Storytime Book Selection

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My storytime this week went really well – I felt like my kids were engaged with the books, everyone paid attention (one guy kept trying to pull a broom out of our cabinet, but he’s always a wanderer). Last week? Not so much. So today I want to talk a little bit about book selection, which is what made the difference.

Last week, I read Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown, and The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell ad illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. I’d been wanting to do both for a while; they have great sound effects, fun words, repetition, and bright illustrations. However…

They bombed! And it’s not the first time I’ve picked books that I thought were a sure thing – two weeks ago, I read Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek by Minfong Ho and I Kissed the Baby by Mary Murphy. Again, both books had a lot going for them – Peek! has great repetition and beautiful illustrations, and I Kissed the Baby is sweet with simple illustrations and an easy, identifiable concept. (I have also seen it be used in other baby storytimes with better results than I got.) Turns out all my choices had drawbacks which were clear almost immediately:

– A lot of the repetition in Dancing Feet is nonsense words. I thought they sounded fun when I practiced the book, but my kids were young enough that I guess they didn’t register at all. They didn’t connect with the book at all like I thought they would.

– Turns out, The Baby Goes Beep is kind of boring! And since it was the second book I read, when people’s attention was already wandering, my kids had zero interest in sound effects. I know that when picking books for babies, plot is not super important, but there just wasn’t enough content for me to hook their interest back.

Peek! was too long. I ended up editing it pretty heavily, turning multiple pages to get to the end.

I Kissed the Baby may have been the weirdest one – the black and white illustrations freaked my kids OUT. I ended that one early, even though it’s quite short, because every time I turned a page someone would cry!

This week, I read Time to Say Bye Bye by Maryann Cocca-Lefler and Meeow and the Blue Table by Sebastien Braun (both suggestions I got from Melissa Depper’s blog, off this list). Both were a resounding success, and here’s why I think that’s true:

Time to Say Bye Bye has very simple, easy concepts with great illustrations, but it’s also interactive enough to keep babies engaged. Waving “bye bye” is a pretty universal gesture, and I had my whole crowd waving and saying bye bye by the end of the book. It was pretty great (and also adorable).

– I was concerned Meeow might be too abstract for the babies, but the text is SO simple and the characters are all common enough animals that everyone had fun telling me that Moo was a cow and Quack was a duck. I also appreciated the inclusion of basic concept words (the blanket is red and the table is blue, etc.), which gave me something to point their attention to on every page.

I’m still getting used to picking books for babies rather than toddlers or pre-schoolers, but these last few weeks have been very educational – I’m sad that I picked some books my kids didn’t like, but hopefully that means I’ll be better at picking books in the future.

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