Tag Archives: storyhour

stop stressing yourself out — themes are overrated

You know, when I first started doing preschool storytimes, I worked like crazy to pull together books that were all themed and a craft that tied into that theme, songs that worked with the theme, and a few rhymes or puppet that fit into the theme.

But you know what I’ve realized? The kids don’t really care.

They are just so thrilled to hear stories and sing songs together. Never once has a child critiqued my storytime choices and told me that a book didn’t fit into the theme.

Storytime “themes” should be approached the same way that an episode of Sesame Street works – you can have a letter or number of the day, but honestly everyone just wants to hear the main theme song, the counting song, and they like to hear a few new stories.

I think some of us, especially librarians who are not Children’s Librarians or who studied early literacy, but have become storytime gurus through happenstance, become obsessed with themes and it makes these weekly programs eat up far too much time and brain power, considering how much other stuff we have to do around the branch. Personally, I do at least one children’s program every week. I also work the desk at least 2 hours a day, though usually 3 hours if staffing is weird. I want to host more programs for teens. I want to weed my collection. I want to create displays!

So instead of sweating over storytime themes, I now just pick out some of my favorite books from the storytime shelf, pick one that I like enough to make it the craft (since most authors have websites now with easy craft ideas) and have a selection of songs I pick from so that the kids can learn the songs with me.

It has made my life far less stressful. I did the Babies program for 2 months and I only switched up a few things the entire time, mostly just going back and forth between the same three sets of rhymes or fingerplays. The babies and parents loved learning the rhymes with me. I’m now doing the Toddler program and going about it the same way, except with a few more books in the mix. But I am going to use the same rhymes and songs and watch as the kids learn them with me.

in defense of simple crafts

Sometimes the simplest craft gets the kids talking. I had them draw where they would drive in their cars. #librarian #storytime

Back when I first started doing preschool storytimes, I used to do somewhat complicated crafts.  Lots of cutting out pieces and having the kids glue them a certain way. This was back when I worked at a smaller branch and only did storytime for one month and then had a break with lots of free time to plan.  Now I work at a much busier branch and our system has adopted a year-round Early Literacy Program calendar, which means every single week I am doing some sort of children’s program. Combine that with working on the desk (programming increased, staff did not, we actually lost one person and we are a very sparsely staffed system anyway) and it leaves very little time to create elaborate crafts.

Our preschool storytime groups average at least 30 kids each week.  That is a lot of kids and limits the kind of hands on crafts you can have. You have to keep it simple to make it easy to set up and take down. You have to keep it simple so you can maximize the minimal budget set aside for supplies.

I started taking advantage of our die cut machine.  It is very simple to crank out 40 bears, cars, crowns – whatever. At first, I felt very guilty, like I wasn’t putting enough in to the craft. I would look at other storytime blogs for inspiration and see crafts that involved lots of intricate pieces that had to be cut out by hand or purchased at the craft store and I felt like my glue and color crafts made me look like a lazy librarian.

But that is not true.

I really think the kids enjoy the simple crafts more and that they get more out of them.  It gives them the freedom to use their imaginations.  When I had my more complex crafts, I found that the parents were obsessed with the kids making it “right” instead of the child just having fun. I also found that the more complex the craft, the less time they spent on making it. They would glue the pieces where they had to go and then be done.

My craft today was very simple. We did stories about transportation and I had cars for the kids. They used gluesticks to attach the car to a piece of paper and then colored where the car was going. The kids worked on their projects for a solid 10 minutes, some more elaborate than others. As they colored, I took the time to walk around to each child and ask them about their car, where it was going and the colors they had used on the paper. The children were very eager to talk to me about their cars and would come running up to share their pictures with me an explain everything on the page.  One car was going to school, another had a rainbow on the door, and there was even a car parked outside a bakery (that girl was after my own heart).

So when you are sitting there, trying to figure out what craft to do for your preschool group, don’t obsess over whether the 300 little bits of paper you have to cut out will impress the parents. Think about how this craft will expand the child’s mind. Think about the early literacy skills they can pick up just by coloring in a car and telling you about how they have to drive to school. The more you encourage them to talk and share, the more positive experience they will have, and isn’t that what we want to create? A positive experience with reading, books, and the library.

Review: That Is Not a Good Idea!

That Is Not a Good Idea!
That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another hit from Mo Willems! Super cute and I loved the ending.

It’s meant to look like a silent film, with the pictures on one page and the text on a blank black page. The little chicks are the “viewers” reacting to the story.

I think this would be really fun for storytime, especially if you’re good at doing different voices – a sinister voice for the wolf, a sweet, innocent voice for the duck, and then a frantic set of voices for the little chicks.

View all my reviews

storytime – librarian’s choice

It was the end of my storytime run AND the day after a holiday weekend, so needless to say I sorta threw together this pile of books at the last minute. But most of them went over well, even with 63 preschoolers in the room!

I started with the most complex book in the pile:


Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo
There is underwear on the cover and a lizard that has to go poo and finds himself without any toilet paper. I was worried they wouldn’t get it but when I flipped to the last page that revealed the twist ending, the giggles let me know the joke was clear.

This one might have been a bit too weird:


There Was an Odd Princes Who Swallowed a Pea by Jennifer Ward
This might be more fun as a flannel board or something. Or maybe the fact that they are still PreK and not as familiar with the “I Know an Old Lady” rhyme as older kids made this book just a bit much for them. Would be really hilarious if I had a burping sound effect…

Song and Dance time!

Jump Up, Turn Around by Jim Gill

And now a couple of classics.


Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle
I had found some cut-outs on sticks that went along with this story and wanted to give them a try. I had the kids ask me “what do you hear” each time and they caught on after the third animal and did it without prompting. It as cute and fun.


From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
This book is so great when the kids are getting wiggly. They act out what the animals do and they really go into it. Definitely a crowd-pleaser.


Under Ground by Denise Fleming
I am not good at these kinds of books at storytime. Someone else must be because they put it on the shelf, but when you have 60+ kids of varying ages, these one word a page book do not go over well.


Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier
I picked this book because it went really well with my craft but it happened to also be a great read-aloud! I kept asking the kids to identify what the different dots represented. They would go above and beyond, pointing out all the dots (for example: the eggs in one picture were sitting on a round plate so one of the little girls called out that the plate was also a dot).

After we were done, the craft was to use lots of dots to create their own picture. We had some really creative kids! Will definitely use this book/craft combo one again!