Friday, March 22, 2013

Preschool Outreach Storytime March 2013

As part of  my job, I do monthly or bimonthly storytimes at local preschools as part of our outreach efforts. Usually I do two storytimes at each school: one for a group of 2s and young 3s, and one for a group of 4s and 5s. The school I visit most often is theme-based and asked me to match my storytimes to the theme that was being presented that week.  These weren't generic preschool themes like "bears," either: these were things like "health and hygiene." At first, I was happy to oblige, but it started to get tricky.  In January, my theme was diversity. There are a few really great books for preschoolers on that topic...  and when I brought out my basket of materials to read to the older group, the teacher admitted that she'd read the class all the books I'd brought with me already.  I kicked myself for not bringing any back-up books, but the teacher handed me some books she hadn't read the class yet, and it was fine.

In February, the topic was "America." For some reason, I really struggled with finding books for this topic, especially for the younger kids. I think I would have had an easier time for "4th of July," but this was more "President's Day."  Anyway, I brought lots of books and created lots of activities to do in between the stories... and they all fell totally flat. I don't know if it was me, or the materials, or just a bad day for the kids, or a combination, but it was a disaster. Definitely the worst storytime experience I've had to date. The teacher spent most of the time yelling at the kids to sit down and be quiet, and I felt awful.  Storytime is supposed to be fun; I really am trying to teach kids to love books and words, and I don't want them to associate my visits with getting yelled at.

After that experience, I spoke with the director of the preschool and we mutually decided that it would be better if I just created my own storytimes and didn't try to work around their themes. This is a lot less work for me, since I can work from the storytimes I've planned for my in-house preschool group in the previous month, but more importantly, I can choose books and activities that I know will go over well with this age group, rather than ones that fit a theme.

This March was the first time I presented a "themeless" storytime for the preschool, and instead of presenting one of the storytimes I'd done previously, I decided to do a "greatest hits" storytime with some of my very favorite readalouds. I really wanted the kids to have fun.

Some of the books I read were:

Caps for Sale  by Esphyr Slobodkina

The kids LOVED this. I mean, I knew it would be a hit, but I was surprised at how immediately it held their attention. They really got into pretending to be the monkeys, saying Tsz, tsz, tsz! I sometimes feel like I have to drag out audience participation in my stories, but immediately the kids all chimed in. I love any story that provides an opportunity for some gross motor movement, and this one definitely does.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw
I read this to the older kids, and again, it was a huge hit.  They had never read it before and had no idea what "it" was.  They really got into shouting out what each shape was, and I liked some of their suggestions better than what was in the book.  They thought the angel was a dragonfly, for instance.  A classic for a reason.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes  by Eric Litwin, ill. James Dean

This was the biggest hit of all, but no surprise there. Pete's just brilliant.  I read this to both groups, and it went over equally well with both.  I'd be happy to read this one to first graders, too -- honestly, is there any age that wouldn't love Pete?  The older group REALLY loved Pete, and at the end, instead of singing "If You're Happy and You Know It" (which is how I usually close out my storytimes), they wanted to sing the Pete song some more.  So we all got up and danced around and made up a song for the whole rainbow "Oh no! Pete stepped in a pumpkin patch. What color are his shoes now?") This was a TON of fun -- and totally organic and spontaneous.

My Car by Byron Barton

I read this to the younger kids; it's one of my favorite reads for younger kids. The illustrations are so vivid and simplistic, which makes it perfect to share with a group. The text is also simple, but there's a cute twist at the end, and what little kid doesn't love cars?

Mr. Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham

I shared this with the younger group, and it also went over well.  The kids enjoyed shaking their fingers and repeating Mr. Gumpy's admonitions to the riders on his boat.

I also brought our "Color Bears," which are die-cut bears in red, green, blue, and yellow cardstock glued onto craft sticks.  We use them in conjuction with the Hap Palmer song "Colors," which instructs the kids to stand up and sit down at various times depending on the color of their stick.  You can get the jist of this here:

Both groups really enjoyed it, although they both had trouble following directions. I wasn't so surprised that the younger group struggled a bit, although I was surprised that the older group didn't quite catch on either. I suspect that if I brought this with me several months in a row, they'd be old pros.

Anyway, this storytime was a ton, a ton of fun. The kids absolutely loved it, and I was so happy to share some really excellent books with them.

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