Board Books for Storytime

As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to let you guys know what board books I ended up ordering for my storytimes. I polled my esteemed colleagues on the ALSC listserv and got some great ideas!

Moo, Baa, La La La by Sharon Boynton
Sharon Boynton is seriously one of the best children’s authors out there for storytime books. Her stuff is engaging and her illustrations are charming. Moo, Baa, La La La is one of my favorite board books in general, because of the easily identifiable farm animals and the way it encourages kids to interact with the reader by making the different animal sounds.

Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers
This was one of the recommendations that came up a lot, because babies really love books about other babies – seeing themselves in the illustrations makes it much easier to engage them with the book! Everywhere Babies also features babies doing recognizable things and simple rhyming text that I think will work very well as a readaloud.

Whose Toes are Those? by Jabari Asim
Who doesn’t love This Little Piggy? One of my goals for this activity is to encourage interaction between the babies, their caretakers, and the books, and setting something like This Little Piggy to illustration accomplishes that handily. And also, again, babies love books about babies.

In My Tree, by Sarah Gillingham
This one is a bit of an experiment – In My Tree features a little finger puppet owl, which will either be a fun thing for the babies to play with as the pages turn OR I will find myself with a bunch of torn-out finger puppets. We’ll see!


Storytime Development

I floated the idea of incorporating guided read-alongs into my storytimes – basically, the idea is that every baby would get their own copy of the same board book, so they could interact with it and follow along with their caretaker while I read it outloud – and my boss LOVED it. Not only did I get a mega confidence boost from that (plus, I just love how my boss is not only super accepting of our ideas and input, but actively encourages us to contribute), but I get to pick out and order books, which is quickly becoming my favorite part of my job. There’s something so exciting about being trusted to handle library resources, and to know that I’m having an impact on the library’s collection, which will have an impact on how our patrons interact with the collection and with us. That’s pretty thrilling to me.

What are your favorite board books to read out loud? Do you have any tried and true favorites in your own collections? I’m thinking we should get a counting book, an animal book, and a family-oriented book, but I’m still combing through title lists. Any recommendations?

Robot Storytime

The head of youth services at my library has been letting me put together mini displays on some free counter space – I set one up for Chinese New Year, and I’m both pleased and surprised with how well the display has been used! I’ve mentioned here before that my theory is you can never have too many displays, because people will use what they can see, and I think this has been proof positive of that. My next one, which will go up beginning next week, will be on the Winter Olympics (we’ve already got a bunch of great stuff out for Black History Month and Valentine’s Day).

I don’t have anything new to report on my storytime, because I haven’t had one in a couple of weeks – it’s been way too cold! I don’t blame parents for not wanting to bring their babies out into this awful, awful weather, but I’m a little sad that I haven’t seen my kids in a while. I will say that this week was my theme week in the storytime schedule, and my robot books have been going over very well. There are some SUPER cute ones I found in our collection. Some of my favorites:

Doug Unplugged
an Yaccarino


A pretty fabulous story about a little boy robot who decides to “unplug” from his usual information download and go out into the world to learn by experience. Dan Yaccarino includes some great, unconventional illustrations that follow Doug around the city, and the simple color palette makes the bright yellow Doug really pop out.

Boy + Bot
Ame Dyckman


Reminiscent of a simplified Iron Giant. Boy + Bot tells the story of two friends who don’t quite understand how the other one works – when Bot powers down, Boy thinks he’s sick but can’t make him better. When Bot powers back up and Boy is asleep, he doesn’t know how to fix Boy! The mix of simplicity and sweetness make this friendship fable a great readaloud for most ages, and the humor takes it to the next level of quality.

Robot Zot!
Jon Scieszka

Who DOESN’T love a wannabe robot overlord? The repetition and fairly simple word choice make this more sophisticated story accessible to younger kids – this story is FUNNY, you guys. Robot Zot plans to conquer Earth, even though…he is only three inches tall. Watching him wreak havoc on the suburban kitchen he lands in is hilarious, but even better is when he falls in love with a pink princess cell phone and decides he’d rather be a hero.

Planning a Con

Last week was my official first storytime of the new session (we missed the week before because of the cold). Important things I learned:

– Putting two clapping rhymes next to each other is actually a bad idea.
– Don’t start at 5 for counting rhymes, it’s too many for babies. Start at 3.

In other library news, my library put on its Comic Con (we called it MiniCon) and, even though I didn’t work the day it was held, I stopped by to see how things were going and it sounds like it went great! I’m going to speak to my manager about being a bigger part of that next year, because I a.) am a huge nerd, b.) have experience planning conventions (it was a while ago, but I was the con chairperson for my high school science fiction & fantasy club one year), and c.) am addicted to planning things.

I’ve had a couple of ideas already, and the first thing that struck me when I saw how it was set up was that my ideas might be bigger than our library! Not that we should ever be afraid to plan big for our programs, but we ARE a smaller library, both in terms of village size and building size. It doesn’t make sense to ask a local gaming store if they want to set up free- or tournament-play for a game when we literally don’t have anywhere to put them!

On the other hand, I DO think we could put on more in the way of events – we had an author and an artist both come in, and I think we’d have the space to do some panel-adjacent activities if they’d be interested. We also had reps from comic stores, and while we don’t have the space for a lot of gaming events, we could totally do some demos or smaller organized play.

Have any of my readers hosted something like this with limited space? How did that effect your planning process, and how did you maximize what you had available?

New Storytimes and the Semi-Finals! *UPDATED*

**WRITER’S NOTE** BOY IS MY FACE RED. You may have noticed that the first version of this post incorrectly had The Hobbit as a semi-finalist – this is incorrect. The Golden Compass will be in the vote against Speak, and the poll has been updated to reflect that. Sorry about the confusion!

Our final matchups, generously provided by a random number generator, are…

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, vs. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card vs. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Guys, these books need no introduction at this point. WHO WILL COMPETE FOR THE NUMBER ONE CROWN?

In other news, I’ve put the finishing touches on my storytime plan for this up-coming session – as you’ll recall, my library uses the Mother Goose on the Loose format, which means about 80% of my material is the same from week to week. This is nice, in that I don’t need a whole new plan every week, but it means I feel a bit of pressure to make sure I pick stuff that I like and that the kids will connect with. (Although, if something really didn’t work the first couple of weeks, I don’t think anyone would get mad if I swapped out the duds.)

Here’s my plan (all links lead to my Story Rhymes wiki!):

Opening song: Hello, Hello
Second Opening Rhyme: Open Shut Them (always a favorite of mine)
Rhythm Game: Rum Pum Pum
Rhyme/song that changes every week
Bounce Rhyme: This is the way the Lady Rides
Animal Rhyme: Five Little Ducks (as a finger play, my library doesn’t have a duck puppet to use)
Stand-Up Action: Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Scarf rhyme (this is the one I’m most nervous about changing, because you guys know how popular Wiggle Waggle got to be! We’ll see if I can get them into this new rhyme): Roley Poley
Closing Song: Our Hands Say Thank You

I’ll let you guys know how it goes!

Top Ten Storytime Books of 2013

While this is only my first year giving storytimes, but between my internship and my baby storytime, I have given quite a few (and hope to give many, many more)!  The end of the year always heralds top ten lists for everything you can think of – here are my top ten favorite books I read in storytimes this year. They’re arranged alphabetically because I couldn’t figure out how to rank them!

Anton Can Do Magic, Ole Konnecke
Before I actually read Anton to my kids, I was worried that it might not be a great choice – the text is very spare, and some of the illustrations require some abstract thinking in order to follow the story. I’m glad I used it, though, because it ended up being a lot of fun! The trick is to make it a little interactive – Anton thinks he is making things disappear, such as a bird and a friend, when his hat is actually falling over his eyes so he doesn’t see when they fly or walk away. Once my kids got what was happening, through some leading questions and following my finger over the illustrations, they had a lot of fun trying to tell Anton where things were going. The clarity of Konnecke’s illustrations make this one a winner every time. (Ages 3-5)

Go Away, Big Green Monster, Ed Emberley
I really like books that get kids involved with reading it with me (you will see that theme pop up several times on this list), and Big Green Monster is pretty much the epitome example of this. I had so much success getting a group of 2 year olds to tell the Monster to go away, that the next class I read to ( a group of 4-5 year olds) asked if we could read the monster book because they’d heard us having so much fun! This one is also great because it works with any number of kids and really any age group – who doesn’t want to tell the Monster under their bed to just GO AWAY? (Ages 2-5)

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Any of the How Do Dinosaurs books are a lot of fun, with the added bonus that they’ve got little lessons hidden in them (“How do dinosaurs say good night? Do they do all these bad things? No, they are good dinosaurs,” etc.) that are easy for kids to swallow. This one is my personal favorite because of the illustrations – the pages with dinosaurs holding teddy bears and being tucked in by human parents are both charming and funny. (Ages 2-5)

Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Mo Willems
The whole book is completely charming, but it’s made extra awesome by the full page spread of text when Sam tells Leonardo everything that’s wrong and making him cry – I’ve found that the best way to approach this is to take a deep, exaggerated breath…and then say the whole thing really fast. It doesn’t even matter if the kids catch every word, they certainly get the idea and I’ve never NOT gotten a room full of laughs at the end of Sam’s speech. (Ages 3-5)

Little Pea, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Amy Rosenthal and Jen Corace have done a few of the Little books – Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink, among others. What makes them so appealing, in addition to the utterly adorable illustrations, is the obvious contradiction in each one: in Little Pea, the titular character only wants to eat vegetables…but first, he has to eat his dinner (which is candy). Kids find this turnaround of their expectations to be pretty hilarious (because who wouldn’t rather eat candy than veggies?). (Ages 2-6)

Peck Peck Peck, Lucy Cousins
I admit, I didn’t actually read this one – my supervisor read it during the baby storytime while I was still observing. But it worked SO well that I can’t wait to use it myself in the next session! You may recall my story about one of my regular attendees, who came in the week after hearing Peck Peck Peck still ready to peck anything in the room he could reach. A book that stays with the babies like that is clearly a winner. (Ages 0-2)

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit, Il Sung Na
I thought this one could really go either way, and it turned out the best way – my babies were very engaged by the bright, friendly illustrations and they loved being able to identify the different animals on the pages. The story is simple enough that they didn’t get bored, and quiet enough that it made the perfect end book for our storytime. It’s also lovely enough that I want to add it to my own book shelf. (Ages 0-2)

The Sunflower Sword, Mark Sperring
I like this one so much I asked for (and got!) it for Christmas. It’s a very charming story about friendship and inner versus physical strength, and how using a flower can be more effective than using a sword. Plus, dragons! And as a bonus, there are lots of opportunities to get kids swinging imaginary flower swords. (Ages 3-6)

Time to Say Bye Bye, Maryann Cocca-Lefler
Books that ask simple questions, where the answers can be demonstrated in a way for my babies to follow along, are generally winners, and this one is the best of those I’ve found so far. Even my youngest (about eight months old) understood waving good by, and by the end of the book I had my whole audience waving and saying “bye bye.” The colorful, dynamic illustrations of very familiar concepts (playing at the playground, baking at grandma’s house, taking a bath) were easy for them to identify and proved to be very engaging. (Ages 0-2)

The Bear Books, by Greg Foley
I’m 100% cheating by including this whole series, but I couldn’t pick just one – they’re too sweet. From Thank You, Bear to Don’t Worry, Bear; I Miss You, Mouse and Good Luck, Bear; I’ve never had one of these flop in my storytimes. They’re simple but emotive, and I love the way they make complex concepts easily accessible to very young children. (Ages 3-6 are best, but you can totally go younger with these)

Storytime Crafts

Our fall storytime session just ended and our next one starts January 6.  I was hired in the middle of this last session, which meant I had to dive into a lot of things headfirst – the big one was being added to the rotation of theme weeks. Each week of our storytimes is loosely themed, and each theme is decided by one of the librarians. We pick our theme, create a list of 10+ books for everyone to draw on for their storytime, and pick CDs and songs/rhymes/fingerplays for people to build into their storytime for that week. We also have to come up with a sensory craft activity for kids to do after.

It was the craft I was most nervous about – I can pick storytime themes in my sleep, and the trickiest part about picking books was making sure the ones I wanted were on the shelf when I was gathering them up. Likewise, gathering rhymes is made much easier with resources like out there. But I’ve never planned a craft that was then actually executed by kids before! I was seized with the irrational fear that whatever I planned would flop, the kids would be bored, it wouldn’t work the way it was supposed to. Added to this, which either made things harder or easier depending on my mood, is the fact that my library emphasizes process-based activities rather than product-based activities. We try not to do stuff for the little guys that has a definitive end product, because we don’t want there to be this thought that there’s a “right” way to do the activity.

I had three weeks in this session. My themes were:
– Nighttime
– Fairytales
– Snow
And I have to say, after talking to my fellow librarians, I went three for three on my activities – each one was a hit with the kids. This might be the thing I am most proud of so far because of my aforementioned lack of experience; without any practical experience doing crafts with kids, I didn’t have a baseline for what worked and what didn’t.

Here are the crafts I planned!

– Nighttime: for my Nighttime theme we made night collages, using black construction paper, twigs and googely eyes. It was my least process-based activity, but the kids had a lot of fun gluing twigs and making nighttime animals with the eyes. Here’s what it looks like (and where I grabbed the idea from).

– Fairytales: First, let me just say that when I picked this theme I didn’t know that there are almost no fairytale picture books that are good storytime books. They’re all too long! I had to get creative and dig up some good dragon, knight and princess books, including some early readers.

My craft for this week was foil painting, which I thought was enchanted mirror-adjacent, and mostly thought it would be fun for kids to paint on something other than paper for a change. Hoooooly moly, I was right, they had SO much fun with this. Here is where I picked the idea up from.

– Snow: Possibly the week I was most excited for, because I don’t know if you guys know this, but weather books are almost always awesome (I pulled Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na for this week, which might win as Best Selection for my baby storytime). The craft was snow paint, which unfortunately we only got to do once; no one came to the Monday storytime (because it was WAY too cold), my babies don’t do a craft, and our end-of-session dance party was on Friday. But! The kids who did this one had a lot of fun. Similar to the foil painting, the snow paint was an activity they were familiar with using a new medium – in this case, the paint was a mix of shaving cream and glue, which dried puffy like snow. Check it out here, where I pulled the idea from.

If I have any librarians or other people who work with young children, what kinds of crafts do you like doing? Do you prefer process- or product-based crafts?

Watching: Frozen. Oh my god, Frozen. I actually have too many feelings about this movie to talk about it here – a longer, in depth review will be going up on Boycott Bluray later this week. Suffice to say, I really, really loved it.

Reading: Just finished Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Deeply affecting and not for the faint of heart – it’s one of those books adults need to read so they know when to give it to teens who need it. What Speak does for rape victims, Wintergirls does for sufferers of anorexia and other eating disorders.