Storytime Tips from Your Youth Librarians

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Reading is key to children's brain development, and parents can encourage that best by reading to their children.  Your CGPL youth librarians are here to offer you our tips that turn a regular read-aloud into an awesome storytime. From choosing a book to tips for reading aloud, we've got some pointers for you and your young children.

Choosing a Book:

The library has thousands of books; let us help you choose a story your child will love!


At the newborn stage, the most important thing you can do for your child’s literacy is to talk and sing to them. However, if you are looking for books, choose titles with bright and bold pictures against solid-colored backgrounds. The contrast of bold colors is important to babies because their eyes are not yet developed enough to focus on more detailed illustrations. Wordless books or books with just a single word a page are fine at this stage since babies’ eyes cannot focus on words yet. Perfect books for babies include Baby Animals: Black and White by Phyllis Tildes and Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni.

After about six months, babies become more active and want to experience the world around them through touch and other senses. For this reason, you should choose cloth, vinyl, or thick cardboard books that will withstand abuse; also, look for activity books that encourage this behavior, such as pop-ups, lift the flaps, and books with textures to feel. For text-focused picture books, make sure that the text is short and simple, fairly large, and against a white or light-colored background. Check out books like Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Fuzzy!: Touch, Skritch, & Tickle Book by Sandra Boynton or You’re My Little Baby by Eric Carle.

Head to the back of our youth area to find the small ABC shelves that house our board books.


The toddler years allow you to introduce books with more plot and detail (visually and text-wise) than you would find in a baby book. Move on to books that have a sentence or two per page. You can also look at concept books: these include stories about colors, shapes, letters, and counting. At CGPL, come into the Youth Area and go straight back to the windows to find our convenient concepts book bin. Additionally, keep looking for rhyming words, and start to introduce repetition into your storytime routine. Development experts say that repetition is key to language development at this age. Perfect books for toddlers include Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, We Love Dinosaurs by Lucy Volpin, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.



For preschoolers, we still love to use books with repetition because, in addition to repetition being good for language learning, these texts have a level of predictability that allows children to tell the story alongside the reader. This is why kids love the Pete the Cat books. Also, try The Gruffalo by Julie Donaldson, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstorm, and Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson.

Text layout and contrast are not as important for these children, but you can use your finger to track the words while your child watches.


Elementary-Aged Kids

Don’t be afraid to branch into reading chapter books with your children. When they’re old enough to pay attention to a novel with few or no pictures (usually around age 7 or 8), read-aloud is a fun way for you to help them transition into reading longer and more difficult books. Great selections to start out with are books by Gordon Korman, Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, and Dav Pilkey (of Captain Underpants fame), or, for fantasy lovers, The Land of Stories series.

Lastly, choose books that fit their interests, even if the topic is not stereotypically an “educational” one. We have fiction and nonfiction books about Star Wars, Minecraft, Lego, and superheroes.

Speaking of non-fiction, don’t forget about our children’s non-fiction section! Non-fiction can be a great supplement to accompany a picture book. We even have some easy readers in this section. For example, try Cynthia Rylant’s picture book Rain along with non-fiction easy reader Rain by Erin Edison. Or, to start a discussion about emotions, pair Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negely with The Smart Kid’s Guide to Feeling Sad or Angry by M.J. Cosson.

Let’s start to read:

For a storytime experience that draws your child in, don’t just read the words on the page! Change your voice and use your body to help tell the story. Even though you may feel silly doing it, children of any age are engaged by the reader “acting” out the story. For instance, use a high-pitched voice for a mouse character and a low voice for an elephant. Yawn and stretch when the characters feel tired, and make your voice quiver when characters are sad or scared. Slow your voice or even wait to turn the page for dramatic effect; the kids will be begging you to go on!

Add sound effects. Continuing with the theme of “acting” out the story, you can use sound effects to further engage your young audience. When a character hears footsteps, tap your feet on the floor, and when you see birds on the page, you can “tweet tweet!”.

Ask questions. Invite your child’s participation by asking them age-appropriate questions about the book: “What’s that?” or “What does this animal say?” or “Point to the kitty cat!”. For older kids, you could even ask more open-ended questions like “How do you think the character felt when that happened?” or “What do you think will happen next?" These kinds of engaging questions will encourage growth in many different areas of the brain.

Make connections. You can also help them make connections to real life by making statements such as, “That baby has an orange cat, just like ours!”, or for older kids, something like, “You’ll be starting at a new school soon, too.”

Lastly, please note: it’s common for children to want to read the same book over and over, and this is totally fine, even beneficial. The routine of experiencing a familiar book is reassuring and calming to children, and experts say that repetition is great for learning new words.


Sources for further reading:

Although we're experienced with storytime, librarians don't actually know everything; we're just really good at research! Here are our sources for this post and suggestions for further reading:


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