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!

Preschool: In the Jungle

The temperature rose to a whopping 35-37° this week! As Alaskan kids will do when the Winter cold starts to loosen its tight grip, 20130324-134254.jpgstorytime regulars showed up in sun hats, t-shirts, and even capri pants.  Everyone was in the mood to be hot so it was time to explore the jungle!

Thanks to the internet and lots of creative librarians out there in cyberspace, I came up with a fun program that I did at the library and on the road. The program, especially the book choice, was most appreciated by the preschool crowd, but the songs and activities equally appealed to most of the younger ones.

Alaska is a long way from any DK Picturepedia Junglejungle, aka tropical rainforest, although we do have areas of temperate rainforest in the South East part of the state. To get ourselves in the mood for the fun stories ahead we took a trip with the globe and figured out where we might find a jungle, how we could get there, and then what we might find there. We found Alaska, the Equator, and several continents including Africa and South America.

Jungle Animals, part of the series Picturepedia, gives a great overview of the variety of animals that inhabit the  canopy, understory, and rivers of the hot and wet tropical rainforest. We spent some time trying to imagine what it might look and feel like in the jungle. For many families, non-fiction books do not seem very approachable for preschoolers, but using books like the Jungle Animals in storytime is great for modeling how to read non-fiction with young children.

Since we were very excited by all of the amazing creatures, we then sang this fun song. As we sang, I placed an animal card on the felt board. I pointed to the text printed at the bottom of the card as we sang the name to support print awareness.  The lions roared loudly, the monkeys were silly, and frogs were hopping all over the room! 20130324-134420.jpg

Song: ”I Went to the Jungle One Day” (London Bridge)
I went to the jungle one day,
jungle one day, jungle one day.
I saw a lion on the way
And this is what he said, “ROAR!”
(Other animals: snake, monkey, elephant, frog, etc.)
Credit: Perry Public Library

We talked about what each animal might eat and where they might live in the dynamic jungle environment. (I found the animal images online, made the cards, and then laminated them to endure the attention of the storytime kids who like to get to know the items I use on the felt board. I made several copies of each so I could use the same animals with the jungle box- see below.)

I found a plethora of jungle related songs and fingerplays so I followed up with this fun little ditty using my five little monkey finger puppets. They’re wearing jammies, but they worked well enough!
Fingerplay: Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree
Five little monkeys swinging in the tree
teasing Mr. Alligator can’t catch me….can’t catch me
along came Mr. Alligator quiet as can be
and snapped that monkey out that tree
Four… Three… Two… One little monkey(s) swinging in the tree
No more monkeys swinging in the tree!
Oh NoWe followed up our singing with the book Oh, No! by author Candace Fleming and illustrator Eric Rohmann. This book, with its repetitive text and progressive story, is perfect for the preschool age. It’s the tale of five jungle animals that each fall into a huge hole in the bamboo forest while trying to help out the animals who have already tumbled in. When the waiting tiger appears at the top of the hole (a scene masterfully created on the page with a from-bottom-of-the-hole perspective), the animals yell “Oh! No!” for fear they will be the next meal. Don’t worry. The mighty elephant saves the day, but more than once a child declared, “Look out! There’s the tiger!” at the tiger tail or paw that is camouflaged on most pages.
My favorite page? The last. Not the one with a view of the large elephant behind with the five rescued animals being carried off to safety, but the very last with the one of the hole’s edge with tiger paws emerging. Did the tiger climb out or did he stay stuck in the hole?  It’s a nice use of the endpaper.
After Oh! No! it was time to get moving! Clapping and slapping the tops of our thighs worked well for most kids, but the younger ones just clapped their hands to this infectious chant.
Song: Down In The Jungle (chant)
(alternately clap hands on knees and then together
 to set the rhythm of the chant.)
Down in the jungle with the beat in your feet,
Think of an animal that you’d like to meet.
That you’d like to meet ________!
(Call out child’s name and have them name a jungle
A _____ A ______ She / He wants to see a ________!
Then have all of the children imitate that animal.
giraffes can't danceThe last book of storytime was either Giraffes Can’t Dance by author Giles Andreae and illustrator Guy Parker-Reyes or Kiss Kiss! by Margaret Wilde and Bridget Strevens-Marzo. While the opening scene of the savannah in Giraffes Can’t Dance led many kids to claim “That’s not the jungle!” and the book may seem unrelated to the theme at first, the story quickly evolves bringing the action to the jungle. It’s a cute story with rhyming text. The images are bright and full of detail which makes it good for sharing.

Right before craft time, I introduced the group to the jungle box I found on Abby the Librarian’s site. We practiced the “J” sound while I passed out animal cards to each child. I sang Abby’s song using the names of Jungle boxanimals found on the cards and the child(ren) with the appropriate animal card came up and put the card in the box.

Song: Jungle Box Song
(To the tune of “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”)
If you have a lion, a lion, a lion,
If you have a lion, put him in the jungle!
The activity made for a nice transitional activity that got kids up and ready to move to the tables to create their lion. Many kids told each other and me which animal was their favorite and made up sounds for each. I used the same animals as I used on the felt board so they were familiar. The toucan sounds were especially creative!

We made this simple lion I found on Pinterest using:

1 sheet of brown paper for the mane
1/2 sheet of yellow paper for the face which caregivers and kids cut into various shapes
black paper (pre-cut into circles for the bottom layer of the eyes)
additional colored paper scraps big enough for the top layer of the eyes
black strips (about 4 in. long)
Light brown paper scraps to cut ear shapes
Red paper strips for the tongue (curled around a pencil to give it shape)
Brown paper scraps to make the moth/nose
Glue and scrissors are necessary
black marker or crayon is nice to have for the whisker marks

Families got creative and few lions matched my rough sample!

Here is one of my favorites:Lion- kid creation

Preschool: Rhythm and Sounds

This week’s story hour was all about rhythm! I regularly talk with families about the role music, and singing, can play in literacy- it helps kids hear the rhythm (cadence) in language and slows down are speaking so they hear more sounds.  And it’s fun to sing, dance and make music! So, I am a big fan of books that incorporate fun sounds and rhythm into the story. A couple of kids are particularly big fans of any music or sound activities we do, so this story time theme is dedicated to them!

Rhythm books

We started story time at each location with Storytime Katie’s version of Rafi’s Shake Your Sillies Out using shakers. I was inspired after arranging an upcoming summer visit to our library by the musician Andy Mason, who also does a great version. We shook, jumped, stretched, clapped, and stretched some more to get rid of the late January blahs. These kids love to sing, wiggle, and dance! Since only a few kids had arrived at this point I then read Giraffes Can’t Dance to give the others a chance to arrive and get settled.

From there we moved on to more music and movement!  In one of the outreach programs we use a room with a linoleum floor (vs. the carpeted floor at the library) so the sounds we created were fun and different.  We used the the rhythm sticks I made out of dowels to make quite a ruckus banging on the floor, metal chair legs, mats, other rhythm sticks, shakers, books, you name it! After the free form music making we made sounds together with this song I found at Read Sing Play. I read a suggestion somewhere along the way that is helpful with the rhythm sticks- have the kids rest the sticks on their shoulders between trying out the sticks on their own and playing this song. It is a great tool for focusing the kids’ attention.

This is the way we tap our sticks, tap our sticks, tap our sticks
This is the way we tap our sticks so early in the morning!
This is the way we rub our sticks, rub our sticks, rub our sticks
This is the way we rub our sticks so early in the morning!
This is the way we tap our knees, tap our knees, tap our knees
This is the way we tap our knees so early in the morning!

And I added:
This is the way we bang on the floor, bang on the floor, bang on the floor
This is the way we bang on the floor so early in the morning.

The additional verse lets us do what we really want to do, bang on the floor, in addition to making the softer sounds called for in the earlier verses.

We have also used this rhyme with the sticks. It’s a favorite in snow country.

Snow is falling, falling down; Snow is falling hit the ground. (Move hands down, wiggling fingers like snowflakes)
Flurries, flurries (slow beat, slowly said)
Snowing, snowing (faster)
Blizzard (Loud and very fast)
Perpetual School

I continued on with books and read This Jazz Man, Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes, and Dancing Feet. With each page, we were predicting, counting, identifying colors, interpreting illustrations, naming animals, and learning about jazz and music. The great questions kept on coming!BINGO

Just before we moved on to the craft for this week, I brought out the flannel board. The kids got quiet as soon as they saw the blank, black rectangle appear. I placed five felt letters on the board, spelling BINGO, and kids immediately began to identify letters. “The letter this week must be B!” a little one proclaimed. I got this idea from the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy site.

After pointing out each letter as I said it’s name, it was time for a song. Most kids know the BINGO song, so they caught on quickly. As each letter is “removed” in the song’s lyrics, the felt letter is turned over. Instead of clapping, in this version we barked in place of the turned over letter. ( didn’t get a chance to put a dog image on the back as was recommended, but that would be cute.)

The song with the BINGO letters worked very well and I found that more kids, particularly the youngest ones, were able to keep the rhythm going when they barked vs. clapping. It can be tough without well-developed fine motor skills. By the time we got to barking for “N,” there were smiles all around and everyone had it figured out.

To round out the morning, we created fun music makers for the budding performers to take home. These were constructed by 2-5 year olds, so they are simple and can be made with limited adult support. My sample is so boring compared with the kids’ which were featured multicolored rays of streamers, an abundance of giraffe and elephant stickers, and crayon colored patterns!  The story time’s grand finale was an orchestra of paper plate shakers!Shaker

This craft was made with materials I already had at the library:

1 paper plate folded
dried rice, beans, or grain to go inside once the plate is folded
staples and glue to make a tight seal around the edge
crayons or markers for coloring the plate
stickers for decorating the sides
dots of glue on one edge for the paper streamers

Do you know of another easy to make instrument for story time? Let me know!

Celebrating Winter, part 1

Let’s face it. Alaskan Winters are long. It dwarfs other seasons exponentially. I try to wait to feature a Winter themed story time as long as possible because there are so many good snow/winter/northern lights/hibernation/snowmen books in our collection and I like to spread them out between now and March (or April?). But, I couldn’t wait any longer! So today we talked about the seasons and what aspects of winter come to mind when we think about this very Alaskan season. Snowmen, snow, mittens, scarves, ice skating, and cold were all said aloud.  They also were found on the pages of these books.

winter isWinter Is by Ann Dixon

charlie and lolaSnow is my Favorite and my Best (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child

The flannelboard is very popular at story time so I brought a felt snowman along to go along with this rhyme:    I knew it was a hit, even with the younger kids, because they all cuddled up close and wanted to take turns adding the snowman’s parts as we repeated the rhyme.

I try to include a chance for the group to practice, or at least, hear some basic counting each week. The 5 Little Snowmen worked well for this and gave kids a chance to recall parts in the latter verses.  Along with the rhymes and finger plays, I brought back the rhythm sticks to imitate snow (flurries, snow, and blizzard) with the rhyme Snow is Falling:

Snow is falling, falling down; Snow is falling hit the ground. (Move hands down,
wiggling fingers like snowflakes)
Flurries, flurries (slow beat, slowly said)
Snowing, snowing (faster)
Blizzard (Loud and very fast)

We finished with The Mitten song by Mary Louise Allen, an easy fingerplay for kids to do and a nice segue in to craft time!

“Thumbs in the thumb-place,
Fingers all together!”
This is the song
We sing in mitten-weather.
When it is cold,
It doesn’t matter whether
Mittens are wool,
Or made of finest leather.
This is the song
We sing in mitten-weather:
“Thumbs in the thumb-place,
Fingers all together!”

Mitten CraftWe made these cute mittens I found at Storytime Katie.  It was a perfect ending. The young ones had a chance to practice their budding scissor skills and add a personal flair to their artwork. Several kiddos were headed home to hang their creations up in their room. I love that!

We had lots of squirrelly young ones today, but it’s amazing how much they learn about social skills and being in a group in just a few months. We have some good leaders who are happy to show the younger ones “the ropes.” It’s great group!