Baby Storytime: Mice


One plus about doing storytimes for so long is that there’s a lot of plans in your files to reuse when you’re busy. One minus about doing storytimes for so long is that you can get a little tired of reusing your plans! I challenged myself to make an all-new storytime for my babies, and here it is!



BOOK: Where? by LIONNI
I grabbed up this set of four Lionni board books earlier this year. I used Where? today because I wanted to keep the focus on the mice, but there’s also When?, What?, and Who? In this one, we look for the mice in the grass, trees, and in shoes.

I found this on Storytime Source Page, always an amazing resource for me!

Where are the baby mice?
Squeak, squeak, squeak (Cover eyes)
I cannot see them
Peek, peek, peek (Peek-a-boo)
Here they come from a hole in the wall (Make hole with fingers)
1-2-3-4-5… That’s all! (Count fingers)

TICKLE: Hurry Scurry Little Mouse
“Now that we’ve found the baby mice, where are they going to go?” You can find this one all over the place, but I like this pdf booklet from Pierce County.

Hurry scurry little mouse
Starts down at your toes
Touch baby’s toes

Hurry scurry little mouse
Past your knees he goes
Walk fingers to baby’s knees

Hurry scurry little mouse
Past where your tummy is
Tickle baby’s tummy

Hurry scurry little mouse
Gives you a mousy kiss
Touch baby’s lips then give a kiss!

FLANNEL SONG: A Hunting We Will Go*
Today we used mouse/house, along with other small creatures like snail/pail, bee/tree, and bug/rug.

I did cartwheels when I discovered this series! I prop the book on my four fingers and stick my thumb in the puppet and wiggle it a bit while I read the simple text on each page. The wiggling and the cutouts help engage the babies and the stories aren’t too long to share with them. Plus there’s a ton of them! Bear, owl, ladybug, goldfish, dolphin, monkey…I’ve been slowly stocking up!

Grownups, books like this one with interactive elements, puppets, popups, lift the flaps, cutouts–all give your children something new and fresh and extra to explore while you read together. We want our babies to think books are fun and exciting, so look for ways to mix up your reading time! Reading with your babies is the number one best way to help them become readers later on.

BOUNCE: I Had a Little Mouse
“Do you think the mouse liked to nibble on the pumpkins in her patch? What else to mice like to eat? Cheese! Except for the mouse in this rhyme. Let’s bounce and find out!” I learned this song from the Deschutes Library.

I had a little mouse that never would eat his cheese
All he ever wanted to do was bounce upon my knees
Bounce upon my knees, bounce upon my knees
All he ever wanted to do was bounce upon my knees

ACTION RHYME: This is Big Big Big*

CLOSING SONG: Sneeze Game*

*Check out the My Baby Storytime page for the words and/or citations for these weekly activities!

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Intentional Storytimes

Storytime Today

In January, I ran a reader’s survey, asking among other things for feedback from you on what Mel’s Desk content is most valuable. As it happens, an unexpected opportunity to step into a supervisory role at my library seriously derailed my plans to use the survey responses to refresh and refocus Mel’s Desk this year.

However, one thread about “best practices” from the survey has been frequently in my thoughts, even if I’ve been unable to address it yet here. When I asked, “What other types of posts or topics would you like to read?” One thoughtful reader said, “[About the] research underlying practices,” and followed that up with, “1) Make purpose or expected result of practice crystal clear 2) use comparative analysis to show a particular practice is best possible for purpose. We need stronger comparative analysis to know what is best in our practice.”

I’m not sure exactly what context this reader was thinking about in terms of practices–he or she may be thinking of programming, customer service, reader’s advisory, any number of things. But of course when I read it I thought of storytime.

As a storytime trainer I’ve been wrestling with the idea of best practices for a long time. Way back in 2010, after a round of storytime observations, I asked, “What aspects of storytime fall under “personal style” and what fall under “best practices”?” In other words, is there anything about a storytime performance that we can label objectively ideal?
This is exactly the kind of appealing idea that the survey reader raised–that we can test and measure different approaches to how we present our services, possibly including storytime.

I still go back and re-read the comments to that post as well as the ones to my follow-up post “What Not To Do,” because your thoughts were so valuable to me as I developed a set of storytime competencies to guide training and mentoring at my library.

As we worked out those storytime competencies, though, my boss and I realized that they depended completely on our vision of storytimes, not as a platonic ideal, but for our particular library. Our goals for storytime for our community impacted what we wanted our competencies–our “best practices”–to be. I talked about this, how various goals for storytime affect the assessment of storytime, in a 2012 post, “Storytime Questions and Storytime Goals.”

Now here we are in 2014! I am still completely invested in the idea that storytime practices–for any storytime, at any library–can and should be regularly assessed for areas of improvement. I believe this and I have also come to believe that given the great variety of libraries, staff, communities, and missions, that working to discover a universal set of “best practices” for all storytimes is not the best strategy for me to use to improve storytimes at my library.

As I start a new adventure with a dedicated team of storytime providers, I will be challenging myself not to think about “best practices” but instead about “intentional practices” and “best questions.”

Intentional practices: Given our goals for storytime and for our community, how can we be thoughtful and deliberate about every aspect of storytime so that we meet our objectives? As the survey reader said, “Make the purpose of the practice crystal clear.”

Best questions: What can we ask ourselves about planning, preparing, and delivering storytimes to clarify the impact of our practices on our goals?

I’ll be observing (and presenting!) even more storytimes than ever in my new job, and I promise to post the questions my team and I ask ourselves as we work to bring even more thought and intention to the work we do.

What questions do you ask yourself about your storytimes? How do you choose to be intentional about what you do in storytime?

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Flannel Friday SHARK WEEK: Three Little Fishes

A few years ago I decided I wanted to tell “Three Little Fishes and the Big Bad Shark” by Ken Geist for summer reading school visits. In this version of The Three Little Pigs, the fishies take refuge in a seaweed house, a sandcastle, and finally, a big scallop shell as they escape from the shark.


The before & after images of the seaweed and sandcastle houses gave me the idea to make front-and-back pictures to show as I told the story. Using clip art cartoons as my patterns, I put together several sets of pictures, using cut out construction paper pieces and cardstock bases.

We needed a shark, of course:



And three little fish:

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Here’s the seaweed house, before and after destruction:

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The sandcastle before and after utter collapse:

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And the scallop shell, open and closed.

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And at last, the shark, sans teeth, after trying to get at the fishies in the scallop shell:

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These are about 9×9 each. I glued them back to front (The three fish are the only ones that are one-sided) so the shark with teeth was on one side, without teeth on the other; seaweed tall on one side, short on the other, and so forth. I stuck a paint stirrer stick thingy from Ace in each one as a handle:

Three Fishes Cards

And I marked up the base of the handles, so I could tell which picture was which while I was in the middle of telling the story. Dots are the “front side,” dashes are the “back side:”

Evernote Camera Roll 20140805 141528

What I did was sit in front of the kids, and put the pictures handles-up in a box in front of me. Then I started the story, holding up the right picture at the right time. When the houses got destroyed, I just flipped the pictures from one side to another while I was holding them up. When the shark went after the scallop shell at the end, I showed the shell open and shut with one hand, then the shark before and after with the other.

It took a little practice to be able to manipulate the pictures while I was telling the story and interacting with the kids, but in the end it was worth it and it was a slightly different way to present.

Here’s all the images together:


Happy Shark Week! The round up is at Sharon’s place this week, head on over and see all the other sharky goodness!

You can always find everything Flannel Friday at our website.

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A Partial List of Things I Am Doing This Summer That Apparently Does Not Include Blogging

1) Starting a new job as a supervisor
2) Scheduling a 13-person team
3) Going to meetings
4) Answering email at work during the day
5) Revising the schedule
6) Talking with other supervisors
7) Attending training sessions
8) Planning training sessions
9) Updating the revised schedule
10) Finishing projects from my old job
11) Answering email at home in the evenings
12) Learning new software on which to publish the updated revised schedule
13) Binge-watching 836 episodes of Midsomer Murders in puddle of exhaustion

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Early Literacy Storytime: Scarves and Letters

Although children’s gross motor and fine motor skills are both developing all the time, many fine motor skills take more patience and cognitive development than gross motor skills. Think of a baby who can mush applesauce around on her tray (arms) before she can pick up a Cheerio (fingers). In addition, small muscles get tired more quickly than big ones (could you hang from the monkey bars longer from your hands or your knees?). Using arm and body motion activities to is a way to introduce children to letter-shape or directional concepts while they are still working on learning how to hold and use crayons and pencils with confidence.

Using scarves is one way to introduce purposeful movements into storytime. We often use scarves and open-ended activities with music, but we can use them in more directed ways too. We want to be careful to do so in age-appropriate ways, though. Here are a few ideas:


Encourage the walkers to move their scarves up high and down low and around in a circle. Can they “swim” their scarf like a fish through the air? Can they drag their scarf like a snake on the floor? Encourage parents of babies to see if their children will grasp the scarf. Parents can help their babies move their baby’s arms and watch the scarf move, or pull gently on the other end of the scarf in a little game of tug of war. They could also tie it gently around an ankle and prop the baby so they can see what happens when they kick their feet.


Have the children move their scarves in different ways. Some ideas are: from high to low, from low to high, in a rainbow (arc over their heads), upside down rainbow or a smile (a big “u” shape in front of their bodies), a big circle (whole arm), a little circle (just moving forearm or wrist), bumps (little humps from left to right), zigzag (like a Z, from top to bottom, or like a W from left to right). These are all line shapes that make up letters, but without requiring letter knowledge yet from our little ones.


You can encourage preschool children to hold the scarf between their pointer finger and their thumb—this is a “pincher grip” and good for fine motor development. Make letter shapes in the air together. You could write a letter first on a whiteboard to give the kids something to copy. Say aloud the movements as you go. “Let’s make an M! Start down on this side of your body, now go straight up! Move down to the middle by your tummy! Now go up to the other side! Now move down to this side of your body.” OR, “Let’s make an O! An O is like a circle, it goes around and around! Start at the top! Go around to the top again!”

When you’re done, collect the scarves and say something like this to the adults: “Grownups, when you and your kids play with scarves or ribbons or magic wands, your children are developing their arm muscles and starting to learn about lines and shapes. These muscles and concepts will help them when they are learning to write. Playing with your children will help them get ready to read and write.”

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Research Link: Recht & Leslie

Why does Every Child Ready to Read 2 make such a big deal about background knowledge?

Because what a child understands of the subject they are reading about can make or break their ability to comprehend the passage, instead of just “sounding out” the words.

When I present to adults about early literacy, one of my favorite research bits* to share with them is a 1988 study by Recht & Leslie called “Effect of prior knowledge on good and poor readers’ memory of text.” (D. R. Recht & L. Leslie, in Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 16-20.) In it they found that poor readers who knew a lot about baseball OUTSCORED good readers who did not know a lot about baseball–when they were reading about baseball.


We see this all the time at the library! Think of the kids who aren’t “good readers” but will take home every book in your collection about monster trucks, or puppies, or fairy tales, or Saturn. The more we can share about the world with our preschoolers, the more they will know about a zillion different subjects when they sit down to read in school. And the more they know before they start, the more that what they read will make sense to them. AND the more they can make sense out of what they read, the more motivated they will be to keep reading. Keeping kids reading is important, of course, because that’s how true fluency with reading is built: by reading many, many, many texts for many different purposes.

Daniel Willingham, an author and psychology professor who researches cognitive psychology as it applies to K-16 education, wrote a great post describing this and another study.

Look for opportunities to share nonfiction in your storytimes, tablet sessions, or other preschool programs. When you do, take a minute to share with the grownups the power of background knowledge!

*I wish I could remember how I learned about this study. I went back and looked at the ECRR1 materials, thinking it was on their “further reading” handouts, but I didn’t see it there. Maybe someone told me about it, maybe I stumbled across it in another article, but I can’t remember. Would love to credit whoever brought it to my attention! #librarianfail

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Early Literacy Storytime: Simon Says

Children who go to school knowing the parts of a book and how to turn pages can jump right in and start working on learning how to decode and sound words out. Children who haven’t spent time with books must first use valuable classroom time to lay the groundwork of learning what print is and how books work.

You can play “Simon Says” with books in your storytime. Gather enough board books for every child to have one–they don’t have to be the same title. Hand them out when you’re ready to play. Give them some instructions for playing, for example, “In Simon Says, I tell you to do something, and you do it. But the trick is, you ONLY do what I say IF I say Simon Says first. Let’s try it! Simon Says…put your book on your head! That’s right! I said Simon Says so you do what I say. Let’s try again. Put your book on the floor. Oops! I didn’t say Simon Says so you don’t do what I say. OK, here we go!” Don’t worry about penalties for getting it wrong! Just say, “Oh no!” and go on to the next command.

With younger kids, Simon Says can be pretty tricky. Skip it if you think it will be more frustrating than fun. Instead, play “Follow the Leader,” and ask them to do what you do. Call out what you’re doing as you do it. Use some ideas just for fun and some that prompt the kids to manipulate the books.

Updated 6/24 afternoon: So the SAME MORNING I have this post scheduled, the amazing Cate sends a link to this article out on Twitter: Simon Says: Why Is This Game So Hard for Young Kids? Simon Says really IS tricky, even for big kids, so please trust your instincts for what will work with your group! My main goal here is to find a fun way to get books into kids’ hands during storytime, and not just in our own. Another tactic is to let babies play with books. What other ways could we do this?

Here are some sample commands:

Put the book on your head
Sit on the book
Give the book to your grownup
Hold the book in both hands
Open the cover
Show me the back cover
Hold the book right-side-up
Turn to the very last page

With older children, you could do things like:

Open the book and point to a word
Open the book and point to an illustration
Point to the title

After you’ve played a few rounds, say something like this to the adults: “Grownups, every time you read to your child or let them look through books by themselves, they are learning all about how books work. This helps them become a good reader because if they already know how to use a book before they go to school, they can skip all that and focus on learning how to read. Reading with your child helps them get ready to read.”

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Storytime Resources Page: Update 2

Another round of blogs newly added to the Storytime Resources page and Google Custom Search!

Lovin’ the Library
–Hannah has just a few posts up so far but she’s showing great interest in trying out different ideas for storytime, including puppets, flannels, and gross-motor activities!

Fun with Friends at Storytime
–Since joining the Flannel Friday crew last year Kathryn has been super generous at sharing a lot of flannel ideas and rhyme adaptations. I love that she recommends a lot of books along the way for her themes!

A Librarian Less Ordinary
–Fun posts from a school librarian! I think what I love most is is how often Mrs Todd links back to the bloggers and posts that inspire her–a great way to find even more blogs to follow!

What Is Bridget Reading?
–Read Bridget for her zillions of book reviews, of course, but she also has been a Flannel Friday contributor and host since our first year, so there’s lots of flannelboard ideas too! (WHY didn’t I link her a long time ago? smh)

Madly, Madam Librarian
–A new blog by a new early literacy specialist! Check out Kelly’s posts for all kinds of book reviews, baby storytime writeups, and her first Flannel Friday!

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Starting the Resources Update (Again)


So I’ve been inching towards a massive update of the Storytime Resources page for at LEAST a year now, and those of you who have sent in your blogs and pages to be added have been super patient waiting for me to get on the ball. I have realized that there’s no way I can do this all at once, so over the next couple of months I will work on it a little at a time. I’ll post semi-regularly with the new sites I’m adding both to the page and to the Custom Google Search.

Here’s the first batch!

Cockburn Libraries: YPS Amazing Shares
–from Australia! Check out recent posts with bread painting, National Simultaneous Storytime (I *wish* we had this in the US!), and their baby storytime “Pram Jam” writeups!

Miss Meg’s Storytime
–Miss Meg just celebrated one year of her great blog! Visit her for her Flannel Friday contributions and storytime plans, a printable version of her planning template, and how it felt to tackle baby storytime for the first time.

The Lion is a Bookworm
–Carrie’s blog is a wonderful mix of storytime plans, youth services musings, bulletin board ideas, and program outlines…all from her very first year of her first library job!

Library Village
–The three smart ladies at the Library Village have packed 100 posts into their first year of blogging! LOTS of storytime plans for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, LOTS of Flannel Friday ideas, plus great posts such as their recent round up of top tips for successful storytimes.

Literary Commentary
–Miss Kim has been blogging for a couple of years now and has a really nice collection of storytime plans, book reviews, program writeups, and craft ideas. Plus she ninjas for Storytime Underground, hooray!

Story Time with Songs and Rhymes
–Dawn is the author of a series of great picture books that introduce sign language vocabulary to kids and families. Her whole blog is a treat, with lots of early literacy tips related to signing, but she also has a series of posts specifically with storytime plans that incorporate signing, if you want to start there.

Laughter and Literacy
–Just a few posts here so far (because she’s also writing her library’s sweet early literacy blog at Laugh Play Read), but a good variety of all-ages ideas to start!

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Flannel Friday: Zingy

Zingy Flannelboard

I have been in love with Paola Opal’s books for a few years now. They are perfect first stories for very young toddlers: they are very short and they feature child protagonists, of course, but unlike many board books, they are also true narratives, with a real story arc and a problem that must be solved. AND the problem is solved BY the child character. How awesome is that?

ANYWAY. I used Zingy in a Bird storytime and made this flannel to go along with. After we read the book, I put the flowers on the board one by one, chatting a little: “Oh, here’s a daisy, and this one looks like a star, and this one has four red petals.” I stacked one flower so Zingy was peeking out behind it and put them both on the board at the same time…you could see a wing, or a beak sticking out past the flower. Then when all the flowers were up, I said, “Where’s Zingy?”

The older toddlers in my birth-24 months baby storytime can usually see where Zingy is, or if not, I often have a big brother or sister who is THRILLED to be able to spot Zingy for the group.

We do this a few times, talking all the while. “The red flower is next to the blue one, and the blue one is next to the yellow one…” And “I can tell Zingy is behind the purple flower because his wing is showing, look!”

The idea with the babies is not so much to have them “get the right answer” as it is to play “peekaboo” and model a lot of ongoing chatter for the adults. But with older kids, you could size the pieces so that Zingy could be completely hidden behind a flower, and then give clues: “Zingy is hiding behind a flower that’s the same color as a stop sign.”

I’m not including a pattern because the pictures are so bold and simple that I just used the illustrations as my pattern book. I started with a black shape for the background and built the images on top of it.

I’m looking forward to doing more sets for more of Opal’s books!

Happy Flannel Friday! The Roundup is at Mollie’s place this week. For more about Flannel Friday, you can always check out the website or our Pinterest.

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