I offer sensory-storytimes at the local libraries. Although many of these storytimes are similar to more traditional storytimes, they are specifically designed to engage kids that may not be able to sit still in a large group and listen to a story silently.
One way to make these story times meet the needs of these kids is in reading books that encourage a high level of interaction. We don't want to ask a child to sit perfectly still and listen to a book. Instead, we are asking them to move, sing, and dance with a book in a (somewhat) organized manner.
Book choice is critical. Some of my absolute favorite books just can't be used here because there are too many words on the page, too many detailed drawings in the pictures, and too deep of a storyline. Here are some guidelines I use when I'm thinking about book choice.
Repeated Lines of Text
The key concept I look at in choosing a book is looking for repeated lines of text or a repeated pattern. Does the book have a few lines that the children can memorize and "read" along with me? This is great for non-verbal students as well. By giving them an egg shaker or a maraca, they can actively participate with the book. Before you read, establish a cue with your group so they will know when to chime in. It can be done by pointing at them, pointing at the letters, or saying "Ready?"
The repeated lines get the kids involved in the book, but also encourage them to learn concepts of print. As children begin to learn that print contains meaning they can point to the repeated line on the page as you read it aloud. As they become more aware of print they can go from pointing from to each line on the page to pointing to each individual word. When they read the story to themselves they can touch the line and repeat the memorized portion.
Some of my favorite books with repeated lines are:
Click, Clack, Moo (and anything in the Click, Clack series)
I Ain't Gonna Paint No More
Good Night Gorilla
Blue Hat, Green Hat
What Shall we do with the Boo Hoo Baby?
Pete the Cat
Brown Bear, Brown Bear is perfect for this in many ways, but I guarantee you that after you've taught for 5 years you'll never want to look at any brown bear again. Or talk about what it sees. Ever.
Opportunities to Be Silly
Books that just beg you to use silly voices when you read aloud, or that provide opportunities for the kids to act out the parts are perfect for engaging readers who have difficulty sitting still. When you read the Elephant and Piggy books, for instance, it is hard not to make the different voices for Gerald and Piggy. And can you read the Pigeon books without sounding whinny or angry like the Pigeon? These books are highly engaging to your readers because they love being able to watch an adult be silly.
My favorite be silly books:
The Pigeon books by Mo Willems
Elephant and Piggy by Mo Willems
Rhyming Dust Bunnies (Or anything by Jan Thomas)
Opportunities to Act
Books that give kids a chance to act out the storyline are another great way to engage the wiggly listeners. The trick here is usually to do something that keeps them active but sitting down, so that they aren't getting up and wondering around the room. Many books lend themselves to this once you start looking for it. Is there a horn to beep? A door to knock on? Clothes to put on? Hands to wash? Getting a whole group to engage in the simple actions of the book can go a long way in keeping the kids engaged.
Some good Act-It-Out books:
5 Little Monkeys (in the beginning of the book they put on their pajamas, brush their teeth, and get ready for bed.)
Alice the Fairy
Good Night, Gorilla
Little Blue Truck
The Napping House
Caps for Sale
The Snowy Day
I am NOT a rhythmic person, but I do appreciate a good rhythmic book. Books that can be read like a chant are great at engaging kids and keeping their interest. This is particularly helpful when reading one on one with a squirmy toddler. If you bounce them on your lap to the beat of the book you will keep them engaged with the language. Match the bouncing to the lines of text so that the movement connects the movement with the language. Kids can also be engaged by giving them egg shakers (if you can read loudly over the noise) or even scarves they can wave while you read.
Great Rhythmic Books:
Five Little Monkeys
Little Blue Truck
Shiver Me Letters
Pete the Cat
The Llama Llama series
Opportunities to Discuss Emotions
As adult readers we know that emotions are often what drives the storyline in any good novel. Legal thrillers, spy adventures, or chick lit are all based around someone's jealousy, greed, or sadness. Kid books are the same and the more we discuss the character's emotions in the books the more we can connect the children to the plot line. Additionally, drawing kid's attention to the characters' emotions helps them connect with the story (he's angry and I can think of a time when I was angry too!) and gives another great opportunity for acting out the story. I love asking kids to make a mean face, scary face, or happy face.
Books that make discussing emotions easy:
The Pigeon books (I love talking about how angry he gets.)
Alice the Fairy
I Ain't Gonna Paint No More (That is one angry mom!)
Rhyming Dust Bunnies (They go from happy to scared)
The Paper Bag Princess
Katie and the Kittens
The Llama Llama Series
If you are interested in additional activities that go along with these books, you can sign up for my free weekly newsletter. I take one book a month and provide a new activity for each week that corresponds with the book. Click here to sign up!