Bear (preschool or school age)

Baby Loves Beignets (great with shakers)

Leap Frog (great with shakers – wish this didn’t gender with boys and girls)

Kymberly Stewart

I Am a Robot (toddlers, preschoolers)

Timmy the Turtle (Tiny Tim rhyme)

Down Down Up Up (all ages–could be a fun work out for caregivers with babies)

Nathalia

Animal Bop (toddlers, preschoolers)

Alina Celeste

Clap Hands (wish this wasn’t strictly mama and papa repeatedly, but the beat and actions are great)

Little Miss Ann

Shake & Sing (with shakers)

Aaron Nigel Smith

Everybody Loves to Dance (featuring Ziggy Marley) (all ages)

Itsy Bitsy Spider (featuring Zion Nigel Smith) (all ages)

Culture Queen

Super Shaker Song (with shakers! or scarves!) (all ages)

Blazer Fresh

Banana Banana Meatball (preschool or school age)

Jay Laga’aia

Wheels on the Bus (all ages)

Uncle Jumbo

Clap Clap Stomp Stomp (all ages)

Virtual Toddler Storytime: Week 15

Toddler Fun! A longer book compared to my normal selections for toddlers, but I really want to use this book, and I can’t keep agonizing over how to turn Baby Goes to Market into a flannel — someday I will make that happen, but I have no ability to make people out of flannel, and I don’t have the patience for trial and error at the moment.

More Toddler 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

Toddler Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Early Literacy Tip: Toddlers need to move, so don’t worry if they act out stories or just skip, romp, or tumble as you read to them. They may be moving, but they are listening.

Book Recommendation: Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke

Image result for baby goes to market

Song: Clap Your Hands by The Alana Banana Show

Fingerplay: Snowflakes Snowflakes

Snowflakes snowflakes dance all around
Snowflakes snowflakes touch the ground
Snowflakes snowflakes in the air
Snowflakes snowflakes everywhere!

— Find more Fingerplays in this post. —

Retelling: The Great Big Enormous Turnip (folktale)

— Find more Book Retellings in this post. —

Action Rhyme: Put Your Hands Up High

Put your hands up high,
Put your hands down low,
Put your hands in the middle,
And wiggle just so.

Put your elbows in front,
Put your elbows in back,
Put your elbows to the side and
QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!

Magnet: Five Pigs So Squeaky Clean

Five pigs so squeaky clean
Cleanest pigs you’ve ever seen.
Wanted to go outside and play.
Oink! Oink!

One jumped into the mud.
Landed with a great big THUD
Now there are four pigs so squeaky clean.

— Find more Flannel & Magnet Activities in this post. —

Manipulative: Stuffed Animals
Put Your Baby in the Air by Caspar Babypants

Closing Song: The Popcorn Song by Laura Doherty

Virtual Toddler Storytime: Week 14

Hello again toddlers! I may be shifting the structure and content of these storytime posts soon–I have a few more weeks with a mixture of old and new content, but in March I will be back to much more repeated content than new. I don’t theme my storytimes except for special occasions (perhaps I will make a post about why that is), but I know many librarians follow themes, and I do like reading and curating storytime book lists. So many of those wonderful storytime blogs I find feel a little dated now, since they were most updated during those prime blogging years 5-10 years ago. So maybe a collection of posts on theme ideas with an eye to recent releases and diversity would be useful? Or just redundant? Let me know in the comments. Meanwhile, I’ll keep brainstorming.

More Toddler 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

Toddler Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Early Literacy Tip: Make mistakes on purpose with familiar songs or activities—let your toddler catch you!

Book Recommendation: I Love My Tutu Too!

Song: Hurry, Hurry Drive the Firetruck by Tinsel Town Kids

Fingerplay: The Rain is Falling Down

The rain is falling down splash (clap)
The rain is falling down splash (clap)
Pitter-patter, pitter, patter
The rain is falling down splash (clap)

— Find more Fingerplays in this post. —

Retelling: The Bridge is Up by Babs Bell

— Find more Book Retellings in this post. —

Action Rhyme: Roll Roll Sugar Babies

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

Magnet: Six Little Valentines

Six little Valentines were sent to my house,
The first one said, “I love you, From Mouse.”

Five little Valentines in my mailbox,
The second one said, “Be mine, Love Fox.”

Four little Valentines full of love,
The third one said, “You are sweet, From Dove.”

Three little Valenitnes just for me.
The fourth one said, “Bee my honey, Love Bee.”

Two little Valentines mailed with care.
The fifth one said, “Here’s a hug, From Bear.”

The last little Valentine, from my friend Jay.
This one said, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

— Find more Flannel & Magnet Activities in this post. —

Manipulative: Shaker
Leap Frog by Jazzy Ash

Closing Song: The Popcorn Song by Laura Doherty

Molly of Denali Storytime

Molly of Denali Storytime! I’ve been planning this for a while, but I’ve also been quite nervous about it–I want to do Molly justice. Our community is pretty white, our library staff is mostly white, and I am (you guessed it) white.

In case you aren’t familiar with Molly: Molly Mabray is a 10-year-old Alaskan Native (Gwich’in/Koyukon/Dena’ina Athabascan) vlogger from the fictional village of Qyah, Alaska (near the mountain of Denali). The PBS show is the first show to feature an Alaskan Native main character. Much of the cast and crew, including the voice of Molly – Sovereign Bill of Auburn – are of Alaskan Native or First Nations heritage. The show authentically portrays the life of an Alaskan Native girl (while also having a particular focus on examining and evaluating sources of information).

Molly of Denali is a wonderful show, and I encourage you to watch it yourself, explore the website (and app and podcast), and find ways to promote it at your library. I tried to keep Molly’s energy during this storytime while focusing on some of the places Molly frequently visits in Qyah as well as some of the popular storylines from the show.

There were some adjustments for me. I’m used to music being a big part of my storytimes, but the music featured in Molly of Denali is wrapped up in her culture. Dancing (often nonsensically) to the Daniel Tiger or Pete the Cat theme song felt fine–wiggling, swaying, and shaking along to Molly’s theme song felt like it might be closer to cultural appropriation. Instead, I played the Molly of Denali theme song before I came on screen, and I promoted official Molly of Denali content on YouTube with this playlist.

Looking back, I’m afraid I focused a bit too much on animals and too little on Molly’s culture. My reasoning for this during planning is that my main audience for these storytimes are ages 2-3. While some of the concepts were still there for older kids to explore, I knew I needed to keep the attention of those bouncy toddlers. In hindsight, this program would have been better suited as a separate event aimed for ages 6-8.

Just like past virtual storytimes, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Many of these materials are from PBS. Download it here.

Watch the short preview video below. I tried to not dance through this the way I often do, instead highlighting storytime activities:

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

Molly of Denali Storytime Outline

Intro Song: Molly of Denali Theme Song (played before I came on screen)

Daniel Tiger Story: Crane Song

Exploring Qyah: I really like when these storytimes have some kind of unifying theme. For Molly of Denali storytime, we were simply exploring Qyah along with Molly.

Denali Trading Post: 5 Shiny Agate Stones

We started out at Molly’s parents’ store: the Denali Trading Post. Molly and her friends were trying to buy a new tubing raft, so they were selling agate stones again. We talked a bit about agate stones before jumping in with the rhyme shown below.

Down around the corner at the trading post,
There were five shiny agate stones at the most.
Along came a neighbor with a dollar to pay.
She picked out an agate and took it away.

Dog Kennel & Vegetable Garden: Anka Playing Hide and Seek
Tooey didn’t show up to help with the agate stones, so we went to find him at the Dog Kennel to make sure everything was okay. His dog, Anka, is missing again–but Tooey doesn’t think she is lost this time, just playing hide and seek…in Trini’s vegetable garden! Did you know that vegetables grow ENORMOUSLY large in Alaska? I learned that from Molly.

Anka, Anka playing hide and seek!
Are you behind the _?
Let’s take a peak!

Fish Camp: Five Little Salmon
Off to find some fish for hungry Anka at the Fish Camp! Catch your pretend salmon by tossing out a line and reeling it in or snatching a salmon from the air like a bear.

Alaskan Animal Adventure
Now that Anka was taken care of, it was finally time to explore Alaska by looking for something Molly loves and Alaska is well-known for–its amazing wildlife! I gave some hints for each animal before revealing the puppet and after the reveal, I encouraged viewers to do a quick motion.

There’s something by the river,
Now what can it be?
There’s something by the river,
That I can’t really see.

Wrapping Things Up
And that was it! For the reasons mentioned above, I didn’t have a closing song either (which was unusual for me). I once again directed people to the official Molly of Denali PBS playlist.

Daniel Tiger Storytime

The first themed Saturday storytime special of 2021! We started the new year with the one and only Daniel Tiger Storytime! This set a highly unrealistic attendance expectation for 2021, but I am very happy with the final product. If nothing else in 2021 works out whatsoever, maybe my storytime game will be on point?

Daniel Tiger is close to my heart because of Mr. Rogers, though I did learn in this process that I am not the biggest fan of the Daniel Tiger tv show. But, there is most definitely an audience for Daniel, and, if we ever return to in-person programs in the next five years, this is something I would like to recreate as a party-style event. The heart of the story is excellent, and in person I could use some Mr. Rogers tunes–something Facebook strictly does not allow (it WILL shut down your stream, mid-stream or immediately after–be warned). Daniel Tiger songs are fine.

I talked about Daniel Tiger during the well-attended Noon Year’s Eve Storytime, and I could tell the Facebook event had a lot of interest (over 1000 people responded to the event), so I did not make a trailer for this one. (Also, Noon Year’s Eve was barely a week prior, and I’m tired.)

The trailer was not needed because, following the Noon Year’s Eve Storytime fun, we once again broke attendance records. This is the most-well attended program I have ever done…ever. (Except for the in-person Wizards & Wands Festival, but that is a whole other thing.) Final attendance was 770 people, most of which were from central Ohio based on anecdotal info (where we are located), and even knowing that Facebook’s one-minute view count isn’t the most accurate, we had 400 people just from families self-reporting how many people were watching in the comments (so they stuck with us long enough to hear my announcements).

Moral of the story: Daniel Tiger > Dog Man.

Just like past virtual storytimes, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Download it here.

Watch the full storytime here (starts about 5 minutes in):

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

Daniel Tiger Storytime Outline

Backdrop Setup: Daniel Tiger pennant banners, book covers, and images. I’m happy to share these printable files if anyone is interested–just let me know in those comments or send us an email.

Intro Song: It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Daniel Tiger Story: Meet the Neighbors!

Meet the Neighbors! (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood): Shaw, Natalie, Style  Guide: 9781442498372: Amazon.com: Books

Neighbor Day Help: The premise for storytime was that it was time for the annual Neighbor Day Festival, and we needed to help all of our friends in the Neighborhood of Make Believe get ready.

Each time we were ready to find a new friend we took a seat and pretended to “drive” trolley.

Driving Round in My Little Red Trolley
Driving round in my little red trolley,
Driving round in my little red trolley,
Driving round in my little red trolley,
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

When we got to a location, we would receive three clues to figure out where we ended up.

And then we figure out where we ended up (the bakery!) and see which friend is waiting for us there (Miss Elaina!):

Before starting that location’s activity:

Bakery with Miss Elaina to 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!

Faster, Faster!

Music Shop with Katerina Kittycat for Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

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!

Playground with Prince Wednesday for Animal Guessing Game

Grocery Store with O the Owl to Count the Balloons

Red Balloons, red balloons, how many do we see?
Red balloons, red balloons, count them now with me!

Post Office with Daniel Tiger for Letter Matching

Oh, have you seen the letter W
The letter W, the letter W
Oh, have you seen the letter W?
It makes the sound wuh-wuh-wuh

Wrapping Things Up
After helping Daniel find all of the letters for his friends, we found one more lost letter that needed a home! But this one was addressed to…us!

When we opened it, we discovered that since we were so kind to all of our new friends, we would become honorary residents of the Neighborhood of Make Believe! First, we just had to sing our song one more time:

Noon Year’s Eve Storytime

Noon Year’s Eve Storytime! I’m still recovering from this one.

I learned something with this program that I pose as a challenge to myself and all of you: Not everyone is “zoomed out” or “over virtual programs.” Keep trying. Figure out what works for your audience, put in all of your energy, and try and try again when nothing seems to be sticking.

I was not that excited for Noon Year’s Eve Storytime & Dance Party. Honestly, the content is not my favorite. While I loved my dance party lineup, I didn’t like the book I was reading and some of the other activities felt like they drug on too long. I didn’t expect an audience because my library doesn’t regularly have a consistent Noon Year’s Eve program (so no built-in viewers), and we typically slow down our storytimes in December because our audience shrinks (which was reflected in our virtual storytimes throughout the month too).

Our Noon Year’s Eve Storytime received a little more press than regular programs. We weren’t able to advertise it at weekly storytimes the week before, since we didn’t have any the week prior, but a local newspaper and tv station briefly mentioned the program in their lists of ways to celebrate the New Year. I made a “commercial” advertising the event too but that is a regular practice for me.

In Ohio, per our state library, we count live program stats for programs that air live, like Facebook Like Storytimes, by adding the number of 1-minute viewers and the number of additional people mentioned in the comments. We ask families to let us know how many people are watching behind the screen in the comments, to get a more accurate count.

Our regular storytimes have been averaging around 30-50 people, with some peaks up to the 60s-80s, maybe 100 at a particular popular Saturday storytime.

Virtual Noon Year’s Eve Storytime Attendance: 439 people.

I was blown away. When I started the stream, five minutes early to give people time to join, I saw the “live view” count immediately jump to 25. That felt unusual so early, but fit within our normal numbers. By the time I started, five minutes later, the “live view” count was 65. I haven’t been really, genuinely, nervous presenting a virtual storytime since April–but those numbers genuinely terrified me, and you can sort of see it during the first few minutes based on how out of breath I am.

Anyhow, after that long-winded introduction, Noon Year’s Eve Storytime & Dance Party content awaits below.

Check out my preview video! I had a lot of fun with this one, reflecting on 2020 and including some fun bloopers:

Watch the full storytime here, including the dance party (storytime starts about 5 minutes in):

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

Noon Year’s Eve Storytime Outline

Backdrop & Logistics: New Year’s Eve pennant banner and decor.

Since everyone’s clock is going to be a little bit different, plus there is a delay on Facebook, I used two iPads to keep track of the time until our (approximately) noon countdown. They were synced, with one displayed beside me and another behind the camera, so it was in my line of vision, and I didn’t need to keep looking away from the camera throughout the whole program to check the time.

I also attempted a balloon drop, filled with balloons and confetti. This didn’t work quite as planned, with maybe 3 out of 20 balloons falling, but that might have been better than what I expected, which was everything, tablecloths included, to fall on my head 5 minutes into the program.

Intro Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs (my go-to opening storytime song)

Book: The Night Before New Year’s by Amy Wummer
I struggled with this book. I wanted a more diverse representation of New Year’s Eve, but the only diverse options I had access to before the program were Our Favorite Day of the Year, which feels like a back-to-school book, and Shante Keys and the New Year’s Peas (and I can’t get past some of the rhyming choices in Shante Peas). I did like that this book showed one family celebrating at home by themselves (no extended family or community parties). I tried to find a middle ground by spending some time before and during the book talking about how everyone’s New Year traditions are different and how not everyone celebrates New Year’s on Dec. 31. (This issue, right here, is why I struggle with theming storytimes–decisions are made for the sake of the theme instead of the quality of the materials, their diversity, and their developmentally appropriate content.)

Amazon.com: The Night Before New Year's (9780448452128): Wing, Natasha,  Wummer, Amy: Books

Song: Dance Freeze Melt by Mr. Eric and Mr. Michael

Hilda the Dragon, Playing Hide and Seek
I wanted to include some of the familiar characters we saw at virtual storytime specials during 2020, so I decided to have us discover some characters while hunting for our library dragon, Hilda (see a photo of 30-foot, smoke-breathing Hilda here.)

Zoom Zoom Zoom, A New Year’s Coming Soon
As always, thank you jbrary.

Fabulous Fireworks

If You’re Ready for the New Year (If you’re happy and you know it)

We finished If You’re Ready for the New Year with just about a minute until our countdown, which I still almost missed because I talk too much.

And it was finally time for our 20-minute dance party! I used these songs:

And that was 2020 Virtual Noon Year’s Eve Storytime and Dance Party! I didn’t receive much specific feedback from this program, other than those attendance numbers, which makes me a little sad (I really rely on that feedback to keep my energy up), but I think it went well enough. I just hope some of those people listened to my always-rambling announcements and return for our weekly live storytimes next week and Daniel Tiger Storytime on Saturday.

2021 Storytime Goals

It’s a new calendar year! 2020 has been filled with new experiences for many of us (hello work from home, virtual programs, stay at home orders, and so much more!), and I’m pessimistic enough to anticipate that 2021 will be filled with more challenges. I’m expecting to be presenting virtual storytime through May and maybe summer. (Perhaps by summer with a hybrid model–some virtual and some in person?) I’m also anticipating taking a little break when we return to full in person storytimes (pending staffing levels of course) because (1) I have some lovely coworkers who haven’t been comfortable presenting virtually but are excited to return to in-person storytimes and (2) I need a real vacation. (And staycations simply don’t work with my life. I’d spend a whole staycation sneakily working on work projects, catching up on picture books, and working on this blog. Which isn’t a vacation at all, really.)

I’ve talked about this a bit in my weekly storytime outlines, but I’ve really appreciated being able to deep dive into a variety of storytimes for all ages. Storytimes were a part of my job before, but I’ve had the opportunity to make them a focus instead of one of just many things on my plate. I’ve had a chance to examine storytime books and blogs, figure out outlines that work for me and my audience, intentionally align everything I do to early literacy, practice a storytime before presenting it (something that really helps my intentionality in what I say and even how I hold each item), and build a collection of core storytime materials that will (hopefully) allow me to continue bringing variety to my storytimes long after in-person storytimes have returned.

But my storytimes are far from perfect, and I want to keep growing as a presenter. So what do I want to focus on in 2021?

1. Diverse Music. This is something I talked about this year, but it kept getting pushed aside. I’m happy that this project is built into my personal work goals next year, so I won’t be able to let other deadline-driven projects keep pushing this down the list.

There are a lot of great resources on the internet that keep up with diverse books, but I need to put in the work to really explore diverse musicians. I rely fairly heavily on recorded music in my storytime–I’m not the most comfortable singing, and I know many of the grown-ups watching aren’t either, no matter how much their librarian assures them its fine. I want to move beyond the regular Laurie Berkner, Jim Gill, and Caspar Babypants tunes. I started this project this year, and essentially it just turned into me including Jazzy Ash’s music in all of my storytimes (GO LISTEN TO HER), but there are many additional diverse artists out there that I want to be promoting. I want to go beyond just a list of artists but also take the time to listen to all of their music and pull out songs that are ideal in a storytime setting (clear motions, great with manipulatives, etc.). I expect to be sharing a lot of that work here too, so look out for music posts!

2. Diverse Books – especially for toddlers. I keep finding wonderful, own voices books I want to share with preschoolers–but I don’t often present preschool storytime. I’m reading to babies and those squirmy toddlers and to stay developmentally appropriate for both of these ages (and to hold their attention through a screen), I like to focus on books that include actions or animal sounds. I also try to separate books that I use with babies and toddlers–babies get those books that have photos of babies and smaller motions like bouncing or peek-a-boo, while toddler books are, based on their age, a little longer. The problem with this approach? Most of those interactive toddler books that I love feature critters, creatures, or monsters. I don’t want to keep recycling the same handful of diverse titles every few weeks, and I also don’t want to reuse a book I just used at baby storytime–I want new options that are new to me and to the grown-ups watching.

Also: I want to re-examine my go-to storytime books and authors too. I used to use Upsy Daisy Baby, until I read some reviews commenting on poor word selections that would not be remotely reflective of the cultures depicted. I’ve also been much more aware of how babies are illustrated, particularly in books that aren’t by own voices authors and illustrators. Asian slant eyes in illustrations is racist (and pretty common in popular storytime titles–take another look at some of those Helen Oxenbury books).

3. Fingerplays beyond Five Littles. I’ve been reading a lot on accessibility in storytimes and making all programs accessible (not just thinking about these things during a sensory storytime). Fingerplays are a big one. Not every kid has ten little fingers (or ten little toes). It’s easy to avoid books that focus on these things, but fingerplays are important to build those muscles needed for writing later on. I’ve stopped using fingerplays featuring 10 littles, and I want to stop using fingerplays featuring five littles too, particularly if there is not a visual component or alternative motions to go with it. There are a lot of other fingerplay options out there, and there are ways to immediately be more inclusive with fingerplays (such as counting to five using two hands instead of just one), but I need to take the time to find the ones that work really work for me. I talk about this a little more here, but I want to focus on making this happen in 2021.

4. Captioning and Accessibility. Thinking more about storytimes and accessibility, I want to pay more attention to captioning next year. For every storytime I present (on Facebook Live), I create short videos for our library’s YouTube channel of any non-copyrighted content. Those have many purposes, but they are really there to help increase accessibility. Facebook is not a great resource for captions, but I can control the captions on YouTube. These videos are also always available, allowing families to more easily stop and start and skip a video entirely, as it makes sense for them (and as their technology allows). I made an effort to caption all of my YouTube videos toward the middle of 2020, but to-do lists always grow, and this project also got pushed aside even as I continue to produce more videos. I want to make sure all of our YouTube content is captioned, and I want to review it all to make breaks as clean as possible (above isn’t a great example, with sentences being cut between captions).

I also want to create a visual storytime schedule that can be displayed on the wall behind me during storytime. This is such a small thing that I could easily include in my storytimes, but I haven’t taken the time to do so, which is entirely on me.

5. Build more early literacy asides and at-home activities. This may be more of a storytime extension, but, especially as we start to shift back into in-person storytimes later in 2021, I want to think about ways to encourage families to continue early literacy activities at home. I’ve been building on this idea as I prepare the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program that will debut next year, and I talk (a lot) in storytimes about early literacy activities, but I want to figure out a way to make this succinct and easy, especially since, I expect, when we restart storytimes, the oh-so-important playtime won’t be debuting, probably for the entirety of 2021. Can I offer take home kits at the end of a storytime? Will people actually take and use handouts? Is it time to re-examine a text messaging service? I don’t know. But I want to think of more concrete ways to take these concepts home with parents.

Virtual Toddler Storytime: Week 13

Last storytime of 2020! (Except Noon Year’s Eve of course!) I realized that this set of Toddler Storytimes were designed a bit younger than where I normally aim for the audience of this program (developmentally, the stories and rhymes feel more for 18-30 months than 24-40 months), but I think it was a good change of pace. I have plenty of materials gathered for preschool storytimes in January–I’m excited to try that age range again–plus all of the storytime specials in the middle. 2020 has been a lot to handle, but I am really glad I had an opportunity to immerse myself in storytimes. Storytimes have always been part of my job, but I’ve never put so much of a focus on them. I started as a youth librarian without any regular storytime of my own for a few years, and beyond courses in library school, I didn’t really start paying attention to storytime planning until I took on a weekly storytime about two and a half years ago. 2020 gave me a chance to reprioritize my time, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to curate programs, content, and materials for a variety of ages with so much intentionality. Now, 2021 and beyond, please bring us more diverse books ideal for storytime and developmentally appropriate for all ages, but especially toddlers.

More Toddler 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

Toddler Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Early Literacy Tip: Don’t make a big deal out of speech mistakes. There is no need to correct your child. Instead, repeat the correct pronunciation. Correcting your child can make them less likely to try new words.

Book Recommendation: I Love Me! by LaRonda Gardner Middlemiss

Song: Jump with Me! by Bobs and Lolo

Fingerplay: Mr. Rabbit

— Find more Fingerplays in this post. —

Retelling: Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill

— Find more Book Retellings in this post. —

Action Rhyme: We Clap and We Stop

Magnet: Five Little Sailboats

— Find more Flannel & Magnet Activities in this post. —

Manipulative: Stuffed Animal or Toy
Little Red Wagon by Olde Town School of Folk Music

Closing Song: The Popcorn Song by Laura Doherty