Ask a Storytime Ninja: Preschool Storytime Newbie

If you have anything to add to this week’s answers, please share in the comments.


The Question:


I am doing a Preschool Story Time for the first time at my library soon, (I’ve always done Toddler and Family story times.) I’m wondering how to gear it differently for preschoolers and what things I should make sure to touch on for them, ie early literacy statements, things to point out about the books, songs, etc. Any suggestions?


The Answers:


From Nancy:


I love preschool storytime! I prefer to have caregivers in the room to help with behavior, but I ask them to sit in a semi-circle (in chairs) behind the kiddos and me because storytime offers a great opportunity for preschoolers to get their social skills ready before kindergarten–taking turns, waiting to speak, etc. Unlike storytimes for younger kids and babies, I do not interject commentary on why I chose a book or how this action song reinforces one of the Five Practices of ECRR2. I let the storytime flow but I am always thinking of how I can engage the preschoolers to take turns, predict what happens next in the story or work together to finish a cumulative rhyme or activitiy. Each week, I create a flyer (just a half sheet of paper) with homework for the kids and their caregivers.  One side has a 2 or 3 sentence summary of what we did that week (theme, book titles, songs). Then I explain how we incorporated one of the Five Practices (ECRR2). At the bottom of the caregiver side, I offer suggestions for fun or unusual things to do at home to reinforce that week’s practice (reading, writing, singing, playing, or talking). On the back of the homework sheet, I add a line art image that ties to the theme for the preschoolers to color and I add the theme word in dotted lines on writing practice lines for them to trace the letters (I use this website: but there are a number of free sites to choose from). I wasn’t prepared for all the kids returning their completed “homework” the next week–so I now make sure to have stickers or our “I visited the library” hand stamp ready and waiting.


Though it’s true for toddlers too, I especially like gross motor activities for preschoolers because being physical helps cement the information in their brains (learned that from an occupational therapist years ago). So things like introducing the letter of the week then having them stand to draw the letter giant-sized in the air (like they do in Super Why) is appropriate. I like to narrate that and tell them that “A” starts at the ceiling over my head then comes down to my left foot, then goes back over my head and comes down to my right foot, then “A” gets a belt right in the middle. You get the idea!  I like making “Alphabet Soup” too–I let the gang pick a magnetic letter (or you could use laminated letters) as they enter the room. Then I tell them I love alphabet soup with vegetables (I put play veggies in a cheap witch’s cauldron) and lots of letters. As we sing the alphabet song slowly, they identify their letters and drop them in the soup pot.  We stir and stir then let it simmer for 2 books. After book 2, I pull out felt letters that spell out the theme (we put them in order on the flannel board, sound them out then say the word).  Using black letters in the pot is great–they blend in and the kids think the pot is magic! I like this trick as they have to keep track of how many books we’ve read and they remind me it’s time to check the soup; they have to wait for a result; and we get some phonics fun in our program.


Basically, the examples are to let you know that you can create a simple yet sophisticated storytime that meets the needs of the preschoolers without being preachy or boring. Use your imagination to think of what a preschooler will need before kindergarten then package it as fun with lots of opportunities for movement and you’re good to go!


From Lindsey:


I also love preschool story time! My age range is 3-5 for this group and we have so much fun! I like to choose normally 3 books that allow these kiddos to think. I try to choose books that teach a certain lesson, like being generous, helpful, kind, ect. They like to think about that kind of thing and parents love it, too, as it gives them a great teaching opportunity to expand on at home. I also use this opportunity to use wordless books. Their imaginations are so active! They really love interactive books as well, so I try to choose those when I can!
As far as activities go, I do a lot of painting/art with this group. They have wonderful imaginations and I love to allow them to explore and do things they might not get to do at home. I don’t usually sing or do flannel boards because we do more craft type activities afterwards, but I’m sure there will be great suggestions for songs and things!

With preschoolers, I find them to be like mini adults. I love having conversations with them and interacting with them one on one. I like to provide extension activities for parents to do with their children at home after story time, as well. Whether it’s a book list of books related to what we talked about during story time, a list of activities they can do for a special prize, ect, they love it! You will LOVE preschool story time!


From Chrissie:


If you love interaction with children, you are going to LOVE preschool storyime! Depending on what the ages of the children are, they may be very chatty. Children of this age like to tell you everything that is going on in their lives! Ask questions and encourage discussion!  For example, if you are reading a story about pets you can ask the children if anyone has a pet at home. How do you take care of your pet? It helps introduce the story, but also helps children relate to the story by developing reading skills at the same time.


Personally, I do not provide any kind of early literacy tip or ECRR2 information. Parents are already on information overload and I don’t like storytime to feel too much like school for children or adults….if you decide to include adults in your preschool storyime. In the last few years I stopped doing storytime for 3-5 year-olds, because honestly, there is a big difference in learning abilities between a three year-old and a five year-old. I started pairing 2&3 year-olds and 4&5 year-olds together- it is just what worked for my library at the time. For the younger group, I would have parents come down to storytime for obvious reasons, but the older children I would have come down by themselves. It helped some children get used to the idea of being away from a parent for school readiness. Also, I didn’t feel as though I was being judged by the parents as much when it was just the children in the room. (And a good portion of the time, I spent quieting the parents from their side chatter.)  It’s all about what you are comfortable with!


Definitely include some of the aspects you are doing in your other storytimes. Older preschoolers still like music and movement, plus you can also play simple games with them. I am a big fan of Yo Gabba Gabba’s Freeze Game- music, movement and a game! A simple game of hot potato will easily please them, too. They will also like many of the rhymes you do for other groups.  One thing I have always liked doing is putting out the puppets and other props for the children to play with after storytime is over. It gives the children a chance to use their imagination to either re-tell a rhyme or story or create one of their own!


I found the best way for me to get ideas about an age group I have never worked with is to see another librarian in action. If you are able to, visit a library close to yours and see how that librarian does storytime. Sometimes a visual is all you need!


Just remember, if something doesn’t work out the first time you try it in storytime, you can always change things for the following week!

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