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Talking Storytime

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This week’s letter was Q for Questions and Talking. Talking is an early literacy practice, and I wanted to model how it fits into reading aloud. With that in mind, instead of choosing books about talking, I chose books that would cause talking and questions. Yes, you guessed it: we went wordless. I turned the pages and asked helping questions, but I let the storytimers tell the stories based on what they saw. I didn’t even bring out the flannelboard; I wanted to have an extremely personal, no-prop, no-distance experience.

We read:

Run, Dog! by Cecile Boyer

A yellow dog chases a ball through a park filled with deep blue silhouette people, pink and purple pigeons, and a zoo with a blue elephant. Readers can follow the ball’s trajectory through every turn of the third- and half-sized pages. On each full size spread, a different person throws the ball and says one word to the dog, such as run, go, or fetch. The story itself is wordless.

Concepts: Talking, action words

Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

Bored Walrus escapes from the pool at the zoo and befuddles his keeper by hiding in plain sight all over town. An extremely simplified version of a look-and-find, this adventure allows kids to pick Walrus out of a lineup of similar shapes and colors. I prefaced this story by telling the kids since we were talking today, they had to tell me where Walrus was, not just point to him.

Concepts: Same/different

Bee & Bird by Craig Frazier

A bee and a bird take a trip that illustrates the difference made in perceived size of objects by viewer perspective. In other words, things look smaller from farther away. The one issue I have with this book is explaining the spread where the truck appears to be driving on a cow. It just takes too long in the middle of the story.

Concepts: Visual perspective, size

Action Songs:

Jumping and Counting by Jim Gill

Stick to the Glue by Jim Gill

Craft: Bee Bs or B Bees, whichever you prefer


We made bees out of Bs to go with the bee in Bee & Bird. It’s photocopied Bs on yellow paper glued to white cardstock. The wings are scalloped hearts made on the die cut machine, the stripes are black construction paper strips left over from the shape bugs, all topped off with pipe cleaner antennae.

How It Went:

I know that some librarians use wordless books all the time, and I also know that some are terrified of using them. I don’t know the source of that fear. Is it fear that the kids won’t be able to follow the story from pictures alone? Is it that the librarian doesn’t know how to present a wordless book? Is it that the librarian is of the “kids should sit down and shut the heck up while I read” school of storytime? Anyone have thoughts on this?

Anyway, we had a blast with this theme. I used extremely simple books. I expected to get a lot of out-there quotes from the kids, but actually, I didn’t. They had zero trouble telling the story from the pictures in Run, Dog!, and even asked some great questions like, “Why do the strangers keep throwing the ball for the dog? That’s not their dog!” Good point, kids. They got a little concerned on the page where the dog is near the street, too. Smart safety thoughts, kids! Finding Walrus is extremely easy, but coming up with some of the words for where he’s hiding isn’t. For example, he’s pretending to be a mannequin at one point, and no one knew that word, so I told them. On the other hand, we had a right-at-two-year-old who got into it, giving one word answers about what Walrus was doing like, (points at Walrus) “Dancing!” The kids were also great at reasoning out what they were seeing in Bee & Bird, although at one point when the characters are in front of a white area, one girl said, “It’s an elephant!” and when I said, “Do you think so? Well, let’s think about this. Are elephants white?”, she said, “Oh. No, they’re blue.” To be fair, the one in the dog book was definitely bright blue.

I couldn’t find/think up any action songs about talking, so I just picked some that would require a lot of jumping up and down. I’m going to try to go more in this direction. Not everything in storytime needs to match the theme of the day. It’s only important that the kids are getting something out of storytime. Themes really should only serve as a way to organize your thoughts as a presenter if that method works for you.

The bee Bs were a huge hit because of the name. It’s a pun even preschoolers can understand, and they loved saying, “Bee B! Bee B!” over and over.

Next week: either Sight Words or Music. I have everything I need to do either one and can’t decide which to do first.


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