Storytime is a Zoo

During my internship at Skokie Public Library, I’ve had the chance to really deepen my understanding and my skills in storytime.  After leading at least twenty-six outreach storytimes at local preschools and daycares, as well as picking the brains of other storytime librarians at Skokie, I’ve taken on my first solo-run of an in-house storytime.

I was very grateful to have the support of the youth services staff as I prepared to do storytime with kids from ages 3-6 and their parents.  I started by observing one librarian as she led Breakfast with Books in November; then in December, I partnered with another librarian to co-lead Breakfast with Books.  Finally, in February, I led the event on my own.  Two librarians dropped in to observe me, both to give me support through crowd control and constructive feedback.

I chose to center by storytime around the theme of a zoo.  As the kids at their breakfast (provided by the library), I asked them about their favorite animals from the zoo.  We started with the following hello/goodbye song.

D A7 D
We wave hello like this, we wave hello like this, with our friends at storytime we wave hello like this.

Then we read the following books:

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown.  Mr. Tiger is tired of being proper and just wants to be wild.  He starts by crawling on all fours, then gets rid of his clothes, then runs away to the wilderness.  But he misses his friends, and when he goes back to the city, he discovers that things are starting to change.  I read this first.  Though it’s longer than the others, it’s silly enough that I think all the kids enjoyed it.  There were even a couple opportunities for kids to practice their ROARs.

Animal Opposites, by Petr Horacek.  A simply book with colorful animal, in pop-out form.  I think what makes this book so interesting is how it makes you anticipate the next animal.  Some of the flaps open in unexpected ways.  But honestly, my favorite part about reading this book was how the parents reacted when the big elephant came out at the end.

Two at the Zoo, by Danna Smith, illustrated by Valeria Petrone.  A boy visits the zoo with his father, and the count all the animals…in rhyme.  The kids got excited when their favorite animal showed up, and I was pleased when both the kids and the parents counted with me.  At the end of the story, a couple of kids wanted to see more animals.

From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle.  A book about animals and the different motions they make, asking if the young readers can do the same.  I really think this book works anywhere in the storytime, because it’s so active.  As it stands, it was a great way to end, right about the time the kids started to get restless.

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A snippet from my zoo #storytime in February.

A post shared by Kara Pauley (@thejourneylibrarian) on


Between books, we also got moving with the following extension activities:

The Lions at the Zoo Go Roar, Roar, Roar!
C                                      C
The lions at the zoo go roar, roar, roar.
G                           C
Roar, roar, roar.  Roar, roar, roar.
C                                      C
The lions at the zoo go roar, roar, roar.
G           C
All day long!
The snakes…go hiss, hiss, hiss.
The hyenas…go ha, ha, ha.
The monkeys…go eee, eee, eee.
The birds…go tweet, tweet, tweet.

This was a great chance to let the kids self-direct by asking what animals they liked and what sound they made. Some of the kids wanted to sing about really specific animals, like pandas and koalas. Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to all the animals that were shouted out (there were a lot).

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (magnetic board)

One of the things I like about this activity is how many literacy elements it involves: repetition, color identification, and animal identification. Although it has a rhythm to it, it’s easy to recite, because all you have to do is repeat the last animal and take out the next one. I tried to motion to the kids who had told me they liked specific animals. Not all the kids participated in this, but it really got the younger ones engaged.

Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes
Head and shoulders, knees and toes,
Head and shoulders, knees and toes,
Eyes and ear and mouth and nose,
Head and shoulders knees and toes.

This is such a common motions song that the kids were eager to show me what they knew. Because it easy I challenged them to do it faster, then faster.

Overall, I think this was a great storytime.  I had a lot of fun, and I think the kids and parents did too!


One thought on “Storytime is a Zoo

  1. Wow, this sounds like a really fun storytime! I can tell you put a lot of thought into it. Your post really demonstrates what goes into developing a storytime; I learned a lot from this!


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