10 Ways to Explore a Book: Hooray for Hat

Hooray for Hat by Brian Won (Photo source: brianwon.com)

Hooray for Hat by Brian Won (Photo source: brianwon.com)

Earlier this summer I ordered a book that has quickly become a storytime favorite for sharing with both preschoolers and toddlers. Hooray for Hat (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) author/illustrator Brian Won offers a book experience that is successful in many ways.

  • The well-drawn, familiar animals are easy to recognize and identify which often increases the engagement of young readers,
  • The right amount of white space allows the book to be shared with larger groups or with young children,
  • The book’s concept, played out with expressive characters, addresses the emotional and social development of children and
  • The repeated text and vocabulary boost the early literacy skills of our storytime crowd
  • The story is fun and heart-warming.

I liked this book so much that I decided to add it to the collection of 10 Ways to Explore a Book posters I’ve been making for families. The other posters I’ve made can be found on our community’s early literacy site here.Explore Hat Book

Check out Brian’s site for other activity ideas that may be a great fit for your library or for sharing with families to do at home.

Toddlers: Zoo

Hello Everybody
(clap hands on lap and then together, clap twice on the word “you”)
Hello everybody, how are you?
Hello everybody, how are you?
It’s such a lovely day, I’m so glad you came to play,
Hello everybody, how are you?

Action Rhyme: Dance Your Fingers Up
Dance your fingers up,
Dance your fingers down.
Dance your fingers in and out
And all around the town.
Dance them on your shoulders,
Dance them on your head.
Dance them on your tummy
Then tuck them into bed.

Action Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big
This is big big big (Hold arms out to side)
This is small small small (Cup hands together)
This is short short short (Hold hands with palms facing each other)
This is tall tall tall (Reach one hand above head)
This is fast fast fast (Circle fists quickly)
This is slow slow slow (Circle fists slowly)
This is yes yes yes (Nod)
This is no no no (Shake head)

Action Rhyme: Itsy Bitsy Spider (with feltboard)
The Itsy Bitsy Spider crawled up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain,
And the Itsy Bitsy Spider went up the spout again.

I always get lots of help with this one!

Action Rhyme: Alligator, Alligator
Alligator, Alligator
Long and green
Alligator, Alligator,
Teeth so mean
Snapping at a fly
Snapping at a bee
Snapping at a frog
But you can’t catch me!
Credit: Esther Storytimes via Storytime Katie

If You’re Ready for a Story
Tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It
If you’re ready for a story, rub your belly!
If you’re ready for a story, rub your belly!
If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, rub your belly!

(…sit down, please- For this verse, I have kids and parents stand and then sit throughout the song until the end when they sit for the story.)

Book: Two at the Zoo by Danna Smith and Valerie Petrone (Clarion Books, two at the zoo©2009)
As we read the story, we looked for the spiders and alligators from the two previous songs.

1 little 2 little 3 little bubbles
4 little, 5 little, 6 little bubbles
7 little 8 little, 9 little bubbles
10 little bubbles go pop, pop, pop.

Ring Around the Rosie
Ring (or skip or hop, etc.) around the rosie
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

The cows are in the meadow
Eating buttercups
Thunder, lightning,
We all jump up!

Tickle the Clouds
Tickle the clouds.  Tickle your toes.
Turn around,
And tickle your nose!
Reach down low. Reach up High.
Storytime’s over, wave goodbye!

Play: Stacking toys like the Fisher Price Rock-a-Stack  or the Kidoozie Nest and Stack Bucket which are very popular with these storytime kids right now.

Book image: Danna Smith

Preschool: Bears

While I pick, and advertise, the themes for the weekly preschool storytime a month in advance, the elements I include may be a little more in flux. For example, sometimes the activity/craft portion of storytime is planned well in advance and sometimes I modify it at the last minute. This week’s storytime is an example of theme-related activities that shifted after I came across a great idea- this one from Jennifer Whorton on the ALSC listserv and via her In Short, I’m Busy blog. The idea was to offer kids an opportunity to paint and to shake up the storytime routine by dividing the art activity into two parts, instead of doing all of the art after the stories. I love giving kids the chance to paint, but carrying wet paint projects out of the library gets tricky for caregivers. I decided to incorporate the painting and collage that Jennifer used to make bears similar to Eric Carle’s animals in the last story we read.

Bear Paint Step 1

Art Part 1

As families arrived I welcomed them to storytime and told them about our change of schedule. The painting activity at the beginning of storytime offered families a great transition from outside into the library. I had the painting station set up for the first fifteen minutes and had kids paint an entire sheet of white copy paper with brown tempura paint (see materials and more at the bottom of the post). We set them to dry and moved over to the storytime area where kids sat down on their mats and caregivers got comfortable nearby. Note: families arriving after 10:15 were offered a modified, dry version similar to the painted collage, minus the paint.


We had lots of new families join us this week, so I re-introduced the Rhyme Cube. A few kids had a chance to roll the cube and choose the welcome songs we sang. We sang “If You’re Happy and You Know it” (growling like a bear) and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (plus Biggy Wiggy Spider).

Bear Print and Hand

I then introduced this week’s theme, bears. Bears have been on my mind since seeing some footprints of a visiting bear on my dirt road recently. I showed off this photo of one of the bear prints and my hand using my phone while we named the three kinds of bears in Alaska (polar, brown, and black), talked about what bears look like, and shared what else we know about them. It has been a warm Fall with no notable snowfall up to this point, so our conversation led to how the weather might affect their traditional winter sleep patterns.

I brought along my brown bear finger puppet for the first song, which kids easily sang the second time around because of the familiar tune.

Song & Puppet: Sleepy Bear 
(Tune: “Thumbkin”)

Where is bear? Where is bear?
Here I am. Here I am.
How are you this winter?
Very tired, thank you.
Go to sleep. Go to sleep.
(I asked kids if it was time for bear to sleep and most answered “no,” so I had them shout “WAKE UP BEAR” and we sang the song again.)
Credit: Preschool Education Music & Songs : Animals > Winter via Storytime Katie


Our first story was Polar Opposites by Erik Brooks (Marshall Cavendish Children, 2010). After a refresher on opposites, with the kids sharing lots of examples, we read the tale of the big polar bear Alex from the Arctic, and Zina the tiny penguin from Antarctica. With lots of visuals to reinforce the differences between the two lives of these cheerful animals, the story follows Alex and Zina as they plan a trip to meet up in the Galapagos Islands, near the Equator and in the middle. This is a great story to use along with a globe for an introduction to map and globe concepts.

The next action rhyme we did was one I found on Storytime Katie’s site, which she used as a flannelboard activity. I decided to bring out the plethora of stuffed bears I have at home instead. Between my two kids, I was able to come up with four little and five big to go along with my brown bear finger puppet. Boy, does a hoard of stuffed bears really get a group of preschoolers’ attention!

10 Bears in a Bed

At first I was a little confused about this rhyme. The unpatterned addition and subtraction of bears left me a little bewildered; like I’d missed something. Then I realized that was the beauty of it. As a group we decided how many to take away with each verse and how many to add back to the bed. THE KIDS LOVED IT. Preschool math in storytime? Easy!

Action Rhyme: Ten Little Teddy Bears

Ten little teddy bears sleeping in the bed,
Five at the foot and five at the head.
One little teddy said, “This bed is TOO full!”
So he grabbed the blanket and started to pull.
He pulled and he pulled and he pulled some more,
Until two little teddies went BOOM to the floor!
(Make pulling motions with PULL and clap with the BOOM)

(Subtract bears until…)

One little teddy bear sleeping in the bed,
Zero at the foot and one at the head.
This little teddy said, “This is not right!
I don’t want to sleep alone tonight!”

One little teddy bear sleeping in the bed,
Zero at the foot and one at the head.
This teddy said, “This bed is NOT full!”
So he put out his paw and started to pull.
He pulled and he pulled and he pulled some more,
Until four little teddies climbed up from the floor!

(Add bears in various increments until…)

Ten little teddy bears sleeping in the bed,
Five at the foot and five at the head.
One little teddy said, “This is JUST right!”
So ten little teddy bears said, “Good Night!”
Credit: Susan Pflug, Copyright 1990 via Storytime Katie

After this activity, the kids were pretty wound up. Kids were wandering all over and more had arrived since the beginning of the hour making for a bit of chaos. As I began to clean up the bears, I began singing this simple attention-getting song to get us ready for the next book.

Song: If You’re ready for a Story
If you’re ready for a story, find your spot,
If you’re ready for a story, find your spot,
If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, find your spot.

Magically, everyone was in their spot when I was done putting the bears away and the song was finished!

More math in storytime! Bears on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau and David Walker (Candlewick Press, 2009) is a lovely bearsonchairs_coverrhyming book for preschoolers that features four lovely bears, each with their own chair, happily sitting together…until poor brown bear comes along with nowhere to sit. Five bears with only four chairs. What are the bears to do? Watching preschoolers work out solutions for the bears was wonderful! We decided the bears needed one more chair. Before finding out the bears’ solution, we came up with a variety of suggestions that included buying a chair, making one, borrowing one, and even stealing one. After briefly talking about the moral ramifications of that last one, the group suggested sharing! They even tried to figure out how the chairs should be shared, just like the bears.

It was time for our last book and the final step of our art project.


To show kids and caregivers what inspired our project, we read a large format version of Eric Carle and Bill Martin,jr.’s Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do You See?  The story, with its rhyming and repeating text, follows a baby brown bear as it searches for its mother. Along the way the baby bear meets a variety of North American animals.

This book provided a nice opportunity to talk about why it’s valuable to read books everyday with children- books introduce fun, new vocabulary, like flying squirrel and mule deer, that may not be present in everyday conversation and having a diverse vocabulary is an important early literacy skill.

Art Part 2

Now that stories were read, songs were sung, and paint was dry, it was time to cut or tear up the painted brown paper and create a bear collage! Before we moved to the art area, I explained the day’s activities again. Families who arrived late were a bit disappointed, but I offered them an alternative to the painted collage. I’m hoping it will encourage them to join us for the whole storytime in the future!



This bear was created by a 2-year old and his dad.

sheets of white copy paper (1 per child)
brown washable paint
old, adults-sized, t-shirts for kids to wear over clothes, if desired
table covering
small paint brushes, 1 per 2 children
paper plates or other container for paint

bear template (found in clipart, enlarged, and copied onto card stock)
small squares of brown tissue paper (for collage making, especially for those who didn’t make it in time to paint)
Liquid glue

Photo Credits
Polar Opposites: Erik Brooks
Bears on Chairs: Shirley Parenteau

App-ily Ever After Digital Storytime: Animals

I have introduced and successfully integrated apps into several of my library’s weekly preschool storytimes. However there are some apps and digital media I have not used, but wished I could. Our storytimes are held in our children’s library instead of a separate storytime space and the beautiful design does not easily accommodate media tools like large screens. When the space was designed and built, new media was not part of the storytime conversation. Without a large screen on which to project book apps and other new media, some are too difficult to use or be seen by large groups on the smaller iPad screen.  In fact, ability to be easily seen on the iPad screen and used by groups are two of the criteria I use for selecting apps for storytime.

Innovation, as always, requires creativity! So, with my director’s support and interest, I designed a new, digital storytime using our meeting room with its large monitor and space for comfortable seating. (We removed the meeting tables before the event and brought in the beanbags from the children’s library.) We decided to not only alter the media format for the pilot program, but to also host it on a Saturday, another first for our library.

The digital storytime seemed like a perfect fit for Little eLit’s October Tech Challenge, in which we try something new and a even little bit nerve-wracking in honor of the “scary” month. Here are the details of my challenge-to-me program.

Digital Storytime: App-ily Ever After

16 kids and caregivers attended the program. Kids were ages 2-9. Two teachers brought their kids. Only three of the kids had ever been to a storytime at the library (or outreach program) before this one. The group size was perfect for a pilot program in our room size and with the devices we had on-hand.

I divided the one hour program into two parts. The first half was a storytime similar in format to the weekly preschool programs. We sang, moved, and read together. This format was used with the idea of offering some familiarity to families while at the same time letting me highlight apps that demonstrate the tips I planned to share with parents. The kids had fun while the parents saw the apps in action.

The second half of storytime was dedicated to letting kids and caregivers try out apps I had preloaded on four iPads and share information with each other about apps they like. I also took the opportunity to talk with families about what to look for when searching for apps.

This type of storytime needs tools also, they are just a bit different. I stated that iPads would be used in this program, but many of the apps I used or mentioned are available on multiple platforms. The equipment I used for this program included:

  • Large monitor
  • Apple TV (This connected the iPad to the monitor wirelessly allowing for more movement as I used the iPad.)
  • Wireless Router (We created a hot spot in the meeting room so families could download apps with ease during the program without competing with the whole library for bandwidth.)
  • 4 iPads (I used my personal iPad to present the storytime elements and then had the library’s iPad and a city-owned iPad on hand- both preloaded with a collection of 20 apps I selected- for kids and caregivers to try out. My director also brought her iPad loaded with apps she wanted to share. It turned out that all but one family brought their own iPad which I encouraged on the flyer for the program.)
  • 20 apps for storytime program and for families to try out
  • Beanbags and chairs for families
  • paper copies of Sandra Boynton’s Blue Hat, Green Hat and Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (two apps used in the program are based on the popular paper books)

Welcome song: Open Shut Them (a classic storytime song we sing regularly on Wednesdays)

Song: Are you ready for a story? (Clap Your hands)

Parent Tip: I explained the difference between a book app and an e-book.

Book app: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boyton and Loud Crow (2011)
$3.99 :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store, and Nook Color

This app is so silly that even the adults were laughing! It quickly helped the group relax and caught their attention.

Parent Tips:

    • The value of meaningful Interactivity: In this app the reader taps animals and objects to animate them. The actions closely relate to the story, as do the sounds which extend the story. Early readers can tap on the individual words to hear them read aloud even with the read-to-me function turned off.
    • App’s early literacy value: phonological awareness
    • Choosing book apps: This is an engaging story with entertaining characters, not just just lots of interactivity plus it has simple, uncluttered pages with quality images and easy to read text.

Toy App: Peekaboo Barn by Night & Day Studios (2011)
$1.99 (free lite version is available) :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store

After seeing all of the silly, farm animals in Boynton’s app, we played a game identifying farm animals in this one. When the app is started, a barn appears and an animal’s sound is heard. Tapping on the barn opens the doors to reveal the animal making the sound. The name of the animal also appears on the screen. The barn doors then close and a new animal sound is heard. While this app works well with groups because there are multiple opportunities for kids to participate, I actually prefer another farm animal app, Animal Sounds-Fun Toddler Game, qwhich I have used in a weekly storytime about farm animals. The game format I use with it would not work with the apps projected on a large screen.

Parent Tips:

    • Joint Engagement: A child could navigate this app on his/her own, but it is more fun when children and caregivers or children and other children play it together. Joint Engagement offers great opportunities for learning!
    • Early literacy value: phonological awareness and print awareness
    • Choosing apps: Look for apps that are age appropriate and can be played over again. Be sure to review an app before introducing it to your young child.

Song: Are you ready for a story? (Tap your toes)

Book App: A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman and Oceanhouse Media
$2.99 :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store and Nook Color

Frog is a frog who has dreams. He wants to fly, even if it isn’t a frog thing. In this gentle story, again with meaningful interactivity, frog saves the day, realizes a dream and inspires his family and friends. I picked this book app because it demonstrates another way book apps can still be effective and engaging without being silly.

Parent tip:

    • Early literacy value: This book offers new vocabulary like the word aerodynamic and opportunities to build narrative skills. This is also a good choice for STEAM storytimes focusing on frogs.
    • Choosing apps: Look for uncluttered, pages with easy to read text. I pointed out the read to me, read to myself, and auto play options and the button to turn music on or off, all features which I look for.

Toy app: Felt board by Software Smoothie

We used this digital feltboard to act out the song, Five Green and Speckled Frogs (demonstrated here by the Jbrary librarians). Many librarians have talked about using this app and this felt story before. Instead of using screenshots of each movement in the story and projecting them with keynote, I saved my story (a new update) and physically moved the frogs as the story progresses in the song. This worked perfectly and mimicked one of the great aspects of traditional felt boards. I was comfortable doing the actions with my hands and moving the frogs on the iPad. Almost everyone sang along with this song.

With multiple backgrounds and a zillion characters and features to choose from, this toy is perfect for kids of multiple ages and for playing together.

Parent tips:

    • Choosing apps: Select apps that encourage open-ended play and creativity.
    • Early literacy value: This app is great for building narrative skills.

Toy app: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive This App by Mo Willems and Disney
$5.99 :: App available from Apple only

This app is based on the popular book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The app does not include the book, but it extends the story by offering kids a chance to create and play using the beloved characters from the book. As a group we recorded a story directed by the bus driver. We were asked a series of questions and took turns saying silly answers which were then incorporated into a story that was played back and acted out by the bus driver and the pigeon. This was a great transition into the second portion of the program.

Parent tip:

    • Early literacy value: Strengthens narrative skills and helps build vocabulary. This also provides a nice introduction to creating digital stories.
    • Choosing apps: This app has no in-app purchases or ads, what I look for especially for use in storytime.

For the rest of the time, we looked at and explored apps informally. Caregivers shared apps they have used and liked. Kids and caregivers had lots of questions about app suggestions, even for specific purposes like strengthening math skills, and how to select apps. Several of the adults also asked if we were going to offer a similar storytime again!

I gave every caregiver a double sided information sheet, Kids and Digital Media Tips for Parents 10.13, which included app suggestions, developer suggestions, early literacy information, and resources for learning more. This kind of program offers a lot to think about, so something to take home was important.

This was a successful pilot program that showed us two things. One is that a program like this one can be successful and is important to families. Secondly, it helped us assess the need for Saturday storytimes. We hope to host similar programs again as resource allows.

This blog post content also appears at littleelit.com.

Toddlers: Fall & Moose

Fall is on its way and kids are seeing moose cows and their calves everywhere here in Alaska. Storytimes about topics like the seasons and local animals are a must for helping kids relate to the stories they hear and understanding the world around them.

Welcome Song: Hello Everybody

Action Song: Open Shut Them

This next feltboard story I told first with felt leaves (or bunches of spruce needles) and then using our fingers. Counting is an important toddler and preschool math skill which I include every week in some form another. It may be counting to three before we start a song or action or counting as we share a story like this one, for example.

Feltboard: Five Autumn Leaves
Five autumn leaves, five and no more, [Hold up 5 fingers.]
The caterpillar ate one, now there are four. [Thumb down.]
Four autumn leaves, that’s easy to see.
Along came a rainstorm, now there are three. [Index finger down.]
Three autumn leaves, nothing much to do,
A big wind blew, now there are two! [Middle finger down.]
Two autumn leaves, that’s not much fun,
I glued one on my paper [Ring finger down.]
Now there is one. [Hold up pinky.]

Hang on, pretty autumn leaf!
Your branches won’t break,
You’re one less leaf for me to rake!

Now we had the opportunity to be leaves!
Action Song: Leaves Are Twirling
(tune: Frere Jacques)
Leaves are twirling
Leaves are twirling
All Around
All Around
They are falling softly
Very, very softly
To the ground
To the ground.

Book: Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root and Randy Cecil (Candlewick Press, 2006)
Kids at my library all know what moose look like, but before we read this story we talked about some of their characteristics so we could find them camouflaged in the story. I explained we were going to help the kids in the story spot the moose. We have some very good spotters!

To reinforce the differences between moose and people, we followed the story with the hokey pokey, moose style.
Action Song: Moose Pokey!
You put your right hoof in (use foot)
You take your right hoof out.
You put your right hoof in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Moose Pokey
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

*You put your left hoof in…
*You put your antlers in…
*You put your tail in…
*You put your whole self in…

Movement: Bubbles!

Ring Around the Rosie
Ring (or skip or hop, etc.) around the rosie
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

The cows are in the meadow
Eating buttercups
Thunder, lightning,
We all jump up!

Closing Rhyme: Tickle the Clouds
Tickle the Clouds. Tickle Your Toes.
Turn Around,
And Tickle Your Nose!
Reach down low. Reach up High.
Storytime’s over, wave goodbye!