Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tot School: Finding Great Books

Welcome back! Hopefully, yesterday’s homework assignment (to create a list of toddler/preschool learning themes) wasn’t too awful. Remember that your list is supposed to inspire you—keep it handy so that you can add new ideas when they strike!

Today we are going to pick ONE idea and find a bunch of terrific books related to that theme! Since I am teaching a new, grad-only class this Saturday, I decided to show you (step-by-step) how I am planning a lesson based on SPRING.

One of my first places visit on the Internet is always Storytime Katie, the blog of a fun librarian who shares all of her storytime plans with us. (It’s also a great place to add more ideas to your theme list!) For the theme of SPRING, you can see Katie’s ideas here and here.

The next thing I do is log onto our library website.
Tot School: Finding Great Books

I keep my library account open in another tab so that I can look up books as I go. I typically request all of the available books that Storytime Katie suggests. (If you have an older child, you may wish to write down a few of the books’ reference information so that you can show your child how to find books in a library.) I never know which book is going to be PERFECT and which ones are too hard/easy/silly. I like to start with at least five theme-related books for each lesson. As the crafts, songs, and games come together (tomorrow's post), I narrow down the books to the best fit.

Tot School: Finding Great Books

(It takes a few days for requested books to show up at your library branch, but that doesn't mean you can't keep planning your tot school activities!)

My next step is making a key words list. Since I teach ASL signs as a part of each lesson, it’s important to choose which words/signs are important to the theme. Whether or not you sign with your little one, being purposeful about new vocabulary is wise. For my SPRING theme, I picked the words garden, grow, plant, rain, flower, seed, dirt, fruit, vegetable. (Since I'm also teaching a WEATHER-themed class this week, I'm focusing more on the garden/plant aspect of SPRING for this grad class.)

Don't forget to "shop" from the books you already own! If you have The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, it would be a great fit for this theme (or at least the obvious follow-up theme, Making Healthy Eating Choices). I also found A Color of His Own and A Busy Year (both by Leo Lionni) in our book stash.

Tot School: Finding Great Books

Many times, as I am reading to the girls, I think, "This book would be perfect for the -- theme!" If I can find my theme list, I jot the book title down before I forget. You can also create a theme Excel spreadsheet or create Pinterest boards to collect ALL your ideas. (More on that tomorrow.)

BONUS: Take a few minutes and create a new iTunes playlist with songs related to your theme. You can stick to children's music (Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Rachel Coleman are our favorites), or you can add in classical and pop songs that also fit the theme.

Finally, search for theme-related rhymes! Young children LOVE to rhyme, and it's such an important pre-reading skill. Google is your friend for this kind of thing! Here are a few SPRING-themed rhymes (and here are a few more).

Have you picked a theme yet? List it the comments below!
Is your theme on Storytime Katie? 
Share a few book titles with us--let's build our book lists together!


  1. I never think to do this.. When I take my girls to the library I just let them loose but it is a good idea and could be fun. Always w your posts I think I may check out an ASL book for the kids and see if we can learn some stuff together. My middle child is always amazed when she sees one of the boys I watch sign 'MORE' and when I tell her... she is like WOW! I think we could have fun and you never know... maybe it will encourage her to learn even more.

    1. Aimee, I think that's great! ASL is a beautiful language and has benefits for everyone. :) I'll send you a list of books available at the library; you may also want to try the Signing Time DVDs--I find it easier to learn from a video than a book. :)


I love reading your comments!