One of my favorite parts of being a children’s librarian was getting to deliver storytimes. They are fun, engaging, and often adorable. They also build early literacy skills, educate caregivers, and provide a fun, free social activity, all while inspiring a love of reading. There’s quite a lot going on under the (book) cover of storytime!  

There’s also quite a lot that goes into selecting energizing titles to share aloud with your youngest patrons. The best read-alouds have something magical about them. They draw listeners in and elicit a response from the audience. Often, they include repetition and wordplay. They introduce new vocabulary, offer opportunities for discussion and questions, and allow children to connect what’s happening in the story to their world. They should also provide both windows and mirrors for participants with joyful narratives that celebrate all kinds of diversity.  

So how and where do you find titles to share? Start with NoveList! Our team of librarians and book experts are always working to help make your job easier.   

Tried and true storytime standouts 

Knowing where to start can be overwhelming. It takes time to figure out which titles lend themselves to being read out loud! That’s why NoveList librarians have created the genre storytime standouts to highlight titles that beg to be read over and over. These titles are exceptional for group sharing. You can easily find them in NoveList Plus by searching GN storytime standouts. From there, you can refine your results further by genre, theme, tone, or character. NoveList’s updated Character Identity tags make it easier to find underrepresented characters. Genres such as stories in rhyme or themes such as celebrating identity or being a friend will help you find just what you’re looking for. 

Find your style 

There is no one way to present a storytime! Maybe you’re an everyone-join-in-the-sillier-the-better storyteller. Or maybe quieter, feel-good stories are your thing. Sometimes you need different kinds of stories for different programs. From high-energy music and movement programs to peaceful bedtime stories for pajama time, the story elements in NoveList Plus can help you find books to share based on a particular feeling, tone, writing style, or illustration style. Appeal terms such as whimsical, sweet, quiet, or fanciful work to create soothing and thoughtful storytimes. Combining terms such as cartoony, amusing, mischievous, silly, gross, or darkly humorous will give you a different but equally awesome program.  

Lean on colleagues, friends, and experts 

You do not have to reinvent the storytime wheel. Librarians love to share what they know! Do you have colleagues or neighboring libraries you can meet with? Most likely they will be more than happy to share tips, resources, and sample storytimes with you. Ask if you can attend one of their programs. Observing others is a great way to learn about interacting with the audience and how to transition from story to song or activity and back again.  

NoveList also has lots of other resources you can turn to! Check out our 8 storytime tips for the uninitiated, the search strategy handout on finding books for storytime, or the Working With Youth page in NoveList Plus (you can find it under Quick Links in the header bar) for tips on finding titles and more. 

Don’t hesitate to ask an expert. Literally. With BookChat, you can chat with a live specialist who can provide suggestions and search tips to help answer all your readers’ advisory questions. Want slightly scary books for preschoolers? Ask BookChat! Looking for books with big and bold illustrations? Ask BookChat! Need unconventional princess books? You get the idea. The BookChat Specialists are experienced and passionate about readers’ advisory and truly enjoy helping people find books that meet their needs, so chat with them when you need an assist. 

Build your storytime collection 

If you need to refresh or purchase more books to round out your picture book or storytime collection, Core Collections can help. Core Collections uses NoveList vocabulary to capture genres and subjects, making it easy to search for great titles to use in storytime! Some suggestions might be: 

  • storytime standouts 
  • alphabet books 
  • counting books 
  • cumulative tales 

The Core Collections levels of recommendations can ensure that you have the essential and recommended titles while also allowing you to quickly check supplemental titles. From the search results page, you can sort or limit by relevance to find books we recommend at all levels for all ages. If you’ve connected Core Collections to your library’s catalog, you can easily see which titles you already own right in the database. Add any that you’re missing to a folder – a quick way to create a list of things to order. 

The newest collection, Core Collection en Español, can help you find bilingual picture books and books in Spanish to share with storytime participants. It also provides guidance on growing and establishing a collection for Spanish-language readers. 

Keep track of what you do 

You don’t need to have a brand-new storytime or storytime theme every single week, but you do want to make sure you’re regularly refreshing the titles you share. If you keep track of your storytime outlines or the titles you read for each theme, it’s easy to swap out one or two new books or activities to keep your storytimes fresh and introduce participants to the latest and greatest titles in your collection. Use the folders in NoveList Plus to quickly save titles as you find them. Or set up search alerts to keep up with the content you want. For example, you could set up a search alert for storytime standouts or big and bold and amusing titles and get notified when new titles are added that meet those criteria. 

Have fun! 

Storytime is such a joy! Not just for the children who attend but also for caregivers and for you! Sharing books and helping children develop a love of reading is powerful and wonderful work. I hope these tips help you and support you in planning and presenting storytimes of all kinds.

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Lauren Campbell is a NoveList Consultant. She’s currently reading The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton.