Top Ten Tuesday -Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Singable Picture Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by the book lovers over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is Top Ten ALL TIME Favourite Books of X Genre, and seeing as I’m a children’s librarian I’m going to share a few of my favourite singable picture books! These books are always on my story time shelf, and they’re some of my go-to books for pretty much any story time.

Singing has been shown to support the development of early literacy skills in young children:

Singing breaks up words into syllables, slowing down the sounds that words make and allowing your child to understand how to pronounce words they might not even know the meaning of. For instance, “Lon-don bridge is fall-ing down, fall-ing down, fall-ing down,” splits up the words into smaller, slower pieces, allowing your child to really understand how to mimic those sounds. Before children can learn to read, they need to be able to identify the different sounds that words make, and singing is a great way to introduce this, even if you’re off-key! 🙂 Herrick District Library

My story times are very high energy – I love getting kids moving, interacting, participating and having fun in my programs, and singable picture books are great way to get kids engaged in a story. They’re also a lot of fun!

So, in no particular order,

TOP TEN ALL-TIME FAVOURITE SINGABLE PICTURE BOOKS

 I Love My White Shoes

6871646

You cannot go wrong with this jazzy story about a positive cat who doesn’t seem to pay much attention to where he’s going… I absolutely love jamming with Pete as he introduces children to basic colours.

The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort

2289270

Kids loving singing The Wheels on the Bus (over and over and over…) and kids love making animal noises. Put them both together and you’ve got a fun new take on a beloved children’s song.

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More

659759

I love this book SO MUCH. The tune is ridiculously catchy, the protagonist is a cheeky little performance artist, and there’s a funny little line that will have adults in the audience cracking up. I LOVE singing this one with a bit of a country drawl for added effect (and extra ridiculousness).

Old Mikamba Had a Farm

17347639

I love being able to shake up a classic and  give it a fresh spin, and this African retelling of Old MacDonald Had a Farm does just that!  Old Mikamba has quite the exciting farm, filled with new and wonderful animals to explore and imitate.

Five Green and Speckled Frogs

605282

Besides having a really fun tune, Five Green and Speckled Frogs can be shared as a finger play, a felt story and a picture book – learn it once, share it in multiple ways to engage different learners in different ways.

There was a Tree

13586751

Rachel Isadora is back with another beautiful take on a classic children’s song. This time in the prettiest little tree that you ever did see is actually beautiful acacia tree growing in a beautiful African setting.

If You’re Happy and You Know It

868266

Jane Cabrera is a master of the illustrated nursery rhyme, and pretty much any of her books is guaranteed story time gold, but this animal-themed take on If You’re Happy and You Know It is one of my favourites. Kids can roar like a lion, squeak like a little mouse, and have lots of fun expressing their happiness in all sorts of active ways.

If You’re a Monster and You Know It

If You're a Monster and You Know It...

This spin on the traditional children’s song is so much fun! Kids roar, stomp, wiggle and more. If you’ve got a particularly wiggly group of kidlits, this delightfully silly story is the perfect way to harness that energy in a fun and interactuve way.Rebecca Emberley is the daughter of Ed Emberley, the creator of the beloved children’s classic, Go Away Big Green Monster.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

12875557

Like I Love My White ShoesFour Groovy Buttons is perfect for people who don’t necessarily feel comfortable singing in front of others, including nervous or reluctant caregivers. Most of the text can simply be read aloud, with only the insanely catchy refrain sung or chanted. It’s a great gateway book that can ease storytellers into singing with their audiences, as well as a fun introduction to the concept of subtraction.

Sing, sing, sing!

Family Story Time – July 17, 2015

This is my first experience running a summer story time series, and so far it’s been very interesting. During the school year our story time audience is largely made up of toddlers, with the occasional preschool group. Because school is out and our family story times have no upper age limit, I’ve had a very mixed group, with everything from babies to older school age siblings. It definitely makes for an interesting dynamic, and it can be challenging to find material that appeals to everyone! Here’s what we did this week:

Hello Song: Hello, Friends!

Book 1: I’m a Dirty Dinosaur / Janeen Brian

dirty

Songs:

  • I wake up my hands with a shake, shake, shake
  • Old Macdonald had a farm
  • Open/shut them
  • Roly poly

Book 2: Pete the Cat – I love my white shoes / Eric Litwin

pete

Action songs:

  • Bend and stretch
  • Zoom, zoom, zoom
  • Twinkle twinkle
  • Here we go a marching
  • The elevator song

Soothing song:  Mm-ahh went the little green frog one day

Goodbye song: Goodbye, Friends!

I like getting the most out of my felts, so I’ve been doing a lot of animal songs. Old Macdonald likes to have a varied collection of animals, so this week we had a snake, a monkey, a lion and an elephant join the usual pig, horse and cow, which the kids found hilarious.

Family Story Time – July 10, 2015

It’s so good to be back!! After a month+ long break, story times are back for a six-week summer session. It felt so good to be back in the programming room with all my little ones!

I’m trying to venture out of my comfort zone ever-so-slightly, so today I brought out some felts – something I never do! Here’s what we did and how it went:

Hello Song: Hello, Friends!

Book 1: Bark, George! / Jules Feiffer

bark george

Songs:

  • I wake up my hands with a shake, shake, shake
  • When cows wake up in the morning
  • Open/shut them
  • Roly poly

Book 2: Pete the Cat – The Wheels on the Bus / James Dean

wheels

Action songs:

  • Bend and stretch
  • Zoom, zoom, zoom / Far, far, far
  • Twinkle twinkle
  • If you’re happy and you know it
  • The elevator song

Soothing song:  Orca whale

Goodbye song: Goodbye, Friends!

What a fabulous story time! We had an excellent adult/child ratio (no preschools/day cares), and the adults were all really involved and active, which was great. There was a mix of regulars and new patrons, and a lot of families who had been counting down the days until story time started up again!

For my first foray into felts, I combined pieces from “Dear Zoo” and “I went walking” to make a custom “When cows wake up in the morning”. Combining the stories meant I got old standards like “cow” and “horse” as well as fun additions like “elephant”, “snake” and “monkey”! It was a lot of fun, and I cut it down a bit because of time, but I think I could’ve easily gone through all the animals in my bag. It would also be fun to use this customized kit for “Old MacDonald had a farm”, to make a very unique set of farm animals!

All in all a really great way to kick off summer story times!

Language Fun Story Time – April 30, 2015

For today’s LFST we had a very special friend visit us today:

petethecat

Oh yes, it was Pete the Cat day at LFST

The kids were just over the moon when I pulled out Pete the Cat : I love my White Shoes. Most of them already knew the story, and were so excited to join in as we walked along and sang our song.

petebookEven some of the quieter, more introverted children in the group excitedly shouted out their colours, which was quite impressive!

After we read/sang the story together, it was time retell the story using our felts. The children took turns changing Pete’s shoes as he stepped in the different materials. petefeltThe kids took turns changing Pete’s shoes, and we sang the song again. And again. And again….But the kids seemed to love it, and we got a lot of words out of even our quietest participants.

Some of our children are new to circle times, group activities and felt stories, so using a felt board can be a bit challenging at times, but it is an ideal opportunity to reinforce expectations and give the children an opportunity to practice taking turns and sharing with each other in a supportive environment.

Depending on the length and complexity of the story, we sometimes only do a single activity, but because I Love My White Shoes is pretty brisk, we had ample time to retell the story in multiple ways.

Once everyone had had a turn at the felt board, we took a singing break, and went around the circle singing about everyone’s shoes. We sang “I love my pink shoes”, “I love my yellow shoes”, and more, including my favourite verse: “I love my Yoda shoes”!

Then it was back to Pete.

stuffedpeteThis was a pretty ingenious little set-up – baby socks were coloured with markers to represent the different shoe colours, and the children slipped the baby socks over Pete’s shoes. They loved it! We went through the story several times to make sure everyone got a turn.

The kids were pretty ravenous after all the singing and playing – we went through a lot of fishes and circles, as we call the goldfish and rice crackers.

Three sessions in, and I can already see the changes in the children as they become more comfortable with us and with each other. Can’t wait to see what’s waiting for us next week!

See you later, Pete!

pete

Baby Story Time – April 10, 2015

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends!

Touching Rhymes/Tickles

  • Slowly, slowly, very slowly
  • Round and round the garden goes the teddy bear
  • Slice slice the bread looks nice
  • Eyes nose cheeky cheeky chin
  • Roly poly

Book 1: Bear Seas Colors / Karma Wilson

bear

Songs/Bounces

  • Oh I wish I were a little bar of soap!
  • Bumping up and down in my little red wagon
  • The waves on the sea (to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus)
  • A hippopotamus got on a city bus

Book Two: Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm

macdonald

Movement Songs

  • What shall we do with lazy Katie?
  • Zoom zoom
  • The elevator song

Soothing Songs

  • Orca whale

Goodbye song: Goodbye, Friends!

I ended up just shortening and simplifying the same books I used in my family time, which is a technique I like to share with parents.  Lots of picture books can be adapted for different ages, just by skipping pages or only reading part of the text. I just loved the illustrations in Bear Sees Colours so much, and I simply omitted much of the text to create a shorter, simpler introduction to colours. I also find this version of Old MacDonald to be a little long, so I just pick and choose which animals I feel like doing. Get the most out of every picture book!

I had a record four dads at baby time today! One new dad was so relieved when he came in to see the three other dads there (two of them bring their babies by themselves – brave daddies!), and another couple of mums commented on how they were going to try and encourage their partners to come. A new participant even mentioned that he wasn’t sure if dads were allowed to come to baby time! That’s one of the reasons we steer clear of “Mum and Me” or any labels like that – we welcome daddies and grandparents and nannies and all grownups who are taking part in the raising of a baby!

Family Story Time – April 10, 2015

It’s Friday, and you know what that means – story time! I’ve been playing around with my story time structure just a little bit, moving things around and slotting some new material in. I’m certainly not brave enough yet to bust out the felt stories with my antsy toddlers, but I am feeling the puppets. A gorgeous duck puppet came out to play today, and he was a big hit!

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: Bear Sees Colors / Karma Wilson

bear

Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • Orca whale
  • Wiggle your fingers
  • Open-shut them
  • Roly poly

Book 2: Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm

macdonald

Action Songs

  • Bend and stretch
  • Zoom zoom
  • Here we go a marching
  • Head and shoulders
  • The elevator song

Soothing songs:

  • Five little ducks (with puppet)
  • When ducks wake up in the morning

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

Preschool Group Visit – March 26, 2015

Oh. My. Goodness.

All respect to preschool teachers – you guys are unsung heroes in our communities!

A local preschool group came to visit today, and this is pretty much how I felt afterwards:

By Umberto Salvagnin (originally posted to Flickr as Sleeping) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I love preschoolers – they are so enthusiastic and curious and energetic, and they can handle more complex stories and activities than my usual demographic of toddlers and babies. Preschoolers will ask questions, and let you know clearly and often volubly if they approve or disapprove of your story time selections.

But the very attributes that make preschoolers so much fun to work with can also make them a bit of a handful, especially in large numbers! Preschool or daycare visits can also be markedly different from in-house story times because of the change in child:adult ratio. In my regular story times, the attendance ratio is typically one child for every adult, while a group visit can have around 7 children for every adult. This can sometimes make wrangling the group feel a bit like herding cats. Adorable, talkative cats who give you big hugs at the end of the program, but still, cats.

"Street cats (1)" by Rodrigo Basaure from Santiago, Chile - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Street_cats_(1).jpg#/media/File:Street_cats_(1).jpg

Here’s what we ended up doing – it’s not really what I’d planned, but it’s what ended up working for this frisky group.

Book 1: Bark, George! / Jules Feiffer

bark george

Songs:

  • I wake up my hands
  • The itsy bitsy spider

Book 2: Pete the Cat I Love my White Shoes / Eric Litwin

pete

Action Songs:

  • Head and Shoulders
  • Tick tock tick tock
  • The elevator song

Book 3: The Wheels on the Bus / Jane Cabrera

wheels

Action Songs:

  • Zoom zoom
  • If you’re happy and you know it

If You’re Happy and You Know It is a great transition/instruction song. I used the tune to sing “If you’re happy and you know it wave goodbye”, “If you’re happy and you know it find your partner” and “If you’re happy and you know it line up now” – it was a perfect transition into the next portion of their visit, which was a book exchange.

Preschoolers really aren’t my typically demographic, but they’re a lot of fun! If anyone has any suggestions for great books or song to use with preschoolers, please please share!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a bit of a lie down after all that cat wrangling…. 🙂

Baby Story Time – January 16, 2015

Lots of new faces at baby time today – a few of my babies from last year have aged out of the program, and we had a lot of new mums with little ones. We had 60 people (we count adults and babies, so it was roughly 30 adults and 30 babies), which was about as big as we would want to go in that space – babies need lots of room because they all come with little blankets and mats for tummy time!

I’m still surprised at how much I look forward to doing baby times now. When I first started, back in September, I was so terrified. I didn’t know how to relate to the parents and grandparents – I was so used to interacting with toddlers and preschoolers that I felt awkward interacting with adults! I remember one of the mum’s telling my manager to “tell that girl (me) not to be so nervous – we won’t bite!” Now that I’ve got a structure and routine that I’m comfortable with, and a good core repertoire of songs and rhymes at my disposal, I feel a lot more confident, which in turns makes my delivery more natural.

I also had a baby chewing on my shoes….nothing like baby slobber on my toes! Yet another reason why I only buy cheap shoes that I won’t mourn when they inevitably get tossed. 🙂

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends!

Touching Rhymes/Tickles

  • Wake up feet
  • Eyes nose cheeky cheeky chin
  • Orca whale
  • Roly poly

Book 1: Spots, Feathers and Curly Tails / Nancy Tafuri

Spots, Feathers & Curly Tails

Songs/Bounces

  • You be the lemon
  • A hippopotamus got on a city bus
  • I want someone to buy me a pony
  • A smooth road
  • The grand old duke of york

Book Two: Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm / James Dean

macdonald

Movement Songs

  • What shall we do with lazy Katie?
  • My bonny lies over the ocean
  • Zoom zoom
  • The elevator song

Soothing Songs

  • Rain is falling down

Goodbye song: Goodbye, Friends!

Family Story Time – December 12, 2014

Oh. My. Word…..We managed to cram 98 people into the meeting room for story time today, with a small crowd gathered outside watching. Normally I have someone outside monitoring the situation and cutting off entry at a manageable point, but because of a miscommunication with a new staff member, the post was left unmanned, and the crowds kept smooshing in! It’s hard to kick people out while reading a picture book, so it was a little stressful to say the least, and I hope people didn’t mind too much….Oh well! It’s the last story time of 2014 – I successfully completed my first full season! I also saw my attendance rise from an average of 60 to an average of 100+, not too shabby in three months, if I do say so myself, even if it has caused us a few logistical headaches…

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: Let’s Say Hi to Friends Who Fly! / Mo Willems

friends

Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • When cows wake up in the morning
  • Wiggle your fingers
  • Open-shut them
  • Roly poly

Book 2: Pete the Cat the Wheels on the Bus

pete

Action Songs

  • Bend and stretch
  • Zoom zoom
  • Orca whale
  • Well hello everybody, can you touch your nose?
  • Here we go a driving
  • The elevator song

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

One of the challenges this week was that the books were really, really short, which meant I had to scramble a bit to fill up the full half hour. With such big groups in such a small space (that’s the real challenge – I don’t mind big groups, but you need an appropriate space so that everyone can sit and move around comfortably) I have been struggling a bit with my books – I have been turning to really short, simple stories that I won’t lose my voice shouting across the crowd. It’s OK, but it’s certainly not ideal.

We’ve been doing our informal branch survey to find out when people would like to see an additional story time, and it looks like Thursday morning and Saturday morning are the favourites, though both have challenges. Thursday morning would involve specially opening the branch before regular opening hours, while Saturday would involve a different staff member, and probably wouldn’t solve our size problems (in particular the number of nannies and home child care providers who come to our weekday story times). I’m going to talk about it with the branch manager and see what we can figure out for the new year, so that our story times can be both inclusive and accessible for as many kids as possible!

I Survived Mall Story Time

On Saturday and Sunday I packed up some of my favourite story time books, grabbed a stamp, set up a folding chair and some floor mats in a shiny, cavernous hallway, and delivered my first ever mall story times – four of them, to be exact – as part of a library fundraising and outreach event.

Following my own advice I initially planned a simple story time that would feature lots of familiar songs and action rhymes and two books I knew like the back of my hand. I brought five books so I’d have a bit of flexibility, but I expected to spend most of each thirty-minute session on my feet moving around.

Well, as Robbie Burns said, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley. Instead of rowdy groups of bouncing preschoolers, I peered into the serious faces of school aged children, who sat criss-cross-apple-sauce in front of me in rapt silence. And what did my little audience want, you ask? Did they cheer when I announced it was time to wake up our hands with a shake, shake, shake, or jump with joy for Zoom Zoom?

No. No they did not. For the first story time, I did try to incorporate some singing, some rhymes, and even the Elevator Song, but the response was lackluster, at best. You know what my audience did keep saying?

“Read us another story! Read us another story!”

They didn’t want to sing. They didn’t want to dance. They didn’t want to jump up and down. They wanted to listen to me read them stories.

At first I read two stories, interspersed with some singing and movement. Then I read three, with fewer interruptions. For the final story time I began with a hello song, finished with a goodbye song, and read four books in between. I’m pretty sure I could have read even more, if I’d had the time!

The small group sizes (usually 10-12 kids) allowed for very intimate, interactive story times. When we read “Bark, George”, for example, we all made delightful animal noises, mimicked George’s mother’s priceless expressions, and reached deep, deep down like the vet. For “Dear Zoo” we debated whether or not we should keep each animal or send it back, and suggested reasons why a camel or a lion might or might not make for a good pet. It was interactive, it was engaging, it was hilarious, and the kids didn’t want it to end.

Side note: The absolute highlight of the whole story time experience was a little boy who experienced “Dear Zoo” for the first time. Every time I dramatically revealed what was behind each flap, his whole body just shook with excitement, and his whole face lit up with joy. I think he could have watched me read that book all day.

As a colleague of mine suggested, as children grow older, they often don’t get read aloud to as much anymore. The children in the audience obviously relished the simple joy of experiencing a story together, and I saw several children twice or even three times over the course of the weekend (they didn’t seem to mind that I read several stories several times!).

Here are the books we shared, to much delight and audience approval:

pete go away big green monster dear zoo bark george