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Best Songs and Music for Library Storytime Programs

Carolyn writes about children's literature for library, preschool, or homeschool settings. She has a BA in English Literature.

cute dancing toddler

Songs and music can elevate a merely good library or preschool story time to true greatness. Music and motion in preschool story hours has the ability to engage children, focus their attention, and impose the predictable structure into your story hour that preschool children crave. This article is written with library storytime presenters as an intended audience, but this information can also be useful in a homeschool or co-op preschool setting that changes locations from week to week. Songs like the ones I share in this article are cheerful, fun, and educational.

How much music you include in a story time program depends on the length of the program and the ages of the children. The addition of music during a story hour can stretch a short story hour of 10 to 15 minutes to a half hour or more. Adding art activities or other regular features will make your story hour a success and induce an engaging level of commitment from overscheduled and busy families.

Short story time programs for preschoolers that include 15 to 20 minutes of reading can incorporate a hello song and a goodbye song.

A story hour for toddlers could include the inverse: about 15 minutes of music, finger plays, and action rhymes, plus 2 or 3 toddler-length storybooks. Usually these books are in a chunky board book format and include simplified text. Here are some recommended resources to help you get started using music and motion in your story hour.

Children's Music by Hap Palmer

Hap Palmer is a musician whose songs are both educational and fun. Many of his songs specifically focus on getting children up and moving along with the music, and lend themselves to dancing along. He is probably my favorite children's musician because his songs are so appropriate for children's story hours. His album covers are not flashy, his sound is folksy and down to earth. Labelled a "Pioneer in Music and Movement," Hap Palmer's songs have been written and performed specifically with educational purposes in mind. With 25 albums of music in publication, Hap Palmer is a household name among many preschool educators. I recommend including a diverse selection of songs and music genres in story hour, but Hap Palmer holds a special place in my heart. Sniff.

So Big: Activity Songs for Little Ones is an album Palmer produced that is perfect for preschool and early elementary settings. Here are some additional songs I recommend for you to incorporate into your story hours:

  • At the Library from the We're on Our Way album makes a great hello or goodbye song, singing the merits and wonders of the library.
  • Let's All Clap Our Hands Together on Can a Cherry Pie Wave Goodbye has lots of actions and would be a suitable song to begin a story hour.
  • So Happy You're Here on the Baby Songs Original Soundtrack would make a great welcome song. This song says "so happy you're here today, today" and uses several participatory actions to get kids engaged immediately in story hour.

Story Hour Goodbye Songs

  • Goodbye, So Long, Farewell, Toodle-oo on Two Little Sounds, Fun With Phonics and Numbers. This song is a little long but is a great selection because children learn to say goodbye in 8 fun ways. Check out the hand motions at Hap Palmer's own web site.
  • We're On Our Way on the We're On Our Way album. "We're on our way, reaching out to the big wide world, life's a journey to be sure, we're on our way." This upbeat message suggests children can explore their world and that they will see new sights and sounds until next time.
  • Goodnight Storytime on the Peek-a-boo and Other Songs for Young Children album. This soothing song would make another excellent goodbye song, perhaps one to use with a bubble machine, since it doesn't include actions like some of Hap Palmer's other music. This song is particularly soothing and melodic and would make a suitable end to an evening story hour.
  • Turn A-Round on the Getting to Know Myself album is an all-time favorite song for storytimes and I recommend it as a goodbye song. This song has movements and actions that are easy to follow and was a favorite at a storytime I attended with my children when I lived Chandler, Arizona.

Story Hour Action Songs

  • Slow and Fast: from the Rhythm on Parade album.
  • Touch Your Toes to Your Nose on the Baby Soundtrack Original
  • What Are You Wearing on Two Little Sounds, Fun With Phonics and Numbers
  • Ten Monkeys Sitting In a Tree from Two Little Sounds, Fun With Phonics and Numbers. This song takes from the familiar five little monkeys and the alligator rhyme, but the voracious alligator in this song eats more than one monkey at a time!

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Music and Movement Songs, Fingerplays and Activities

After you have identified a hello and goodbye song for your story time program, you can select from hundreds, if not thousands of copies of songs available from children's music resources for your weekly programs. Here are some of my favorite songs to use. You can use these or any others that you are familiar with.

  • Zoom, Zoom, Zoom...We're Going to the Moon
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • The Monkeys and the Alligator
  • Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
  • Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around
  • London Bridges Falling Down
  • Hickory Dickory Doc
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Going on a Bear Hunt
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low?
  • Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes


Maracas, egg shakers, rhythm sticks, and jingle bells are simple musical instruments that toddlers and preschoolers can use to play along with preschool music.

Maracas, egg shakers, rhythm sticks, and jingle bells are simple musical instruments that toddlers and preschoolers can use to play along with preschool music.

Making Music with Simple Instruments

Young toddlers who cannot read usually love to stand up, move around, and dance, as long as they are a short distance from their caregiver. If you are fortunate enough to have a computer and a projection screen in your library or preschool, you can project the words of the songs you are playing, so children can sing along.

Much story time music is perfect for playing along using simple percussion instruments, such as egg shakers, rhythm sticks, jingle bells, and maracas. Even the youngest toddlers usually enjoy picking up an instrument during music time.

For the youngest age children, a dance story time could include a very short book and a sequence of songs, chants, and finger-plays that last about 15 minutes. Some librarians like to end story time with a play time using library-owned toys.

Recommended Music Activities for Story Time

  • Clapping
  • Freeze-dancing
  • Rhythm sticks
  • Bubbles
  • Egg shakers or Miracas
  • Jingle bells
  • Singing
  • Any simple percussion instruments
  • Waving colored scarves

© 2011 Carolyn Augustine


Hello, hello, from London, UK on June 03, 2011:

That is such a lovely and perfectly written hub. Thank you.

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