Blogger Early Childhood Programs and Services committee

Art Appreciation at Storytime

During the weekly, all ages storytime I co-present on Fridays, we do art appreciation. This occurs after I finish reading the first book. At this time, everyone is instructed to “find your grown-up” and we pass out half sheets of paper that all have the same piece of art printed on them. While passing out the art, we instruct grown-ups to ask their child(ren) “What do you see?” If their children don’t talk yet, I encourage them to describe what they are seeing with as much detail as possible. Generally, this art relates to one of the two books we are reading that day. After about 20 seconds, Monet Manatee asks the entire group, “What do you see?”

Children are encouraged to verbally share what they are seeing as I restate what they have shared for everyone to hear better. There are no hands being raised or protocols, just talking. Lots of talking!! This often sounds like: 

  • Blue
  • A circle
  • A person
  • A house
  • A girl
  • Stripes!

If there is a period of silence (lots of new families), then I will prompt with a sentence of my own such as “I see black and white stripes.” Then I will ask more specific questions, “What colors do you see?” or “What shapes do you see?” or “What small things do you notice?” We share for a minute or so. Then, I let everyone know they are encouraged to bring their art with them and look at it again later. Sometimes there is a resource or recommendation printed on the back that I point out, sometimes the opposite side is blank. Another time, they should ask each other “What do you see?” until they have nothing else to share. Looking at the same piece of art multiple times often means the viewer sees something they did not see before. You can learn more about art appreciation from Visual Thinking Strategies or from Art Appreciation Helps Young Children Learn to Think and Express Ideas via EdSource.

About Monet Manatee

Utilizing a puppet during art appreciation not only gives continuity over time but is an easier entry point for some children to verbally share. Monet Manatee goes by they/them pronouns and is only used for art on Fridays. They make no other appearances during the storytime and are hidden inside a bag until it’s time to chat. Why do you choose to utilize puppets (or not) at storytime?

Where do I find my art? 

I typically look through the digital collections of the museums in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/Saint Paul, MN), where my library is located for something related to the theme. Some of these include the Minneapolis Insitute of Art, the Minnesota History Center, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, the Walker, the Weisman Art Museum, and the Hmong Museum

I also look at the websites of the illustrators we are reading that day and often choose something that is a preview of the second book we are reading that day. I try to include as many art styles and mediums as possible over the course of the year. 

Thus far, here are the art pieces we’ve used at our Friday Storytimes during 2024:

For those wondering, our typical outline for Friday Storytime (lasts about 25 minutes) looks like:

  • Stretch
  • Four Directions
  • Good Morning Dear Earth
  • Hello Song
  • Letter of the Day Song 
  • Sing Talk Read Write Play
  • Book One
  • Monet Manatee 
  • Scarf Songs
  • Large Motor Movement Song
  • Fine Motor Movement Song
  • Breathe
  • Book Two
  • Point to the book you preferred (hold both titles in opposite hands)
  • Additional Movement Song
  • Goodbye Song

What type of art activities do you incorporate into storytime? If not at storytime, are you incorporating art appreciation into your children’s space in some way? Comment on this post to share how!

Today’s blog post was written by Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez, Youth Services Librarian at Washington County Library (Minnesota), on behalf of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. She can be reached at This post addresses competency III. Programming Skills.

One comment

  1. Nell

    THank you, Katelyn. What a great idea. I’m inspired! While I’ve included crafting in my programming, I am going to look at better incorporating -art appreciation- (so thank you for including the resource links, too).

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