Monday, April 28, 2008

My favorite books to read aloud

This weekend I volunteered to do a storytime for kids at a huge outdoor festival. It was quite a challenge because people were constantly coming and going. The kids ranged from babies to ten year olds. There was loud music playing in the background and there were tons of other events going on in the immediate vicinity. I had to shout to make myself heard.

Plus, I was right near an enormous tent where 50,000 free cupcakes were being handed out.

So, I had some competition.

What to do? I decided to use my all time favorite books, the ones that always work as read alouds, no matter what. I did some old classics, which was very effective because it drew in an audience, and I mixed it up with a couple of new favorites. Here are the magic books I used, and they attracted a crowd despite the strong allure of the cupcakes.
  • Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
  • Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
  • Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberly
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (the British edition)
  • The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
  • The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
I've got a much longer list of books I use for storytimes at the store I work at, but that's a much quieter and calmer environment. I've got the books above memorized, and they've never failed me yet.

I'm not sure if this list would work for everyone, because each storyteller has their own style. My style works best with books that are funny and have audience participation.

I'm curious, if you do storytimes or read to kids (your kids or anyone else's), what books always work for you?

You want to know more about the cupcakes, don't you? There's more about them here and here and fabulous pictures here.


  1. I definitely second Bark, George and The Very Hungry Caterpillar... and I would add Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox, Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems, and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (if only for the fact that you can bet at least 75% of your audience will have it memorized).

  2. (trying again)
    That's a great list! A newish one that I've found that seems to be going down rather well (inadvertent pun) is I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean.

  3. Those are some really good ones! Some more favorites I rely on: The Best Pet of All, I Stink!, and Egielski's The Gingerbread Boy.

  4. Wow! Those are some cupcakes!

    Congrats on drawing a crowd--you have a great selection of books. The children must have loved these stories!

  5. How fun!

    One of my never-fail books is The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner and Jonathan Lambert. Great crowd-pleaser.

  6. Abby- I actually did read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at the event. I forgot to mention that one. I've seen Leonardo the Terrible Monster read aloud very effectively by someone else. I should give it a try. And I'll definitely check out Hattie and the Fox. Thanks!

    Charlotte- Thanks for reminding me about I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean! I've used it in the past... it's great. The sequel is great too... it's called I'm the Best Artist in the Ocean... it's coming out in June.

    Lisa- I love The Best Pet of All but have never used it for a storytime. Thanks for the advice. I'll definitely give I Stink and The Gingerbread Boy a try too.

    hipwritermama- the cupcakes were so cool I just had to share a picture. And thanks for the compliments!

    Adrienne- I've never tried The Wide Mouthed Tree Frog- but it sounds very familiar. Did you write about it on your blog?

  7. Very good list-- I've never used Bark George but I've been told it's good. Emberley's monster is the absolute all time favorite for most kids I've met, up through second grade.

    I would add Yolen's How do dinosaurs say goodnight, and maybe No David, by Shannon. Please Baby Please by Lee, in the same vein, is much loved too. Martin's Brown Bear Brown Bear is pretty popular with our preschool

    Faith Williams

  8. You've totally hit some of my favorite storytime books. I've also recently added Snip Snap! What's that?!

    It's much longer, but I love How Chipmunk Got His Stipes. I have it pretty much memorized by now, and it is always a hit when I do the big deep voice for the bear and the high sqeaky voice for the squirrel. Same thing if I do the Caribbean accent for The Three Billy Goats Gruff and Mean Calypso Joe.

  9. You VOLUNTEERED to do an outdoor storytime? My friend, that takes nerves of steel. Give yourself a big round of applause (and a cupcake!).

    In addition to the other books mentioned, I rely on Zzzng! Zzzng! Zzzng! by Phyllis Gershator, From Head to Toe by Eric Carle (for the youngest set), Would You Rather? By John Burningham and Twenty-Four Robbers by Audrey Wood. I'll echo MR and say that Snip! Snap! What's That? is most excellent, too.

  10. Thanks for the ideas everyone. Titles I recommend that I was just using at a weekend event included - 'The bear's lunch' by Pamela Allen, 'Where's my quack' by Keith Faulkner, 'Wombat Stew' by Vaughan, 'Possum magic' by Mem Fox and 'Hungry hen' by Richard Waring and for older children 'Ugly Fish' by Kara Lareau and also 'Yay!' by Emily Rodda.