Picture book options are plentiful these days, but not every picture book makes a great book for storytime. Even some of my favorite stories don’t make it to storytime because… they need a lap! Certain books are just far more successful in a one-on-one setting than reading in front of a group. With that in mind, what is it that makes a book into a storytime standout?
- First and foremost is the size and clarity of the pictures. Storytime audiences are learning how to listen, and among a big group of people it can be difficult to focus one’s attention on something too small to see! Large, bright, clear illustrations or photos help to grab audience attention and keep them visually engaged while they are listening. Double spread pages are wonderful for this, and can sometimes make up for a smaller-sized book. That being said, even for small groups, I have found that 8″ board books are about the smallest I can go without struggling to keep everyone’s interest.
- Age-appropriate subject and length are next in importance. This means short in length for toddlers, who want to move more than listen. Recognizable objects, animals, and faces for babies; rhymes, songs, and lift-the-flap are also fun for the littlest listeners. Longer and more complex story lines and vocabulary are great for preschoolers, but might test a group that is too young to keep still yet. Know your audience! Don’t be afraid to skip over (clip together) pages if a book seems too long… and if you need to stretch out a short book, you can always ask for extra participation or add in a second short book for fun.
- Books we love and books we want to share – these add in the final element of enthusiasm that can turn your storytime into something special. Whether it is humor, sweetness, great illustrations, a seasonal theme, or a new way of presenting a simple concept… any of these things may turn a book into one of your storytime favorites. This is what makes sharing books fun, and spreads the love of books and reading!