I love holidays, even the minor ones. It's an opportunity not only to celebrate but also to uplift the spirits and think about the positive side of life. As a children's librarian, holidays lend themselves to wonderful story time hours. In the dreary month of February, when many of us in the cold north are thinking about escaping to somewhere warmer, reading Valentine's Day books can warm the coldest hearts. The lesson plan for story times can be quite easy. Find several books on the holiday or books on love, mix in cute fingerplays and add simple heart crafts. Viola! Planning was easy as one, two three. However, this Valentine's Day why not be daring. Escape the traditional story time routine where all the books share the same theme. Excuse me while I put on my Cupid wings, aim my little bow and arrow just right while I target the reader's heart hoping that they will fall in love with the books I will be sharing with them this Valentine's Day. None of these books listed here have anything in common, except that they are in the category of "loves" on my personal list of children's books.
First on my list of "loves" , is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I love visiting with the monsters and seeing how the other side "lives". Max's fearless gaze into the Monster's eyes always gives hope that no matter what monsters we face in life, there is always the opportunity to become "King of the Forest" and overcome the fear. The artwork is wonderful, imaginative and captivating. After sharing the book with younger readers, I put on a little music and invite them to dance like the monsters. Inevitably, it ends in a monster parade. If this doesn't get the children to love the story, I'd be really surprised.
Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont is a tale of paint and misbehaving. Goodness, how does one little girl get into some much trouble with a little bit of paint and a brush? What goes along great with this story is either let the children imagine that they have paint brushes or give them a small one. Each time the narrator of the story talks about painting a certain part of the body, like arms, invite the children to do the same. It is so much fun to watch them giggle at the pictures while doing the actions. Ah, but at the end our poor little heroine has to take a bath to clean up her mess. After all that fun, the children reading along with you must remove the "paint" from themselves also.
I can always find children to fall in love with Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman. This adorable book about a sneaky, but friendly Gorilla pick pockets the keys from the Zoo keeper, allowing each of his zoo friends to escape. Well, of course they are caught and brought back to the zoo for the night. Does this deter the Gorilla from trying again? Nope. That's why children by the end of the book are marveling at the Gorilla's ability to get away with his plan again. Allowing the children to set my animal zoo free one by one when I am "unaware" usually ends up with children who are sneakier than Gorilla. If I plan to have the children act like Gorilla, extra time is always needed. That's okay. Once you get the "love" is planted for stories, parents don't mind hanging around a little longer to watch their children having fun in the library.
A very long title for a very short book, but it made the "love" list because it is a perfect book to share with young readers. The Little Mouse, The Big Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Woods is an example of what you see is what you get. The title gives away most of the story but who cares! The plot of the story is not ruined by it one bit. As a matter of fact, because of the colorful artwork, readers can almost taste the strawberry. Not only that, each emotions that the mouse feels about his situations come through the pages clearly, allowing the reader to really want to help the furry little mouse. This story about sharing is important because it reminds this librarian, not only to share great stories but to maybe just maybe share a big juicy strawberry with her favorite group of children.
Got a purple crayon? With this next story, the children in my group are invited to help decorate a mural for our reading area. With only a purple crayon, they are instructed to draw whatever is in their imaginations. Once in awhile the complaint of "I don't like purple" or "I need more color" is voiced, but they are always satisfied when told that there is a special story to share soon. After allowing them time to draw for fifteen minutes, they gather to hear the story of Harold and he Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson. It doesn't take long for them to realize why their masterpiece was done in purple. Interesting discussions often take place after the story is read. Children have no problem explaining their imagination took them when they were drawing. The mural is placed on the wall with the title "The Afternoon Story Hour and The Purple Crayon." One child even commented that his story hour mural was better than the book! I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that that story hour LOVED Harold and the Purple Crayon.
What picture books are your favorite? Share the books that you love with the ones you love! That is the best Valentine's Gift to give. The memories and the stories can last a lifetime. Happy Valentine's Day a wee bit early!