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Storytime Ideas: Themes for Librarians and Circle Time

A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics, researching, and information for library users and librarians.

storytime-ideas

Topics for Preschool Storytimes

I started my career as a children's librarian presenting eight storytimes a week. Over the years, I used a lot of themes for these. To help out busy children's librarians and childcare providers, I've assembled a wide range of storytime ideas to make their job a little easier.

These also work for homeschooling parents or any parent wanting to enrich their child's exposure to books. In nursery schools, the stories and activities can be used for circle times.

These topics come from a variety of sources and include a wide range of books, crafts, and fun activities for preschool children. I think it is important to provide a mix of music, movement, even crafts to expand on the telling or reading of stories in storytime.

(photo of Virginia Allain in the children's area of the Weslaco Public Library)

Getting Ready for Storytime

Keeping the children's attention and keeping them focused on the story takes more than just story telling or animated reading abilities. You need to learn about group dynamics and some little tricks to use. Some of it comes with experience. Take a look at the recommendations here.

Stretching Activity for the Preschoolers

Here I am back in the 1970s when I first held weekly storytimes. We're all having a turn around before we sit back down. Young children can't sit for long stretches of time.

Here I am back in the 1970s when I first held weekly storytimes. We're all having a turn around before we sit back down. Young children can't sit for long stretches of time.

A New Way to Hold Storytimes

Decorate the Room with Fall Colors and a Scarecrow to Go with Your Theme

Such a happy symbol of autumn.

Such a happy symbol of autumn.

Fall Themes for Storytimes


Autumn brings to mind harvest, scarecrows, colorful leaves and pumpkins. That should give you plenty of stories and activities for your group.

Themes:

  • Scarecrow Storytime (check the Thanksgiving Storytime below) Julie Douglas suggests this song "If you're a scarecrow and you know it clomp (clomp clomp) your boots, if you're a scarecrow and you know it wiggle (wiggle wiggle) your pants. If you're a scarecrow and you know it then you really ought to show it, if you're a scarecrow and you know it clomp your bootts (clomp clomp) ...and wiggle your pants (wiggle wiggle).Continue with shirt and gloves, then hat and head. Each time after "you ought to show it" we say all of the clothing from the boots up. It's been a hoot!
  • Autumn Colors (check thePerry Public Library instruction sheet for details)
  • Apple Storytime (another Perry Public Library one)
  • Autumn Storytime (check eHow.com for details)
  • Back to School Storytime (check eHow.com for details)
  • Squirrels Storytime - Read Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri. Librarian, Virginia Kiviniemi used these activities, "After the stories, we searched for acorns using our toilet paper roll binoculars and did the action poem 'grey squirrel grey squirrel shake your bushy tail'. At the end I had acorn treats for each child made with Hershey's kisses (an idea she found on Pinterest).
  • Pumpkin or Jack O'Lantern Storytime
  • Thanksgiving Storytime (Make a game of building and knocking down a scarecrow, pumpkin chunkin' and turkey bowling.) The scarecrow was a large one for a bulletin board. Separated into 4 pieces, each was attached to an orange colored box. Those were stacked and then you can knock them down by tossing a ball at the figure. Idea from the Storytime Undergound group on Facebook.
  • Halloween stories to read aloud: Skeleton Hiccups, Creepy Carrots, the Ugly Pumpkin, The Little Green Witch, Room on the Broom (use different character voices for this), The Monster at the End of This Book, Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything - Linda D. Williams; Pumpkin Heads - Wendell Minor; Pumpkin Trouble - Jan Thomas; and The Little Witch cut and tell story. Here are some more from the Storytime Underground group: Los Gatos Black on Halloween, Piggie Pie, 10 trick-or-treaters, if you're a monster and you know it..., The Bumpy Little Pumpkin (after the story, pass around bumpy pumpkins for the sensory experience), Little old lady who was not afraid of anything, By the light of the Halloween moon, The Spooky Box, There was an old lady who swallowed a bat, Pumpkin Trouble, Click Clack BOO! Shake dem Halloween bones,

Pumpkin Themes Make Fun Fall Storytimes

If you have funds to provide small pumpkins, have the children decorate them and display them in the library for one week. Have them return to take their pumpkin home after that. You can even have patrons vote on their favorite decorated pumpkin.

If you have funds to provide small pumpkins, have the children decorate them and display them in the library for one week. Have them return to take their pumpkin home after that. You can even have patrons vote on their favorite decorated pumpkin.

More Ideas for Your Halloween Storytime

  • Halloween Storytime Crafts
    Librarians, teachers and parents love simple crafts for children for Halloween. Here's some ideas for your group and ways to find more. Many of the crafts use recycled or inexpensive items.
  • Children's Picture Books for Halloween: For Preschoo...
    Halloween-themed children's picture books can help preschoolers prepare for the spooky side of Halloween with plenty of humor. Books about ghosts, witches, bats, and kids in costume make up this reading list for story time presenters, parents, and th
  • Good Reads for Young Vampire Fans
    Currently The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and the movie have created a strong public interest in vampires. Even young children get curious about all the discussions of vampires. Obviously most children below the teen years won't be plowing...
  • Draw Cartoon Ghosts for Halloween or Anytime
    Drawing is fun and ghosts make a great subject to draw. First of all, no one really knows what a ghost looks like, so you can make your ghost any way you want. Here are some ideas of what you might want to put in your ghost drawing. Ghosts are...
  • Spookley: The Square Pumpkin, A Children's Halloween...
    Spookley the Square Pumpkin is a 45-minute children's show based on the book entitled The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin, which was written by Joe Troiano. The film is a Kidtoon Films and Lionsgate presentation from 2004. Spookley's...

November Storytime Themes

TopicBooksActivities

Sharing

 

 

Thankfulness

Pete the Cat's Thanksgiving

We Are Thankful Book Swap

Manners

 

The Color Orange

Pumpkin stories, autumn leaf stories,

Mustaches for Movember

Mustache Baby, Book O'Beards, Mo's Mustache

have the kids make a mustache on a stick for a craft

Dinosaurs for Dinovember

Beary Fun November

Bear stories

teddy bear picnic near Thanksgiving

Food

"Feast for 10" by Cathryn Falwell, Stone Soup

Sweaters

Turkey Day Tales

Library Links to Storytime Theme Ideas

  • Storytime themes | Perry Public Library
    The Perry Public Library (Ohio) gives complete instructions for storytimes on a wide variety of themes (examples: Drums & Rhythm, Eat Your Veggies! Elephants, Fishy Fish, Food, Friends, Grandparents, etc.)

Tips for Storytimes

The Rapid City Library Storytime on YouTube

This library has a number of storytimes on video posted to YouTube. Browse them to see different themes and techniques. If you are new to presenting story hour, then these will give you an idea of how to proceed. If you are experienced, it's always good to pick up tips from other librarians.

Did You Watch the Video?

Storytime Topics: Frogs, Dogs and December

Books and Songs for Storytimes - Tested by a Children's Librarian

  • Dr. Seuss Storytime Ideas
    Celebrate Read Across America... aka Dr. Seuss's birthday (March 2nd)... with a storytime featuring your favorite tales by the author of The Cat in the Hat. Check below for books, songs and rhymes by and inspired by the beloved children's author. ...
  • Great Storytime Ideas by a Children's Librarian
    One of my library friends posted some great storytime topics with suggested books and songs on the List My Five website. Her username there is PupFashionista. Try out some topics from this long list of themes. You'll have instant, easy storytimes.
  • Songs and Rhymes to Use in Bedtime Storytime
    Rhymes and songs related to a bedtime theme. Some libraries have pajama storytimes or evening storytimes.
  • Picture Books to Teach the Size Concept
    Teaching young children about different sizes? The size concept can be difficult for children to understand, but each of the following books cleverly teaches small, big and bigger in a way that toddlers and preschoolers can easily understand.

Techniques to Use in Library Storytimes

Yes, I LOVE storytime. What a great gift for a children's librarian.

Yes, I LOVE storytime. What a great gift for a children's librarian.

Here's a Free Download with 250 Ideas

Guide for Storytimes - With Fingerplays, Flannelboards and More

With a book like this on the shelf, you'll be ready for storytime anytime. Lots of ideas, lots of tips for the busy librarian.

Fingerplays, Flannelboards and Other Activities

Flannelboards and Storytimes

Enhance your storytime with flannelboard stories. It's easy once you have a book like this to get you started.


TIP: To make an easy flannel board story, rescue a book that's being withdrawn from the collection. Have a volunteer cut out the figures or scenes from the book and glue flannel on the back of those. Instant flannel board!

Use Pinterest to Find Ideas

I used Awesome Screenshot to capture this. CLICK on the picture to see it larger.

I used Awesome Screenshot to capture this. CLICK on the picture to see it larger.

Find Hundreds of Storytime Ideas on Pinterest

  • Pinterest
    Librarians all over the country use Pinterest to stockpile favorite storybooks, fingerplays, craft tutorials, songs and other ideas to use in storytimes. Here's a sampling of recent pins. Start your own pinboard and pin the ones you want to use.

Kids Love Pirates

A pirate map on display in the library children's room.

A pirate map on display in the library children's room.

Plan a Pirate Storytime

Help for Your Pirate Storytime

Storytime for Babies and Preschoolers - Books to Use

Crafts for Storytimes

I like to choose a craft that's easy enough for the youngest children, yet can be more elaborate for the ones who can handle that. It needs to relate to the theme of the storytime and the supplies for it need to be readily available or very inexpensive. Here are some online sites to find crafts for your storytimes.

Storytime Crafts - Book available from Amazon

Easy and Inexpensive Craft Ideas for Storytimes

  • Budget-Friendly Crafts for Kids to Make
    Looking for easy to make kid craft ideas that won't break the bank? Here are five budget-friendly craft ideas that use recycled products from around the house that both your kids and wallet will love!
  • More Paper Plate Crafts
    You'll find that More Paper Plate Crafts features additional paper plate craft projects and their site addresses, crafts that aren't included in the All Paper Plate Crafts article. All different ones.
  • ENCHANTED LEARNING
    Enchanted Learning Software creates children's educational web sites and games designed to stimulate creativity, learning, enjoyment, and imagination.

Using Music in Storytimes

Include Fingerplays and Music in Your Storytimes

  • Using Songs and Music Education Techniques in Your T...
    Music education is a popular and useful technique when working with young preschoolers and kindergarten students. This article offers some tips and advice for integrating music and simple preschool-friendly musical instruments into your teaching curr
  • Fingerplay Benefits for Children | Unlock the Learni...
    Finger plays are a fun and educational way to teach young children through a multi-sensory experience. They bond caregiver and child in a legacy of learning in a nurturing way.
  • Fingerplays for Children
    Preschool children benefit greatly from attending storytimes at the public library. These free programs introduce them to the world of books while learning songs and nursery rhymes to develop their vocabulary. At the same time, the children learn to.

Do You Use Puppets with Your Storytimes?

Puppets to Use with Storytimes

Every storyteller needs a signature puppet, one that he or she can use at each storytime. It's great to have a selection to use for different themes too.

Tips for Making and Using Puppets

  • It's Puppet Time!
    Young children love puppet shows and a lap stage is a great way to introduce toddlers and small children to puppetry. Sometimes babies and toddlers are afraid of puppets until they realize what fun they are to watch and interact with. A lap stage...
  • How to Make a Puppet Stage: PVC Puppet Stage Plans
    Kids love puppets! Maybe not all kids, but certainly lots of kids! How many puppet related kid shows do you remember through the years? Lamb Chop was a favorite! Mr. Rogers had a blast with his puppets. And who doesn't know Kermit the Frog and the...
  • Crocheted fox finger puppet free pattern
    Find out how to make this simple and adorable finger puppet for your little one. This pattern is quick to whip up too.
  • Scripts For Hand- And Finger-Puppet Shows for Kids
    Puppets are an invaluable medium for teaching your child life skills. To help you get started I have written two scripts for parents who wish to make use of puppets as a platform for providing their child with basic life skills. As children love rhym

Puppet Skits for Schools and Libraries

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Please share your storytime tips and favorites with us!

Bred on December 28, 2014:

Katie, I love props in storytime (and tdledor time and lapsit)! Thanks for giving me a few new ideas; I definitely love the song cube for lapsit. We get stuck in the same routine, and this is a fresh idea to get out of that rut.My storytime idol breaks out wrapping paper and tissue paper to do a Wrapping Paper Romp tdledor time every so often. Of course, they LOVE it!Scarves, egg shakers, pom poms, parachutes, foam letters. They all seem so regular. Glad there are so many great ideas out there to give people a change of pace!

amandascloset0 on April 08, 2014:

Great ideas here~ I'm so glad you've shared them. I am new to the Librarian role and you've given me many great ideas here. Many thanks!

BarbsSpot on May 08, 2013:

@Lensmaster...I like your idea of talking about your dogs, or other animals as a story time "pre-story"! Lots of good stories here! Congratulations on the Lens' Purple Star!

castelloautore on April 29, 2013:

If all children had librarians who thought at this level, imagine how well our children would be taught, and how their imaginations would soar.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on January 23, 2013:

@heytoto: I sure needed something like this when I was a children's librarian. That was before the Internet, so had to scramble around on my own back then.

Karen Kolavalli from Lexington, Kentucky on January 23, 2013:

Fantastic resource! While I loved to put together my own storytimes from scratch when I was a children's librarian, I didn't always have the luxury of TIME to be able to make that happen. This should be a go-to lens for people in the field!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 16, 2012:

You really know your books. This is really a great resource.

Shannon from Florida on July 10, 2012:

Wonderful lens! My students love acting out stories after reading books. i love using headbands for characters. (Just print off a coloring sheet from the internet, cut it out, & staple it to a construction paper headband.)

Preschool Toolbox on July 02, 2012:

Many great resources here...thank you for the lens (AND your love for children!)

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on June 29, 2012:

@Auntie-M LM: Hmm, don't remember that story. The only one that comes to mind is Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. Thank you for the blessing!

Auntie-M LM on June 29, 2012:

I too worked for about ten years as a children's librarian. I loved storytimes. There was one book about a "something" creek jazz band, with each different animal playing a different instrument. I looooved that story, and so did the kids. Wonderful resources here. Blessed.

FamilySolutions1 on June 01, 2012:

Wow! What a great resource. One of the things I've always struggled with was coming up with stories to tell my kids to teach them proper behavior. Well, now I have a VERY challenging three year old who unwittingly forced me to become a creative storyteller. I have recently become the creator of stories about little boys who refused to go to sleep, the little boy who had a tantrum because he only wanted a "red" lollypop, the little boy who spit on other kids. I get much more feedback from these stories than I ever did with printed books. LOL. My little devil loves telling me, "I won't behave like the boy in your story". When he becomes the perfect angel we'll check out your great resources here. Thanks!

Brandi from Maryland on May 30, 2012:

You gave me some excellent ideas to use with my own kids...thanks! :)

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on May 27, 2012:

Storytime is one of the best things about libraries. Kids love them, especially when there's a hands-on activity or craft!

Rose Jones on May 27, 2012:

I should have been a children's librarian. Looks like hecka fun. Pinned to my board "Children's Books and Authors I love," Google plus and Squidoo Angel Blessed. I have my eye on that tee shirt too.

Adele Jeunette on April 24, 2012:

Lots of resources. Note to Joie: A Colorado woman started a group called Spellbinders around 1990. They learn stories and go out to the schools to tell them I was a member for a few years, and it was enjoyable to go out and tell stories to the kids. They would be mesmerized because they don't see people do stories from memory much any more.

Johanna Eisler on February 14, 2012:

Does anyone else remember this? I remember so clearly a special day when I was in fifth grade... our teacher invited someone I seem to remember as the "Story Lady" to visit our class. She sat down in the front of the classroom, and proceeded to BECOME a story. She recited clearly and perfectly the entire "Elephant's Child" from memory. The whole class sat there, mesmerized. It's been a favorite story of mine ever since, and a special memory that's lasted a lifetime.

Fay Favored from USA on February 13, 2012:

I can tell the kids love story time with you. Great ideas and topics. A good teacher resource.

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on February 03, 2012:

Great book ideas for storytime! My grandchildren love going to the library!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 25, 2012:

A wonderful resource for Librarians, teachers and parents. I love the Meet You at the Library shirt!

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on January 10, 2012:

Story time at night, or even in a bookstore was so much fun when the kids were little..we created a lot of memories to last a lifetime, - lovely, useful lens, filled with terrific detail,

Barb

pawpaw911 on November 21, 2011:

Lots of great ideas here. Nicely done.

My 2 year old grandson drives me nuts, with his books. I have to admit, I hide them sometimes, because if he had his way, I would be reading all day.

sousababy on November 19, 2011:

These are fantastic recommendations and I adore the Melissa and Doug product line. Thanks for sharing.

Shannon from Florida on November 07, 2011:

I do story time for a homeschooler pre-school group. This will be a very helpful resource. Thank you for posting it! Blessed and liked.

Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on November 06, 2011:

Wow! What a comprehensive list of resources for librarians leading story hour. I am sure that many parents, homeschoolers and teachers will appreciate this directory as well. Thank you so much for posting it on the Teaching and Learning Group on Facebook.

Jules Corriere from Jonesborough TN on August 15, 2011:

Great book choices. Helpful to librarians AND moms! Thanks for the thorough list!

hsschulte on July 31, 2011:

These are also great ideas for homeschoolers. Squidoo has a wonderful group of homeschooling moms. I hope they all get a chance to learn from your experience.

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on July 14, 2011:

Great collection of storytime ideas! This will come in handy when I do storytime with our primary students at school. Our librarian usually has a good lesson plan, but there were a couple of times last year I found myself having to wing it for one reason or another. Now I can add this lens to my bag of tricks! Thank you!

ChrissLJ on June 25, 2011:

HIGHLY recommend "I'm a Little Teapot" storytime ideas book (under "Books for Planning Storytimes"). I've used it myself several times.

almawad on May 23, 2011:

I love libraries -their atmosphere and everything . I lived in a town where children librarians were real fairies : helping the kids with their homework ,listening to their problems about their lives arranging slide show tales and puppet theater for children .

Wonderful memories ...

WorldVisionary on January 30, 2011:

I loved your lens! Thanks for putting together all of these great ideas and resources!

hsschulte on January 21, 2011:

Great ideas for teachers too, or homeschooling moms.

anonymous on November 28, 2010:

I can imagine how much it is enjoyable for kids, the theme, actions and the dresses. As a child I had a un-quenching appetite for stories and could read whatever used to come in my hands.

irenemaria from Sweden on November 24, 2010:

I loved to take a stroll back memory lane. I used to read for children and involve them into the story letterary.

norma-holt on November 20, 2010:

This is a great lens and lovely tribute to childhood reading. Featured on Holiday Reading.

Jeremy from Tokyo, Japan on November 15, 2010:

Hi Allain. Thanks for making this great lens. We do a Mommy and Me program at my preschool and I got some great ideas from this page and some that you linked to. Blessed.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on November 05, 2010:

@ChrissLJ: So, what does the costumed dinosaur do during the storytime? Dance with the kids or tell stories or ???

ChrissLJ on November 05, 2010:

I love doing dinosaur storytime so much that I made a dinosaur costume just my size. Since we always do preschool storytime in pairs, that means I always get to be the dinosaur. (mwah ha ha!) "How do Dinosaurs Say Good Night" by Yolen and the song "We Are the Dinosaurs" by The Laurie Berkner Band are favorites. Anther favorite story/song pairing is "More Spaghetti I Say" by Gelman and "Victor Vito." (VV was stuck in my head all last week.)

poutine on November 05, 2010:

I used to bring my 2 sons to story time at the library.

It was so much fun for them.

Great links here.

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