It’s been a long time since I posted here. A few things have changed in my life, the biggest of which is that I’m now working at a new library, in a new position, as an official children’s librarian. I’ll be taking over my library’s preschool storytime this fall, as well as the majority of our school-age and family programs. Major upgrade.
This week I began my storytime duties in earnest. I’m no longer working with toddlers but preschoolers, and my sessions now feature a craft every week, among other changes. I thought I’d kick off my first storytime with a back-to-school theme, something I’ve never tried before. It gave me an opportunity to read Oliver and His Alligator, a book I’ve always loved, but I found loads of other great books on the subject.
Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid
Flight School by Anita Judge
You’re Wearing That to School?! by Lynn Plourde
How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
Opening Song: “I Wake Up My Hands”
I wake up my hands with a clap, clap, clap.
Clap, clap, clap. Clap, clap, clap!
I wake up my hands with a clap, clap, clap
And wiggle my waggles away.
I wake up my feet with a stomp, stomp, stomp.
I wake up my head with a nod, nod, nod.
I wake up my hips with a shake, shake, shake.
I wake up my belly with a beep, beep, beep.
Discussion: We had a quick chat about going back to school — how the kids felt about it, how the parents felt about it, and what they might do to prepare. Then, we took a cue from our dinosaur friends with the first book of the day.
Book 1: How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? A fun, reliable series from Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. These always get a laugh, while quietly reinforcing polite behavior.
Action Song: “The Wheels on the Bus”
Since we saw a school bus in our first book, we dove into a storytime staple.
Fingerplay: “Open, Shut Them”
Book 2: You’re Wearing That to School?! Penelope the Hippo can’t wait to let her personality shine on her first day of school, but her experienced friend tries to tame her impulses, explaining that everyone will laugh at her if she, among other things, wears her rainbow-legging ensemble, or brings her favorite stuffed animal for show-and-tell. This is a sweet book about being true to yourself rather than conforming the the crowd.
Action Song: “If Your Clothes Have Any Red”
A color-matching song by Jean Warren, set to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” I found this via the King County Library System’s Tell Me A Story database, which is a treasure trove of storytime songs and rhymes. I adapted this a bit to fit our group.
If your clothes have any red, any red
If your clothes have any red, any red
If your clothes have any red
Stretch your hands above your head,
If your clothes have any red, any red.
If your clothes have any yellow,
Jiggle like a bowl of jello!
If your clothes have any green,
Tilt your body till you lean.
If your clothes have any white,
Stomp your feet with all your might.
If your clothes have any blue,
Jump around inside your shoes!
Book 3: Oliver and His Alligator. This is a book I’ve always liked, and had previously hoped to use in a courage/bravery themed storytime. In it, Oliver is beyond nervous for his first day of school, so he brings an alligator along with him. Whenever Oliver becomes frightened, he instructs the alligator to eat whatever is scaring him — which quickly results in his teacher, his playmates, and most of his classroom ending up inside the alligator. This is a sweet, quietly endearing book about facing the first day jitters.
Regrettably, I did not have time to share our last book, Flight School, about a penguin who attends flying lessons. I still recommend it as a great accompaniment to the theme, and I hope to use it later this season.
Craft: Paper Bag Backpacks (Danielle’s Place)
I found this adorable template via — who else? — Katie at Storytime Katie, who used it for a school-themed storytime back in 2012. Crafts are a new addition to storytime, for me, and I’m still trying to work out how much of the project should be prepared ahead of time, and how much cutting, gluing, and pasting I should leave to the kids. Today, I let them focus on decorating, as this craft had a lot of moving parts. All five of the template pieces were pre-cut and sorted, allowing the kids to pick which color they wanted for each piece, glue it onto their paper bag, and decorate to their heart’s content.
Wrapping Up: For the past couple of months, I’ve been plugged into performing storytimes and themes that the library had already planned for the summer, and I noticed that my enthusiasm was waning. This was the first storytime that I got to design to my liking, and it made a huge difference. I’ll be taking over preschool storytimes indefinitely in September, and I’m excited to have creative control again. This fall, I’m hoping to try a few themes I’ve never done before: squirrels, llamas, unicorns and mermaids among them.
That said, this was a really fun topic for a toddler/preschool group. Several of my patrons were headed off to preschool or kindergarten for the first time, and were excited to talk about the first day. They loved “Wheels on the Bus,” and seemed to enjoy all three books, although You’re Wearing That To School seemed to garner the most enthusiasm. The backpack craft was a lot of fun, and less complicated than I’d imagined. All in all, a solid entry into the storytime game.