I have wanted to do this program ever since I saw this article in American Libraries last year. Now I’ve done it twice—once at each of our two small branches as an evening storytime. Take a look at all the fun we had this March!
Activity: Build a Car
Using paper plates, tape, brass brads, and markers, each participant decorated a cardboard box into a car. I gave minimal direction so that grown-ups were really involved in helping their little ones build. I also wanted it to be process-oriented so the kids weren’t following my instructions on how a car should be. They came up with their own instructions! Some kids turned to books for design inspiration, but others followed their imaginations. The design time was limited to 15 minutes, after which we had a parade around the library.
As we parked our cars for storytime, we sang this little ditty. I asked the kids what sorts of things cars have to help them run. My favorite response: “A radio that goes ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’.” You can bet I turned that into an added verse!
Book: Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli
Rhyme: “Green Means Go”
I basically used this as a lead in to “Silly Traffic Light.” We used jingle bells for emphasis, which we shook at different speeds for “go” & “slow.”
Rhyme: “Silly Traffic Light”
Based on the poem by Rob Reid, this activity is so, so, so much fun. And exhausting. You go through green, yellow, red and add these twists: pink = “hop like a bunny”; purple = “make a face that is funny”; orange = “bark like a dog”; white = “ROAR!”; and, blue = “fall asleep and snore.” After each color is added, the whole set is repeated. It tuckered the kids out just the right amount to listen to a final story.
Book: Let’s Go for a Drive! by Mo Willems
Goodbye: “The More We Read Together”
How It Went #1: There were 12 people in the first group, and the ages ranged from babies to grade schoolers. They were a very quiet group who mostly stared at me rather than participating in my call and response rhymes or dialogic reading. Because of this, I decided to scrap the book I read first And the Cars Go… by William Bee. Even with its fun sound effects and characters, the book wasn’t as engaging as I’d hoped. The parade was also a bit of a wreck but it was still cute. I think the main reason participants were shy was because my excitement was over the top. But it may have also been because I didn’t give enough direction or introduction to the program…
How It Went #2: This group was loud, excited, and engaged. There were 20 people and we ended up going over time decorating (it took them about 20 minutes to settle down for the parade). Most of the kids in this group were preschool and up, so I made a last minute switch to the Elephant and Piggie book. It was a smart choice, as that book was not only their favorite part but it allowed me to really ham it up with character voices. In this second session, I also looked for more opportunities to actually use the cars we made. I connected what we were reading about to what we had built.
Next time I do the program I think I would (a) have the items presorted for each car so I wouldn’t have to run around as much, and (b) use a green screen or something for a cool photo op that grown-ups would be able to share on social media, etc.
NOTE: I also want to call myself out here because I didn’t include a book diverse with characters. They were all animal books. And the Cars Go… had some casual diversity but I’m not going to count it. Next time I do this program, I will find a better alternative and likely swap out Number One Sam. If you know of any diverse car books that work well in storytime, please let me know.