Children's Picture Books for December Storytime Themes
December Preschool Storytime Themes
December is usually a busy month with holiday preparations, school breaks, concerts, and plays. Fitting in a quality library story hour can be a scheduling challenge, but it's easy to put together a special preschool story hour presentation with these winter theme suggestions. Read through to see book and activity recommendations to go with these themes.
I often based my children's story hour themes on well-known nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and popular Christmas songs. Click here for Christmas book recommendations.
Overview of recommended storytime themes:
- Playing in the Snow
- Gingerbread, Gingerbread
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Snowman Preschool Storytime Theme
Snow has provided the inspiration for so many children's writers that I have created two themes from snow-related books. This first theme focuses on making people from snow. The other snow theme is about playing in the snow.
Snowballs by Lois Ehlert is a must-read book for its creative collage art. Ehlert builds an entire family of snow people (even their dog Spot) using layered collage papers and everyday objects that she skillfully photographs. Her quirky uses of everyday items like washers and ticket stubs paired with more unconventional things (like a colorful Peruvian scarf) make this book a fun read for a variety of age groups. Try reading this book through during the story hour, then if you have time, have the children look for items in the book. Click here to read my full book review for this story.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs is a wildly popular wordless children's picture book that tells the story of a boy's adventures with a snowman in a comic strip format. This book has been made into a popular movie that often airs on television during the Christmas holiday season.
All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle is a simple rhyming book about children building a snowman. During each page, Schertle adds just one more thing you need to build a snowman. This a a wonderful book for storytime because it builds anticipation and you can encourage group participation by asking kids to guess what comes next.
Mittens Preschool Storytime Theme
A story time program using a winter clothing theme can be lots of fun for young preschoolers. A surprising number of books feature mittens as a key element in the storyline. For toddlers and preschoolers, the nursery rhyme "three little kittens" can be used. Be sure to print out any nursery rhymes or song lyrics for children's parents. Parents usually enjoy singing along and singing with children is a great way to promote early childhood literacy at home.
A suggested activity for this storytime theme is a mitten matching game. Bring six or seven pairs of inexpensive mittens and choose volunteers from your storytime audience to help you match the pairs of mittens together by choosing the correct match from a basket or paper bag. A variation of this idea uses stuffed animals each wearing one mitten from the pair. arrange your stuffed animals in an attractive grouping and let children select one of the remaining mittens to try on a stuffed animal. Just for fun, you could also include an assortment of hats to go on the stuffed animals. This activity could be used to reinforce children's knowledge of colors and patterns.
The first year I used this theme I made about 8 different oversized paper mittens with different colors of felt applied to a sturdy cardstock background. Each colorful felt mitten had a mate that was an exact match. I posted these on a large bulletin board and mixed them up. The title on the bulletin board was Mitten Match. You could also purchase several pair of real mittens from a dollar store where these are readily available and arrange the mittens on the bulletin board.
I enjoy sharing two versions of the same Ukranian folktale, both are called The Mitten.
The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt (ISBN-10: 0688510531) and illustrated by Yaraslova was published in 1989. It has simple line art illustrations and a blue and red color scheme that hearkens back to the 1960s. This books is the story of a boy who loses his mitten in the snow. The mitten becomes shelter for woodland animals who squeeze into the mitten to get warm. This is a humorous folktale that can be read, used as inspiration for a live retelling, or acted out.
The Mitten: A Ukranian Folktale (ISBN-10: 0399231099) by Jan Brett is a playfully illustrated rendition of the same folktale. It uses Jan Brett's Scandinavian-inspired artwork with wonderful illustrative touches. Jan Brett is known for her busy illustration style that features lots of little stories within the story. If you liked The Mitten, you may also enjoy The Hat. This story is an enjoyable addition to the Jan Brett repetoire of tales about winter clothing.
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits(ISBN-10: 0374386889) has a different tone. It is a sincerely written book about the title character's Korean immigrant family and how they adjust to the American Christmas traditions while retaining their own cultural identity. This book is a must-read for older kids (at least older than preschool). Please read my review of this book here.
One Mitten by Christine O'Connell George (ISBN-10: 0618117563) is another mitten tale that will appeal to a preschool and kindergarten age crowd. The rhyming text and the theme of imaginative play would make a great lead-in to an imaginary walk in the snow.
Missing Mittens by Stuart J. Murphyand illustrated by G. Brian Karas (ISBN-10: 0064467333) is a story that introduces math concepts of even and odd. Seems Farmer Bill and all of the animals are missing a mitten. Who could be the culprit? A Billy Goat who loves to feast on clothes.
The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg (ISBN-10: 0803725663) is a revamped version of a book he published in 1974. This book tells the story of a girl who is trying to find her lost mitten by retracing her steps. The conclusion of the tale is a heart-tugging moment, literally. You'll have to read this book to see what I mean. Kellogg is the author of The Giant Tadpole and other fanciful and far-fetched tales. I like his illustations, but his real talent is pulling together a unique and entertaining story. Don't miss this one.
A Mountain of Mittens (ISBN-10: 1570915857) is the story of the lost and found mitten pile and what happens when all the children at school try to reclaim their lost mittens all at the same time. This silly tale will have your storytime audience giggling.
Three Little Kittens (ISBN-10: 0899197965) by Paul Galdone is a retelling of the traditional nursery rhyme that is perfect for reading during a library story hour. This story will be a fresh change of pace from some of the other stories in this set, and has some humorous illustrations that parents will appreciate.
Playing in the Snow Preschool Storytime Theme
The Snowy Day (ISBN 10:0670867330) by Ezra Jack Keats is a timeless classic published in the 1960s. This simple tale is the story of a young boy's day of playing in the snow. The simple text and illustrations show the author's understanding and ability to express what it is like to be a child and to discover the wonder and awe of snow play, dragging a stick through the snow, making a snow angel, and yearning to join in a snowball fight with older children. You can read a complete review of this wonderful book here. This has been my 3-year old son's favorite storybook for over a year.
A Perfect Day for It (ISBN 10: 0152166343) This book by Jan Fearnley features a playful group of animal friends who make a perfect day of sledding down a snowy hillside. You will enjoy the playful story and the bright and appealing illustrations and anticipation;building storyline will capture your audience's full attention. The hardcover edition by Harcourt is the version I own.
The Jacket I Wear in the Snow (ISBN-10: 0688045871 ) by Shirley Neitzel is a book to share with your emergent readers and pre-readers. The book uses pictures of the clothing items in place of some of the text, so children can read along with you during your story presentation. Children love being able to participate in reading a story. I recommend that you review the word pictures with the children before you begin reading with them.
Gingerbread Preschool Storytime Theme
December always gets me thinking about gingerbread. You can give this theme a thorough exploration because so many books have been written based on the traditional gingerbread man folktale. In fact, author Jan Brett has authored two books on this theme. But don't forget Hansel and Gretel, and a few others. You may wish to decorate gingerbread cookies or make a paper bag gingerbread ornament as part of your children's story hour. If you are very brave, you might even attempt a live retelling of the gingerbread man story. This story is very easy to remember and retell, and with a little practice, will hold your audience captive, even if you are a first time storyteller.
The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone (ISBN-10: 0899191630) is at the top of my list of gingerbread stories. Galdone is the go to author for a clean, traditional version of just about any folktale or fairytale. His stories are unapologetically traditional, which I appreciate. It's also fun to mix up stories, but helpful to introduce young audiences to a topic for the first time. Please click here to read my full review of this story.
Jan Brett's Gingerbread stories include The Gingerbread Baby (ISBN-10: 0399241663) and Gingerbread Friends (ISBN-10: 0399251618). Each of these stories stars a cute young boy named Mattie who brings an appealing human element to the traditional folktale. Jan Brett's illustrations are especially delightful, with gingerbread-style trim on all the village houses. If you are unfamiliar with Brett's body of work, I encourage you to visit her Jan Brett web site. She offers many freebies such as coloring pages and games that she has created from the characters that appear in her stories. You will find Brett's body of work is huge.
Hansel and Gretel retold by Cynthia Rylant (ISBN-10: 1423111869) with illustrations by Jen Corace is a popular retelling of the original tale by the Brothers Grimm. The text of this particular version of the Hansel and Gretel story isn't as lengthy as some of the others, but the book is 40 pages long, which is 8 pages more than the typical 32-page children's story.
The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock (ISBN-10: 0590972197) is another popular version of the gingerbread story. This story has the rhyming text "No! No!/I won't come back!/I'd rather run/Than be your snack!" which is original but easy to read aloud.
For variations on a gingerbread theme, try one of these two books:
I wouldn't be any kind of western girl without mentioning the Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires (ISBN-10: 0060778636). In this rendition, the gingerbread man encounters a wiley coyote instead of a fox. The western elements in this story make for a fun change-up of the traditional tale, with all kinds of details straight from the old West. Please click here to read my full review of this entertaining and spicy remix of the gingerbread tale.
The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst (ISBN-10: 0525476679) promotes girl power with the smart gingerbread girl outfoxing the fox himself. This smart retelling received high reviews, except some parents and teachers found the author's word choices objectionable in a few places. You should decide for yourself as this is a cute and original retelling of the story.
Ginger Bear by Mini Grey (ISBN-10: 0375842535) is my last book recommendation for this article. It is a quirky revisit of the gingerbread story with the family dog being the culprit instead of a fox. This story has a busy, almost frenzied feel, and offers some delightful surprises (like when Ginger Bear decides to make a few friends). The resolution of the story is completely unique and ironic but also somehow is true to the original tale. You must read this story and decide if you want to use it in your story hour.
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