Confession: There aren’t many Valentine’s Day books that I enjoy reading to toddlers. To mark the occasion, I create a storytime about families. If you’re looking for alternatives to Valentine-themed books, try these on for size.
I rarely need to find excuses to read Owl Babies. Gorgeous illustrations and a storyline easily understood and appreciated by toddlers has made this a favorite of mine for many years. Sarah, Percy, and Bill discover that their (owl) mother is missing. Although they put on a brave front, they soon become very worried and speculate about what might happen to her. Of course, Owl Mother returns and everyone is happy. The End.
Owls are a welcome break from the usual parade of dogs, cats, and dinosaurs, and these three little guys are quite adorable. Your toddlers will giggle at Bill’s repetitive cry of “I want my mommy!”
While there are many books about baby brothers and sisters, some tend to be quite negative in tone. It’s normal for a child to be apprehensive about an infant sibling, but “hating” the baby isn’t always the case. When I’m looking for “new baby” books, I look for books that validate the child’s concern, but not one in which the older sibling states that he/she “hates” the baby.
A Baby for Grace is a loving look at one young girl’s experience with a new sibling. Grace notices changes and notices that she’s hearing a lot of “nos” on the day her mother and baby sibling come home from the hospital. One “no” is just too much, and Grace dissolves into tears.
Naturally, her family consoles her and fusses over her, which makes things a bit better. Grace’s father asks if she would like to go to the swings; when Grace asks if they should take the baby, her father tells her that it’s just for the two of them. Watercolor illustrations bring this gentle story to life. Grace is EveryBigSibling; anxious to see and hold the baby, but bewildered by all the new changes.
What? Cried Granny: An Almost Bedtime Story will bring down the house if you have older toddlers and/or preschoolers in your group. For the first time in his life, Patrick is spending the night at his Granny’s house. There’s just one little problem: there’s no bed for him!
“What?!” cries Granny, and instead of heading out to the store to buy a bed, she chops down trees and makes him a bed. However, Patrick also needs a pillow, a blanket, and a teddy bear. One by one, Patrick informs her of his lack of sleeping supplies, and Granny cries” What?!” at each time. Shearing sheep, sewing blankets, and other activities needed to complete in order to fulfill Patrick’s needs make for a very busy night. Finally, Granny informs him that it’s time for bed. There’s just one problem-it’s morning!
Silly grandmas make for rib tickling reads. I’ve read this story twice in the past two days; once to a preschool class, which absolutely cracked up, and once to my toddler group this morning. Due to last night’s icy conditions and this morning’s cold and wet conditions, I had a very small number of children for storytime, and they were my youngest attendees. While they paid attention to the story, they didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as did the preschoolers.
You can adapt “If You’re Happy and You Know It” to fit the family-themed storytime. Just substitute “If you love your mommy/daddy/sister/brother/grandma/grandpa/etc” for the lyrics. It won’t be the perfect cadence, but it’ll do. After we sang about mommy, I asked the children to name other family members. Inevitably, someone will name a pet. And since pets are definitely part of our families, we don’t want to leave them out of the song.
Lum, Kate. What? Cried Granny: An Almost Bedtime Story. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1999.
Waddell, Martin. Owl Baby. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 1992.
Whybrow, Ian. A Baby for Grace. New York: Kingfisher, 1998.