Highlights of our fall storytime sessions! Here, I’ll jot down some thoughts on how I planned for these eight weeks of baby & toddler, pre-k, and outreach storytime sessions. Skip ahead for the books, songs, and activities that we enjoyed the most. Finally, I’ll share a plan for a lesson you can do at home, in case you missed it.
But First: Planning!
I prep for these sessions by pulling together books and activities that relate to the overarching theme of the season: fall. There are so many great things about this time of year, especially from a kid's perspective. I favor activities that help them look, listen, smell, touch and taste experiences of autumn, keeping in mind that for some, this is their first experience with it!
I also reflect on the feelings and challenges we all may encounter at this time of year - preparation and hustle at the start of the school year, gratitude for the harvest or for seeing friends and family, gloom as night comes earlier and earlier, and all the mixed-up emotions that these changes can bring! From there, I pick out books and activities that tap into these wider ideas. This helps storytime go beyond naming fall colors and counting apples on a tree - after all, we're not just here to read books (though, that remains a big part of it!).
Ultimately, I use planning time to remind myself that storytime is a chance for caretakers and kids to bond, have fun, sneak in some learning, and take a breath to process all that we are going through in community. I hope the care I take in planning my sessions translates into a positive experience for all our attendees - thank you for sharing your time and your wonderful kids with me, and I hope we all get something we need from our storytimes together.
On to the Hits! Favorite Books, Songs, and Activities:
1. Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
Perfect for a season filled with apple pickin’, pie bakin’, and hibernatin’ bears. We chanted along with the simple text while making shapes with our bodies, contorting ourselves into Oranges, Pears, Apples, and Bears - RAWR! This one is certain to get the giggles goin’.
2. Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
My new favorite rendition of this classic story - Barnett and Klassen are unmatched. After the story, kids engineered bridges out of household materials. Then, they practiced their storytelling skills by reenacting this familiar narrative, marching stick puppets of the goats across after tricking the troll below.
3. There’s a Ghost in this House by Oliver Jeffers
I never expected that this somewhat-subtle story of a haunted house would translate to all of my Halloween storytimes, but kids of all ages loved finding the ghosts as we turned transparent papers, “revealing” them on each page! After each telling, we sang We Are Spooky Ghosts with scarves draped like veils over our heads - I plan on using this song for years to come, it’s an eerie delight.
4. Grandma and Me by Carol Boston Weatherford and Ashleigh Corrin
This baby and toddler time, we celebrated all the grandmas! This simple, loving board book facilitated some reminiscing. I remembered my grandma singing “trot, trot, to Boston” with me and used it as one of our bounces. This started a conversation about the origin of the rhyme, and how it has been adapted regionally (my Grandmother, from Lowell Massachusetts sang it “trot, trot to Boston, trot, trot to Lynn, better watch out or you might fall in!”). This prompted some caregivers to share rhymes that they use at home or remembered from childhood. A few brave Grandmas even taught their tunes to the group! I’m so grateful for the safe and supportive community that comes together for these sessions and for everyone that brings their tips and tricks to contribute.
Something to Try at Home: Compost Storytime!
I started composting this year and have been super excited about creating a compost storytime. Here’s what I did and some of the resources I shared to help kids get excited about it too. If you are thinking about composting, or already compost at home, feel free to try the activity, share a song, and read a book together to create a memorable experience.
Here are the books we read:
- Bella’s Fall Coat by Lynn Plourde and Susan Gal - not about composting, but this fall picture book was a springboard for talking about seasonal change and the fall leaves that make up the base of our compost piles.
- I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbitt - not about composting, but a funky, off-beat counting book featuring a decomposition superstar: the worm!
- Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals and Ashley Wolff - definitely about composting! This alphabet book was the best one I found for relating the basics of how composting works while naming what you can put in your pile.
We started by asking questions - where do leaves go when they fall each year? After some speculation (and crunching some crispy leaves I’d collected) we learned about decomposition and made our own solariums so kids could watch the process at home. I found a great guide for this craft that is easy to follow. We had sensory-filled fun scooping soil, shredding paper, tossing in a few leaves and kitchen scraps, and pouring in just a little (okay, sometimes a lot) of rainwater. That’s the beauty of this activity - it doesn’t have to be perfect, just a fun way to get kids involved in measuring out the ingredients for their at-home “compost stew”.
Caption: Kids scoop soil, leaves and shredded newspaper into jars, presented alongside colorful picture books about composting. This craft was made possible by glass jar donations from our library patrons. I really appreciate when a craft can be sourced from our local community and encourages creative reuse - the perfect example to set at this sustainability themed storytime! Thank you to everyone that brought us a jar!
Storytime songs about composting are few and far between, so instead, we sang about worms! Herman the Worm is a song I remember way back from Girl Scout Camp about a cannibalistic worm that eats his whole family while growing ever larger. Don’t worry, it has a happy (and extremely silly) ending. The kids were cautious at first, but as we repeated the lyrics and did the hand motions again and again, they got in on all the jokes and were roaring with laughter by the end. Be advised, this one will get stuck in your head - it’s a bit of an earworm.