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Storytime Ideas: Themes for Librarians and Circle Time

Updated on October 14, 2016

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. | Source

A New Way to Hold Storytimes

Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library: Partnering with Caregivers for Success
Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library: Partnering with Caregivers for Success

Storytimes can be so much more than just fun. They are an opportunity to empower parents in building up their preschool child's early literacy. This book provides scripts and plans to enable librarians to make this new kind of storytime effective.

 

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. | Source

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. | Source

November Storytime Themes

Topic
Books
Activities
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
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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?

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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. | Source

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

Storytime Magic: 400 Fingerplays, Flannelboards, and Other Activities
Storytime Magic: 400 Fingerplays, Flannelboards, and Other Activities

Storytimes arranged by themes with flannelboard, craft, fingerplays, songs and book titles all conveniently laid out for you.

 

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. | Source

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. | Source

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

The Storytime Craft Book
The Storytime Craft Book

You'll find 79 craft projects to use with storytimes. Just what you need to have on hand while plannng your themes for the season.

 

Puppets for Storytimes

Using Music in Storytimes

Sound of Storytime
Sound of Storytime

Not cheap, but look at the used copies being offered. There are some good buys there.

This has a wealth of ways to use music (including rhythm band instruments) in storytimes. Essential for the children's librarians resource shelf.

 

Do You Use Puppets with Your Storytimes?

Vote in the Poll

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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.

Puppet Skits for Schools and Libraries

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Please share your storytime tips and favorites with us!

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    • profile image

      Bred 2 years ago

      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 profile image

      amandascloset0 3 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      BarbsSpot 4 years ago

      @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 profile image

      castelloautore 4 years ago

      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 profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      @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.

    • heytoto profile image

      Karen Kolavalli 4 years ago from Lexington, Kentucky

      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!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      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 profile image

      Preschool Toolbox 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Auntie-M LM 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      FamilySolutions1 5 years ago

      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 Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

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

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

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

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      Adele Jeunette 5 years ago

      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 profile image

      Johanna Eisler 5 years ago

      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.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

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

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 5 years ago from Concord VA

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

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

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

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      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

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

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

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 6 years ago from Florida

      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.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 6 years ago from Royalton

      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.

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 6 years ago from Jonesborough TN

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

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      Frischy 6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      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 profile image

      ChrissLJ 6 years ago

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

    • almawad profile image

      almawad 6 years ago

      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 ...

    • profile image

      WorldVisionary 6 years ago

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

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 6 years ago

      Great ideas for teachers too, or homeschooling moms.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      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.

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

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

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 7 years ago

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

    • MisterJeremy profile image

      Jeremy 7 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      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 profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

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

    • ChrissLJ profile image

      ChrissLJ 7 years ago

      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.)

    • profile image

      poutine 7 years ago

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

      It was so much fun for them.

      Great links here.