This was one of those weeks where it felt like there just weren’t enough minutes in the week. I gave six storytimes, including two at Head Start, and I’m feeling like I’m getting more confident as I practice my routines more. The most important thing I did this week was read Story Time Success and discover where I sorely needed work: transitions. I wrote out a script for all of my storytimes with basic transitions, and I learned another brick in the wall of my education in that transitions and songs are everything to daycare and preschool workers.
Basically, transitions help prep the kids for the next activity you have planned for them (in storytime, this is usually going from book to song/action rhyme and vice versa) as well as strengthening their understanding using the first step of the Marzano strategy with comparing and contrasting between what you just did and what you’re going to do next. For storytime transitions, this would be taking one thing you just read or sang and finding a common element for the next thing, whether that’s color, critter, concept, or anything else. With that in mind, I’m thinking I’m going to start planning my storytimes about a basic early literacy concept, like books and fingerplays that demonstrate opposites, colors, seasons, etc. Anything to give my storytime kids an edge in kindergarten readiness! Forgive me if I sound a little nuts in my desire to find storytime hacks.
This week I also swapped out most of the books I had chosen for my 4-5 year old storytime to participatory or call and response books. The Head Start group loved It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, especially when I encouraged to shout the phrase with me and helping me find the tiger on the page. Another hit was Don’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrump, which was pretty much storytime gold because it gave easy instructions for the kids to follow, had great full-page illustrations, and an easy-to-understand story. The one change I made that was a participatory book that followed all the conventional storytime book standards (big, colorful, full-page illustrations, big text, and an easy story) was Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein, which the kids didn’t really seem to get. (That may also be chalked up to my reading ability with this story.)
My review round up of this week only yielded five solid picks from a 20-25 book pile. Such is the storytime life, I think. This week I’m separating them by age range again.
Two year olds
After getting a rather lukewarm perception to Walter’s Wonderful Web in storytime, I was happy to find that another Tim Hopgood story had a little more advanced story about a young rabbit named Hoppy who’s using his senses to investigate when spring will be here. Hooray for Hoppy has a story text is very basic and clear, making it ideal for two year olds, and once again, the illustrations are eye-catching and big. I would make the argument that this text would be a good story to illustrate seasonal transition as well as how animals use their senses.
My next pick would be one that was lauded quite a bit in 2016: Varsha Bajaj’s This is Our Baby, Born Today. At first, given the basic one-sentence-per-page story, I thought this might be better for one year olds, but given the length and some of the concepts discussed, I think older two’s would get it more. The story follows a “day” in the life of a baby elephant, highlighting the elephant’s social circle and understanding of the world around them. It leaves off with warm fuzzies, and while I might clip some of the pages together (as much as I hate to do that with Eliza Wheeler’s fantastic illustrations), I hope to use it soon. Once again, the story has full page, colorful, and easy to see illustrations–almost like it was written for storytime.
Three year olds
A confession for my picks in this group: these are stories I like but may not actually work in storytime because they might be too confusing/random/long, and like so many picture books, might be better suited to one-on-one reading. (That sighing sound you hear is me.)
My first pick is the brand new How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder. I loved the illustration style and gentle sense of humor about a young girl trying to take a picture of a fox. At first, she has many clever ideas about laying out food and following tracks, but it’s not until she’s on the verge of giving up that the fox finds her. The fox is present on every page even if the protagonist can’t find him and does many devious foxy things. The story has big illustrations with a couple of pages of sequences, and my one qualm is that it’s a little long for storytime. Still, I know cuteness is not supposed to be a criteria for evaluating picture books, but this one is mind meltingly cute.
My next pick is The Thing about Yetis by Vin Vogel. While this isn’t a new story, I thought that it was a good storytime pick because it encourages kids to practice empathy while they learn to understand that yetis do not always love winter. What’s a yeti to do when they want it to be summer in the dead of winter? It’s an easy story, and the illustration style reminds me of the old school Rudolph the Reindeer style. This book isn’t exactly barging down my door to get used, but I like its gentle approach.
The last book I’m choosing for this week is by a gold standard author for storytime. My library loves her. Saroj Ghoting loves her and has used other works as an example for a Good Storytime Pick. While there are a couple of authors who might fit that general description, I’m talking specifically about Denise Fleming. I read 5 Little Ducks when I was first looking at storytime books in my first week of work, and I didn’t really get it. Now that I’ve actually done a few storytimes, I see why everyone loves her: the stories are easy to understand but still highly entertaining; the illustrations are large enough that they can often be seen across the room; and her use of repetition means that even if a child only hears this story once, they’ll probably walk away getting something from it. 5 Little Ducks is no exception to these rules, except that I think the story is a little more suited to a toddler audience than 2-and-under. I will be field testing this one for sure.
“What the heck do I do with this?”
I found a story that I like but is a little too random for me to assign to an age group. Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea and illustrated by Tom Slaughter has desirable storytime elements, like great flaps and illustrations but I’m not sure how I would read it to a group. It’s a little too long for babies or toddlers, but I’m uncertain how it would hold the attention of preschoolers. There’s no real story, just rhymed comparisons of critters to objects that leads up to a comparison of a boy to an object, asking which one will grow? I can’t help but think that this story is “close, but not close enough” to use for storytime (which is okay, because I actually borrowed it from a nearby library system since my library doesn’t have it).
That’s it for this week! Next week, I’m hoping to find great storytime books for preschoolers. Each age group has its challenges with choosing the right storytime books, but I’m still struggling a little bit with the 3-5 age range.