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I began my school year visits to Head Start in the past few weeks.  I’m a new piece of the school day for most of the kids so I talk about who I am, where I work, and what a library is. While explaining about how the library has lots of books, I asked who had a book of their own at home (hoping to then talk about how they could come get more at the library!).

One child raised his hand.

I know this. But it still took my breath away.

This is why we do storytimes. This is why we have book giveaways. This is why we have libraries in neighborhoods and in the poorer parts of town. This is why we are librarians and teachers and Friends of the Library members and Board members and active parents.

This is why we read to kids. Because during that week, that may be the only time they see how to use a book. That may be the only story they hear. That may be the only time they sing a song and have fun with words.

That may be the only time that week that the part of their brain that’s trying sooooo hard to develop language–it may be the only time it gets fed.

Support programs that give good, new books away. And read to a child. You’ll change a life,


Bears, horses, and sausages! Oh my! But it’s what I’ve been doing in storytime the last few weeks, and it’s immensely satisfying to see how much the kids enjoy this mix.

After our opening song, I read The Three Bears. I prefer the Barton version. It’s simply told and the pictures are clear and colorful. The Three Bears is a magical story. I’ve never had a group of kids (from toddlers up through age eight) that weren’t just enthralled with it.

I then tell them we are all going to tell the story again, a different way! That’s when we do the fingerplay, The Three Bears (click here). Because The Three Bears relies so much on sequence, it’s a great story for reinforcing narrative skills. So the second time through the fingerplay, I reinforce it even more by letting the kids “remember” what comes next (bowls, chairs, beds, and bears).

Next book up–Bear Wants More by Wilson followed by more food: Ten Fat Sausages (click here). Bear Wants More is in rhyme so it builds phonological awareness as does Sausages with its rhythm and alliteration. I do it as a chant with the kids clapping on the beat. I hold up my handy-dandy flannel board stand-in (a whiteboard with pieces stuck on with double-sided tape) during the chant.

On it is a frying pan, complements of free clip art, and ten sausages, also from clip art. I print the pictures off, trim them to shape, and add the tape to their backs. The sausages won’t all actually fit in the pan so I fan them across the space above the pan in two groups of five.

We clap, we chant, and on POP, I remove one sausage and on BAM, I remove another. Then I pause and count the sausages and we start again till we get to zero sausages. I always do it a second time (sometimes a third, the kids love it) and when I place the sausages back on the board, I also count aloud.

Finally, I tell the kids I’ve got one more puzzle for them (because the sausages have been a puzzle; you can just see their little wheels a-turnin’ during it). Then we read Are You A Horse by Rash. I try to get straight through this one the first time without too many questions so they can get as much of the flow as possible. And I always quietly hold the last page up for many, many seconds until someone finally gets it and the giggles begin.

It’s not your traditional springtime storytime (except for Bear Wants More) but the kids enjoy it sooooo much.

Hope you do too!


I’ve had folks ask for specifics on the storytime that turned into such a great moment for developing the early literacy skill of print awareness (read more here).

I start off with a picture of a real sheep; her name is Miss Molly. And I have a bag of her wool. While the kids pass around and feel some of it (you may have to teach them “passing around” :-)), we talk about what wool is and what it’s used for. Then we read stories about sheep!

Here are the books we read:

The Surprise by Van Ommen: This is the wordless book I start with. The first spread is great for beginning to discern whether the kids have a sense of print awareness or not. It shows a sheep standing on a bathroom scale–and nothing else! The entire background in solid yellow. No distractions. Can they recognize that there are no words on the page?

Where is the Green Sheep? by Fox: If they can’t “see” that there a no words in The Surprise, show them Green Sheep and read a few pages. What’s neat about it is that you’ll have page with words and picture, another page with words and picture, another page with words and picture–then! boom! page with only words. Can the kids “see” the words on the picture-less white page?

The two books were just made for each other and made for highlighting print!

After reading both, we read Snow Lambs by Gliori. It takes a little preparation; show them the map on the end papers. Point out the house and river and tree on it. Various pages through out the story need some pointing, highlighting something in the picture, just a few extra words of explanation. But don’t overdo it. The kids may start off squirmy, but it’s a good story, well told, and they will be quietly engrossed if you give them time. They all want to know what happened to Bess!

Songs we sang:

  • Baa, baa, black sheep
  • 1 little, 2 little, 3 little lambies
  • Cows on the the farm (go moo, moo, moo) to the tune of Wheels on the Bus

This is one of my favorite storytimes! The kids love it, the teachers love it, and I love it! Try it with your groups!


Coincidence is glorious fun sometimes! Just this week, I’ve been working with my grad students on how children develop their first understandings of gender identity during the ages of 3ish to 6ish. And along came this lovely conversation before storytime between me and a 4 year old boy.

He’s looking at a poster we have up for a showing of the new Chipmunk movie. Unprompted he begins talking to me.

Boy: Those are The Chipmunks.

Me: Yes, they are.

(He thinks for a bit.)

Boy: Those (pointing to the top of the picture) are the boy chipmunks. Those (pointing to the bottom of the picture) are the girl ones.

Me: Yes, there are boy chipmunks and girl chipmunks.

Boy (looking me right in the eye): Are you a girl?

Me: Yes, I’m a girl. (At the time I’m dressed in jeans and a purple shirt with a flower pattern on it. I have fairly short hair.)

Me: And are you a boy?

Boy: Yes, I’m a boy!

Me: And mama?

Boy: She’s a girl. (He says this very proudly, as if he really “knows” something important here.)

Then he wanders off.

We don’t find it hard to understand when children between one and two are trying to figure out the differences between a cat and a dog—and it doesn’t concern us when they “get it wrong” at first. Children look for and form a pattern (or schema) and “use it” to identify what something is—until they come across a new piece that doesn’t fit. Then they have to change the schema and it becomes more accurate.

We often get uncomfortable, though, when we see and hear them going through the same process concerning gender. We worry when they “get it wrong.” While in process, they might say quite strongly, “only girls can wear pink,” “boys don’t play with babies,” or “mamas and daddies are always married.” These are all characteristics they’ve picked out to form their initial patterns for what a girl/woman is and what a boy/man is. As they explore their world more, just like with cats and dogs, their schema changes and develops. With opportunities to play and explore and with exposure to lots of different people, their schemas become more and more accurate.

So when children declare “boys/girls ONLY….” at this age, don’t panic! They are not growing into narrow minded little adults. They are growing children. Just think back to their days of learning cats and dogs. “Dogs are bigger than cats!” A simple “Yes, many dogs are bigger than cats” affirms what they have figured out and learned. You might add, “And there are some dogs that are smaller than cats.” But unless you’ve got an example right in front of you, don’t expect much of a reaction! 🙂 Model your responses about gender similarly. “Girls have long hair” “Yes, many girls do have long hair.” Opportunities will come for further learnings as life goes on!

Finally, what, pray tell, does this have to do with books? Well, we can go overboard with our concerns, misinterpreting normal development for gender stereotypes–and then we push books into service for which they were not intended and is not needed. We do need to provide children with gender aware books and stories, rather than gender biased ones.  We do need books that show girls doing many different things and boys doing many different things.  But we  shortchange kids when we show only the either/or: either the traditional roles or the non-traditional roles but not both.  Providing both gives children the widest view of the marvelous variety and uniqueness of each individual.

So we provide good grist for the their mills and they develop in their own way and time.



Today’s storytime was a chance to see print awareness, or lack of it, in action. Print awareness is exactly what it says: the awareness of print on the page–letters, words, sentences–and understanding the connection between the print on the page and what is read aloud.

It sounds really easy, really obvious, really simple. And in a way, it is–if you are read to, if you have an adult to talk with you about books, if you are already a reader.

But for kids between the ages of birth and age five, print awareness has to be developed. They do come “pre-wired” with the  drive and ability to learn language (and reading’s one part of that development) but we as adults have to provide the means for the learning to happen. Children are not born with print awareness.

In today’s storytime with kids from a local preschool,  I’m holding up and talking about the book, The Surprise, by Van Ommen. The kids recognize that it’s a sheep on the cover. We talk about wool, and I pass around samples to feel. I show them the first pages. A sheep is standing on a bathroom scale. We laugh at it and talk about what the sheep is doing.

Then I ask them, “What’s different about this book?” I get blank looks.

“What do you notice is missing on the pages?” More blank looks.

I’ve asked them these questions because The Surprise is a wordless book. But the real surprise?  Not one child could tell me that there were no words on the pages. (And it’s not because they are shy; they answered previous questions easily.)

We look at more pages in the book. I hold up another book that does have words and ask them what is different.  (Remember those same and different puzzle sheets you did as a child? Here’s one reason why.) They come up with some very good answers. The other book has a jeep in the picture, it has grass in the picture, there is a bird in the picture.

Do you see a trend here? Everything is about the pictures.

When I finally cover the picture up and ask again what’s different, they all study and study some more.  And at last, one little boy finally gets it. He shouts it out–WORDS!

And then we spend more time looking at the two books’ pages and talking about what words are for, why they are there, how they are different from pictures. They are fascinated as they should be because they are learning something so vitally important about language and how it works.

And without that knowledge in another couple years, they would be lost as they tried to figure out what reading was, how it worked, and why they wanted to learn it.

Final point, the fact that ALL the kids were clueless suggests to me that building print awareness is not happening in those classrooms. And that’s why librarians have storytimes and model to teachers and give tips about what it is and how it works. It’s why we go out into the community and teach classes about early literacy and talk every chance we get about these very simple but essential skills.

If we don’t, it simply will not happen. And that’s no surprise.

Talk on!


Here’s an excellent reading (with music and pictures) of Mem Fox’s book, The Goblin and the Empty Chair. Click here.

So sit down with the kiddos of all ages and enjoy! (And it just happens to be read by Mem herself).



The sun is shining here in the Valley but who knows when it might snow next! So it’s “Snow Time!”

We read:

  • Snow Bears by Waddell (the kids get soooo tickled with the baby bears)
  • Snowmen at Night by Buehner (this one always makes the kids think, hmmm, I wonder if….)
  • Listen, Listen by Gershator (covers all the seasons with lots of good sounds for phonological awareness building)
  • The Snowy Day by Keats (click here and give a listen for one reason why I love this story).

We also did these rhymes & fingerplays:

  • Here is a snowman
  • Snow is falling
  • The day is cloudy

I’ll record and post those late on Friday when it’s quiet here in the office. 🙂

Finally, the Early Lit TIP is:

  • Many fingerplays help with sequencing skills–and sequencing helps with telling and reading stories later.

Have fun and stay warm!


CLEL (Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy) has updated their website clel logoespecially their section for Baby Storytimes. (From the home page, just click on the Storytimes link on the left.)

Whether you’re a parent wondering why bother, a  librarian unsure about trying this, or a concerned (or perhaps skeptical) adult annoyed by all the noise, the following testimonial gives a great look at why babies (and parents) benefit from storytimes.

And for a librarian’s take on what happens in baby storytimes, read here.

We do have a baby storytime here at Southern Peaks Library; it’s called “Toddler Time” and it’s for ages birth to age 3ish. There’s lots of singing, rhymes & fingerplays, and movement–and even a few books! 😉 We really do have a lot of fun and would love to have you join us, Fridays at 10:30 a.m.!

Go Babies!


Despite having sleet here in the Valley this morning (sheesh!), we had “all things fall” storytime.

Here’s what was included:Pumpkins

  • The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri
  • I Know It’s Autumn by Eileen Spinelli
  • Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond (not fall, just for fun)
  • Old Bear by Kevin Henkes (my extra, just in case book)

We did rhymes & fingerplays (scroll down left column for words and audio):

  • Whisky, Frisky Squirrel (displayed a picture of squirrel with nuts)
  • Five Little Leaves (five leaves taped to white board with tree trunk and branches drawn in)
  • I’m an Orange Pumpkin (sung to tune of I’m a Little Teapot).

Early Literacy TIP:  Changes happen almost daily in the fall. Help kids notice them and talk about them, building vocabulary and narrative skills.


We had fun with “Mouse and Mice” in storytime today!

We read:circle time

  • Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley has nice rhymes and lots of pictures to talk about.
  • A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker develops print awareness and narrative skills plus you can add fun voices and a suspenseful build-up.
  • Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh is great for playing with colors afterwards.

We played and sang:

  • Hickory, Dickory, Dock stand-up game
  • Little Mousie fingerplay
  • and Buenos Dias and If You’re Happy and You Know It since it was a new group.

Rhymes, games, songs, and fingerplays are all available under Rhymes & Fingerplays; scroll down the left-hand column.

Have fun!


It was a quiet group today but raucous books!punk farm

On the reading list were books about sounds, music, and dancing.

  • Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka
  • Barn Dance by Bill Martin, Jr. and
  • Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin

Of course, we had to sing Old MacDonald with the kids picking the animals. And I did finally get them to be a little noisy, filling in the moo’s on click, clack, MOO!

Early literacy skills today included:

  • Print awareness (Click, clack, moo)
  • Narrative skills (sequencing) (Punk Farm and Old MacDonald)
  • Phonemic Awareness (rhymes) (Barn Dance, animal sounds, and Old Mac)

The school year’s still young. They’ll soon learn that it’s ok to talk about books with the librarian and sing and play along. They always do!


Thinking about bringing your little one to Toddler Time–but kinda wondering why? And how? (Note: Toddler Time at Southern Peaks Public Library is for children from birth through age 3).

Here’s the why:Mama and Baby

  • 85% of a child’s language develops between birth and age 5.
  • Positive associations with books, libraries, and reading aloud  encourage reading later.
  • Songs, rhymes, movement, and stories build language in fun, developmentally appropriate ways.

And here’s the how’s:

During the first few weeks–

Toys and food are best left in the car. Other children will want to have “it” too. At these ages, though, children are not able to share and problems usually develop.

When Toddler Time is no longer fun, it is time to leave. The noise is not a problem; the unhappiness is. It is very important that a child’s time spent with you, with books, and at the library is enjoyable.

The younger the child, the more they will wiggle, squirm, and move around. It’s OK. Sitting still is not the goal. Length of time you stay is not the goal. Being present and having fun are the goals.

Some children like to move up front during the stories. That works—as long as they do not stand so that other children cannot see the pictures. Help them to sit down, sit with you, or you come forward and sit them on your lap.

Relax and enjoy this special time with your child!


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