Blogger Katie Salo

Recorded Storytime Music: A Primer

New recorded music arrived at the library today! [Photo courtesy of the author.]
New recorded music arrived at the library today! [Photo courtesy of the author.]
While on vacation, I found myself in a store trying to pick out a movie that my sister, brother-in-law, and I would watch. Since I’ll watch pretty much anything once, I left them in the movie aisle arguing. I walked away only to discover The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Collection on the shelves of the store. I had tried to pre-order the CD a few months ago using our vendor and it wasn’t available. I immediately snatched up it up and tucked it in my basket. It was the best souvenir of my trip!

It took me a long time to enjoy and use children’s music. There are so many benefits to using music, but I have a half-decent voice and got through many years just singing a capella. It took starting my Music & Movement program — Shake, Shimmy, & Dance — to really start investigating recorded music.

Since I’ve passed thirty, I consider classic artists anyone that I listened to as a child. These include: Raffi, Sharon Lois & Bram, Ella Jenkins, Hap Palmer, and Greg & Steve. These are great core artists to be familiar with as you start learning about children’s music. I don’t incorporate a lot of their music into my programs because my programs tend to be a bit more high energy and my patrons prefer a more contemporary sound.

These are the fifteen artists (in no particular order) that I absolutely adore. I recommend checking out their entire catalogs and listening to them immediately. I did include my favorite album in case you’re pressed for time!

  1. Jim Gill (Jim Gill Sings the Sneezing Songs & Other Contagious Tunes)
  2. Laurie Berkner (Best of the Laurie Berkner Band)
  3. Caspar Babypants (More, Please!)
  4. Elizabeth Mitchell (Sunny Day)
  5. The Learning Groove (Rockin’ Red)
  6. Mr. Jon & Friends (Get Your Move On)
  7. Wiggleworms (Songs for Wiggleworms & Wiggleworms Love You — I can’t choose one!)
  8. Joanie Leeds & the Nightlights (I’m a Rock Star!)
  9. Bari Koral Family Rock Band (Rock and Roll Garden)
  10. The Wiggles (Hot Poppin’ Popcorn)
  11. Laura Doherty (Heartbeat)
  12. Aaron Nigel Smith (Let’s Pretend)
  13. Carole Peterson Stephens (Polka Dots!)
  14. Dreamtree Shakers (Come On a Picnic)
  15. Ralph Covert (Welcome to Ralph’s World)

And my top three tips for finding good recorded music:

  • Fellow librarians. It seems like a cop-out to say that, but Ally Watkins gave me Joanie Leeds. Storytime Underground introduced me to Mr. Jon & Friends. Jennifer Wharton is the first person I saw using Elizabeth Mitchell’s Sunny Day. Ask on Twitter. Read Angie’s M&M post. Read my lists. Check out Kelsey & Heather’s blog Song Catchers’ Library which is open for contributions.
  • ILL. Put titles on hold that sound interesting before investing your library’s money. I know budgets are tight. I have a fabulous library with a healthy budget, but I still want to spend our money in the wisest way that I can. I preview another library’s copy before purchasing our own. If you can’t do this, use Amazon’s song preview or check the artist’s website for YouTube clips.
  • Reviews & sales. School Library Journal will often have children’s music reviews. I also use our vendor Midwest Tapes for reviews/sale ranks. In addition to their magazine, they allow me to sort by what’s selling in the area. I’m able to see if I missed a big released from a familiar artist. I’m also able to see what new artists are selling at high numbers.

So that’s my quick primer about recorded music. Did I miss anything or any favorite artist? Let me know in the comments!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library


  1. Ann Schwab

    Great post! We love The Okee Dokee Brothers here at the Denver Public Library. They just performed two great family shows for us back in August — super fun!

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Awesome. Other libraries in our system have copies, so I’ve placed some on ILL. Thanks!

  2. Jodyth

    I like to use Zooglobble to discover new music as well He’s a great blogger who is often featured on NPR to talk about children’s music.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Hello, new favorite blog. I didn’t know that Caspar Babypants had put out a SECOND Beatles album!! (And now I do, thanks to you!)

  3. Erin

    I use the heck out of the Songs for Wiggleworms during Toddler Time. I would also recommend Disney’s Children’s favorite songs, Vol. 1 (24 classic tunes – where I first learned “The Green Grass Grew All Around) – it does have Ten Little Indians, which is not so PC, but all the rest are great!

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      Everyone at the library loves Wiggleworms so much that we have two circulating copies, one storytime copy, a back-up copy for easy replacement, and I have a personal copy.

  4. Kristie

    Eric Litwin is my new, go-to guy. I have all of the color albums and the kids never, ever tire of sneaking around like monsters. When I found him, I felt like I hit the jackpot. I run a toddler dance party and I need the directions of the dance to be in the lyrics of the songs. The toddlers are not quite there with imagination, so free dance is a little….confounding. I have tons of CDs but end up just finding one or two “usable” songs.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      I totally understand. And Eric Litwin & Michael Levine (The Learning Groove) are amazing at short, easy to follow, engaging songs.

      And I hear you on the one or two “usable” songs. The Wiggles are like that for me, but since they have such a large catalog I added them to my list.

  5. Laura

    For bilingual storytime, my go-tos are Jose-Luis Orozco and Jorge Anaya.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      ¡Excellente! (I think I really wrote this post to get more suggestions from fellow librarians.)

  6. Paula Bosshart

    Thanks for all the great suggestions! I love to include lots of music in my storytimes for babies 0-11 months. Some of my favorites are Rainbow Songs (Oh Baby!), Mary Lee (Oh Baby!), and anything by Kathy Reid-Naiman or Sukey Molloy. I also use classical music CD’s for babies during free playtime.

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      I also love Kathy Reid-Naiman — my opening song for toddler storytime is “Clap Everybody and Say Hello!”

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