It seems that librarians fall into one of two camps in their selection of books for storytime. They are either the “Careful Preppers” or the “Free and Wild.” Neither way is altogether right. You don’t want to spend SO much time just the right themes, books and stretchers that you have little time for anything else. Nor do you want to go into a storytime flying blind. You should, at a very minimum, read all the way through your storytime books before presenting them. (True confessions- I have not followed my own advice. It makes for an edge-of-your-seat storytime experience).
There is a Goldilocks standard for storytime books. You don’t want too many words on a page, nor do you want too few. Some narration is essential, but kids tend to lose their focus during long paragraphs that would be better suited for one on one sharing. Let me be clear, long picture books are EXCELLENT vehicles for readers of all ages and stages! See this excellent, recent article in the New York Times. But in storytime settings, which can be rowdy, long narratives fall short. There are many picture books which fulfill the Goldilocks standard. I am personally indebted to Jbrary for their fabulous yearly round-up of Favorite Storytime Picture Books. They know how to pick them!
Besides the amount of text, you should also pay attention to choosing a book that is appropriately sized. Librarians usually lead storytime from the front of the room, standing up, or seated in a chair above the attendees on the floor. Your book needs to be big enough that everyone can at least hope to see the pictures! If there is a fabulously illustrated small book, whose pictures are bright and bold, you should be able to get away with it. Holding to the Goldilocks principle, I personally hate giant books. Maybe if they were hardback they would be worthwhile, but usually they’re paperback. They’re floppy and difficult to maneuver. Librarian, beware!
Here are some great links that offer more advice on book selection:
Colorado Library for Early Literacy