Family Story Time – May 1, 2015

We’re already into May, I can hardly believe it!

Today was a very exciting day at the branch because we had some special guests visiting us – three community health nurses from a local health centre came by to talk to caregivers about child development, health and resources. For libraries, connecting with local service providers is an increasingly important part of being active, visible members of our communities.

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: Clip Clop / Nicola Smee


Hand Rhymes

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

Book 2: Old Mikamba Had a Farm / Rachel Isadora


Action Songs

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

Cool-down songs:

  • Orca whale

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

Old Mikamba Had a Farm was a rousing success – the kids loved seeing all the unusual animals, and making all the wonderful animal noises. We were a little pushed for time because we took a bit of time at the beginning of the program to introduce the health nurses, so I shortened the story a little. The cheetah and the lion were particular crowd pleasers.

I have been introducing the sign for stop in the song Here we go a marching, and I’ve noticed that several of the kids have picked up the sign, and are signing along with me!

Only two more story times until we take a bit of a break for the summer! Where has the time gone?!?!

I like to move it move it – or – physical literacy in storytimes

The expression most commonly used to describe my story time style is “high energy”. Children attending my programs spend most of our thirty minutes together in motion – singing, clapping their hands, tapping their toes, dancing, jumping, marching and moving their bodies. As anyone who has worked with children knows, they are designed to move!

It seems that I’m not the only one who believes in the importance of movement in early literacy. The “Welcome to Kindergarten” program has introduced a new station that emphasizes what they call “physical literacy”. The station uses a simple ball to show parents how easily movement can be introduced into their child’s play to help build and strengthen a number of different skills and abilities.


As librarians, teachers and early childhood educators know, movement supports the development of muscle strength and control, hand-eye coordination, balance, and fine motor skills. Physical games and activities can help children learn to share and take turns, and engage in cooperative play. Beyond the physical benefits of movement, children who engage in active learning have opportunities to practice following directions, build listening skills, develop vocabulary, enhance alphabet and number awareness and strengthen pattern recognition – all while having fun!


I like to incorporate physical literacy into every story time, but particularly when working with active, energetic toddlers and preschoolers. Rather than attempting to force children to sit still for long periods of time, which works against their natural inclination towards movement, I believe in channeling that energy into positive, educational activities that encourage active learning. Here are just a few examples of ways in which physical literacy can become a part of your story times:

“Tick tock tick tock”

This fun little ditty, which can also be used as a baby lap bounce, gets kids singing and jumping while practicing their counting skills.

“Here we go a-marching”

I couldn’t find a recording of this song, but the lyrics are pretty simple, and you can sing them to any tune you like! Here are just a few of the variations I typically do with my group.

Here we go a marching, marching, marching!

Here we go a marching, and then we stop!

Here we go a jumping, jumping, jumping!

Here we go a jumping, and then we stop!

Here we go a driving, driving, driving, driving!

Here we go a driving, and then we stop!

Here we go a flying, flying, flying!

Here we go a flying, and then we stop!

Here we go a swimming, swimming, swimming!

Here we go a swimming, and then we stop!

Children practice following directions in this fun, energetic song, stopping whatever action they’re doing when the leader says “stop!” I like to incorporate the ASL sign for “stop” into the song, and add as many verses as I feel fits the day’s energy levels!

“Roly poly”

This story time classic uses movement to reinforce vocabulary, helping children visualize opposites such as out and in, and up and down.

“The Elevator Song”

One of my absolute favourites, and a must for any story time I do! Energetic fun for all ages that gets kids jumping up and down, following directions and reinforcing opposites. Songs with actions help children learn to follow directions. It’s also just about the most fun you can have in a story time. If you haven’t take the elevator up and down with your story time crew yet, you don’t know what you’re missing!

“If You’re Happy and You Know It”

Another classic song that’s perfect for helping children practice following directions, as well as providing opportunities for vocabulary development. I like to include a wide range of different body parts when singing this song – children pat their heads, stick out their tongues, touch their toes, wiggle their ears, blink their eyes, tickle their elbows, and more! It’s also an ideal transition song – I can use it to get children to sit back down, line up, grab their backpacks, or do whatever else I need them to do – following directions is so much more fun when the directions are sung!

I really believe in actve, engaging story times that recognize the many different ways in which children learn. I also believe that story times should be fun – for children and librarians! What are some of your favourite ways to get kids moving and learning in story times?

Parent-Child Drop-in Visit – March 26, 2015

Talk about a busy (but awesome) day! After my preschool visit I was off to a community health center to talk about books and babies with a parent-child drop-in group.

I led a mini-baby time with the group, then shared some tips and tricks for helping baby prepare to read, and talked about some of the many free resources available at the library.

Here’s what we did!

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends!


  • The moon is round
  • Two little eyes
  • Everybody knows I love my toes

Book 1: Do Cows Meow? / Salina Yoon



  • A hippopotamus got on a city bus
  • You be the lemon
  • Bumping up and down in my little red wagon

Book 2: Monkey and me / Emily Gravett


Movement Songs

  • Dancing with bears
  • My bonny lies over the ocean
  • Zoom zoom zoom
  • The elevator song

Soothing Songs

  • Rain is falling down
  • You are my little panda bear

The program was really gentle and relaxed, and I was able to sit on the mats and chat with everyone – the atmosphere was very similar to a Mother Goose session, which is smaller than a typical baby time, with a slower pace.

I really appreciate the amazing opportunities I get to go out into the community and connect with people around my neighborhood!

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 (], 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 -

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


  • I wake up my hands
  • The itsy bitsy spider

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


Action Songs:

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

Book 3: The Wheels on the Bus / Jane Cabrera


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…. 🙂

Preschool visit and story time – March 19, 2015

One of the things I love so much about being a children’s librarian is the variety that comes with the position – no two days are ever quite the same! We get to do so much outreach in our positions, and I for one am pretty passionate about getting out into the community, meeting our neighbors and being involved in what’s going on around us.

Today I had the opportunity to visit a local preschool and participate in their circle time. It was a bit of a last-minute arrangement, and due to scheduling constraints I didn’t have my usual thirty minute story time allowance, so I had to be a little creative with my program. As I’ve said before, that’s one of the things I love about doing on-call or drop-in story times – they’re perfect opportunities to spread my wings a little, branch out and try new things!

We had a small group – only 16 kids, but they were so engaged in the stories and so excited to participate.

Here’s what I did with the lovely little preschoolers I met on this super soggy spring day:

Book 1: Little Owl Lost / Chris Haughton


Song: Roly poly

Book 2: Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons /  James Dean, Eric Litwin


Songs: I wake up my hands

The itsy bitsy spider

Book 3: I’m a Dirty Dinosaur /  Janeen Brian & Ann James


And just for fun: Here I am sitting in the neighborhood house with my books, waiting to make my grand entrance into the preschool –  a little bedraggled from the terrible rain, but ready to get this story time started!


Family Story Time – March 8, 2015

One of the nice things about doing on-call story times at different branches is that it’s a great opportunity to try out new story time structures. My regular weekly group has their favourite songs and rhymes, and they know the regular structure of my story times. While I do like to change things up a little bit from week to week,children thrive on repetition, and I try to keep the structure of my story time the same from week to week, changing out books and song for variety.

Today I did a story time for a comfy cozy little group of 6 or 7 children and their caregivers, which was a far cry from my usual 80+!

Also unlike my usual story times, this one had a theme! I typically don’t do themed story times – I don’t like being tied to a theme, and having to potentially pick substandard books or books that don’t fit my demographic because I’m desperate to find books that fit a theme! But, this story time is typically themed and the theme was selected in advance, so I went with the flow.

Here’s what we did today!

Theme: Waking Up and Getting Ready

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush / Jane Cabrera


Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • Roly poly
  • Open Shut them

Book 2: Time to Get Up, Time To Go / David Pilgrim

time to get up


  • Bend and Stretch
  • If you’re happy and you know it

Book 3: I’m a Dirty Dinosaur / Janeen Brian & Ann James



  • When cows wake up in the morning
  • The elevator song

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

Definitely a different sort of story time, but a lot of fun! Both “Time to get up” and “I’m a dirty dinosaur” have great rhythm and are so much fun to chant – “Time to get up” actually became a bit of a call-and-answer experience when a couple of the older kids started repeating all the lines after me. I wasn’t expecting it, but it was a great way of including the kids in the story, and offered yet another example of the importance of learning to go with the flow and expecting the unexpected when it comes to working with kids!

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




Surviving the on-call story time

While I have three regularly scheduled story times per week, as an auxiliary librarian I am sometimes asked to cover for other librarians and deliver last-minute story times. For a newly-minted librarian, the idea of dropping into a new library and delivering a story time to an entirely new audience can be pretty daunting. How many children are going to show up? How old will they be (this is particularly challenging when covering a family story time, where the group could be made up of anyone from babies to school-aged kids)? Will they know the songs I want to sing? Will they rebel if I don’t include a favourite rhyme?

I have had some amazing experiences as an on-call story timer, and some not-so-amazing experiences (I once delivered a story time to a group of four children – two babies and two 8/9 year old boys…..the memory of it still gives me anxiety….). Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that might help make on-call story times a bit less daunting!

  1. Stick to what you know.

Jumping into the unknown can be scary. Make it easier on yourself by sticking to the songs and rhymes you know the best. Don’t worry about reinventing the wheel and bust out all the standards – those elements you could perform in your sleep (and if you’re anything like me, the songs you unconsciously sing while washing the dishes, much to the amusement of bystanders). Delivering a last-minute story time can be nerve-wracking enough, and you’re less likely to forget the words to a song you know like the back of your hand. Plus, your audience will likely know these songs, too – “If You’re Happy and You Know It” has never let me down so far!

  1. B.Y.O.B. – Bring Your Own Books

There’s nothing worse than showing up at an unfamiliar library, looking at their story time resources, and realizing that you don’t recognize a single book. If you know ahead of time that you’re going to be covering for someone else’s story time, check a few of your favourite picture books out of your local library and bring them with you, so you’re not left in a panic. If you often find yourself covering for story times, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a few picture books if you can, just to have them on hand if you need them in a hurry (my copy of Pete the Cat has more than paid for itself in the stress relief it’s brought me). The same goes for felts or puppets if you like using them in story times – I have a few felt stories I keep on hand in case of emergencies!

  1. Go With the Flow

Carefully, thoughtfully planning out your story times is important, but don’t let yourself become a prisoner of your plans! If something isn’t working, change it up! Say you plan a story time with three picture books, but your audience isn’t used to this many stories and they start bouncing off the walls. You could a) stick to your plan and force your antsy audience to sit through another picture book (which would probably just make everyone miserable) or b) assess the mood of your audience and adapt your program. The same goes for audience requests – I’ve added everything from the alphabet song to I’m a Little Teapot to my programs because a child has asked for it, even if it wasn’t part of my original plan. I like to write a few extra songs/rhymes at the bottom of my outline that I can pull out if I need them. Just remember, as long as the children are participating and getting excited about learning, your story time is a success!

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your story times will just fall flat. There will be times that you’ll float out of a story times feeling on top of the world, and times that you’ll crawl out of them wanting to hide under a rock and never come out. That’s just life, particularly for on-calls. Don’t let a bad experience sour your feelings about story times, or make you question your abilities. Even a terrible experience can have value if it makes you a stronger (and hopefully wiser) person!