Your Packing Checklist


Good teaching is one fourth preparation & three-fourths pure theater.  – Gail Godwin

Part I-c:  Your Packing Checklist

Here are the five things to bring to every storytime:

1.  YOU 

  • Your Desire to Inspire.  Remember that you have a job to do.  You’re on a mission to make reading more fun.
  • Your Storyteller’s Toolkit.  Your voice, eyes, facial expressions, gestures and body language comprise your storyteller’s toolkit.  Think of ways to use them when you practice.


  • 2 or 3 carefully selected picture books that are well-suited for reading aloud
  • a great opening
  • a couple effective transitional activities (songs, felt board stories, cds / audio player)
  • a memorable closing
  • any additional musical instruments or props



The magic is in the stories.  Just know your role.  You are there to inspire wonder and take them on adventures with stories.  During their preschool years, children’s imaginations are limitless.  Kids reach the height of pretend play at this age.  That’s why ages three, four and five are called “the wonder years”.  Stories have the power to transport all of us, but they’re especially magical to preschoolers.

5.  THE FUN 

The most important part.  Only choose elements that you are excited to share.  If you like a book or story stretch and want to share it, you will be very engaging.  Children know when you are bored.  If you don’t like what you are doing or you don’t feel like being there, it is very easy to lose them.  If you lose them, move on to another element.  This will happen on any given day for reasons beyond your control.  Never expect preschoolers to give you their undivided attention for a full 30 to 45 minutes.  Not to say that this can’t happen.  It often does when you come prepared.  At times, you will have your audience eating out of the palm of your hand.  At other times, your program will unravel.  Children’s needs have to trump storytime at times.

Use Your Tools

Bring tools that will recapture children’s attention.  Activities that blend rhythm and movement work well.  So does humor.  Think of ways to add humor and make kids smile.  Preschoolers like silly sounds, catchy music, imaginative movement and puppets.  Read the Magic Carpet Handbook’s section on Story Stretching for more tips on engaging kids.

PROPS.  To Bring Or Not To Bring?

If you feel the inspiration to bring a prop, like a musical instrument, a puppet (as your co-pilot) or a costume piece (like a funny hat or sunglasses), do it!  Go with your instincts.  The children will enjoy it and you will provide them with a new experience.  Props are also helpful when you need to regain your listener’s attention.  Proceed With Caution….  Props Look Like Toys.  When using props, don’t overdo it.  Having too many props can quickly become a distraction for preschoolers.  Trust me.  I’m the prop man.  I always edit down and still don’t use everything I bring.

Children will want to play with your props.  If you do bring them, set and keep boundaries.  If possible, keep your props out of site until you need them.  Put them away when you’re finished with them.  As a rule, don’t allow children to touch your materials (but there are exceptions).  Children may touch props in certain circumstances, for example:

  1. Saying Goodbye.  I will let kids say goodbye to a puppet with a high five or in some other way.
  2. Group Activities.  If you are using props in a group activity, bring enough for everyone.  Pass them out one at a time while children are sitting (or have a helper assist you).  If you are considering whether or not to use props for a group activity, ask yourself this.  Is it just as good or better to let children use their imaginations?

Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s time for Takeoff.



Recent Posts

Philadelphia Chickens – an imaginary musical comedy revue (in the form of a picture book)

th-26Infectious showtunes performed by an all-star cast playing original Boynton characters in an imaginary musical revue.

Bibliographic Info:  Boynton, Sandra  Philadelphia Chickens Workman Publishing (2002) 64pp  $16.95  Formats:  Hardcover with CD, ISBN:  978-0761126362  Interest Level: preK-grade 3  Genre: Song, Comedy and Humor  Themes: Music, Animals, Dance

Summary:  Philadelphia Chickens is a songbook with CD that includes 17 1/2 illustrated story-poems by Sandra Boynton.  Composer Michael Ford, who also composed Boynton’s Rhinoceros Tap, transforms these story-poems into original songs performed by many well-known actors, including Patti LuPone, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, Eric Stoltz and Scott Bakula.

StorytimeWow_FinalLogo-1Philadelphia Chickens was given the StorytimeWOW Marquee Seal on May 8th, 2015 and has been selected for the PictureBookWOW collection at

th-27Review:  Philadelphia Chickens is a wacky, hilarious and toe-tapping musical show in a picture book. The piece is more than a book, it’s an event.  Infectious showtunes are performed by an all-star cast who play original Boynton characters in an imaginary musical revue.  Standout numbers include “Cows”, “Pig Island”, “Snuggle Puppy” and “Be Like a Duck”.  The cast of childlike animal personalities appeal to kids of all ages.  As always, Boynton’s colorful hand-drawn illustrations are full of visually expressive humor and emotion.

Storytime:  th-28 Storytime is a great occassion and opportunity to share Philadelphia Chickens with groups of children.  They will love it.  Choose one story-poem/song to include in your weekly program throughout a Philadelphia Chickens-storytime sing-along series that lasts three months.  In these storytimes, package and introduce the sing-along series and project your chosen story poem’s illustrations and lyrics onto a big screen to create a hilarious, enjoyable, toe-tapping and highly engaging sing-along story group experience.

Awards:  Grammy nominee. #1 New York Times bestseller, Recording Industry Association of America Platinum album.

Read-alikesBlue Moo by Sandra Boynton, Frog Trouble by Sandra Boynton, Dog Train by Sandra Boynton, Rhinocerous Tap by Sandra Boynton,

Links:  author’s website, Amazon

Bio (from  Sandra Boynton is a popular American cartoonist, children’s author, songwriter, producer, and director. Since 1974, Boynton has written and illustrated over fifty children’s books and seven general audience books, including five New York Times Bestsellers. More than 60 million of her books have been sold–“mostly to friends and family,” she says. She has also written (with Michael Ford) and produced five albums of renegade children’s music. Three of her five albums have been certified Gold [over 500,000 copies sold] and “Philadelphia Chickens,” nominated for a Grammy, has been certified Platinum [over 1 million copies sold.] Boynton has also directed six music videos of her songs, including the award-winning “One Shoe Blues” starring B B King. She lives in rural New England, and her studio is in a barn with perhaps the only hippopotamus weathervane in America.

Reviews:  Common Sense Media, Goodreads

I chose to review this musical in a picture book because it’s full of Sandra Boynton’s unique brand of humor and comedic characters.  And moreover, storytime deserves more showstoppers.

3Make Reading More Fun

Written by Tom Schween

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