Sunday, December 6, 2015

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings....The Books

This is the first new theme I have developed for the Storytime-To-Go collection.  A few of the books had already been purchased, but I added several more to try out, selected songs, made flannel boards and other props, and made decorations to go on the bus.

I decided the "Feelings" theme would be a good one to add as research is starting to show that kids today do not have the same "emotional IQ" as in the past, and have more trouble recognizing, expressing, and controlling their emotions, as well as showing empathy to others.  This is most likely due to the lack of unstructured play time with peers, and the overall decrease in interpersonal engagement because of increased screen time for everyone, resulting in much less opportunity for them to develop social-emotional skills.

I used more books that usual, because I wanted to be sure I used every book at least twice before making a final selection of what to keep in the kit.  Because this will make for a very long post, I decided to break it into two.  First I will summarize all the books we tried, and in the next one I will present all the songs, flannel boards, and other activities.  So these are all the books I tried out over the two-week course of 25+ storytimes, using 2-3 per each:

Hooray For Hat! by Brian Won has Elephant and his friends waking up grumpy, but then getting cheered up by the gift of a new hat.  This book is great for storytime because it is repetitive and predictable, so a perfect opportunity for audience participation.  It shows grumpiness, but it also demonstrates sharing and empathy for others, and the value of friends.

Jane Yolen's How Do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad? first shows dinosaurs having various tantrums when they don't get their way, but then in the end it has a great message about how to calm one's self by taking a time out and counting to 10 and taking a few deep breaths.  Be sure to study the dino names in the end papers in advance, because you can count on at least one dinosaur aficionado asking!

I really like When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang because it is so descriptive of the feeling of being really angry, using color, sound, and metaphor.  I also like how it shows Sophie running off her anger and taking some alone time to calm herself.  Just be sure to make it clear to the kids she is NOT running away.

Taking a Bath with the Dog....and other things that Make Me Happy by Scott Menchin is a perfect balance for the previous books.  The main character starts out sad, but doesn't know what will cheer her up.  So she goes around asking other people what makes them happy, then finally comes up with her own list of what makes her happy.  This presents a good opportunity for the audience to talk about what makes them happy.

Anthony Browne's How Do YOU Feel? is a nice calm, simple book that illustrates various feelings.  I ask the kids to guess based on the pictures before I read the text, and I like how it incorporates feelings such as confident, shy, curious, etc., that are not always included in others.  At first I thought it might be a little dull, but the kids did seem to like it.

In Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson, our friend Bear stays out a little too long looking for food and finds himself lost in the woods after dark, in a storm, to eventually be found by his friends only 10 feet from his lair!  Though the kids may miss the irony, they can empathize with poor Bear, and the rhyme and cadence of the story keeps them engaged.

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard has another animal waking up grumpy, so grumpy in fact, Bird can't even fly and has to walk.  One by one, the other animals join him, eventually cheering him up in the end as Bird realizes they will imitate whatever he does.  This one has opportunities for various voices and tones, and a slightly silly ending.

In Mo Willem's My Friend Is Sad (part of his Elephant and Piggie series), Piggie sees his friend Gerald is feeling sad and decides to cheer him up by dressing up as things Gerald likes, including a cowboy, a clown, and a robot.  But nothing works, and Gerald seems even sadder each time.  In the end, it turns out what he needed was his friend Piggie all along.  And perhaps new glasses.

Glad Monster, Sad Monster is another installment in Ed Emberley's monster franchise that presents various emotions and different things that evoke those emotions and includes removeable monster faces that show these feelings.  This can spark conversations about what might make the audience members happy, sad, angry, etc.

David Milgrim's Wild Feelings is a cute take on presenting different feelings using animal expressions, such as "stubborn as a mule" and "chicken as a chicken", and tries to present all these feelings as normal and okay.  It has cute illustrations showing a child in various animal costumes, but some kids may not quite understand some of the idiomatic expressions used.

I love Sandra Boynton's books, and Happy Hippo, Angry Duck is no exception.  I just wish we could get them in a larger format as the small board books are just too tiny to use with larger groups.  The characters are really cute and funny, especially the Duck who stays mad to the end.

Deborah Diesen's The Pout-Pout Fish is a fun book to read with preschoolers.  It has a nice cadence that helps hold their attention, and the repetition will encourage audience participation.  The best part, however, is hearing all the "Ewww"s when you get to the kissing part at the end. 

I was excited when I saw Tough Guys Have Feelings, Too by Keith Negley on our cart of new books a couple of days before I started this theme.  I really like the idea of a book showing that it's okay for anyone, but boys in particular, to have and express feelings of sadness, frustration, loneliness, etc.  But, I found this book needed more explanation than I feel a storytime book should require for the kids to understand what each "tough guy" was feeling and why.  I think it would be great for a one-on-one read, though.

How It Went
There were some slight surprises with this selection of books when we actually used them.  While I knew Hooray For Hat! would be a good storytime book with it's expression and repetition, I was surprised at just how much all the kids seemed to like it.  Most really got into cheering "Hooray for hat" along with the characters, and several liked saying "Go away, I'm grumpy!" as well.  Even one little girl who I think is autistic and usually not able to engage or participate seemed to be engaged in this story, sitting right in front, with a bright, happy expression on her face and looking right at the book.

I had not ever used The Pout-Pout Fish before, and didn't really see why people raved about it until I read it the first time.  The kids loved joining in the repeating "I'm a pout-pout fish..." refrain and the "Glub-Glubb-Gluubb", especially those who had heard it before, and *I* got a kick out of all the "Ewww"s when the kissing started.

I had high hopes for Tough Guys, but was disappointed.  When the kids saw the cover, they were expecting a superhero story, and were initially confused by the story and had trouble understanding what it was about at first.  I think it would be good for a one-on-one, or maybe if I had done more of an introduction explaining what it was about *before* letting them see the cover it would have worked better.

I was pretty pleased with the variety of books and how we had some great jumping-off points for talking about how to express our feelings appropriately, how to read other peoples' feelings and show empathy, and what types of situations evoke various emotions.

I will write a follow-up post with all of the songs and rhymes we used, along with pictures of the felt pieces and other props I made to go with them tomorrow, so stay tuned!

To be continued.......

And for your listening enjoyment:

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