Christmas StoryTime - Christmas Favorites for preschool and Early Elementary

The Night Before Christmas
This is my last post before Christmas and I wanted to share a quick look at a few of my favorite seasonal books and authors.
I memorized the poem, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, when I was in sixth grade and I have loved it ever since. It is one of my favorite things to read aloud at this time of year. It is especially wonderful when accompanied by lively illustrations. Artist Richard Jesse Watson's 2006 version pairs the traditional with a little high tech spice. Santa's sleigh looks like a reindeer drawn rocket and the page that shows the controls deserves special attention. The expressions on the faces of each character are so realistic that you feel as if you know them. Santa's elves represent different ethnic groups and each has a distinctive personality. The book ends with an interview with Santa. Did you know that the reindeer were a gift from the king and queen of Lapland? I could really spend hours with this book.
Another version that deserves many readings is Jan Brett's book. This is a rich looking book done in Brett's Scandinavian style. One of my favorite features of a Jan Brett book is her borders. As you read you see that the story is played out in the borders as well as the main page. Added fun is a visual side story: two elves hitch a ride with Santa and get into mischief with the reindeer while Santa is busy inside. Call your children's attention to the different expressions on the faces of the reindeer.
One more old favorite of this classic poem is a little Rand McNally Jr. Elf book illustrated by Elizabeth Webbe and published in 1950.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
It is Teeka's job this year to get the reindeer ready for their big trip on Christmas Eve. But Teeka is young and inexperienced and does everything wrong, resulting in a tangle of antlers and tears. Teeka learns the lesson that strength comes with gentleness and real leadership is shown in love and caring. The reindeer each have individual personalities and it is extra fun trying to figure out which reindeer is which. The borders in this book belong to the elves in the workshop. Each page is a new day in December and shows how the elves make different toys. Pay special attention to the Scandinavian style Santa's village and workshop.
Other favorite Jan Brett Christmas Books: Who's that Knocking on Christmas Eve? and Christmas Trolls

Laptime Activities:
  1. Put some chairs together and make Santa's sleigh. Will it be super powered like the one in Richard Jesse Watson's book? What makes your sleigh fly? Where will you travel? What kind of gifts will you bring to people?
  2. Be a Christmas elf and make a gift for a neighbor and deliver it.

Story Circle Activities:
  1. Make your own interview with Santa: Ask the children what questions they would like to ask Santa. Write the questions on a white board or a large sheet of butcher paper. Let the children take turns being Santa and answer the questions. Be sure to write down the answers.
  2. Creative Drama: Choose portions of The Wild Christmas Reindeer to dramatize. Read the part of the story that you want to act out. Talk to the children about what action is taking place. Discuss the dialogue - who is speaking, what is being said, how are they saying it. Choose some of the children to be the reindeer and one child to be Teeka. The rest of the class can direct the action by raising their hands and giving suggestions about what Teeka should say, how the reindeer will respond, etc. Be sure and rotate actors so that everyone that wants to can have a turn.

Christmas Story Time - Favorite Books

Hooray! It's Christmas again. I love the opportunity to read my favorite Christmas books every year. Here's a list of past Christmas book posts:
The Night Before Christmas - by Clement C. Moore, illustrations by Richard Jesse Watson
The Night Before Christmas - by Jan Brett
The Wild Christmas Reindeer - by Jan Brett
Wake up Dormouse, Santa Clause is Here - by Eleonore Schmid
Max's Christmas - by Rosemary Wells
The Crippled Lamb - by Max Lucado, illustrations by Liz Bonham

And a Hanukkah story: Eight Wild Nights - by Brian P. Cleary, illustrations by David Udovic

Each Post lists activities for classroom and home.

Snuggle together on the couch with a cup of cocoa and enjoy a Merry Christmas Read.

Christmas Cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • dash salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or a splash of Vanilla, Hazelnut, or Peppermint Torani Syrup
Blend cocoa, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk until well blended. Whisk in remaining milk and heat, stirring constantly, until starting to boil. Remove from heat and add flavoring. Serve with marshmallows and a candy cane.

Image by stock.xchng

What Did A Tell B? - Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
by Bill Martin and John Archambault
illustrated by Lois Ehlert
toddler - early elementary
Story Circle: 
toddler - kindergarten

"A told B, and B told C, 'I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.' " When I think of  teaching the alphabet and letter recognition I think of this book. The simple bold illustrations of letters rhythmically climbing to the top of the coconut tree all the while building suspense as we wonder, "Chicka chicka boom boom! Will there be enough room?" In the text the letters, A,B,C etc., are in upper case while in the illustrations they are in lower case. This offers a great visual teaching moment without being pushy. There are so many lesson plan ideas for letter recognition and rhyming patterns that you can really have fun with this book. Have a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom week and develop progressive lessons that will build on each other each day. Here are a few Lesson Plan Ideas to get you started.

Laptime and Story Circle Lesson Plan Ideas:
Climb to the top of the Coconut Tree (or the jungle gym)
Go to a park or playground with climbing play equipment.
Take with you:
  • Index cards with the letters of the alphabet written on them, upper and lower case.
  • tape or sticky tack
  • A blanket on which to lay out the cards.
  • A picnic including fresh coconut for snack. (Climbing works up an appetite)

When you get to the park:
  • Lay out the letter cards on the blanket.
  • Read the first section on the book, "A told B, and B told C, 'I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.'"
  • Have your child find the A,B and C cards and put tape or sticky tack on the back.
  • The child should then climb as high as they can and stick the letter cards  onto the  bars or railing of the climbing equipment then climb down again.
  • Repeat the process until all of the letters are up on the jungle gym.
  • Be sure to repeat together, "Chicka chicka boom boom will there be enough room?" whenever it appears in the book.
  • Finish the fun by retrieving the letters as you read about their rescue by the mamas and papas and uncles and aunts.
  • Whew! By this time you are  tired out. Stretch out on your blanket and enjoy your snack.

Boom Boom Rhythm Activity
The text in this book is so rhythmic. Use the rhythm to teach syllables.
  • Clap, pat knees or, if you can take the noise, make drums out of pot lids and wooden spoons. If your class has access to a set of rhythm instruments, this is a good time to use them.
  • Choose phrases from the book to clap or beat out: "Chicka chicka boom boom, will there be enough room?", "Skit skat skoodle doot. Flip flop flee. Everybody running to the coconut tree.", "Chicka chicka boom boom! Look there's a full moon.", "Dare double dare, you can't catch me. I'll beat you to the top of the coconut tree."
  • Say the phrase in rhythm first until everyone is comfortable with it and enjoys saying it.
  • Break the phrases down into syllables. For example - Discuss how Chicka would get two claps or beats and Boom would get one clap or beat. 
  • Then clap or beat out the phrase in rhythm.
  • Stand up and move in place to the rhythm or march around the room as you beat out the phrases.   
Chicka Chicka ....what?
  • Write "oo" on a large piece of paper or on the board.
  • Make cards with one consonant written on each card.
  • Show the children how adding the letter B to the front of the word and the letter M to the end of the word makes the word BooM.
  • Allow the children to take turns choosing consonants to place at the beginning and the end of the "oo" sound.
  • Read the word that was created together and then say "Chicka chicka _________ __________".
  • Some of the words will be real words, like room or pool, but many of the words will be silly nonsense words.
  • Have fun with this activity and laugh a lot.
  • Try this activity with other one syllable words from the story.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Beach Lane Books

Chimps Don't Wear Glasses - or do they?

Chimps Don't Wear Glasses (Stories to Go!)

Chimps Don't Wear Glasses
by Laura Numeroff
illustrated by Joe Mathieu
toddler - early elementary
Story Circle:
toddler - early elementary

This is a wonderfully silly book written by one of my favorite authors, Laura Numeroff (author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). The text continually tells us what our favorite animals don't do while the clever and comical illustrations by Joe Mathieu cause us to consider the possibilities of chimps that wear glasses, horses that hang glide and reindeer that square dance. The book ends with an invitation to the reader to, "...close your eyes and draw with your mind." and enter the dream themselves.

Laptime Lesson Plan Idea
What Don't Your Animals Do?
Take a walk through your house or your neighborhood. As you come across an animal take turns making up phrases of what that animal doesn't do - for example "Labradors don't box."  Then find another animal and invent a don't do phrase that rhymes with the first - "Hamsters don't knit colored socks". Continue on throughout the neighborhood keeping your eyes open for new animal subjects. You'll be surprised at how many creatures you have right in your own backyard.
When you get back home write and illustrate your own sequel to Chimps Don't Wear Glasses.

Make Crazy Glasses 
Illustrator Joe Mathieu provides his chimps with some crazy glasses. Get out your scrapbox and design your own pair of chimp glasses with pipe cleaners and cardboard and don't forget the rhinestones and sequins.

Story Circle Lesson Plan Idea
Write the Story of Your Dream
The book ends with, "But tell me what you see. It's your dream - not mine!"
  • Use this phrase as a writing prompt for the children to write their own part of the dream. 
  • Keep the theme and rhyming pattern of the book or let the students go their own way. 
  • If you are keeping to the theme of the book, begin with a brainstorming session that will get the children's minds and imaginations going. The teacher can begin the session by calling out an animal. Then have the children raise their hands and suggest something that the animal doesn't do. Take one of those suggestions and, as a group come up with a second animal and rhyme. When everyone has the idea then send them off to write their own dream.
  • Allow each child to illustrate their dream. 
  • Share the dream stories together with the full class or in small groups. 
  • If you have early readers and writers set up a writing center where they can dictate their dream to an adult volunteer or an older child.
  • Put the dreams and illustrations together in a book for your class library or display them on a bulletin board. 
Read the first book

Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers 

Chimps Don't Wear Glasses published by Simon and Schuster

Snowy Mystery - The Missing Mitten Mystery

The Missing Mitten Mystery
by Steven Kellogg
Laptime: preschool - early elementary
Story Circle: preschool - early elementary

Our weather today is almost identical to the weather in this darling story. There is enough snow on the ground for snowmen and snow forts and sledding but it is warming up and starting to rain. You can find all kinds of treasures when the snow starts to melt which is just what happens in The Missing Mitten Mystery.
After a long day of snowplay Annie discovers that she has lost her mitten. Since this is the fifth mitten that she has lost Annie and her dog, Oscar, decide that they had better backtrack and find it. As Annie retraces her steps you discover what a fun day she and her playmates had. Annie is also wonderfully creative as she imagines all of the places that her mitten could have ended up. Is the mitten now a hat for a baby eaglet? A sleeping bag for a mouse? Or maybe a seed for a mitten tree?
Author Illustrator, Steven Kellogg, combines beautiful watercolor illustrations with a story that keeps you guessing - which is the point of a mystery.

Laptime Activities
  1. Put on your mittens and go outside and build a snowman. Don't forget to give him a mitten heart.
  2. In the story Annie imagines planting a mitten tree and giving the mittens that she grows away to her family and friends. Donate mittens to a local clothing bank or school.

Story Circle Activities
  1. Hide the Mitten - Choose one child to be Annie (or Oscar if they are a boy). Annie should leave the room or close her eyes. Hide a mitten somewhere in the classroom. When Annie begins to look for it have the class give hints by clapping slowly if Annie is far away from the mitten and quickly if Annie is closer. When Annie finds the mitten let her/him draw a name to be the next Annie.
  2. Make a Mitten Tree - You will need: butcher paper, construction paper, scissors, Pencils for tracing, lace, yarn, buttons, fabric scraps, etc., glue, sticky tack. In the story Annie imagines a tree full of mittens. Draw an outline of a tree with branches on a large sheet of butcher paper. Give each child a sheet of brightly colored paper. Have the children place one hand on the paper and trace around it to get a mitten shape and then cut out the mittens. If you have younger children you may want to provide precut mittens. Provide lace, yarn, buttons fabric scraps - whatever you can think of to decorate the mittens. When the mittens are finished hang them on the tree with sticky tack so that the kids can take their mittens home later.

Children's Books Can Help Toddlers Grasp Life Lessons

This is a guest post by Sarah Morris of Primrose Schools. Sarah is a family, education, and lifestyle writer who is based in New York. Her favorite topics involve books and reading, and other creative activities as alternatives to video games and tv.

Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway FibBooks provide a unique opportunity to talk about important concepts with children in a way they can understand. Relatable characters and fun story lines put difficult concepts like honesty into terms a child can relate to and provide an opening for parents to talk to their children about the value of honesty. 

“Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib” follows two friends enjoying a day at the circus, when things suddenly go all wrong. Doug-Dennis tells a fib about not eating all of his friend’s popcorn and the trouble starts there. After telling this small lie Doug-Dennis finds himself floating in space surrounded by other liars. In the end he must finally tell the truth to escape. The story is funny and engaging so that it will keep a child’s interest, but it is based on the importance of telling the truth. 

In order for a children’s book to help start a conversation between a parent and a child, it must be a story a child can relate to. Most children have friends and have been caught in a situation like Doug-Dennis; they did something they shouldn’t have that might hurt their friend’s feelings or make them angry. After reading this book, asking your child if they have ever been in such a situation and inquiring about how they handled the situation is a great way to begin talking about the importance of honesty. 

Children learn through play. In fact, it is commonly said that ‘the work of children is play’. This same basic concept can be applied to teaching through children’s literature. Children learn best when they are relaxed and enjoying themselves. You might think that it is better to sit a child down and talk to them about the importance of honesty, but reading a fun book like “Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib” and discussing it casually with your child is likely a much more effective strategy. Children are not able to learn as adults and even teenagers learn. Short attention spans mean that in order to teach a child best, you must make the extra effort to engage and entertain them. Well-written children’s books make this easier. 

If teaching your child important values like honesty is important to you but you are not sure where to begin, start by choosing well written books like “Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib” and see where the conversation goes after reading the book. You might be surprised at how easy it is to take such a serious concept and help your child grasp it.

Primrose Schools, a positive preschool environment where classrooms are disguised as playrooms.

Discover Friendship with Jessica by Kevin Henkes


by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books
Copyright 1989
Laptitme - 3 - 5 years
Story Circle - preschool - Kindergarten

When my daughter was little I thought for certain that she had an imaginary friend named Lina. She talked about Lina all of the time but I had never met her. Of course, I played along because having an imaginary friend is a wonderful part of early childhood.  I was so surprised one day to walk into the church nursery and have my daughter introduce me to a real little girl, her favorite friend, Lina.

In this sweet book about friendship, Ruthie and Jessica are inseparable. The only problem is is that only Ruthie can see Jessica. Ruthie's parents try to convince her that there is no Jessica but Jessica continues to be Ruthie's constant companion. On the first day of kindergarten Ruthie takes Jessica along but is surprised to find friendship in a real girl named Jessica.

Laptime Lesson Plan Ideas:
Have an Imaginary Friend Tea Party
  • Invite two or three of your child's friends over for a party.
  • Help your child to create an invitation for each guest. Include on the invitation that they are to bring an imaginary friend with them. 
  • Before the guests arrive discuss with your child what kind of questions that they can ask to get to know each imaginary guest:  what do the imaginary people like to do, what is their favorite food, what do they look like, how old are they?
  • Spend time in the kitchen together baking something delicious to serve at the party. Be sure and make enough to serve everyone, imaginary guests are often very hungry
  • Have your child set the table for each guest and their imaginary friends and make place cards for each guest, filling in the name of the imaginary friends when they arrive.
  • When the guests arrive be sure and greet and introduce each visible and invisible friend. 
  • Encourage everyone's imagination to play along: include the invisible friends in conversation, play a game like Duck Duck Goose and be sure and choose both kinds of friends to be 'goose', be careful not to sit or bump into anyone. 
Start a Friendship Album
  • Take pictures of your child's friends and include them in a scrapbook with a page for each friend.  Add pages as needed.
  • Whenever your child does something fun or special with a friend have your child dictate or write a few sentences about their adventures.  
  • Include memory items such as movie tickets, bookmarks from the library, napkins from restaurants, a leaf from a walk together. Items with print on them are especially good for letter and symbol recognition. 
  • After a few months your child will have a full Friendship Book that they can read on their own or to you.
Story Circle Lesson Plan Ideas
Gallery of Imaginary Friends
You will need:
drawing paper for each child
crayons or markers
writing paper
  • Brainstorm: Ask the class about the characteristics of a good friend, discuss what they like to do with their friends, if they could travel anywhere with their friend- where would they go. Encourage their imaginations.
  • Give each child a piece of drawing paper and have them draw a picture of their imaginary friend.
  • Give each child a piece of writing paper and have them write or dictate* a short story about their friend using a prompt such as: One day my imaginary friend and I went....   My favorite game to play with my imaginary friend is.....    I like my imaginary friend because.....
  • Hang the pictures and stories on the wall or bulletin board in a Gallery of Imaginary Friends.
*Writing down dictated stories is a great job for a parent volunteer or an aide. 
    Teach Your Story Circle the Best Friends Forever Song (The BFF Song) by Bryant Oden from
    This is a fun and lighthearted song about friendship with an easy to learn chorus. Right now the site is offering a free download of the vocal recording and the instrumental karoke recording. The lyrics and guitar chords are also given on the site. While you are there be sure and check out the other fun kid's songs on Songdrops.

    If you would like to add Jessica by Kevin Henkes to your own library, I have one hardback copy for sale at Wondersome Storytime Vintage Books,  click this link - Jessica.

    We'd love to hear your ideas for teaching about friendship. Leave us a comment or share a Reader Review.

    Happy Reading,
    Dee Ann

    Summer Read-a-loud: Charlotte's Web

    Charlotte's WebOne of my fondest parent memories is riding crammed in the front of a Ryder moving truck with my husband and our two preschool children on our way to our new home in Northern Idaho. We had no hand held devices with which to play games or watch movies. So, what do you do with two small children for 3 very long days on the road? You read them Charlotte's Web. During that trip Wilbur and Charlotte became our very good friends and, I have to admit, I did tear up when I read about Charlotte's death.
    This book by E.B. White touches on so many topics and is an especially good read for city kids who have never experienced life on the farm. If you are planning a unit on farm animals or spiders this is a good pick to tie it all together.
    Here is what one reviewer said about Charlotte's Web:
    "What the book is about is friendship on earth, affection and protection, adventure and miracle, life and death, trust and treachery, pleasure and pain and the passing of time. As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done." (Eudora Welty, The New York Times Book Review)
    I know that there are so many wonderful new chapter books and that I seem to be fixating on the classics. But there are stories that are timeless and are filled with truths that are truly important, Charlotte's Web is one of those stories. The wonderful friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte is something that every child should experience.

    I hope that you have been enjoying some good read-a-loud moments with your child. What have you been reading this summer? Leave a comment and let us know.
    In a couple of weeks I will begin posting on back to school books with new and fun lesson plan ideas.

    Happy Reading!
    Dee Ann

    Summer Read-a-loud: The World of Pooh

    The House at Pooh Corner (Pooh Original Edition)

    I was first introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh by Walt Disney. As a child, I loved the endearing way that Pooh spoke  and his tummy rumbled and the way that his friends: Christopher Robin, Piglet and the whole Hundred Acre Woods gang, loved and supported each other and went on adventures together. I was actually scared of the Heffalumps and Woozles.  It wasn't unitl my later elementary school years that  I was exploring the library and discovered a little book called The House at Pooh Corner . Wait a minute! Winnie-the-Pooh is a character in a book? I was so excited that I checked it out and went home to  spend some quality time with my favorite silly old bear.

    A.A. Milne writes his Pooh stories with a wonderful rhythmic descriptive vocabulary that children love to listen to. Read this aloud and listen to the flow of the words:
    Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.

    If your child has only met Pooh and Piglet on screen then, this summer, take time to cuddle up and visit the Hundred Acre Woods through the  written word. These stories are perfect for quiet moments together after a busy play day. The World of Pooh is also a good starting point for a unit study on bears or bees. Be sure and finish your reading time with toast topped with honey and a discussion of the wisdom of a bear of little brain.

    Pooh Trivia - Did you know.....
    • That A.A. Milne's son Christopher  Robin  Milne was the  model for  the character Christopher Robin?
    • That  Christopher  Milne's own toys were used as inspiration for the stories?
    • That the original Pooh bear is on display at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library?
    • That the locations of the stories are set in the real world Ashdown Forest in Sussex England?
    • That E.H. Shepherd used the landscape of Ashdown Forest for his delightful and charming illustrations?
    • That you can  go to England and play a real game of Pooh Sticks off the same bridge that Christopher Milne played the game? There are even instructions in place on the bridge.
    (Isn't it amazing what you can learn on Wikipedia?)

    Happy  Reading,

    Dee Ann

    Summer Read-a-loud: The Door in The Dragon's Throat

    One of my claims to not-so-much-fame is that I had Christmas dinner with author Frank Peretti and his wife at the home of some very good friends. He is charming and creative and funny. So, it was with special interest that my children and I added his Cooper Kids Adventure Series to our read-a-loud list. The first book in the series is The Door in The Dragon's Throat.
    Synopsis (from the back cover):
    Jay and Lila Cooper have been on adventures with their archaeologist father before, but nothing like this! As they make their way through the dark and mysterious cavern, they can't help thinking about the other exploration parties that tried to open the Door. All fled in panic or died terrible deaths! What really lies behind the Door? Incredible riches from a lost kingdom... or some ancient evil? They must find the key and discover themselves the truth about the Nepurian legends....
    A rip roaring yarn filled with danger and intrigue, ending with a titanic clash between the forces of good and evil.

    We always read right before bed and I was a little worried that this book might be too intense for a bedtime story but the kids couldn't wait to hear what was going to happen next to Jay and Lila Cooper. If your early elementary child is sensitive to scary or intense drama I recommend that you delay this book until they are older, or read early in the day and not at bedtime.
    The Cooper Kids series is a great way to develop interest in archeology, antiquities and history.
    Once you and your kids are introduced to Jay, Lila and Dr. Cooper you will want to travel the world with them.

    Other favorite books in the series are:
    Escape from the Island of Aquarius
    The Secret of the Desert Stone
    Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea

    What are you reading to your children this summer? Share a favorite summer read in the comments section or post your own reader review by clicking on the red book in the side bar.
    Still not sure of the merits of reading chapter books to your children? Check out this post
    A Chapter a Day Keeps the Summertime Blues Away

    Happy Reading,
    Dee Ann