I noticed on one of those weird-holidays-type calendars that Sunday was Hat Day. Even if this isn’t an official holiday, it makes for a fun storytime theme nonetheless. So I got my black velveteen bowler hat and my hat stories and headed on to pre-k.
When I read at pre-k, there are five groups, with two classes each. I have each group for about 20 minutes, and there is often some down time when one class has arrived but the other hasn’t. To that end, I have decided to prepare a finger rhyme or song to occupy us while everyone gets in and settled. The one I decided on goes like this:
My hat has three corners (put fingers up into a triangle)
Three corners has my hat (hold up three fingers)
If it doesn’t have three corners (hold up three fingers and shake head no)
It wouldn’t be my hat (put fingers into a triangle and place on top of head)
This is a pretty simple rhyme, so it was easy for them to learn quickly. It also flowed nicely into the first book, which is “Do You Have a Hat?” In some of the groups that I didn’t do the rhyme with, they kept saying “no” each time the book said “Do you have a hat?” which, if you’ve read the book–is A LOT! This way, I told them, they could make their own hat whenever they needed one. The finger rhyme added an interactive element to the storytime, and I think I’ll keep doing it.
So, on to the first book!
Do You Have a Hat? by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by Geraldo Valerio. What a great book! I just loved the large, colorful illustrations, as well as the excellent introduction to historical figures such as Francisco de Goya, Abraham Lincoln, and Igor Stravinsky. The book might be a little inaccessible for young children, if not for the funny, rhyming text and excellent illustrations (which went a long way in explaining who the historical figures were and what they did) . The historical vignettes make hats seem fantastic and glamorous (example: Carmen Miranda’s fruit hat, which the kids thought was HILARIOUS), but the book reminds us that they can be used by people today to keep your head warm or shield your eyes from the sun.
Caps for Sale, told and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina. This one is a classic! It is the story of a peddler who sold caps by carrying them all on his head in a huge stack. One day was particularly slow for cap-selling, so he settled down under a shade tree and took a nice, refreshing nap. When he woke up, however, the caps were gone! This is a pretty simple story, but it is great fun to read aloud. There are patterns that are repeated throughout the story (For example, the hats are always listed in the following order: gray caps, brown caps, blue caps, and on the very top a bunch of red caps. Also, the peddler always says “Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!”) and the kids loved to participate and predict what was coming. When we came to the part where the peddler is demanding the return of his caps from the monkeys, I had the kids act out the part of the monkeys by imitating monkey sounds. I did this mostly because I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce “Tsz, tsz, tsz”. It worked out so well, though, that I think I would always do it that way.
A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke. Minerva Louise would love to go exploring in the beautiful, snowy landscape, but it is too cold for her! She decides that she must have some winter clothing to keep her warm. In typical Minerva Louise fashion, she mistakes a green garden hose for a scarf and a flower pot for a hat. This story was a nice one to follow Caps for Sale, since we did get a little rowdy and needed calming down. My only issue with Minerva Louise is that it is very dependent upon the reader seeing and understanding the illustrations. Either because of the smallish size of the book and the large groups or some other reason, I found myself frequently having to explain (or, more often, ask leading questions about) what Minerva Louise was seeing. However, all of the groups loved the final illustration, featuring silly Minerva Louise with a pair of mittens–one perched on her head and the other on her tail feathers!
Don’t Touch My Hat! by James Rumford. Sheriff John is one of the best there is. Bad guys don’t have a chance ‘gainst him as long as he has his trusty ol’ ten gallon hat. But one night, in a rush to straighten out a series of calamities in town, Sheriff John unknowingly grabs his wife’s hat instead of his own! By the time he discovers his mistake, he has already righted all wrongs in his town, thereby learning that “It’s your heart, not your hat” that is really important. I really like this book, but it didn’t go over quite as well as I expected. It is told in a cowboy dialect that would be really effective for most people. (I say “most people” because, if you’re like me and have a pretty thick Southern accent and you’re reading to children who are accustomed to thick Southern accents, they might not notice much of a difference!) The only potential difficulty I can see is that the illustration depicting his wife’s hat is relatively small, so that the kids didn’t recognize it when Sheriff John is wearing it later in the story. Also, I think the dialect got in the way when it was explained that Sheriff John had to get dressed in the dark: “No time for lantern lightin'” I eventually was able to highlight important moments in the story so that the kids noticed them later on. If you were reading this with a child one on one, I feel that they would probably notice immediately that Sheriff John was wearing the wrong hat. Sometimes you just have to make adjustments for reading to a large group, and I’m still learning how to do that!
The Hat storytime was a lot of fun! I’ll definitely continue incorporating songs and finger rhymes, and try to find ways to get more props involved, too!