Blogger Jennifer Schultz

I’ve Caught the Storytime Bug

And the only prescription….is more cowbell!

Well, no. That’s not the point of this post. (However, including rhythm instruments during storytime=always good. Unless the kids begin to whack each other with the instruments. That would be bad.) But whether you are buggy for bugs or insane about insects, consider these titles for a bugalicious storytime.

I have a wide range of listening abilities in my storytime group. Some are ready for longer picture books, while others are not quite there yet. It can be a challenge to find books that will interest the younger children but not bore the older children. Felicia Bond’s Tumble Bumble worked nicely for my group. It’s the story of a young bug out for a walk. Simple enough, right? Well, he meets a variety of animals along the way, including a cat, a crocodile, a young pig, and a mouse. There’s a cause and effect relationship between the animals that makes for some interesting (and hairy) circumstances. After such an eventful walk, one is naturally inclined to want to nap. And so the animal friends enter a yellow house with a very suitable bed.  That’s not the end of the story, however, for this enables them to make two additional friends (one animal and one human).  With a rhyming text and an underlying message (at the end) of friendship, Tumble Bumble is a great choice if you need a bridge between two longer picture books.

Do I really need to tell you about The Very Hungry Caterpillar? When I showed the children the cover, many shouted out that they had that book at home and that it was their favorite book. Not a shocker! Children love it when you read them a familiar book. Why do people like to reread books? I know I occasionally reread books when I need some “comfort” reading or if I’ve entered a “reading slump” in which I can’t settle on a book to read. Rereading beloved books is fun and comforting. It’s also fun to share beloved books with others, which is what the children and I did this morning. For the families that have not read The Very Hungry Caterpillar (or another classic/popular book of your choosing), you’ve introduced them to a great book. It’s tempting to only present the new and/or the less well-known titles, but including the tried and true is a win-win situation. As my group demonstrated, some families may not be familiar with a certain book.

I have certain “go to” authors for storytime. Denise Fleming is one of them. The vivid illustrations, the text that dances on your tongue…she’s a fave. Did you know that there were so many different kinds of beetles? Striped beetles? Fly in the air beetles? Hide in the crack beetles? Fleming presents the wide world of beetles in her usual fantastic way with awesome illustrations and text with a terrific beat. Beetle Bop is a fun addition to any bug-themed storytime.

Dee Lillegard’s The Big Bug Ball also has a text with natural and unforced rhythm, but it does have a slight storyline. It’s time for the Big Bug Ball, and all the bugs are getting down. Except for the sow bug! We see everyone else having a grand old time dancing and eating, but the sow bug is definitely missing out. Luckily, all this fun inspires him to at least try. Not only does he find that dancing is fun, he also catches the eye of a lady sow bug. The Big Bug Ball presents a message (you never know if you really like something or not until you try it) in flowing rhythmic text and clever illustrations (one bug is depicted as a Saturday Night Fever John Travolta).

Finally, we have Karma Wilson’s A Frog in the Bog. A frog sits on a log, catching all matter of insects. With each insect, he grows bigger. But why does the log have eyes and snapping jaws? This book presents ample opportunity for hamming it up (“eww! ugggh!”). It’s also a counting book! This may be a *little* too long for a toddler storytime (I had to skip over some lines this morning), but perfect for preschoolers.

You need some bug-oriented fingerplays as well. There’s always the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” My toddlers loved doing this so much, we did it twice (we usually perform our fingerplays twice anyway). Again, familiarity is very comforting!

There aren’t any ladybugs (that I remember) in the books mentioned above, but we couldn’t leave the ladybugs out. This is a simple action rhyme; just flap your arms as indicated. The tune is “Three Blind Mice,” but it isn’t necessary to sing it. This fingerplay can be found on a multitude of storytime/fingerplay websites.

Fly, fly fly

Ladybugs fly

Fly over here, fly over there

They fly up high and they fly down low

Around and around and around they go

They fly fast, and they fly slow

Oh ladybugs fly

 Here’s a fingerplay to follow The Very Hungry Caterpillar (from The Giant Encyclopedia of Science Activities for Children 3 to 6):

Roly poly caterpillar into a corner crept (creep one hand up opposite arm)

Wound himself around a blanket (winding motion with hands)

For a long time slept (lay head on hands)

Roly poly caterpillar waking by and by (pop head up)

Found himself with beautiful wings, changed to a butterfly (hook thumbs together and flap hands)

Do you have any favorite books about bugs? Fingerplays or activities?

Books mentioned in this post:

  • Bond, Felicia. Tumble Bumble.  Arden, CT: Front Street, 1996.
  • Charner, Kathy.  The Giant Encyclopedia of Science Activities for Children 3 to 6.  Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House, 1998.
  • Carle, Eric.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  New York: Philomel Books, 1987.
  • Fleming, Denise. Beetle Bop.  Orlando: Harcourt, 2007.
  • Lillegard, Dee.  The Big Bug Ball.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999.
  • Wilson, Karma.  A Frog in the Bog.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003.


  1. rneumeier

    Here are some I use in my Bibs to Books Storytime:


    (to the tune of Twinkle Little Star)
    (Hook Thumbs together and flutter hands and fingers)
    Flutter, flutter butterfly, floating in the summer sky
    Floating by for all to see, floating by so merrily
    Flutter, flutter, butterfly, floating in the summer sky!

    Where are the Bees?

    Here is the beehive (make fist)
    But where are the bees? (Shrug shoulders)
    Hiding inside (point inside)
    Where nobody sees (shake head “no”)
    Watch them come creeping
    Out of their hive – 1 2 3 4 5 (open up fist one finger at a time)
    Bzzzzzz! (Fly pretend bee around and tickle baby)

  2. Teresa Walls

    I laugh every time I read your intro. Gotta have more cowbell!

    I love Joyce Sidman’s Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Several of the poems are about insects: the great diving beetle, the green darner, the caddis fly. I think no one is too young to hear the beauty of poetry, especially if you can let them interpret with movement. Or maybe the cowbell. 🙂

  3. jschultz Post author

    Thank you, rneumeier for the fingerplays! I love your name for your baby storytime-very cute!

    Teresa-totally forgot about Song of the Water Boatman! Thank you! This is why I love doing these posts!

  4. Tina


    I’m a librarian-in-training, and I appreciate all of your book recommendations. I too have very fond memories of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. I haven’t had the opportunity to lead a library storytime yet (although I hope I will be able to soon), but I am sometimes able to add a book or storytelling element to some of the preschool programs I teach out of a nearby municipal cntre. I’m interested inknowing what skills you think are essential to having a good storybook time. On a further not, do you have any good preschool dinosaur-themed books to recommend?

    Thank you so much!


  5. jschultz Post author

    Hello Tina-

    I apologize for not responding sooner. We had our annual Halloween program this past Saturday-it’s one of our biggest programs. We had 95 children and parents attend this year! So that was taking up much of my time recently.

    What constitutes a good storytime program really depends on the age of the children attending. Regardless of the age, opportunities for movement is essential! For those under preschool age, action rhymes involving large motor movement is key. Toddlers have a hard time with some of the fingerplays that only involve the fingers. Action rhymes that involve jumping, wiggling, shaking, etc are great.

    When I introduce fingerplays/action rhymes, I usually go over them three times if it’s a “countdown” rhyme.. First, I tell them a little bit about the fingerplay. Let’s take “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.” Here’s a sample script:

    “Can you show me 5 fingers? Very good! There were 5 (wait for them to show 5) little monkeys! And they were jumping on the bed-can you jump up and down (we usually do this for a little bit, because jumping is fun)? One monkey-can you show me 1?-fell off and bumped his head (I pat my head). Mama called the doctor (pretend to call) and the doctor said, ‘No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” (wag pointer finger)

    Then we begin the rhyme in earnest, counting down to “no more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

    This is what works for my kids-you may not need to do it with your group. However, I’ve found that my kids get a lot more out of the fingerplay/rhyme if we do this.

    Having a set opening and closing lets the children know when storytime begins and ends, and it helps your storytime flow nicely. I always bid everyone good morning, introduce myself, welcome them to the (specific) storytime, introduce the theme, and tell them to stand up for our opening (ours is “Shake My Sillies Out” with maracas, lots of jumping, stomping, clapping, etc, followed by a calm-me-down action rhyme that ends with them sitting down).

    Practicing the stories beforehand will enhance your storytime. You’ll be prepared for any noise effects (knock on the door, etc) in the story.

    I usually read 3-4 books for my toddlers. When storytime begins in September (we have a different schedule in the summer), I usually do three books and *lots* of familiar songs (5 Little Monkeys, Wheels on the Bus, Ring Around the Rosie) and lots of movement rhymes, rhythm band, etc. By October, they know the opening and closing rhymes, and are ready to add another book. We still do lots of movement, but I include more fingerplays tied to the theme and less of the traditional songs.

    I always chose 7 books for my storytime. I choose 2 short stories and 2 longer stories. Occasionally, the group will not be in the mood for 2 longer stories. I always have at least one book that elicits some audience participation for this reason.

    Flexibility is key! If the group is simply *not* interested in the story, it serves no good to keep reading above increasing din. This is when I close the book and lead them in one of their favorite songs (Wheels on the Bus never gets old. For them, at least). For some reason, restlessness is a very contagious disease. However, there are times in which you can save the story. You can paraphrase the text, talk about the illustrations, etc. Then lead them in a song/action rhyme to get their attention back on you. Again, I usually chose a very familiar song or rhyme at this point. I never shorten storytime-it’s always at least 30 minutes-but there are days when we’re doing a lot of movement and short books.

    Don’t take it personally (!) if attention wanes. This is all very new to many of them. Some books are a hit, and others are not. It’s funny that you mentioned dinosaur books-I recently presented a dinosaur themed storytime for my group. I’ve presented this storytime for two previous groups. It absolutely bombed-it was a long 30 minutes! However, when I thought about it, I realized that I had presented toward the end of the storytime year. I presented this storytime way too early for this group, and it just wasn’t going to happen!

    If you have the opportunity to practice with puppets, do so! Puppets are usually a big hit. When you hold a puppet (if it’s not a finger or small hand puppet), cradle it so that its legs are resting on your other arm. This creates a believeable outline and makes it look more “real” rather than having the puppet’s legs dangle in midair.

    Don’t be afraid to sing! I don’t have a great singing voice, but I sing. Now, I don’t get up there and just sing a song like a children’s entertainer would, but I do sing “The Wheels on the Bus, ” etc. Invite the parents to sing with you. And remember that singing these types of songs is really just exaggerated talking.

    Librarians differ on the need to have a theme for storytime or not. I know some that do not have a set theme. Personally, it’s easier for me to have a theme. It helps me draw together the fingerplays/action rhymes for the day, create my action plan, etc. But others don’t need that.

    If you’re introducing a circle activity, be patient! It can take them a while to grasp the concept. I always end with my own version of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” Holding hands and walking in a circle is very new to them, especially if you’re doing a daytime storytime, in which you will have children that probably don’t have day care/preschool experience. Mulberry Bush is a complicated one, because we start and stop the circle and do different motions. In the beginning, our circle is more like a roller coaster, some kids cry and drop out, etc. At the end of October, we’re at the point where they know what I want them to do, but the circle is still a bit wavy. And that’s OK. And I tell the parents that’s OK too.

    On the parents note-ask them to participate. If their child is reluctant to participate, he/she may join in if his/her parent is doing the motions.

    On a more mundane note-always get some water and use the facilities before storytime. As your mother would say, even if you don’t think you need to. Keeping your throat hydrated is important, because you will be putting your vocal cords to heavy use in a concentrated amount of time.

    As for dinosaur books for preschoolers:

    Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton

    Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Strickland

    Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs…? books

    If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most

    I hope this is helpful, and I do apologize for not getting back to you sooner!

  6. jschultz Post author

    Tina, I just wanted to add that there are many ways to do a storytime. This is just the way I feel comfortable doing storytime.

  7. Tina

    Thank you so much for your reply!

    I thought that your tips to include large actions on the fingerplays are very useful (in addition to letting the little ones take a bit of a stretch at the same time!) Although I know that they prefer the larger wax crayons at that age, I did not realize that the finger plays would be difficult for that age group.

    Thanks also for your emphasis on repitition at the morning and end of the day — I find that it is so important (and somehow so hard to remember when I am eager to start the craft!)

    I really appreciated your story time tips! Thanks!

  8. Tina

    On a further note, I do have some dinosaur songs to share for a dino storytime that I’ve lead for dino morning programs. Some of these I have modified from other dinosaur songs on the net, and one I made up myself.

    I’m Tyrannosaurs (sung to “I’m a Little Teapot”)

    I’m Tyrannosaurus, strong and tall;
    Here is my tail (wag a hand in back) and here is my claw (two forked fingers).
    When I get all hungry, I just howl.
    I rub my tummy and I feel it growl.

    If I had A Stegosaurus (sung to “If I Had a Million Dollars”)

    If I had a stegosaurus,
    (echo) If I had a stegosaurus,
    He’d eat all of my plants,
    (echo) he would eat all of my plants.
    If I had a stegosau-au-au-au-rus,
    He’d eat all of my plants.

    I found that the last one is easily adaptable to any dino!

    Dino bones (from Dry Bones)

    Those bones, those bones, those dino bones.
    Those bones, those bones, those dino bones.
    Those bones, those bones, those dino bones
    Going to stomp all over the earth!

    The Head bone’s connected to the neck bone.
    The neck bone’s connected to the shoulderbone.
    The shoulder bone’s connected to the chest bone,
    Going to stomp all over the earth!


    The chest bone’s connected to the backbone.
    The backbone’s connected to the tailbone.
    The tail bone’s connected to the hip bone.
    Going to stomp all over the earth!


    The hip bone’s connected to the leg bone.
    The leg bone’s connected to the foot bone.
    The foot bone’s connected to the toe bone.
    Going to stomp all over the earth!

  9. Tina

    I mean to clarify that these songs were done as part of a preschool morning activity, not as a storytime activity. “If I had a Stegosaurus” was a particular hit, since it was so repetitive, and the children also loved acting like dinosaurs for the other songs!

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