I was recently given the opportunity to host my very first Storytime at the library where I work, for the preschool age group. I thought about some of my very favorite children’s books, and Pete the Cat books were some of the first to jump to mind. From there, I ended up with the theme of “Cat Stories”–which grew as I was picking books out– to include both “Cats and Dogs”.
I started by singing “If You Wanna Hear A Story Clap Your Hands”, and then announcing my theme and having the group raise their hands if they have a pet cat, then if they have a pet dog. I also lead into my first story by explaining that in the wild, there are really big cats, like lions and tigers.
Here are the books I read and activities in-between:
~It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle. I chose this to go first because it begins with the line: “Are you ready for a story?” This is a terrific read-aloud book because it is so interactive. I encouraged the kids to pretend to run away from the tiger with me each time it pops out in the plot, and I really exaggerated my reaction, and shouted out loud when I read the words: “It’s a….Tiger!”.
~“Soft Kitty”. I made a large printout of this poem, with some cute kitty-cat illustrations on large poster board. The words are:
Little ball of fur.
Purr, purr, purr.”
I told the kids and their parents to make a little ball with one hand, and pat it with the other hand as we said the words together. I repeated this through a couple of times so they could learn the words. This was a good segue from my first story about a wild cat, into the next…
~If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff. The “If You Give…” books are very popular and familiar to many kids, which makes them a good Storytime choice. (When mixed in with less familiar books.) They are also very read-aloud friendly.
~Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin. As I mentioned above, Pete the Cat is a favorite in my house, and was the inspiration for my theme. Kids just love him, and a few of the kids who came knew some of the words. These books are musical, and you can find a video here of the author singing the song. I encouraged the kids and parents to sing and clap along with me. I also paused to let them shout out the answers to “What color did it turn his shoes?” and “Did Pete Cry?”. These books are terrific when you want to get the whole group engaged.
~Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. Right before my storytime began, I discovered a stack of giant books in the office. I thought these were so much fun, and quickly flipped through them to see if any would fit my theme. I know the title of this one says “Brown Bear…” but there is a cat and a dog in it, and the book teaches colors, which is appropriate for the preschool age group I was reading for. I read this one next, and because it is so popular and familiar, I encouraged parents and kids to say the words along with me, or at least shout out the colors and animals as we went along. Because the book was so huge, the illustrations were very easy for everyone to see.
~”B-I-N-G-O”. Here I transitioned to dogs for a bit, so we sang this song. If you don’t know it the words are:
“There was a farmer had a dog,
and BINGO was his name-o,
B-I-N-GO, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O,
and BINGO was his name-o!”
You sing the song through 6 times, each time replacing another letter of the name with an “Arf!” until you are barking the whole name.
~Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion. About a dog who hates baths, and runs away from home for a day to avoid one. He gets covered in mud, soot, and dirt on his various adventures. Then he returns home, where his family does not recognize him because he has changed color. He has to find a way to show them that he is really their dog.
~Zorro Gets an Outfit by Carter Goodrich. In this story, a pug dog named Zorro gets dressed up by his owner, and is not happy about it. That is, until he makes a new friend who shows him that wearing an outfit doesn’t have to be embarrassing. As I read, I pointed out various facial expressions Zorro makes in the story, and asked the kids how they thought Zorro felt each time.
~At this point, we had been sitting still a while, so I asked everyone to do their best cat stretch. We raised our arms out, and stretched our bodies. Then I asked them all to purr, and finally give me their loudest “Meow!”
~Cat Tricks by Keith Baker. I had everyone gather in close for this very visual picture book. Each illustration flips open to reveal a splendid trick the cat can do. The words are simple, but rhyme nicely.
~The Napping House by Audrey Wood. Another classic and personal favorite. The words are rhythmic and repeating. The story begins very hushed and calm, but ends up very silly as all of the characters are suddenly awakened by one another in a chain reaction. This was another title I chose from the selection of HUGE books I found. It wasn’t in my original line-up, but I thought it would still fit in with the rest because two of the characters are a cat and a dog. The calm tone of the story, followed by the change to a wild ending seemed like a good transition to end storytime.
~After the reading was done, I told all of the kids I had a Pete The Cat sneaker coloring page for them, and indicated the back of the room where sheets and crayons were set out on the table. They had the option of staying to color, or taking it home for later. ( I found the coloring sheet online by doing a google search, I can’t seem to find it again right now.) I also spread my pile of books out for the parents and kids to look at more closely, and take home from the Library if they wanted.
There were a few more books in my pile, but I ran out of time: Bark, George by Jules Feiffer, Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel, and Chip Wants a Dog by William Wegman. There are so many other ideas of great stories out there that would fit into this theme!
Reading aloud is not just for Libraries! Kids love a great Storytime at home, and it can be totally informal. The more you read to kids, the higher their likelihood of developing a love for reading on their own!
I have some terrific ideas spinning around in my brain for future Storytimes. I really hope I get more opportunities to lead them.
What are your favorite picture books about cats and dogs?