This is the time of year youth librarians love because either they are crazy, creative or both. This year's theme One World, Many Stories provides many opportunities to set young readers off exploring their world. There are so many directions to point them towards, different foods, different ways of saying hello or different bears. Yes, bears can teach children much about the world. Inviting young children to join you on a bear hunt around the world is as easy as putting on a safari hat, gathering together great books about bears, hunting for Brown, polar and panda bears in the library and complete it with the perfect paper plate bear craft. What is wonderful about this story time plan, is that it can be done at anytime during the year
As all children librarians know, story times are not complete without props. (Which is why my basement is filled with hats, stuffed animals, wigs and tons of other stuff that will one day be the greatest garage sale ever.) Safari hats are optional, however if one is available it doesn't hurt to wear it during the "bear hunt". The list of stories that work well with this theme are: Karma Wilson's Bear Snores On, Bill Martin's Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?, Matthew Baek's Panda and Polar Bear and Helen Oxenbury's We're Going On A Bear Hunt. Colorful and brief nonfiction books may be used too. However, since this is an upbeat story hour, it may be better to trick children into learning something by making it a fun experience. The best trick ever known to sly librarians is using a story board to build up to the "highlight" of the program. On the board a children's map of the world is displayed. When children settle down, pass out several pictures of different species of bears. Begin the story time by briefly explaining to your audience that the habitat in which a bear lives can give clues about the continent in which they live. Then ask if anyone has a picture of a bear from China. Children who have pictures of Panda Bears are encouraged to come up and place the bear on China. Do the same for the polar bear and brown bear. Once the bears are on the maps, invite the children to listen to the stories. Afterwards, they will be joining you on a "bear" hunt through North America, the Arctic and China.
Stuffed animals are great props for story times such as this one. Hide each one of the bears around the library before the story time begins. When it's time to go on the bear hunt, instruct each participant that they are to be prepared to spot wild bears in the library. Once they are found, they must be captured and placed back in their cage. Instruct the children that they will need to put on their hats, their bug repellents, and their hiking boots. (All of which are make believe of course.) Once that task is completed they are to follow the safari leader to go find the bears. For each bear, describe the continent/countries where the bears live. For example, in North America where the Brown Bear lives, there are mountains, forests, lakes. Have the children pretend they are going up mountains, walking through a forest or going by a lake to see if bears are eating fish. Once Brown Bear is found it time to go someplace colder, the Arctic. Again, have children make believe that they are in the Arctic. Repeat the make believe for the Panda Bear hunt also.
End the story time with a paper plate bear face. Prepare in advance cut out bear ears in black, brown or white. Photocopy a coloring page of a bear's face, without the ears. Once children have collected two ears of the same color, a paper plate and a bear's face, they can begin their craft. With glue, place the two ears on the top of the plate. Next glue the face onto the center of the plate. Once these are in place, children may color the bears' faces. This craft should take no longer than fifteen minutes to complete.
Give this story time a try during your Summer Reading program. Consider it part of the "bear" necessities to making the program memorable for you and your patrons. Happy Bear hunting! Happy Reading!
P.S. Some additional titles to consider are:
Big Brown Bear’s Up and Down Day David McPhail
Little Polar Bear Hans De Beer
Polar Bear Nights Lauren Thompson
Little Panda Renata Liwska
Panda Whispers Mary Beth Owens