The StorytimeWOW Standards

The StorytimeWOW Standards (SWS) listed below are ten standards by which all reviewed materials on this website (picture books, eBooks, apps, and music videos) are considered.

StorytimeWow_FinalLogo-1The StorytimeWOW Marquee Seal indicates that the material meets the SWS and has been selected for one or more of the four storytimeWOW collections:  PictureBookWOW, Picture eBookWOW, AppWOW and/or MusicVideoWOW.  Underneath the seal you will find a description of why an asset was selected and how it exhibits the qualities described.


The E. B. White Read Aloud Award:  The StorytimeWOW Standards have been adapted from and expand upon the E. B. White Read Aloud Award’s universal read aloud standards in an effort to promote excellent edutainment materials for traditional and/or new media group storytime programs in libraries and schools.

Every year, the American Booksellers Association or ABA (formerly the American Booksellers for Children or ABC) gives out the E. B. White Read Aloud Award.  The Award goes to one children’s picture book (and a second award is given to a middle grade read aloud) that its members feel embody their universal read aloud standards.  According to the ABC, “possible criteria for a great ‘Read Aloud’ include dynamic writing, engaging themes, and universal appeal.”  Further, the ABC states that “in the case of picture books, the relationship between writing and illustration should be strong and the structure of the book should build an enjoyable sense of anticipation.  These basic ideas apply to group as well as one-on-one storytime materials.  Therefore, StorytimeWOW has adapted them into the first three StorytimeWOW Standards below.  Standards 4 though 9 are adapted from the E. B. White Read Aloud Award’s universal read aloud standards.  Standard 10 is an important addition for group storytimes.

The StorytimeWOW Standards:

  1. Dynamic Writing, Engaging Theme, and/or Universal Appeal – “The asset exhibits dynamic writing, an engaging theme, and universal appeal.”  Often this ”appeal” manifests as an idea that hooks the listener on the first few pages.
  2. A Strong Writing/Illustrating Relationship – “The relationship between the asset’s writing and illustration should be strong.”
  3. The “WOW” Factor “The asset should be enjoyable and build a sense of anticipation.”
  4. Suited for Repetition and Timelessness – “The asset stands up to repeated reading and singing over time.”
  5. Illustrations for Groups – “The asset has artwork that works from a distance.”
  6. The Takeaway – “The asset allows the reader to take away something.”  For example, the asset should inspire wonder (uses magic/pixie dust, sparks imagination often found through fiction), curiosity (sparks imagination often found through both fiction and nonfiction), laughter (silliness, ridiculousness), etc…
  7. Child-Centered Theme – “The asset acts as a springboard for discussion.”  In other words, the themes should reflect children’s lives.
  8. Free of Excessive Squirmy Moments – “The asset is free of excessively squirmy moments.”  In other words, the asset is not boring.  This standard ties into standard #1 in that the material should hook children’s interest.
  9. Works for Young Children – The asset should be geared to the reading and interest levels of toddlers and/or preschoolers primarily, however kindergarteners and elementary school students will find them enjoyable and edifying.
  10. Built-in Group Participation According to the ABC Children’s Group website, “Ideally, a nominated title should be the favorite book to recommend to a customer who asks the question, can you suggest something that my family and I can read together?”  StorytimeWOW collections are also intended for group program settings outside the home (which may include 2 to over 100 attendees).  Therefore, it is necessary to add Built-in Group Participation to the list.  This standard means that an asset includes built-in elements that may be used to encourage a group of children to participate and interact together (such as movement, singing, rhythm, rhyme and repetition).

To be selected, an asset must possess a strong combination of these ten standards.  In other words, the material needs to have storytimeWOW!

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Written by Tom Schween, founder of storytimeWOW!