Blogger Katie Salo

Visual Cues to Storytime

What do your patrons see when they enter your programming room? Do you have a checklist of objects that are constant so that your littlest patrons immediately know it’s storytime? At my library, I’ve got a list of things that I set out before storytime as visual cues so that patrons know what to do — it’s amazing how quickly preschoolers learn to expect these cues and how they follow their instructions.

Storytime Rug
This is what my preschoolers see after entering the room: our storytime rug, our storytime cushion bins and my area all set up. Patrons who have attended storytime come running in, grab a cushion, and plop themselves down on the rug to face my chair. Patrons who are new to storytime follow the other kids and we’re set to go about two minutes after everyone arrives.

Storytime Cushions We bought our storytime cushions with grant funding and they’ve held up for a year and a half with only one cushion tearing. When kids sit down, we practice naming colors as I ask kids with green cushions to raise their hands, etc. I really like using cushions because it gives each child a defined space on the rug. Yes, we have occasional cushion mishaps (a lot of my kids balance them on their heads at one point or another), but it’s worth it for the interaction alone.

Storytime Mascot, Applesauce Starting late this fall, I brought out Applesauce, our storytime mascot. He’s a golden retriever puppet and he delights every child! One of my teen patrons named him after a contest this summer. Applesauce participates in storytime by trying his best to sit still, interacting with our flannelboards (he clears the board by “eating” the pieces), and occasionally singing our goodbye song. Afterwards, he’ll greet each child before our craft begins. I’m always searching for new ways to use him in storytime. Since Applesauce only attends storytimes, when the kids see him they know it’s a storytime program and not an art program or something different.

Flannelboard Shelf When the kids see the flannelboard set up, they know it’s just for storytime! This picture is of the inside shelf, where I keep all of my props, flannel pieces, and fingerplay rhymes (just in case). My kids like to try and peek inside to see what we’re doing before I get to it. When they see me reach inside, they know it’s an activity other than a book and they get ready to move around or sing with me.

By having these visual cues, my kids know how to get ready for storytime. Since my library has three different programming rooms, we sometimes have to move around. But as long as I have my rug, cushions, Applesauce, and flannelboard, I do not have behavior problems!

How do you set up for storytime? Do you use visual cues/set-up/routine to get little ones ready for stories?

– Katie Salo
Youth Services Manager
Melrose Park Library


  1. andrea csia

    Wow! Great ideas! Thank you for sharing with us. I am an MLIS student in Ohio, specializing in children’s.

  2. Angela Reynolds

    I love these visual clues– so important for the little ones. I only wish we had a big storytime room like this one to set up! But I am thinking on how to use your ideas in our tiny space. Thanks (and thanks for including visuals).

  3. Janet Thompson

    With the flannelboard up, I also use items like large letters to spell out a word and perhaps put up some flannel pieces related to the storytime theme. (I have a set of magnetic letters which work very well with this board and another set of foam letters that include upper and lower case that I set on the rail that comes with this board.) While we wait for everyone to arrive, the kids and I will discuss the letters and read the word(s). I’ve been known to place related realia, a pumpkin, teddy bear, etc. near my chair as well. The visual cues create a special atmosphere, help us all focus, and it’s rather fun to decorate before the kids arrive.

  4. Becky Dutton

    Our storytime dog is the Folkmanis black lab that we named Rags. He is hiding under a blanket on the table in the storytime room until we sing “Where is Rags.” I take the blanket off and then sometimes we sing “My Dog Rags.” When storytime is over the kids let Rags where their nametags till they come back the next week.

  5. Pingback: Creating Traditions at Storytime | ALSC Blog

  6. Jen Hillebrandt

    Love your cushions. Where did you purchase them?

  7. Pingback: Setting Up Storytime! - ALSC BlogALSC Blog

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