How I Plan My Storytimes

I've been putting off admitting to this publicly, but a few people have asked how I plan my storytimes, so here is how I do it. I'm sure there are much more organized ways of doing this, but this is how it works for me. I want to stress that I am probably insane and you should bear that in mind while reading this post.

Brainstormed list of Not Themes
The first thing I do is make a list of possible topics. I don't like to think of them as "themes" because themes wind up feeling too specific for me. For example, there are lots of great books about pigs but I get bored reading a bunch of books about them. So instead I'll do a storytime on farms. I've found that by broadening my range of acceptable subjects that my storytimes wind still feeling cohesive but I'm not reading any books I don't really love. I won't read a book that doesn't "do it" for me. Nothing gets thrown in just because I need one more book, etc.

Pink Notecards of Final Not Themes
I plan a whole session at once (6-8 weeks), so I write each theme (OK, I called them themes!) I'm considering on the top of a postcard. These happen to be pink, which is awesome because it stands out more on the pigsty that is my desk. Also I like pink.  I write down any ideas that I'm inspired by from blogs or any books that I know I would love to read at storytime, as well as proven crowd pleasers. I want to stress how important it is to read books that you know will go over well as it will boost your confidence. I've been doing storytimes for several years now and I still get a little nervous. That is normal. I've found that it helps me a ton when there is a book that I just love and can't wait to share with the group, so look for a book that begs to be read aloud.

My favorite storytime planning books
Inevitably, some of the cards will wind up a little short. That's when I hit my favorite planning resources. Pinterest is quickly becoming one of my favorite idea sources for crafts. In addition, I read a lot of blogs and I am always discovering new books, rhymes, and activities that way. Some of my favorite blogs are listed on the Recommended Reading sidebar, but obviously they are not all storytime-related.  I am also constantly ILL-ing planning books, but I keep coming back to the three in this image:
Storytime Magic
Preschool Favorites: 35 Storytimes Kids Love and
Creative Resources for the Early Childhood Classroom

Eventually, I come up with about 5-6 things on each card. Usually it is 2-3 books, a short flannelboard or 2, a craft, and maybe a song. When I combine that with the rhymes and activities I always use as my storytime opening, I have a completed storytime plan! If things roll along, I can have  an entire session of storytimes planned in about 2 hours of work.

So that's how I plan my storytimes. I'd love to hear about your process! And I hope I didn't insult anyone with my anti-theme planning process. Basically I do use some themes--just general ones. I've also just read books that I liked for storytime and not worried about whether there was any connection, but it does help me feel more organized to have a connection between the stories.


  1. I tend to start from one book that will make a super read aloud or a craft that is super cute and build from there. There are five of us in my department who do storytimes, so we like to choose themes that are broad enough to give everyone choices of what books/songs/activities to do. We do themes just because it's what people are used to (and it can make planning easier - if you have no theme at all, there's so much to choose from that it can be overwhelming!). But I am not at all married to themes. We didn't use them at the last library I worked at. I'd rather have awesome read-alouds than only-okay-read-alouds that stick to a theme.

  2. Abby, a lot of my possible themes come from running across a great book or craft and building a storytime from that.

    It's just me in my department so I don't have to worry about what other presenters are down for. It's kind of like the wonderful thing about Tigger--I'm the only one!

  3. Anne, first of all I want to say I like your new website. I also enjoyed some of the recent blog posts on the site.

    Like you I am the only one in my department, so I have free rein for storytimes. I think of the themes first and then visit websites like and Those sites are from Hennepin Library System and Multnomah Library System.

    I try to take advantage of the children's cds in the library and we got a new CD player that allows you to hook up your ipod and play songs, so I got some songs from Itunes too.

  4. I have to say, I love themes - but I never have a problem finding a book to read - I usually order in about 20-30 of the books around the theme, read them all and then pick the 3 I would like to do - but I usually have 5-7 on the desk so I can adapt my books to the needs of the kids. I like to have a non-fiction one as well, but it's not a law. I also make notes in my files when I find a great book (usually new) that would work with a theme so I don't have to try and remember - I always order in the books I read the previous time but I don't make myself use those. I have all my storytimes on a file on my computer and I have the layout listed and then on the following pages I have all my rhymes and songs that I'll use. I also have those files printed and organized in my file folder and when I get a good storytime book in I have my LSA go through and copy the themes/ideas and then put them into my folders. When I get ready for storytime I look at my general line up and then re-evaulate anything that I put in since then and make changes as necessary. This also means that my storytimes are planned out for every year, I repeat but make changes as I see fit. It's really nice because then I am planned and when I have an LSA who can order or prep for me she doesn't have to wait on me to get things to her - she can work independently. But I'm totally going to check out pinterest! I love to find new crafts and change those up every year or so!

  5. Michelle, those are great sites for planning storytimes! Thanks for sharing. Also thanks for the blog design compliment.

    Anna, I think what I was trying to get across was that I do use themes-unless I'm doing a no-themed storytime, but I try not to think of them as themes because then I find that I wind up worrying that I don't have enough duck books, when the most important thing is to have GOOD books.

    I can use ILL to get books in for storytime, but I prefer to use books we have available at my branch (we are the much bigger branch of a 2-branch system) so the patrons can check them out. If I got them from ILL, I'd have to get another copy ordered in from them and they'd have to wait a week or more. I do sometimes get contenders from ILL and if I really like a book for storytime, I will buy us a copy. But we have more than 5,000 picture books in my branch, so I try to stick to those as much as possible.

    I love that you try to incorporate some nonfiction into your storytimes. Can you share some of your favorite titles? I've only used a few NF titles and I'd love to add more to my storytimes.

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone! It has been really interesting reading it. :)

  6. I was using themes, but when I revamped my preschool storytime this past summer, I moved to a new model. Now I have "Preschool Interactive" and I use a structure instead of a theme. I basically just plug books in - great new books, seasonal books, old favorites add lots of movement and a process art project and voila! You can see my storytime plans here I also try to have at least one nonfiction in every storytime. I use a lot of Steve Jenkins, Cathryn Sill, and I count folktales as nonfiction (-:

  7. I have been known to use as my theme "Books with a yellow cover" (as an example). I usually start with one book which just catches my idea, or sometimes a craft, and build it from there. I am loving the idea of using a non fiction. Might have to think about that one.

  8. I found that themes can sometimes be a trap. For example, for 4th of July, I do the holiday and birthdays. Otherwise, the books about Independence day are all to cutesy and say the same thing. Boring. As you said, never read a book that you don't love. By adding a secondary theme, I can put whatever other books I want - along with flannel boards, fingerplays, songs, crafts, etc.


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