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Using Diverse Picture Books in Storytime

Diana Palacio is an online MLIS graduate student at the University of Washington, and one of the Diverse BookFinder’s winter interns. She works part-time as a library assistant and is slowly gaining more experience in the children’s library department.

Why Incorporate Diversity Into Storytime?

Storytime is a great opportunity to provide windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors to children since it's the most popular public library program. From my personal experience, I know how easy it is to create a habit of choosing nonhuman picture books. Especially with the limited selection of diverse picture books available.

My Reality Check

I recently read an article published by Library Quarterly, a study that collected data from storytimes at 35 public libraries. Their results show a need to be more conscious with our use of diverse books. Only 23 books in the study were categorized as multicultural. Although the sample size of this research was small, the results show how we must continue highlighting diverse books.

When I found out that I was going to be doing storytime for the first time, I began collecting titles. I also talked to my coworkers and gathered fingerplay songs, lap bounces, and early literacy tips. A month passed before I noticed the number of nonhuman characters and lack of diverse representation in my books.

After discovering this pattern I thought to myself, “What are you doing?” Although there is nothing wrong with books with nonhuman characters, I was disappointed in myself. Especially as a Colombian-American working for a library located in an area with a high Latinx population, one of my main motivators for getting an MLIS is so I can create a more welcoming experience for BIPOC clients.

Searching Our Collection

Including diverse characters and language is important to me because I want all people to feel seen. This is why I decided to take advantage of my internship and search Diverse BookFinder’s collection for books. I found a lot of really interesting and beautiful titles. My next step was reading them to see if they had the qualities I was looking for in storytime books.

The qualities of a good storytime book are dependent on the specific audience and their needs. Originally, I was going to focus on preschool but I ended up conducting baby storytime instead. Each group requires different types of stories. The following section includes books that I've used and plan on using for storytime:

Baby Storytime

Books for baby storytime should have bold colors and clear illustrations with solid backgrounds. At this stage of development, babies learn through repetition, so books with simple repetitive language are great for them. Keeping it short and simple with one to five words per sentence keeps the babies interested.

Preschool Storytime

Preschoolers may pay more attention to the story which is why books should be a little more challenging and complex. Chose books that tell a narrative story and are 1-3 sentences per page. Stories that allow for more audience interaction and have detailed Illustrations can be really fun for this age group.

A Boy Named Isamu


by James Yang

"With stunning artwork and heart-singing text, the 2020 winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award brings to life the imagination of Isamu Noguchi. Winner of the Theordor Seuss Geisel Award in 2020 for Stop! Bot!, James Yang imagines a day in the boyhood of Japanese American artist, Isamu Noguchi. Wandering through an outdoor market, through the forest, and then by the ocean, Isamu sees things through the eyes of a young artist…but also in a way that many children will relate. Stones look like birds. And birds look like stones. Through colorful artwork and exquisite text, Yang translates the essence of Noguchi so that we can all begin to see as an artist sees." -- publisher

Any Child

My Friend Earth


by Patricia MacLachlan and Francesca Sanna

"Celebrate Earth Day with this valentine to our wonderful planet from the Newbery Award–winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall. Our friend Earth does so many wonderful things! She tends to animals large and small. She pours down summer rain and autumn leaves. She sprinkles whisper-white snow and protects the tiny seeds waiting for spring. Readers of all ages will pore over the pages of this spectacular book. Its enticing die-cut pages encourage exploration as its poetic text celebrates everything Earth does for us, all the while reminding us to be a good friend in return. • Interactive format and kid-friendly art will engage both toddlers and young readers • A celebration of the natural world and rallying cry for positive action for Planet Earth • Great opportunities to share life science concepts and amazing facts about the environment with children. This beautiful and innovative ode to our natural world will appeal to readers of Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, The Poet's Dog, and Thank You, Earth. • Read aloud books for kids ages 3-5 • Earth books for kids • Climate change books for kids." -- publisher

Any Child

Don’t Feed the Coos!


by Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox

"An unforgettable, hilarious new picture book about a girl who must escape a flock of insatiable pigeons, perfect for fans of Dragons Love Tacos and Mo Willems's Pigeon series. When you see a coo, you will be tempted to give it a treat. Coos are adorable, peaceful, kind of silly. But DON'T FEED THE COO! If you feed one, they will ALL come . . . So begins Don't the Feed the Coos, a cautionary tale from the duo who brought you Llama Destroys the World. With his signature wit, Jonathan details all of the awful things that will happen should you feed one of the birds. (For example, they will thank you in "coo poos.") And Heather brings the words to life with fun and flair in a slightly-different-but-equally-appealing style to her Llama. Get ready to laugh out loud at this delightful and delirious cautionary tale, be it at storytime or bedtime. These pigeons are persistent!" -- publisher

Any Child

Are You Eating Candy Without Me?


by Draga Jenny Malesevic and Charlotte Bruijn

"In this delightfully illustrated picture book, readers explore the original FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as four children imagine what wild, zany, and impossible adventures the adults in their lives must surely get up to when they are not with them. Four different children from three different families ponder what the adults in their lives do during the day. Are they jumping on trampolines? Are they eating cake and ice cream while riding birthday ponies? Are they eating candy with other adults? After a series of hilariously illustrated and wildly imaginative scenarios, readers learn an important lesson: The adults who love them think about them constantly and are most definitely, certainly, ABSOLUTELY…not eating candy without them. Or are they?" -- publisher

Any Child

Many of the cover images on this site are from Google Books.
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