ECL Kindergym Storytimes

My First Adventure in Storytime–in which I find out what I’m made of

My kids regularly attend the local kindergym mornings, where kids and parents go and play, meet each other and have access to state funded resources like preschool subsidies, counseling and connections to other social services. These resources are supported and organized by River to Coast Children’s Services and the Forestville kindergym which we attend is run and coordinated by Olga King. When my twins and I were playing there one morning, I happened to mention that I was studying to be a children’s librarian and volunteered to do a short storytime during the Wednesday morning kindergym time.

41n3a576ajl-_sx377_bo1204203200_For my first storytime Olga wanted me to focus on the subject of feelings and emotions with the children. I immediately thought of the book How are You Peeling? by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers  which shows a variety of cleverly created produce creatures expressing emotions.

As expressed by my email conversation and interview with R. Lynn Baker, librarian and early childhood literacy consultant expert, I wanted to be intentional with my book choices, less so for theme and more for what they could offer in terms of literacy skills.

Says Lynn of the way she contstructs her storytimes,”I always start with considering the skills I would like to foster. That doesn’t mean that I do not choose themes or topics for my programs—I still do that—but I am able to ask myself why I am choosing certain books. There is always a skill connection—I try to never choose a book or activity simply because it is cute. Activities should always be fun, but they should also be rooted in skill-building. I also consider each of the five best practices of Every Child Ready to Read—talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing—and how I can combine those practices with early literacy and school readiness skill development.”

With this instruction and inspiration, I did my best to accomadate Olga’s request and tried to include some of the practices and components Lynn mentioned. Here are the books and songs I ended up using, with those titles and activities crossed out that I eliminated because of toddlers’ waning attention span:

Storytime line-up– Feelings and Socialization
Say hello in many languages, talking with hands
Song—‘The More We Get Together’ with sign language
Happy Hippo, Angry Duck—Sandra Boynton
How do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad?—Jane Yolen
Song—‘If You’re Happy and You Know it’
Song—‘This Little Light of Mine’ (use hands and fingers as ‘light’ or candle)
How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods—Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
Making faces on some produce I brought—red peppers, lemons, etc.
Talk to parents and caregivers about dialogic reading.

I wanted to add some elements of early literacy during the songs and stories, but some of that got lost with the deteriorating attention span of the youngest children. I also wanted to discuss dialogic reading with the parents and caregivers, but really all I managed to get out was a brief holler of “read to your kids!”

For the next week’s storytime I planned to keep it short with 2 books and 2-3 songs and maybe an activity earlier on.

Baker, R.L. (2016, September 2-9). Email correspondence with the blogger.



Take Two– Making it Shorter, Funner and Having a Minor Revelation

unknownThe second week’s storytime was much shorter and I divided it a bit, doing songs and shorter stories first and then reading a longer story separately to the preschoolers who still wanted to be read to. It worked much better the second time around and I was able to successfully incorporate an activity with a story.

I threw in my bit about the importance of reading before I started this time, introducing myself as a library student and asking permission to videotape. I told the parents and caregivers there that reading to your kids early and often is proven through research to make them more successful in school. That lasted about 2-3 sentences and then it was time to include the kids in the activity.

I repeated the same greeting as last time and we all sang together. It was nice and I got lots of smiles. We read Big Fat Hen and went through counting eggs, chicks, sticks and hens and I used the numbers on the felt board too, with help from my daughter/assistant B. We sang a couple counting songs and then I passed out sets of four buttons each to every child, making sure the caregiver of ‘mouthy’ babies and toddlers were given big buttons so as not to be an easy choking hazard. Then I read Pete the Cat and His 4 Groovy Buttons and we all did a bit of singing and subtraction with my mother and grandmother’s collection of colorful buttons. It was so much fun!
(start at about 2:30 for the beginning of the story)

I’m really beginning to see how flannel boards, props, hand motions and body movement enhances the story experience and keeps the kids’ little attention spans focused. I had sort of felt that an amazing story alone should keep them enraptured, but that’s not really it—they just need it to be an enhanced experience to make it developmentally stick-y.

After the children gave back their buttons, they seemed to feel that storytime was over and went to play with the toys and games provided in kindergym. I had planned a couple more songs, but I’m beginning to see that storytime at kindergym with many different aged children and a variety of toys to distract, is best left as a 15 minute activity. Two books and three songs and possibly an activity to enhance it is about their limit. And that’s okay.

Storytime Lineup– A Counting and Math Theme
Greeting Song– ‘The More We Get Together’ (with sign language)
Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker (with felt board numbers)
Song–(a counting song which I honestly can’t recall. ‘This Old Man’, perhaps?)
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons— by James Dean and Eric Litwin (with button subtraction activity)
Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales (read to a handful of preschoolers)

Important side note: The children in the video above and all the videos on this blog have been videotaped with their parents’ permission. However, I do ask that their images not leave this site. Please don’t embed this video anywhere else on the internet. Thank you very much.



Kindergym Storytime #3– A Reflection on Building Relationships

For this storytime, I had planned to combine print awareness and dialogic reading with the theme of bodies and body parts. Eric Carle’s book From Head to Toe goes perfectly with the song ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ and is well-suited to preschoolers, toddlers and babies in laps.

headtotoe-carleWhat I had counted on, and didn’t get, was that moms would put crawlers in their laps and participate with the children. Perhaps if I want them to be involved, I might mention the importance to their child and my desire that they do so.

Needless to say, the group disintegrated halfway through Carle’s book. I tried not to be discouraged or to take my books and balls and go home, so to speak. I talked with a couple moms. My preschoolers careened around the room and managed not to knock over any of the wobbling toddlers.

I struck up a conversation with a mom whose short bright-red hair, glasses and Minor Threat t-shirt reminded me of a version of myself from a not-so-distant-past. She asked about books and talked about her toddler. I handed her a Sandra Boynton book. She was not familiar with Boynton so I handed her all the ones I could find in the book bin and she lined them up and took a picture of them with her phone. We talked about how board books were good for children to manipulate if they were in to ‘doing it themselves,’ and how Boynton was quick and witty and perfect for short toddler attention spans.

As she moved on, I struck up a conversation with another mom whose daughter was just beginning to walk. The little girl toddled over to me drooling and grinning and grabbed on to my necklace. All my children have used the Maori greenstone amulet to teeth on and I was happy to oblige another. We talked about New Zealand and small children and I’m not even sure the subject meandered towards early literacy practices.

I was mindful of the guest speaker night we had in class, with Patrick Remer who always has a moment to listen to parents and answer questions regardless of how popular he is and how many people want a minute of his time. I kept in mind the poignant saying Suzanne Flint shared: “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”

So maybe this week’s experience was just to show how much I cared…because at the bottom of all this early childhood literacy knowledge is that I care very much.

Remer, P. & Flint, S. (2016, September 29) Presentation in class at SJSU School of Information, Info 269-10.



Storytime #3– continued at home

I decided to give the Carle book and song combination another shot at home with my preschoolers. If I ever do a more formal storytime with guests in my living room, perhaps I should learn to play a few tunes on the piano behind me in the video.






Kindergym Storytime #4– Asides and Happy Surprises

tiptip-digdigI have continued to provide interactive storytimes at the local Kindergym on Wednesday morning, sometimes with a theme, sometimes not. This past week, I merely grabbed Tip Tip, Dig Dig because it had big bold lettering in it. As Lynn Baker (2015) stresses, I started with my ECL element and went from there… sort of. I wouldn’t say my program was intentional, but I’ve had such mixed responses from week to week that I didn’t want to put a lot of time and effort into planning if the kids were all going to wander away and the parents were going to stand in the back and chat. At the end of the semester, I honestly didn’t have a lot of time to spend planning a storytime, either.

So I grabbed a couple more books and decided we’d sing ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,’ because one of my preschoolers came home from school singing it the other day, and ‘She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain’ is always fun because it has hand motions and sort of tied in with the ‘Things That Go’ theme. Who Ate All the Cookie Dough? Didn’t fit with either the ECL element or the theme, but I like it and kids usually do too, so we read that one as well.

Before we all sat down on the rug, my twin preschoolers agreed that they would be big kid examples to the younger ones a sit quietly on the rug when they were asked to. Olga (the program director) and I wandered about and let the adults know that we were about to have storytime and would they please gather their children and meet us on the rug. Not to be a dictator, but this made it seem less like an option.

I am pleased to say that this one was a ringing success, and I even managed an ECL aside for parents as recommended by both Baker (2015) and Ghoting and Martin-Diaz (2013). I simply mentioned the way the words were printed big on the pages of Tip Tip, Dig Dig and how if the adult reader pointed this out, then kids were building print awareness—the idea that letters on the page made words like spoken words and then on into sentences and ideas. And that was it—done. Early Childhood Literacy skills advanced, mission complete.


Storytime Line-up with a vague ‘Things That Go’ theme
Greeting Song—‘The More We Get Together’ with sign language
Tip Tip, Dig Dig by Emma Garcia
ECL aside—Print Awareness
Song—‘I’ve Been Working On the Railroad’
Song—‘She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain’ with hand motions
Who Ate All the Cookie Dough? By Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Closing song—Happy Trails (of which I only know the first line and need to learn)

Baker, R.L. (2015). Counting down to kindergarten: A complete guide to crating a school readiness program for your community. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.

Ghoting, S.N. & Martin-Diaz, P. (2013). Storytimes for everyone: Developing young children’s language and literacy. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.



Storytime #5–Where Go With the Flow is the Way to Go

51azajfpz-l-_sy495_bo1204203200_This week was a little bit more spontaneous than my previous story times and I think this freed me up to be more natural and involved. I’m not surprised by this. When I taught dance classes or performed, I felt more successful, or maybe fulfilled is a better word, when I was familiar with the audience and the material and I just went from there.

Now that I know most of the parents and kids that come to kindergym and I’ve done this a few times now, I am more aware of when the toddlers are getting restless and how to turn their attention back, when I can address parents and when I might lose everyone’s attention if I start to talk to the adults.

This week, I chose three related books (though only two of them made an appearance) with a general theme of color and animals. I thought we could focus on phonological awareness with animal sounds and print awareness with some of the large print on the pages. For parental asides, I took a few minutes to talk up the authors and illustrators and the titles available and how these books are great for babies and toddlers because of their bright colors and big shapes. And of course, I mentioned that these are all found at the local library.

We sang ‘Old MacDonald’ after I read Lois Ehlert’s Color Farm (reading not shown in the video), and so I turned to various animal pages as we sang along. The words in this book are great for print awareness for both toddlers and preschoolers, and a few times during the reading, the preschoolers and I spelled out the words. The book also has shapes and the printed word to go with the shapes. The older kids had fun shouting out the shapes and we discussed how an octagon has eight sides and a STOP sign is red and shaped like an octagon.

With these simple activities, I hoped to model to parents and caregivers the ease in which they can incorporate literacy in their daily lives and how reading can be an interactive experience.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do You See? is a popular title and seemed good for the kindergym audience. It’s nice to introduce new and interesting books, but sometimes you just need to bring out an old favorite.

Storytime Line-up focusing on Colors…and Some Other Stuff
Greeting Song—‘The More We Get Together’
Color Farm by Lois Ehlert
Song—‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’
Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle
Song—‘Happy Trails’ (Kind of. I still need to find the rest of the words online.)

Important side note: The children in the video above and all the videos on this blog have been videotaped with their parents’ permission. However, I do ask that their images not leave this site. Please don’t embed this video anywhere else on the internet. Thank you very much.