Ten Ways to Make Storytimes Interactive by Abi Cushman
At nErDCampPA this year, I got together with fellow kidlit creators, Josh Funk, Valerie Bolling and Carol Gordon Ekster to chat about making storytimes interactive. How can we get kids actively involved and keep their interest piqued during the reading and even beyond? It was a great discussion with many educators chiming in with their own strategies. I hope you enjoy this list along with a selection of fabulous new books you can use with each strategy.
1. Use guessing game type books
Some books are naturally interactive because they are effectively guessing games for the audience.
ANIMALS GO VROOM! by Abi Cushman
This book challenges readers to guess what goes Roar, Hiss or Honk. Featuring die-cut windows, you see a peek of the animal on the next page, but turn the page and surprise! It’s a vehicle making the sound. Kids will love shouting out their answers in this clever book about animals on the go.
- THE COW SAYS MEOW by Kirsti Call and Brandon Scott
- POLAR BEAR’S UNDERWEAR by Tupera Tupera
2. Use books that get kids moving
Some books inspire movement and dance.
LET’S DANCE! by Valerie Bolling and Maine Diaz
With words like “tap” and “twirl”, kids are encouraged to join in each dance.
- FROM A TO Z WITH ENERGY by Connie Bergstein Dow and Gareth Llewhellin
- 10 BALLET DANCERS by Amanda Malek-Ahmadi and Kathrine Gutkovskiy
3. Use books that encourage sing-alongs
Some books present a fresh spin to well-known songs so you can actually sing along.
SECRET, SECRET AGENT GUY by Kira Bigwood and Celia Krampien
Set to the rhythm of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, not only are readers engrossed in a spy adventure, they will also feel inspired to sing.
- TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE CAR by Kate Dopirak and Mary Peterson
- OLD MACDONALD HAD A TRUCK by Steve Goetz and Eda Kaban
4. Have kids join in with repeated lines
When there’s a repeated line throughout the story, kids can join in when the line comes up.
YOU KNOW WHAT? by Carol Gordon Ekster and Nynke Talsma
A boy tries to postpone bedtime by repeatedly asking, “You know what?” and musing about his day. You can point to the kids when it’s time to join in.
- FAUJA SINGH KEEPS GOING by Simran Jeet Singh and Baljinder Kaur
- LILLYBELLE: A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS by Joana Pastro and Jhon Ortiz
5. Have kids do the sound effects
Zoop! Fwoop! POOF! Sound effects are FUN to say, and kids will love shouting them out.
YOU DON’T WANT A UNICORN by Ame Dyckman and Liz Climo
Fun sound effects abound in this zany tale about a kid who wishes for a unicorn against the narrator’s advice.
- LLAMA UNLEASHES THE ALPACALYPSE by Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox
- SOAKED! by Abi Cushman
6. Have kids make their own stories
Using books as mentor texts encourages kids to make personal connections and to think about story structure.
HOW TO WEAR A SARI by Darshana Khiani and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Narrated as a “How To” guide, a girl stumbles through the process of putting on a sari. Kids can write their own “How To” guides about something they know how to do.
- ODD ANIMAL ABC’S by June Smalls and Claire Sedovic (Kids make their own alphabet books)
- MY SCHOOL STINKS by Becky Scharnhorst and Julia Patton (Kids make their own “Dear Diary” entries)
7. Have kids draw
Drawing is a great creative outlet for kids and can deepen their understanding of the plot, characters, and ideas presented in the story.
INVENT-A-PET by Vicky Fang and Tidawan Thaipinnarong
A girl tries to create her perfect pet by choosing three objects to put into a special machine. Kids can draw the three objects they’d put into the machine or they can design their own machines.
- WOOD, WIRE, WINGS by Kirsten W. Larson and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (Kids can design their own airplanes)
- MIXED by Arree Chung (Kids can draw their own characters from the story)
8. Ask questions during the reading
Asking questions relating to the story is an excellent way to keep kids engaged. For responses, you can use strategies like Think-Pair-Share, where kids turn to a partner and share their answer, or everyone can give a thumbs up or down.
NO FUZZBALL! by Isabella Kung
Queen NoFuzzball narrates this story and may be a little… unreliable. You can ask kids if the text matches the pictures and if they think NoFuzzball really is her name.
- LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney (Ask about different foods)
9. Use backmatter, endpapers, and “undies”
Consider the whole book: the “undies” (the case cover underneath the dust jacket), the endpapers (the pages glued to the hardcover on the inside of the book), and the backmatter (pages following the story that provide more details/facts).
I’M A HARE, SO THERE by Julie Rowan-Zoch
A hare gets offended when a ground squirrel calls him a rabbit, and then he mistakenly calls the ground squirrel a chipmunk. Kids will delight in the fun undie, and they can learn more about lookalike animals in the backmatter, then search for them in the illustrations.
- DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS by Carrie Finison and Brianne Farley (Kids can pick out their favorite doughnut on the endpapers)
- NO KIMCHI FOR ME by Aram Kim (Make your own kimchi pancakes using a recipe in the backmatter)
10. Use Reader’s Theater
With Reader’s Theater, kids play the role of the narrator or one of the characters.
IT’S NOT LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD by Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor
Little Red doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye with the narrator who’s instructing her to do dangerous things. Kids and adults will have a blast reading their lines.
- CHICKEN LITTLE AND THE BIG BAD WOLF by Sam Wedelich
- WHERE AM I SLEEPING TONIGHT by Carol Gordon Ekster and Sue Rama
Abi Cushman is the author-illustrator of ANIMALS GO VROOM! and SOAKED!, which was a Kids’ Indie Next Top Ten Pick. She has also worked as a web designer for over 15 years, and runs two popular websites of her own: MyHouseRabbit.com, a pet rabbit care resource, and AnimalFactGuide.com, which was named a Great Website for Kids by the American Library Association. In her spare time, Abi enjoys running, playing tennis, and eating nachos. (Yes, at the same time.) She lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her husband and two kids.
To learn more about Abi and her books, visit her website at AbiCushman.com. If you like secrets, exclusive sneak peeks, wombats, and special giveaways, subscribe to her newsletter.
My grandnephews LOVE all of Josh Funk’s books. Thank you for sharing a great list of ideas & books.
Also, check author’s and illustrator’s websites for more ideas and activities! Great post, Abi!
Thanks, Julie! That’s a great idea. A lot of times authors and illustrators have activity guides, teacher guides, YouTube videos and more.
Great post Abi. I spied some awesome recommendations!
Thanks, Nadia! There have been so many books out recently that make great storytime read alouds.
Great post for book creators who want to up their engagement game, too.
Great point, Carrie!