Read Sing Play

Adventures in early literacy


Books are Not Just for Reading: My First Presentation

Can’t believe I’m JUST getting to this! I did the presentation the first week in April!

The presentation was part of Tapestry, an Early Learning conference for Southwest Washington. According to one of the conference chairs (who also happens to be my boss!) the conference was not as well attended as in the past, and that’s really too bad because there were a lot of GREAT looking programs. I didn’t get to go to any since I was presenting the whole day, but man, the descriptions sounded awesome.

Even though I did two presentations, really workshops, there was some overlap. That was OK, though because there were different people in each workshop (except one who was with me all day!).

Here are my original outlines, done through Evernote (thanks Mel for that idea):

Books Are Not Just for Reading Outline

Read Sing and Play with Infants and Toddlers Outline

Set up: in each room I set books up for display all around the classroom (used the marker holder on the white boards) for browsing before and after the session. This was a feature participants really seemed to love. The props I brought were on display at the front of the room and available for “petting” after the session. Handouts were on a counter by the door for taking as they came in or left.

Presentation #1: Books Are Not Just for Reading

This one was originally intended to be specific to infants and toddlers, but there was a mistake on the program so it was listed as being for preschoolers and kindergartners, too. I brought along several books for older kids with a few ideas for ways to use them besides straight reading, so no biggie.

Having been to many, many presentations over the years I know the ones I’ve learned the most from included lots of audience participation. So, as people came in I handed them a book and a piece of paper. I tried to match the book to the ages each participant works with, which was a great opportunity to learn more about each participant right away.

After introductions they had 3 minutes to look through their book and write down ways they thought they could use it besides straight reading.

Then I wrote what they came up with on the white board.


We talked about each of the things they came up with and I added or embellished a few as we went along, and clarified and grouped them in to main ideas (on the left). I loved that they thought of things I hadn’t-using a book for crowd control, yes!

Now time for demonstrations! I spent about 20 minutes showing them various ways to “extend” a picture book. I even addressed ways they could use a book for crowd control since that was something they suggested. In toddler storytime I use a song book (usually something by Jane Cabrera) right after our prop activity to calm everyone down and get storytime wrapped up. It works every time!

Ways to use a picture book: sing it, dance with it, bounce to the rhythm, picture walk, flannels (and cookie sheet magnet boards), instruments, show pictures with music cd playing, puppets, signing, eBooks (Tumblebooks), play with it (flap books and more!) and act it out.

Next I put them in groups and asked them to work together with the books they had from the beginning to come up with activities they WOULD use in their classrooms. I wanted them to be able to walk out the door with some practical ideas they knew they would and could use. Taking the planning step out makes it more likely they will use what they learned.

They all wrote down TONS of ideas. One was reading Old Black Fly by Jim Aylesworth to Kindergartners armed with flyswatters and asking them to wave the swatters at the book on the Shoo Fly part. Then follow with dancing to a version of Shoo Fly and art with the flyswatters. Sounds like a great time to me! Others included sharing Piggies by Don and Audrey Wood with toddlers and then doing This Little Piggy on their fingers; singing Brown Bear, Brown Bear followed by an art project with paint to talk about the colors they saw in the book; and sharing Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig (dancing all the while, of course!) followed by art with different mediums like the ones in the book (corrugated cardboard was the one they were most excited about).

My goal was for participants to leave with practical ideas to apply to their classroom and to feel comfortable using books in many ways. I felt like the presentation was a total success (and the evaluations said they liked it!). They left smiling and with lots of ideas written down on their notes.

Presentation #2: Read, Sing Play with Infants and Toddlers

My goal for this session was to put all the stuff I do in baby and toddler storytime and share on this blog, in a presentation. There were a few things I had to tweak from my original outline (there was NO way to get the parachute out in that classroom due to the number of desks, for example) but overall I think it went well. Two hours is long time to sing, rhyme, read, and play with a small group of grown ups. Still, I think we all had fun and we all learned lots of songs and rhymes to use with real, live kiddos!

Program description: Music and rhythm activities for infants and toddlers using books, props and our bodies.

I started similarly to the first presentation by introducing myself and asking them to do the same. Only this time I asked them to share their current favorite song, rhyme, or music activity in their classroom. A couple of them had the same favorite: Wheels on the Bus, with a twist (animals, etc. on the bus).

Here’s their list:


Before going any further we all had to learn these songs. I, for one, did not know the Firetruck Song! Toddlers + Firetrucks = WIN.

Next I asked them why they thought music and rhyming was important for babies and toddlers (see what they came up with below) and talked to them about the importance of music for the littlest kids (you can see all the stuff I talked about in my outline). I didn’t want to go on about this forever because this was the after lunch session and I got the feeling they were much more interested in learning rhymes, songs and techniques to take away than the philosophical stuff. Plus, based on their responses to why music is important, they already know why to do it. They needed the how, the practical part.


I talked a little about how to choose appropriate recorded music: if there are actions to follow they need to be slowly paced, find songs that are relevant to their lives (Firetruck song!), music you enjoy as well so you’ll be more likely to want to play it. For other songs and rhymes they should be easy to sing, repetitive, and fun! Songs to work on self regulation are great (stop and go, sit and stand, etc.) and simple movement rhymes (wigglers) are great for toddlers and most bounces or tickles are appropriate for babies and toddlers.

For learning rhymes and songs, each participant received a shaker, scarf, and paper sun glued to a craft stick (for You Are My Sunshine). For any activity involving the parachute I asked them to use their scarf instead.  We spent the last hour rhyming, singing, tapping, playing and dancing. I started by demonstrating a lot of the same things from my first presentation (this was the overlap) like reading Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett to be a bounce and doing a 5 or 3 little anythings to the same tune of 5 Green and Speckled Frogs or 5 Little Monkeys, or to a rhyme (they all left with directions to access Flannel Friday for a plethora of counting rhymes).

They were each given a rhyme sheet to take with them so after my demo we learned all the songs and rhymes on that sheet, plus some. We had to do them each 3 times, of course, to learn them better, just like we would with children.

It’s a Wrap!

At the end of each session I gave them information about how the library can help them, how to get an educator card, etc. and handed out a resources postcard with info about Flannel Friday, web resources and library resources, rhyme sheets, and a booklist (I’m happy to share any of these documents, just let me know!). Then there was time for questions and general after program chatting. It was a lot of fun!

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We’re Going to the Zoo and Playing Peek-a-Boo

Seem to have caught a cold at ALA, so almost didn’t come in for storytime on Wednesday (that should tell you just how crappy I’ve been feeling!). Sucked it up and went in but used some of my old standbys to give my cloudy brain a break. Glad I made it because it was a LOT of fun!


Hello Bubbles

Hands are Clapping

Two Little Blackbirds

Parent message: I always ask you to participate in storytime because you are your child’s first teacher and role model. They look to you for what to do so please don’t feel silly wiggling your thumbs and flapping your arms. The more you participate, the more they are going to learn, and the more fun you’ll have!

Book in Tiny Tots: Guess Who Eats What by Liesbet Slegers

Book in Toddler Storytime: Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin

Puppet Song: We Went To the Zoo One Day (giraffe, elephant, monkey and Leo the Lion): Tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb

Book in Tiny Tots and Toddler Storytime: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell


We’re Going Down to Portland (Going to Kentucky with my modified lyrics), We’re going to the zoo, To look at all the animals and everything they do! Then continue with original lyrics.

We’re Tapping by Kathy Reid-Naiman

Book in Tiny Tots and Toddler Storytime: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera (3 verses for Tinies and 4 for Toddlers)

Goodbye Bubbles

Splish Splash by Bobby Darin

Activity: Do a Dot Art on construction paper

Parent Message for activity: Daubers are great for toddlers because they’re so much fun but also easy for chubby hands to grip so they can work on strengthening the muscles they will use to write later on.


Our daubers are quite well loved and the pads on the tips frequently get ripped off. You can still use the ink for other activities like colored shaving cream painting!

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Storytime: Relationship Building

Yesterday was the first day of a new session after a three week break. Those babies grew so much in three weeks!

Welcoming people back got me thinking about the relationships we make with our young patrons and their caregivers.  I’ve seen so many “methods” of bonding that work really well, but here’s what has worked for me. Visually, I’d say my approach is to expect a big smile rather than a big hug after a break (from adults, not kids-what would life be without knee hugs?).

1) Learning the child’s name is the most important thing, but it doesn’t hurt to learn the names of caregivers who are regulars, especially those with babies. They appreciate the thought and greeting them by name makes them feel like a regular which means they’ll likely keep being a regular. Babies don’t care much about you knowing their name, but knowing it and their mom’s name can make a huge impression on Mom.

2) Don’t get too personal. Forming relationships doesn’t mean being friends. You might make some friends along the way, but you shouldn’t be thinking about friendship when talking with caregivers. Stick to conversation about the library, literacy, their babies, and the weather. Occasionally a topic turns political, etc. and that’s when I quietly exit the conversation and leave parents to talk amongst themselves. They don’t need me for that conversation any more and I need to remain neutral to keep and gain trust with all patrons.

3) Be friendly but genuine. We are all used to putting on a smile to help even the most difficult of patrons. That kind of smile isn’t going to cut it with storytime adults. They can tell if you aren’t being genuine and that’s going to put space between you. How can they believe the things you are telling them if they don’t even believe you are happy to see them? P.S. If you aren’t happy to see people at storytime, you might rethink doing storytimes…

4) Passion and enthusiasm. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely got this already. But are you expressing your passion enthusiastically to your patrons? I’m not talk cheerleading here, just be excited to talk about what you do! You have great, important things to say and caregivers would much rather hear those things coming from a happy, lively librarian (that they trust, see #2) than one who is giving a lecture and doesn’t seem to enjoy doing it at that. This goes the other way, too. open your mind and heart to what caregivers are sharing with you, too. They often have great tips and kernels of advice you can “steal” and incorporate into another storytime’s parent tip. Mom’s have shared free spots for parents to hang out with their kids (great after storytime announcement!), Grandmas have taught me new songs, and Dads have demonstrated the proper way to make elephant sounds. These may seem little, but when they see you share them in a subsequent storytime, you’ve made a forever storytime lover and you’ve learned something new-hooray!

5) Be honest. Honesty is the key to any good relationship, but especially in the library. If you can’t give a patron an answer to their question for privacy reasons, etc. simply tell them that. “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you that staff person’s schedule. You are welcome to stop in on the 4th floor when you are here and ask for her, however.” OR “Oh, thanks for your interest, but I really prefer not to discuss politics at work. But I’d love to hear more about Katie’s music class!” They will appreciate your candor and you will not have alienated other patrons within hearing distance. Honesty also applies to setting expectations. Make sure your groups know what you expect from them right from the get go (trust me on this!). If you expect them to sing with you, ask them to sing with you! If you want them to sit and be quiet (oh, I hope not!), ask them to. It’s that simple. You are the expert. They will follow your lead.

6) Ask them to sing along. Really, I’m sure you all do this, but I find the best way to bond with people in storytime is by singing as a group. Not only does this bond you to your patrons but it bonds patrons to each other. They giggle over being tone deaf or singing the wrong words (no such thing, I say, as long as you’re singing), and encourage each other. Singing also breaks the ice for future conversations-hopefully AFTER storytime. Mostly, music makes us happy! Happy adults=happy kids.

7) It’s about the adults AND the kids. This sums everything up, really.  We are modeling how to interact with children for the adults in the room, some of whom may never have had experience with kids before they had their own. This is a huge part of storytime, especially for parents of babies. Parents are learning rhymes (for the first time!) we hope they will repeat at home, getting tips from other parents in the room, making friends, and watching their babies grow. We facilitate all this by providing our expertise and a safe, welcoming environment for them so they will want to return again and again. And if they can’t, they’ll at the very least have a positive image of the library and hopefully plenty of rhymes to carry with them for the rest of their lives.

I’m sure there’s so much more that I’m forgetting!

What kinds of relationships do you build with your patrons and how do you maintain them?



All this talk on alsc-l, ALSC blog, and LOTS of other blogs about using digital content and devices in storytime have gotten me thinking about ways to incorporate digital media, or at least tips relating to it, into storytime. The trouble I keep running in to is I do storytime for babies and toddlers. All the messages and information I can think of to spew at parents is all “No, no, no!” and that is NOT the negative kind of energy I want to have in storytime. I DO want them to know the cautions and research in regards to young children and screens, but I DON’T want them to feel as though I’m lecturing them.

So far my ideas for incorporating digital media:

-simply using the projector to broadcast words to the songs on the wall (I already do this with lyrics on paper hanging on the wall)

-project the cover of the book we’re reading while I read it

-project real-life images of things related to the book I read while reading (e.g. a dump truck while reading Tip, Tip, Dig, Dig by Emma Garcia)

-ditto with songs (e.g. a bus while singing wheels on the bus)

That’s not much folks!

Do any of you incorporate digital media in toddler storytime? Baby storytime? If so, what do you do?

Do you see a benefit for doing these things with toddlers and babies? Besides providing information about using media with kids?

I’m really hoping to generate some practical conversation on the topic. I’ve heard so much on the philosophical end and now I’m left with a happy brain and the question, “But HOW?”

There’s a lot out there about using tech in storytimes with older kids (mostly K and up) but I can’t seem to find much for the wee ones. I want to know what you are all doing and what works and doesn’t, or whether you think I’m just plain crazy for even thinking about doing something with toddlers.

So, PLEASE share!

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Toddler Storytime: owls, parachute and shaving cream

What do those things have in common? Nothing, except they all had a place in toddler storytime on Wednesday!

A note about the parachute: with toddlers I always make an announcement before getting out the chute: “Grown ups, please help me keep eyes on all the kids under the chute. If any look scared or hurt, please get them out from under the chute. We want this to be a fun and exciting experience without anyone getting hurt or scared! You can let your toddler help us with the chute if they are uncomfortable being underneath or they can sit in your lap and watch from a distance. Whatever works for your family.” I’ve never had any trouble using the parachute and I think it’s really because they are all on the lookout for their own kids and paying attention to others’ kids. I get a great sense of community with this activity.

Here’s how it all went down:

Welcome (back since I missed the week before due to a death in the family-happily they were all happy to see me again!): Reminders about storytime break in December and to please sing along because no matter how terrible you think you sound, your kids LOVE the sound of your voice! The more you sing, the more they learn.

Welcome Song: Hello Bubbles

Song: When Animals Get Up in the Morning (with frog, dog, owl, and snake)

Action Song: Wake Up Toes

Book: So Big! by Dan Yaccarino (out of print, sadly)

Action Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Book: Giant Pop-Out Pets by Wendy Lui This is one of those “guess who” kinds of books. I just start reading even though they aren’t really with me and then BAM! pop out that cat and they are ALL like “Wha?!” and “Whoa!” and “Ooooh!” Pop out magic for the win.

Shakers: We’re Tapping by Kathy Reid-Naiman

Shakers: Instrumental Freeze song

Parachute: These are the Colors Over You

Parachute: Wheels on the Bus

Parachute: Peek -a- Boo!

Book: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Jane Cabrera (just one verse)

Book for second session because a patron REALLY wanted Twinkle Twinkle in the first session and I just couldn’t say no!: Itsy Bitsy Spider by Annie Kubler

Goodbye Bubbles

Splish Splash

Activity: finger painting with shaving cream

Aren’t these kids adorable?! They had a LOT of fun!


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Toddler Storytime: Music

This was my first (of many) back to back toddler storytimes. Let’s just say I won’t be needing to work out on Tuesdays.

The groups weren’t too big -35 and 49- which helped a lot and the grown ups were really participating! It’s always nice to look out into a sea of smiling, singing, faces. Once I looked at some chatty moms and said “I need all the grown ups to sing with me!” and they did, so yay!

Here’s what we did:

Clean Up Song by Laurie Berkner-we put out toys for kids to play with while we wait for everyone to arrive and then we get to clean them up. More fun for some than others.

Welcome Song: Clap Everybody and Say Hello by Kathy Reid-Naiman

Read: Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler. This is possibily my most favorite storytime book. It has never failed me and it usually leaves parents sighing with contentment and it calms even the wildest toddler. It’s a magical book, I tell you. Go out and use it!

Action Rhyme: Jump Like a Frog (words found on rhymes page)

Song: Going to Kentucky

Read/Sing: Little White Duck by Walt Whippo. This is a great sing a long book for toddlers because the illustrations are so big and bright. Some parents will know the song or at least the tune. I invite them to sing with me, or just hum along once they get the tune. This version is out of print, of course. If anyone finds themselves with an extra copy, you know where to find me…

Puppets: Old MacDonald Had a Farm. I used hand puppets this time instead of finger puppets so I stored them in a big black garbage bag to keep them out of sight until the song. It worked really well. This time we had a monkey on the farm. And a ruff.

Read/Sing: Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz. Even though this is long, I sing through the whole thing. There’s something about the Wheels on the Bus that keeps toddlers engaged and they never seem to get tired of singing it. It was the last book and they were all rapt.

Shakers: Freeze Dance

I told them to keep their shakers during bubbles because today’s activity was playing with musical instruments. Most of them still wanted to put their shakers away, which was fine because the bin was within reach for them. After we blew bubbles I put down the shaker bin plus two other bins with egg shakers, maracas, cymbals, rhythm sticks, jingle bells, and cage bells. In the first group a clever toddler turn one of the bins upside down and found it to be an excellent drum! Love it!

This is my favorite kind of toddler storytime. What’s yours?

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Toddler Storytime: Colors

Historically, I haven’t really done themed storytimes. When I first started doing storytimes it was helpful to use a theme do help me organize my thoughts and program, but after a while I felt limited by themes. So for a few years I just stopped doing them. As a coworker said to me recently “the theme for every storytime is my favorites”. Folks at my new library use themes and that’s totally fine because they don’t require me to by any means. However, I share toddler and baby storytimes with a coworker (she does one time slot, I do the other) and it’s just easier to make our storytimes as similar as possible. This discourages patrons from double dipping and helps with planning any after storytime activity. She likes themes and I’m flexible so themes it is!

Today’s theme was colors and here’s what I did:

*words to rhymes and songs can be found here


Clap Everybody and Say Hello by Kathy Reid-Naiman


Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear action rhyme: to get everyone sitting down (as much as that’s a possibility for toddlers)


Read: Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek

Lots of “ooooh!” and “wow!” from this book, as usual. They seemed to genuinely enjoy the insects and colors throughout the book so the butterfly was like icing on the cake. Even though this is a longish book they were with me the whole time.


Jump Like a Frog action rhyme


Itsy Bitsy Spider (regular sized spider, then big humongous spider, then eeny teeny spider with a squeaky voice, of course)


Read: I Went Walking by Sue Williams

They love “walking” with their hands on their laps. The older kids in the room definitely stole the spotlight by answering the “Who do you see?” every time, but the little guys seemed to be okay with that and some of them even answered in their own good time, as if they didn’t even hear the older kid shout out the answer.


Shakers: We’re Tapping by Kathy Reid-Naiman

Did this song twice and we tapped the shakers on our knees, rang by our ears, and shook like crazy!


Shakers: Freeze Dance (instrumental)


Scarves: Put Your Scarves in the air, in the air


Scarves: These are the colors over you


Goodbye Bubble song and pretend to blow the bubbles away


Real bubbles to Splish, Splash


The activity: white construction paper and daubers-simple and they LOVE it!


Another toddler storytime done: 72 people in the room for this one, but they were an amazing crowd so I didn’t even notice the size.  Caregivers are catching on that their toddlers are more attentive and involved when they are participating along with their child. I even had about half the grownups standing up and dancing with me! My goal is 100% but it’s going to take some time. Have to teach these guys how to be silly. I’ll get them soon enough. 🙂

*Exciting side note for me: here’s a link to an article about our library. Plus some pictures of toddler storytime in action so you can see what it looks like (I’m the tall one in a plaid shirt)! Our children’s library is certainly something to see (pictured is just the program room) and is becoming a popular gathering place for families in the community.