Parachute ideas for all kinds of programs!

Stumped for ideas for using the parachute at storytime?

Think outside the picture books stacks!

Here are some great ideas for incorporating material from other areas of your collection.

Want to make your own clip art?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started!

Some easy ways to spice up your site!

Be sure to suggest your favorites in the comments!

Ideas for incorporating factual materials into storytime

There is lots of great nonfiction for kids out there. If I missed your favorite, leave a comment!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Traditional Songs to Sing and Act Out at the Library

Yesterday I shared some of my favorite songs to play when we're using recorded music at storytime. To add to the list, here are some great traditional and camp songs that are perfect for when you don't have a CD player handy. A lot of these are perfect for school or scouting visits. Most of them work wonderfully to start off slow while the kids learn the motions and then get faster and faster until the audience is a sweaty, giggling mess. If I missed your favorite, please leave a comment! I'm always on the lookout for more activities like these.

"Johnny Works with One Hammer," perfect for a construction themed storytime (pair it with "Five Little Nails"). Or anytime you want to get a little bit silly. The Wiggles popularized this song so the odds are good some of the kids will know it.


"Hi, My Name is Joe and I Work in a Button Factory" I actually learned this song at summer camp as a rising fourth grader and have very fond memories of singing it in the mess hall.  The guy in this video is crazy animated, so you've been warned. 


"Chester Have You Heard About Harry" is another song I learned at camp in elementary school. My public school sent all the fifth graders to a sleep-away camp in the fall for 2 nights as a field trip, and one of the activities was singing this song over and over and over and over again. There are lots of different lyrics. The version I learned is similar to this video except that I learned "I hear he knows how to wear a rose" but I think "touch his toes" is actually better. I've also heard "how to wear his clothes" but we don't need people picturing a naked guy while we're trying to talk about the library, so I think that's out.


"Sleeping Bunnies"  How did I miss this one growing up, in library school, and until now? Thanks to the Storytime Underground crowd for mentioning it on Twitter. It's awesome! The kids love anything where they pretend to be asleep and then "wake up" and go bananas! This version includes other animals and you can make up your own verses too. My friend Miss Mary has a video where she shows you how to play this song on the ukelele, if you are not incredibly untalented musically like myself.

"If You're Happy and You Know It" I start all my 2's and 3's storytimes with this one. I like to do silly verses, preferably with animal actions like "flap your wings," "shake your tail," etc. I also enjoy gross motor ones (jump up high, spin around) or even smaller ones like trying to get them to blink their eyes. I end with "SHOUT HOORAY" and we all bring our arms up at "HOORAY!" 


Monday, July 22, 2013

Favorite Recorded Music at Storytime

I've been making it a point to share more recorded music at storytime, to introduce parents to the many awesome kids' performers out there. We still sing traditional songs without recorded music, particularly my personal favorite "The Wheels on the Bus," but I like to promote our CD collection too.  I've included YouTube videos when possible. The kids get scarves and we boogie, sometimes we freeze dance and sometimes we are all-out dancin' fools. Here's some songs that have been big hits!

"Jump Up" by Dan Zanes (Track 1 on Family Dance) I looked up the lyrics online for this song and all of the sites had the verses out of order, so that's an FYI. I just copy and pasted them and then fixed them in Word. I think this would be a bigger hit with babies and toddlers under my current age group though. It's a bit slow for my 2's and 3's storytime kids (very rambunctious crowd), but I could see it being a hit at a baby storytime. I love this song though.

"Silly Dance Contest" by Jim Gill (Track #8: Jim Gill Sings The Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Songs) 

"Alabama, Mississippi" by Jim Gill (Track 5: Jim Gill Sings The Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Songs). A great song for shakers and you know how I love Jim Gill! One time he left a comment on my blog and now I'm famous by association with my best friend forever. 



"The Cha Cha Slide" by DJ Casper (Track 1: Cha Cha Slide: The Original Slide Album or there is also a version on Radio Disney James 8) I was kind of kidding when I suggested this to Kendra as a replacement for her beloved Tooty Ta, but it turns out she actually does this with her preschool dance party, so I guess all bets are off and it's going on this list. There are a lot of videos on YouTube of kids doing this dance at preK or kindergarten graduations so legally, you have a precedent. 


"Tooty Ta" by Dr. Jean, speaking of the devil, this one is also very popular with the preschool set. And it's very easy to perform without musical accompaniment if you're in a setting where a CD player isn't readily accessible (outdoor storytime). 

"Down by the Bay" by Raffi (Track 2: Singable Songs for the Very Young)
This song always inspires a storytime mosh pit. The grandparents especially love it as many of them sang it to their kids when Raffi was big in the 70's, 80's, and '90s. Now their kids are my age and having kids of their own. You have to love a song that stretches across generations connecting them. And this one is so much fun to sing along to. I can't get this one to embed, here's the link. This version is hilarious with some classic Raffi failed rhymes.

"Shake my Sillies Out" by Raffi. (Track 13: More Singable Songs) Basically obligatory to introduce any child in your life to this one (again, can't get Raffi to embed for some reason, sorry). Raffi knows how to get down, that's what I'm saying.  

A lot of these are songs I sing with my daughter as well, especially when I'm changing her diaper, otherwise she'll jump off the changing table. But if we sing to her, she lies almost still enough that I can change her and almost get the diaper on. She loves "Hands Are For Clapping" by Jim Gill as she is a big fan of clapping and saying "YAYYYYYYY!"  Here's a picture of my daughter "reading" the board book version of "Down by the Bay" when she was supposed to be napping. I caught her on the video monitor. Future children's librarian? 
I've been working on this post for weeks, and in the meantime Miss Ingrid blogged her favorite songs for storytime, there's some great stuff there so check it out. I've got a post coming tomorrow about favorite traditional songs, so stay tuned! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

"Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie" Puppet Show

Today for Flannel Friday, I'm sharing a version of a new picture book called Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie. It's by Mary Ellen Jordan and Andrew Weldon (a couple from a farm in Australia, according to the book's end flap). Judging by its reviews on GoodReads, it's not been a popular one, but I found it funny. I guess everyone can't be as much of a fan of chickens in purple underwear as I am.

Since I do storytimes just for kids 2 and 3 now, I decided to tell this one with puppets for our upcoming pig storytime. It's an easy one! All the puppets you'll need are (in this order):

  • Cow
  • Pig (I'm actually using a different, full-body oen when I do this with the kids, but it was too much darkness to get a good photo) 
  • Chicken
  • Dog

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Our Summer Reading Program Works

We're about half-way through with the summer reading program at my library, yay! I thought I'd share how our children's summer reading program works. My system also has separate reading programs for teens, adults, and staff members that each work a little bit differently.

Summer Reading by the Numbers
Starting Date: Monday, June 10 (first day for sign-ups)
Prizes Begin: Monday, June 17 (also the first week of storytimes, although each branch designated a program as it's "Kick Off Event" during the first week of SRP)
Ending Date: Saturday, August 10 (last day for prizes)
Total number of kids we expect to sign-up at my branch: 2,000 (approximately, we're at about 1,950 as of Friday)
Books purchased to give away this year at my branch: 1,262
Books left over from last year: 254
Total number of books available to be given away: 1,516 (there will be leftovers)

Reading Logs (Click on the pictures to enlarge them) 
Outside of Reading Log
When kids come in to sign up, we hand them one a numbered reading log. They write their name on the outside and we explain the program. Kids can choose between writing the titles of the books they read (or listen to someone else read) on the lines inside or make a check mark in the box for every 20 minutes that they read. As a sign-up prize, we give away a reusable shopping bag with the library's logo on it, while supplies last. When kids sign up, they can write their name on a paper worm (made with an Ellison die-cut machine) and add it to our bulletin board.

In addition to tracking books or time, the kids can do activities instead of reading where the sand pails are on the log. The activities are listed on the inside flap of the log. They are:

  • Turn the TV or computer off for 24 hours
  • Come to a fun library program or movie
  • Sing "If You're Happy and You Know It, Dig a Hole" for the library staff
  • Find books about diggers and dump trucks at the library
  • Draw a picture of an animal that lives underground and bring it to the Library. (We hang these up on a bulletin board, if the child lets us.)
  • Visit our website and view a Tumblebook
  • Play outside in the sand, bike, or walk. 
  • Demonstrate your "worm" dance moves
  • Inside of Reading Log
  • Plant or help in the garden. Check out a book on gardening. 

Getting Prizes
At the bottom of the first page, the kids can come in to get their half-way prize (a coupon for an ice cream cone at McDonald's.) They can do this right when they get to that spot, or they can wait until they finish the second page and collect all of their prizes at once. If a child cannot have one of the food prizes, we have a box of alternative small prizes (bookmarks, etc.) that they can pick from instead.

At the bottom of the second page, the kids have officially finished the summer reading program. They get a coupon for a free pretzel at Auntie Anne's, a cookie from Subway, and we give all of the kids a paperback book. There is a lot of selection (27 different chapter book titles, which I personally think is an overwhelming amount of selection) and we have board books, picture books, early readers, and chapter books (including some nonfiction) to choose from.

The last day to pick up their prizes is Saturday, August 10th. If they finish before then, we give our Read 4 More Logs, which work the same way but are on blue slips of paper. These are entered into the patron's choice of two drawings: for a $25 gift card to Target or Meijer (this is Michigan, after all) or 5 tickets to the local zoo. I think it's always great to give an experience as a prize rather than something disposable that will be lost, so I love the zoo tickets idea.

Keeping Statistics
We number the reading logs to track how many kids have signed-up so far at our branch. First thing on Monday morning, before we open, the staff writes down how many logs have been taken. If a child loses a log, they are given an unnumbered one as a replacement.

To track how many kids finish, we see how many books are left at the end of the summer (the inventory is tracked by category: board books, early readers, chapter books, etc.). Leftover books are kept to give away next year OR sometimes added to our book club collection

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Putting It All Together: What My Storytime Prep Looks Like

I always enjoy hearing about the process that other librarians go through while preparing their storytimes, as well as seeing the space they present the finished product(s) in. Here's what I do now that I'm in my new library.

I get a sheet listing what my branch's themes will be for the entire session a few weeks prior to the start of storytimes. For summer 2013 the themes are: fish/beach/pond, ducks/chickens, bugs, pirates, tool time, pigs, and pets. We do 7-week sessions. I have three classes of 2's and 3's each week: 2 on Tuesday mornings, and 1 on Wednesday mornings.

The tubs begin rolling in a week or two before the session is scheduled to begin. I always get really excited to open them (we will have 1-2 at a time, generally as they rotate between our 4 branches). Here's a peek into the tub for this week (pirates!) :


There's usually anywhere from 1-3 puppets, 1-5 flannel boards, and some extension activities. The binder has a table of contents for the tub and a sheet for all of the presenters to jot down which materials they used. It can be really useful to see what went over well at the other branches.  Also inside the binder? Songs and rhymes related to the theme. There are also three stacks of books rubber-banded together. There is a stack of shorter books for 2- and 3- year olds, longer books for 4- and 5-year olds, and then toy/pop-up books. Of course, you can use books from whichever stack when presenting. One smart thing about this system is that we use the book's pocket to put a note saying which stack the books go into, so presenters can pack them up properly without having to consult the master list in the binder. 

As I go through the tub contents, I make my own three piles of books: yes, no, and maybe.  If, after I go through all of them, my "yes" pile is pretty light, I start doing some research. I'll check blogs (even my own, because I have done most themes by now but can't remember what titles I used). I also have a few go-to storytime planning manuals that I'll scan through. And I do catalog searches to see what's at my branch as well. If I'm working more than 2 days ahead of the first storytime, I'll see what the other branches have as we have daily deliveries to and from all locations. 

As I work, I make notes on my storytime outline. Yes, I've upgraded from my pink index cards of yore, and now I print one of these sheets off for every week of a session (I write them down so I can blog them later and then I reuse the back side for scratch paper): 

"STICKERS!!!" = I forgot that my predecessor gave out stickers at the end of each storytime and didn't have any one day. OOPS. 
Once I've put together enough material for a half-hour whirlwind of literacy and chaos, I throw everything into a box and haul it into our children's program room on the morning of storytime. Come on in! 
My predecessor started a thing with the 2's and 3's where we stand outside this door, count to 3, and yell "OPEN SESAME" to get enough storytime magic to open the doors. 
The right half of the room (see below) is where we do storytimes. The kids typically sit on the floor and the adults will sit in chairs on the perimeter or at the tables in the back half (not shown). We can fit around 60 people at 2's and 3's semi-comfortably. Thank goodness the kids are still pretty small at this age, because there are a lot of them registered for my storytimes! Below is what the audience sees. 

I love the paint colors of this room. It reminds me of being in a tub of Superman ice cream, which I'm told is a Midwestern thing only? Do they have Superman ice cream wherever you are?  
Over on the left, you can see our AV set-up. That's a CD changer with a 5 CD capacity. I don't trust those things so I remove CDs when switching. Actually, I generally only use CDs that have at least 2 songs that I like on them. At my previous library, I always used iTunes playlists from my own personal device and found that more to my liking, but I haven't experimented with that here yet. Maybe in the fall session when I'm more settled in.

The first thing I do when I bring my stuff in to set up the room is put the music on. I find it a good opportunity to warm up my voice and my storytime persona. The next thing I do is put the houses for "Little Mouse" on the board and give Miss Mouse a good hiding spot. I put a puppet or two or three on top of the flannel board to give the kids a hint of what our theme for the day is.

How I set up my easel for storytimes
Books go in the  middle of the flannel board easel, which has a white board on the reverse side, with a ledge for big books. There is a red pocket below the book shelf where I put the stickers for the kids at the end of the program. On the floor I house props like scarves (in that striped bag), bean bags, flannel board stories, additional puppets, etc. that I will be using that day. See those double doors behind the blue chair? That's where my branch's puppet and prop collection lives. It is floor-to-ceiling awesomeness. Sometimes I just go there, stand in front of the assorted goodies, and drool.

Oh, and I always sit on the floor. I think you get a much better connection to the kids when you're at their level. But if there's a lot of them, I'll stand so everyone can see the pictures. I really don't think these chairs are comfortable! Anyone else a dedicated floor sitter?

So, that's my process. At least for this month. I'd love to hear about yours, whether you want to leave a comment below or write a blog post of your own. I find this stuff fascinating!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Recommended Reading

Here are 4 great articles I've been sending to everyone I've ever met and a few people I haven't:

Friday, July 05, 2013

"Spider on the Floor" Scarf Activity

This week's theme at storytime was bugs! Since my storytimes now are just for kids ages 2-3, I'm always looking for something extremely interactive and fun for them to do. One (probably not original) activity that was really fun this week was acting out the Raffi song "Spider on the Floor" with our dancing scarves. Each kid got a scarf, then they tickled themselves with it as the spider crawled up their legs, stomach, neck, etc. I will warn those of you who object to this sort of thing that Mr. Raffi rhymes the word "stomach" with "dumb ol' lummock," just for your information. If you sing live/without the CD, you can use whatever rhymes you fancy. I've also done this by acting the song out with a spider puppet. I have this one at home.

For the record, my preferred method of incorporating music into storytimes is to sing aloud with a CD/iPod accompaniment. For whatever reason, I find it easier to remember song lyrics this way.

If you don't know this song, here's a YouTube version. This video uses "big ol' lummock."

The rest of our bugs storytime went a little bit like this:

Books we read:
Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! (Barner)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle)
Giant Pop-Out Bugs (Chronicle)
Big Bug, Little Bug (Stickland)
Can You Make a Scary Face? (Thomas)

Nursery Rhymes Used:
Little Miss Muffet (Feltboard Miss Muffet with a spider puppet)
Itsy Bitsy Spider (Would be fun to try this one with the scarves, as well)

This song an adapt to other animals too. Maybe there's a tiger on your floor?

Oh, and since this didn't seem worthy of its own post... Here's 3 picture books I've been really enjoying lately: 
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli (If you've got a crocodile puppet and some fake watermelon, this would be great for storytelling)
Tea Rex by Molly Idle (Tea party dinosaurs? YES.) 
Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos (Funny and on-trend.) 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

"Dig Into Reading" Decorations

We have a unique problem (or I guess I should say "challenge") at my new library. My branch's children's room is quite large. I'm not sure how many square feet it is, but it just keeps going and going and going. So, when it comes time to decorate the space for summer reading, it can be difficult to make a big impact. I think my staff did a great job, so I'm going to share some pictures I snapped of their efforts.


We have a weekly passive/stealth program craft during summer reading. This week's was to make a patriotic wand to celebrate Independence Day. 

Our Writing Center, with a different writing activity each month. For June: "What is something you DIG (really love)?"

Bulletin board with collaborative summer program artwork

Top of the fiction shelves

Top of nonfiction shelves

Raggedy Andy digs reading

...So does Raggedy Ann


When kids join our summer reading program, they can write their name on a worm for this bulletin board.  When I took this picture, we had 1,803 kids signed up.