Thursday, November 15, 2012

Choosing Books for Storytime

Creative Commons photo by Ozyman

I love love love reading other people's posts on how they put storytime together. In the spirit of fairness, I thought I'd share my process.

I use themes in storytime, but I don't start by choosing a theme. I'm sort of ridiculously picky about books I'll use in storytime. If I'm not feeling it, I just can't fake it--and that goes for some classics that just don't resonate for me.* I got burned a few times early on in my career by picking a theme first and trying to fit books to match it, but doing that made me miserable, so I came up with my own method.

I read all the picture books I can get my hands on. When I find books I like, I think about what themes they would fit well, and brainstorm if there are any other awesome ST books I could team them with.

Once I have an idea, I start a ST outline for that theme/idea. I do this digitally. I have a Storytime folder, and in that folder there are folders for finished storytimes and one for work-in-progress storytimes. Sometimes a theme/idea will sit in the work-in-progress folder for months and months before I find enough books to create a whole storytime. Often, once I have a book or idea, I will order a bunch of options using the library catalog, and fast-forward the process. Sometimes I don't find enough books I like and I scrap that idea or theme (Camping ST, I'm looking at you). Once in a while I'll do a no-theme storytime to catch all the orphan books I've wanted to read in ST, but couldn't build a whole program around.

What do I look for in a storytime book choice?
  1. Do I like it? 
  2. Will it suit my audience? As much as I L-O-V-E books with off-the-wall humor or abrupt jokey endings, many of those books are more suited to class visits than my particular storytime crowd. I look at length, storyline, and amount of dialogue as key factors here.
  3. Can I make it interactive? Is there room in the story to add sounds or actions? This is a big factor in adjusting a book to work with a wide age range. I can read a longer, more complicated book in family storytime if I can make it interactive for both the older kids AND the younger kids.
  4. If it won't work 'as is' but I really like it, what can I do to make it work (and is it worth the time)? Here's where I look to see if the book is too long (if it's repetitive, maybe I can cut out a few verses) or if the pictures are too small (can I project it? Flannelize it? Puppetize it?).
For any given storytime I will identify at least six books that would work with my group. I make sure I have a variety of lengths and storylines.  It's amazing how many good books I will find on a theme, but they all tell the same basic story. Unfortunately that makes for a boring storytime, so I have to make some tough decisions, sometimes!

Once I have my books chosen it's time to write a storytime outline.

To be continued...

*for example, I know lots of people love "Brown Bear Brown Bear" and all its iterations, but that one just doesn't work for me. On the other hand, "When Sophie Gets Angry, Really Really Angry" by Molly Bang is like magic for me; every time I've read that book to a group of kids you could hear a pin drop--but I know some other storytime bloggers just don't connect with that one. It's so personal!


  1. I don't like to do Brown Bear either. I think because it's ovedone IMO. Not in a bad way, but I prefer to introduce people to lesser known stuff they are less likely to run into.

  2. Like you, I read a TON of picture books and mark in my LibraryThing account any that seem to have storytime possibility. When I'm planning storytimes, I go through this massive list, pick out a few, and if a theme grows, yay! If not, not. Sometimes the theme is only in my head. Sometimes it's very obvious, like holidays (my director insists on holiday-themed storytimes and nobody will ever let me forget the year I did SNAKES for Valentine's Day). I repeat a lot of nonfiction because I do at least one nonfiction book in every storytime and there just aren't a lot of good nonfiction read alouds for the preschool age out there.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...