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I'm a Little Teapot! Presenting Preschool Storytime Review by Karen Waide

Jane Cobb, MLS
Black Sheep Press
(604) 731-2653
P.O. Box 2217
Point Roberts, WA 98281-2217

When my children were younger, I always enjoyed building lessons around themes that went with the letter of the week we were learning. During our days, I always included lots of different books for us to read, all somehow related to our unit. Now my children are all older, but I teach a preschool group at our homeschool co-op, so I am always looking for different ideas. In fact, we are looking at changing up the group this coming fall, and I may actually have a Pre-k class. So, I was quite excited to receive the book titled I’m a Little Teapot! Presenting Preschool Storytime. This book was compiled by Jane Cobb, MLS and illustrated by Magda Lazicka.

This 254-page, softcover book is a kind of handbook that is chock-full of book lists and ideas for children’s librarians, teachers or parents of preschool children. The book begins with an introduction section, including the Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, Introduction, Program Planning and Presentation Tips. Then you will find a few pages of general songs and fingerplays before getting into the main section of the book.

This main section contains 63 different themes, arranged alphabetically. You will find a wide variety of themes from different animals, places, times, weather, and holidays, to other miscellaneous themes such as emotions, music, safety, and transportation.

The book concludes with a section on Recommended Resources, a Bibliography, and an Index of first lines (for the nursery rhymes, fingerplays, and songs).

Let’s look at each section in a little more detail.

The Introduction explains who the book is intended for and then explains a bit about the fact that it is a new, expanded edition with updated lists and added sections. Then Ms. Cobb discusses the arrangement of the themes, along with explaining the different types of books listed for each theme. Each theme will have “Stories to Read Aloud,”“More Stories,” and “Nonfiction.” There are then lists of “Nursery Rhymes,”“Fingerplays,” and “Songs” for added fun. Finally, you will find a “More Ideas” section to enhance the theme.

The Program Planning section provides instruction for a structured program, such as a storytime in a public library. It is suggested that any crafts and games be added in at the end if time allows. I can definitely see this working for our proposed Pre-K class time at co-op. If I had used this book with my own children, we probably wouldn’t have been as structured. The author then gives tips for preparing the actual daily programs. She includes ideas for the opening and closing rituals that would remain the same each session, and then goes into details for planning the actual daily activities starting with the theme and then choosing the different kinds of books, rhymes, fingerplays, and songs. Ms. Cobb also discusses the benefits of felt stories or flannelgraphs.

In the Presentation Tipssection the author gives tips for introducing the story, reading aloud (including how to hold the book and how to speak), discussing the story after it has finished, introducing fingerplays, and the benefits of the added arts, crafts, and games.

The Songs & Fingerplays section is six pages in length, and it includes those general songs and fingerplays that would work for opening, closing, or anytime in between.

This brings us to the main section of the book, the Themes. Each theme is either two, four, or six pages in length. The books listed under the themes are all alphabetized by author’s last name.

First you will find “Stories to Read Aloud.” These stories have been selected as they are the right length and format to hold the attention of a group of preschool age children. Next is a list titled “More Stories.” These books are still wonderful books,but are more ideal for one-on-one time or other situations. In our home, they would be the ones the children could look through on their own time or ones I would read over the course of a week. There is then a list of “Nonfiction” books which are informational books that focus on the theme on the child’s level. These are also books that would be arranged in our living room for the children to choose from on their own time, or ones I would read a little at a time to give more information about some aspect of the theme.

As I am looking at these book lists, and contemplating how I would organize my pre-K co-op class, I would definitely be choosing to read the books from the “Stories to Read Aloud” section. I may take some of the “More Stories” and “Nonfiction” books to display for the children to look through. However, we don’t have the same organization that a library or preschool would have, so they might not have time to look through them. I can see those lists being more beneficial to children’s librarians or preschool teachers, as they could display them in a reading corner, or to be checked out of the library if a child wanted to explore the theme further. Of course, as I already mentioned, if my children were younger, those books would all be available to them to peruse at their leisure.

I love that there are wonderful selections for nursery rhymes, fingerplays, songs, and games to help enhance the storytime. I was excited to see selections that I have used when I worked with preschool children, some of which I used with my own children, some I had used at the Montessori but had forgotten about, plus there are some that are brand new to me, and I am looking forward to introducing to the class. 

The “More Ideas” section conclude each theme. Here, depending on the theme, the author suggests felt stories, different ways to present specific books (such as singing the words, acting it out, using puppets, or other props), plus other activities or crafts that can be done. I was a bit disappointed to see that there isn’t an art activity or craft for every theme. I guess I had assumed every theme would have at least something hands-on for the children to create. Even when there are suggestions, they are just simple ideas, with not a lot of detail. 

I would also like to make you aware of the fact that for some activities you will need to have access to books listed in the Recommended Resources section, as the author will list an idea and mention which book you can find it in, with no further instructions. This Recommended Resources section is a wonderful list of books that compile ideas for arts, crafts, games, fingerplays, songs, fairy tales, nursery rhymes and all those wonderful ideas to enhance a storytime with. As a homeschool parent, these are books I would hope to find at my library, but I wouldn’t have access to them at all times. 

The Bibliography lists every book from each of the three sections for each theme. Again, these books are listed alphabetically by author’s last name. And if you are trying to figure out where to find a nursery rhyme, fingerplay, or song, and you know the first line, you will be able to find it in the Index. 

If you would like to introduce your children to wonderful stories based around a theme, I would say this is a wonderful resource to have in your possession. There are over 500 stories to read aloud, plus over 500 more in the “More Stories” and “Nonfiction” sections. There are also over 500 fingerplays and songs to help enhance storytime with your children. That said, I would LOVE to see an updated edition of this book, or a second volume, as this one was published 22 years ago, and so many more books could be added to these lists now, plus most of the sound recording suggestions are in cassette format. Even though it is an older book, I will say, it is a wonderful resource to have in your possession. 

I’m a Little Teapot! Presenting Preschool Storytime by Jane Cobb is available from Black Sheep Press for $29.95


- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2018