Affirmative! Robots in Storytime

Today I chose to use a game app in storytime. Yes, I used my iPad…during Screen Free Week. I didn’t do it by accident or in spite of the Kids ipad photoevent. Awhile back before I remembered about the week, I came across another librarian’s storytime plan that was perfect in its own right, but it had the added bonus of a recommended app well-suited to my preschool storytime audience and setting. I put the theme on the schedule for this week and kept on planning. I could have reconfigured the schedule when I realized the significance of the week, but I made a conscious choice to go ahead with it because I think how, and not just how much, we use apps with kids needs attention. How better to model that usage than by including one in storytime?

How did it go? The kids and I talked, read stories, told stories, sang songs, played with the feltboard, built digital robots with the app, then built paper robots, cleaned up, and then played with LEGOs. We had a blast and those amazing kids demonstrated their wide array of early literacy skills and their ability to smoothly migrate from one medium to the next without obvious hesitation.

First off I have to thank Anne Hicks of Anne’s Library Life. Not only did she post her great robot storytime plan for the rest of us to see, but she answered my questions about her experience using an iPad only vs. using an iPad mirrored on a big screen in her library.

My children’s library is lovely, but not particularly suited for using a big screen to mirror what’s on my iPad. Behind the story area is a corner of book shelves leaving no wall space for a safe place to place a monitor without it being precariously set on a cart with cords extending across the floor, just waiting for feet to trip over. The room is also full of windows and we really don’t like to darken them. With such dark winters, we’ll take all of the light we can get in Alaska.

The other reason I wanted to use my iPad only in the storytime, is the fact that this was not advertised as a digital storytime. We do have another meeting room with a large monitor that I’ve used to share an enhanced e-book as part of a special program, but my ultimate plan in storytime is to reflect the intertwined reality that exists in our mixed media lives. Since this was the first time I used interactive digital media in a weekly storytime (instead of a regular e-book), I also didn’t want the screen to be the focus. I felt that using the iPad only (without the monitor) was a more subtle and normalized way to show families how digital technology can be successfully integrated into the activities we all love already. The iPad is one more tool that extends our exploration and fun.


While families arrived, I sang with the kids who came on time. Sometimes we sing Open Shut Them, a popular storytime starter, or a themed song using shakers or other instruments. (I look forward to trying out the rhyme cube Ann and other librarians mention on their blogs!)

robotsEach week, I display books that I am going to include in storytime, as well as a few others, in front of the group. (I often bring out more books than I am going to read during storytime so kids can see related books to read in the library or take home with them.) I have kids use the images and words or letters on the book covers to try and figure out what we are going to talk about. With books like Robots by Mark Bergin (Franklin Watts 2001) it was pretty easy this week. While this book is older, it showed some basic images that were helpful. We used these images to talk about what differentiates a robot from a person. And then we decided to pretend to be robots! With legs, arms, bodies, and heads, we fit the bill.

Once everyone was settled, I installed on/off buttons on every little robot. We practiced our robot movements, our robots sounds, and even learned the robot word for yes, “Affirmative,” which features prominently in the next book, Boy + Bot. Before each book we turned on our listening buttons. We didn’t make them quiet buttons because questions and comments are strongly encouraged in my “interactive” storytimes.boyandbot

Boy + Bot by Ame Dickman with illustrations by Dan Yaccarino (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) was the perfect book for this storytime. The simple text and friendship theme is easily understood and loved by the preschool crowd. The boy and robot meet, become quick friends, and then appreciate how each works after a slight mishap with the robots power button and the boy’s nighttime sleep, both new concepts to the other.

We usually spend some time practicing counting when we use the felt board with activities like this one. I point to each robot as kids interject the number of robots. Kids are usually very enthusiastic about contributing to the counting. (In the storytime at a local childcare center I brought these robots and kids named each of the robots also.)

5 Little Robots FeltFelt Board

Five Noisy Robots
5 noisy robots (make sound effects!) in the toy shop,
Shiny and tall with antennae on the top (hands/arms above head and then hold fingers up as antennae above head).
Along came a girl with a penny one day (walk fingers and then show a penny to the kids).
Bought a noisy robot (make sound effects!) and took it away.
(continue with 4, 3, 2, 1 noisy robots)
Credit: Ann’s Library Life

When all of the robots were purchased, I asked the kids how many were left. Some proclaimed “zero” while others said “none.” We talked about how zero was the number that represented none and then we made the shape of a circle with the fingers of both hands touching and talked about how the number zero, the letter O, and the circle were all the same shape. We then had to make big circles with our arms overhead, the fingers on one hand, and our bodies, of course.

Robot Zombie FrankensteinRobot Zombie Frankenstein by Annette Simon (Candlewick Press, 2012) was the final book I shared. This is a great book to share at storytime, but I have found that reading it definitely needs some prefacing. The elements of friendship, playful competition, and repetition are subtle and preschoolers may need help appreciating them (dialogic reading is key here). I preface the story by telling kids it is a story about two friends who are having a contest. As the story progresses, kids love to guess what costumes the robots will come up with next. Some preschoolers were even able to remember the long list of personas the robots dressed up as throughout the competition.


I’m a little robot, short and strong,
Here are my handles, just turn me on. (put fists on hips for handles, then push your sticker “on/off button”)
When I get all warmed up, watch me go.
Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. (roll forearms and hands around each other fast and slow)
Credit: Ann’s Library Life


Robot Lab by Toca Boca (iOS version)robotlab, $2.99
The object of the app is to take junkyard parts and make a robot that can fly. Legs, arms, bodies, and heads are chosen from three options for each piece displayed at the bottom of the screen and dragged to the flashing shape of the robot part to be added. Then the robot is flown by dragging the robot with your finger (directed by up, down, left, and right arrows) through a maze to an overhead magnet. Once the robot is connected to the magnet, it goes through the tester. It comes out the other side and receives the “approved” stamp. There is no sound and no in app advertising. We talked about shapes, colors, directions, body parts, and took turns picking which piece to add. We made two robots before moving on.

I tested out both this app and Bot Garage based on the book Lots of Bots!: A Pop-up Counting Book, but I thought this one worked better for my storytime. The Robot Lab’s simpler screen (image of cardboard box plus three body part choices at a time and the flashing outline of the body part to be added) allowed the kids to focus on one aspect of the new media at a time. We started by adding legs, and were then guided to add the parts one section at a time moving up the body of the robot. They weren’t trying to understand a busy background at the same time as making a choice for which color or shape of part to add. It was easy to see what the object of the game was, especially important when using the smaller screen of an iPad (vs. on a monitor) with a group.


Paper Robot CraftFor this storytime’s craft we built paper robots. The kids were thrilled to create these little bots inspired by Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things. I substituted a few pieces and steps because I couldn’t find glitter paper or enough brass fasteners in town for the whole group. Ah, small town living. The changes worked out just fine!

metallic (or glittery) cardstock- I cut each 8 1/2 x 11″ piece of card stock into 3 sections and then cut each strip (approximately 8″h x 3 1/3″w) to make a one piece robot with a thinner head and wider body, leaving rectangles used for arms (shorter) and legs (longer) from the bottom for each robot.
brass fasteners (to make movable arms/legs)
foam papers cut into shapes
googly eyes
pipe cleaners for antennas
small hole punch- I let kids/parents punch the holes where arms would be attached with fasteners and on the head for the pipe cleaner antennas.

For kids who still wanted to play together at the library, I offered up my basket of large LEGOs® at the end of storytime. A small group of parents and kids sat and talked together while building robots, trucks, trains, and walls.

What would I do differently with this storytime? I would include more tips for parents about joint media engagement, early literacy, and using apps. I focus on the kids and modeling successful practices during storytime, but I am looking for more strategies for informing parents about the skills, practices, and research without taking away from the storytime experience. Have any tips? I would love to hear them.

Update 6/18: Check out a 2018 Robot Storytime with more ideas!

Photo of children with the iPad is courtesy of Barrett Web Coordinator, used according to a Creative Commons license.

Fiber Arts in Story

This week I decided to share The Cloud Spinner and Extra Yarn with the preschool storytime kids. See reviews in my previous post. We turned it into a fiber arts storytime!

green sheepI also added a third book to the mix, Where is the Green Sheep?  written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004) so we could talk about where the wool comes from that is used to make all of the hats and mittens we wear for much of the year. It’s a silly book that includes lots of opposites and great opportunities for color recognition and vocabulary practice.  It’s a fun book to improvise with or read the text as is.

Before I read Where is the Green Sheep? I taught the group the old song, Baa, Baa Black Sheep, using the felt board. Most kids had never heard the song before and sat intently as I sang.  After the story, I brought out my colored sheep so the kids could really learn the song and continue practicing their colors.  The visual of the felt sheep and three bags of wool helped the kids learn this song. By the fifth time around, those little ones were singing their hearts out.  At the end of storytime, when everyone was getting their boots and coats on, a two year old started singing “Baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa.” Her mom was amazed, telling me that her daughter had never heard the song before. The mom then started singing the rest of the song to her. It put a smile on my face!

Baa Baa Black SheepBaa, baa Black Sheep felt
Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy, who lives down the lane.
Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

Credit: King County Library System

Cloud AnimalsWe worked on a couple of projects during craft time today. Some kids made cloud animals similar to some of the cloud creatures we identified in The Cloud Spinner.  Feel free to download the templates for the cloud fish and the cloud bunny.  The cloud sheep craft and template I found at All Kids Network. I had a teen volunteer help me cut out the templates for each so the kids could focus on gluing the cotton balls in place.

STEAM moment: While this storytime focused on fiber arts, we also spent time talking about the clouds in the story. It offered me an opportunity to introduce the water cycle and the story’s message of conservation.

The other project we tried is paper weaving. I found a great example at Art Projects Paper Weavingfor Kids. This was popular with the older kids who sat and really focused on weaving the paper strips over and under. Some kids alternated the weft (or warp?) and some only did one pattern. You could see the mental wheels spinning! It was a great project for adults and kids to do together and the parents were very patient.  One parent even commented that it would make a great project to do at home (it requires very little in the way of materials).

Paper cut for weavingI used one sheet of cardstock for each child and cut eight lines from one end to within an inch of the other end. Having one end free helped the kids maneuver the strips more easily. I found colorful scrapbook paper for the strips the kids wove into the cardstock. The contrasts were beautiful and easy for the kids to see their progress.  Paper strips for weavingWhen the weavers were all done, we taped the back of the cardstock where needed so the strips wouldn’t move around.

A note for next time- I’ll make the strips a little longer than the 8″ strips I used this time and have parents trim the hanging edges. The paper fit well, but it would have been easier for kids to handle if it was a bit longer.

With a little more lead time, I’d also have a weaver come to storytime and demonstrate on a loom so kids could see weaving in action.


Hop! HoEaster Eggsp! Hop! Watching children hop around the children’s library looking for Easter eggs is hysterical! I love to get kids moving during storytime.

You guessed it. We had an Easter egg hunt this week in anticipation of the upcoming holiday.

Before children arrived, I hid colored plastic eggs filled with stickers in easy-to-find and hard-to-find nooks and crannies. (At the outreach program I also added goldfish crackers since clean-up is easier there.)  Kids immediately saw the eggs, but we were able to convince them to sit down for storytime anyway. The anticipation grew and grew and grew throughout the stories and songs included this week. Kids were spotting eggs and proclaiming “I see one!” at every opportunity.

20130403-125559.jpgWith some help from my rabbit puppet, I began storytime with the finger rhyme:

The Rabbit
I saw a little rabbit come
Hop, hop, hop!
I saw his two long ears go
flop, flop, flop!
I saw his little nose go
Twink, twink, twink!
I saw his little eyes go
Wink, wink, wink!
I said “little rabbit, won’t you stay?”
Then he looked at me
And hopped away.
Credit: Artfelt (for link to free pdf of rhymes)

The first story I read was Jan Brett’s The Easter Egg filled with elaborate eggs, kind bunnies, and detailed illustrations on each page in classic Brett style.easter_egg_brett

I followed up with The Black Rabbit by Phillipa Leathers a sweet little tale about a bunny afraid of his shadow (the black rabbit) who just won’t quit following him.  The rabbit tries to shake the stalking black bunny through the early pages until that black shadow eventually scares off a predatory wolf just in the nick of time. The kids easily understood that the black rabbit was a shadow so the story was less scary than it could have been.the black rabbit

Next up was Little Bunny Foo Foo with the help of my magic wand. I modify some of the words as I go if there are any scared faces in the crowd and I explain that a goon is a useless monster that can’t do anything (including scare little children) to diffuse initial fears.

Little Bunny Foo Foo
Little bunny Foo Foo
Hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping ’em on the head
And down came the Good Fairy
And she said
“Little bunny Foo Foo
I don’t like you’re attitude
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping ’em on the head”

I’ll give you 3 chances.
Then I’ll turn you into a goon!
The next day…
(Repeat two more verses with 2 and 1 chances_
3. “I gave you two chances.
Now I’ll turn you into a goon!”
And the moral of the story is:
Hare today, goon tomorrow!
Credit: Scout Songs

Our last book was Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This is a fun story both if you read all of the text or if you improvise. I did both depending on the general age and interest of the group.  As you can see, it’s tricky to decide if the image is a duck or a rabbit!duck rabbit  One of the pages features a scene which relates nicely to the craft we did- a rabbit hiding in the grass. But, before craft time, it was time to be bunnies and hop around.  The last song for storytime was:

If You’re Hoppy and You Know It
If you’re hoppy and you know it, hop around.
If you’re hoppy and you know it, hop around.
If you’re hoppy and you know it, then your face will surely show it,
If you’re hoppy and you know it, hop around.
…swish your tail
…flop your ears
…wiggle your nose


At this point the kids were up and ready to grab for the first egg they saw. To slow the older kids down, I told them this egg hunt was special because they had to jump like bunnies to find eggs and once they found one they could then help someone else find an egg (I had just enough). Off they hopped and the adults couldn’t help but laugh.

I then met the families at the craft table to help them sort out the easy bunny in the grass project I found at Busy Bee Kids Crafts.

The materials needed:

1 paper plate
2 strips of colored card stock, approximately 3 inches wide
three pieces of green construction paper big enough to trace a hand
2 eyes
glue (for eyes)

Bunny EarsAt the last minute, I decided I needed bunny ears for storytime. I made these right before everyone arrived and then cut some extra strips for anyone who might want a matching set. Almost every one of the 25 kids walked out with bunny ears. Simple and fun! All you need is one sheet of pink construction paper (cut into four strips), a pair of scissors and a stapler. Staple two strips together to make a band that fits around your head and then 20130403-125534.jpgcut the other two in the shape of ears to staple on the band. Some little ones colored their ears to make them extra special.

This marked the last week of storytime on the road, a three month pilot project which allowed me to visit rural community meeting places and a school approximately twenty-five miles from our library. The grant funded storytimes were definitely successful and we hope to continue them again in the future when funds allow.

Thanks to a visit from a local public radio reporter, the program received some great publicity. The radio story and the beautiful photos were heartwarming. I highly recommend letting local news media know about your outreach projects. It’s a great opportunity for advocacy!


Here is the slideshow from the reporter’s visit:


It’s Iditarod season here in Alaska, so we always do a dog storytime to celebrate the amazing athletes (canine and human) that make the trek from Anchorage to Nome in the big race. I quickly put together this storytime for my outreach program with the remaining dog books in the children’s library. (Dog books are a hot commodity this time boot and shoeof year.)

Luckily Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, 2012) wasn’t snatched up this week. I’ve been wanting to read it aloud for awhile and this week’s dog-loving crowd was the perfect audience. It’s a story of two furry dogs who do everything together except nap. One loves the front porch and the other prefers the back. All is well in their daily routine until a trouble-making squirrel visits and a wild chase ensues. The dogs leave their respective porches to pursue the squirrel and wind up exhausted on opposite stoops, sadly not able to find the other…until they have to visit the usual tree. The families loved the double page spread that maps out paths of Boot and Shoe around the house chasing a squirrel!

Finger Play:

Five Little Kittens Finger Play

Five little kittens standing in a row.
(Hold up five fingers)
They nod their heads to the children so.
(Bend fingers)
They run to the left; they run to the right.
(Run fingers to the left and then to the right.)
They stand up and stretch in the bright sunlight.
(Stretch fingers out tall)
Along comes a dog who’s in for some fun.
(Hold up one finger from opposite hand.)
ME-OW! See those little kittens run!
(Run fingers all around and end behind your back.)

Credit: Sturdy for Common Things

a dog needs a boneOur next book was A Dog Needs a Bone by Audrey Wood (Blue Sky Press, 2007). It’s rhyming text, lovable dog, and simple vocabulary make this a good choice with preschoolers. The story isn’t riveting, but it’s an enjoyable read aloud.

I brought my dog Bingo along for the road trip this week to celebrate his 1st birthday. He came to live at the library last Spring and is a beloved addition to any storytime. Instead of singing happy birthday, we sang B-I-N-G-O using the felt board. See my Rhythm and Sounds post for all of the details. Using felt letters and turning over each one as we work our way through the song helps the little ones understand the pattern and rhythm while also providing opportunities for print awareness.cosmo zooms

Our last book of the day was Cosmo Zooms by Arthur Howard (Harcourt Brace, 1999). After living in the shadow of the other Pumpkin Lane dogs and their special talents, Cosmo discovers his own talent, skateboarding! That is one special dog.

I brought Smelly Bill by Daniel Postgate (NorthSouth Books, 2007) and See Me Run by Paul Meisel (Holiday House, 2011) which we didn’t have time for, but kids read them on their own or with adults after the craft projects were complete.

Today’s craft I also found on Sturdy for Common Things. The pet photo frame was simple (easy for preschool age and younger), I had the materials on hand, and it got kids excited to find a photo of their pet 20130327-181322.jpgfriend or family member to put inside.


8 popsicle sticks
colorful card stock cut ot fit behind popsicle stick frame
foam stickers or other decorations
yarn (for hanger taped on back)
craft glue to attach popsicle sticks together
picture of family pet or family member

My absolute favorite part of storytime this week was when this picture happened. This is the doing of one little boy is a reluctant 20130327-181411.jpgcrafter and his friend, a preschool age girl.  The boy brings cars with him everytime, often gripping them in his had through out the stories and play that follows. After his picture frame, he decided to make a road with the yarn on the table. We got it taped down and he got his car driving. The girl next to him wanted a road to, so we taped the yarn down for her. With no real cars to be had, she used the white peeled off backs of the sticker shapes we used for the frames. Each road eventually had a bridge and inspired lots of imaginative play!



Last week was was all about dinosaurs at storytime.dino felt board

Looking for books about dinosaurs was incredibly easy! If your patrons are anything like ours, you have some young paleontologists in the mix and that insures lots of dinosaur picture books and information books.

I like to start storytime by introducing the theme and an accompanying letter. My storytimes are pretty intimate and I know most of the 10-20 kids that come each week so then the kids and I talk about what they know about the theme (or other random topics on their mind). For example, this week we chatted about dinosaurs, fossils and the letter D. It gets kids warmed up so they aren’t so shy during the stories and activities. As we talk, kids share more and more details and even slip in a few a conversation-inspired stories of their own. Families tend to trickle in at the beginning of storytime, so this warm-up also gives everyone a chance to get settled before I really get started.

Since dinosaurs come in all shapes and sizes, we started with this well-received, action rhyme:

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)

Credit: Mel’s Desk


Continuing on with the opposites, I started with the book Dinosaurs Roar by Paul and Henrietta Stickland. It’s a book that makes for lots of conversation and can involve very active reading. Roaring, pretending to be big or small, stomping, and imitating fierce and meek are all possible during this seemingly short book.dinosaur-bones

Next we got to focus on why we know about dinosaurs and the concept of extinct which a surprising number of 5 and 6 year olds knew quite a bit about. We felt our arms for our own bones and I showed them the “fossil” we were going to make after stories. We then read Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner, a book we have in our collection as a kit.

Before continuing on with another story, it was time for the flannel board dinosaurs! We used these dinosaurs to remember our colors, count to nine, and see if we could identify the the three types of dinosaurs. Great job, all around!

Colorful Dinosaurs…
(One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians)
Have felt dinosaurs of the various colors to put on flannel board as you sing.
1 red
1 blue
1 green dinosaur
1 orange
1 yellow
1 white dinosaur
1 pink
1 brown
1 black dinosaur
9 dinosaurs in all!

Credit: Nuttin’ But Preschool

Goldilocks and the 3 dinosWe were having so much fun, that we only had time for one more story before it was time to create!

Mo Willems’ latest Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is, of course, funny. For kids to really appreciate this one though, they need to be familiar with the Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale, so we spent some time talking about that story first. Then we worked through the story, parents snickering all the way, and looked for some of the funny little Mo Willems gifts found on each page. (Can you find the pigeon?) Goldilocks is appropriately brave and defiant and even demonstrates her reading skills towards the end of the story. The dinosaurs are not very good at catching a “chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbon” and alas they must endure the consequences at the end. Before or after reading the story, it’s worth spending some time on the alternative titles inside the front and back covers!

shape o saurusShape-o-saurus

To reinforce our shape awareness, we made a shape-o-saurus inspired by No Time For Flashcards! The kids were able to identify the rectangles, triangles, and circle from our shape games in earlier weeks. A couple were even able to see that the semi-circle was a capital letter D asleep on its side! To help the younger kids place the shapes on the shapeosaurus, I had parents draw the shape with glue. It made for great team work.

Dinosaur Salt Dough Fossilsdino salt dough fossil

What happens when you give kids a handful of salt dough and a toy dinosaur? Some of them make fossils! This part of the storytime involved making pretend fossils by pressing the feet of toy dinosaurs into the dough and then the parents baked the dough at home to finish it off. I gave each child a bag with the final instructions for their new fossil. The dough takes paint well, so the craft could be extended for an at-home project.

Some parents took dough and some some chose not to, but kids had a great time squishing the playdough-like material and making patterns with the handles of scissors, tops of markers, keys, etc. A couple of younger ones sampled the dough, but no worries! The simple salt dough is made of flour, salt and water which I combined at home (about 10 minutes of prep time) and then brought to story time.

Since I used this program only in my outreach efforts this week, I plan to do a dinosaur themed storytime at the library this summer with some different stations, as part of the Dig Into Reading summer program. During June and July, I’ll be taking a cue from Amy Koester’s ALSC blog post and hosting science based programs during storytime. I’ll be adding a twist to the acronym and consider them STEAM-y (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math)* storytimes for preschoolers.

What ideas do you have planned for Dig Into Reading?

*Alaska’s Senator Mark Begich is also a big supporter of combining STEM and Art.