Book to Boogie is a monthly series that pairs picture books with dance and movement activities for preschool story time. The series is curated by Kerry Aradhya of Picture Books & Pirouettes and written by a different guest writer each month. We hope that children’s librarians, as well as classroom teachers and dance educators, will find these activities useful and fun!

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 1.36.44 PMby Jill Randall

Word pairs and “opposites” naturally inspire movement, humor, and a sense of play. Young children love to try contrasting ideas — up and down, stop and go, and big and small. Today I share a story time idea that can include three books — two as “warm ups” building toward the final exploration of Up & Down by Britta Teckentrup.

Starting Out: Olivia’s Opposites by Ian Falconer

Ian Falconer’s pig character, Olivia, is a great way to begin the story time. Olivia’s Opposites is a simple board book with six word pairs, such as long/short, quiet/loud, and open/closed. Read the book to the group once, and then read it again while having the audience members begin to move where they are seated. Use simple arm gestures to accompany the words.

Moving Around the Room with a Freeze Dance: Wait by Antoinette Portis

Next, move on to Antoinette Portis’ latest book entitled Wait. The key idea here is hurrying, and then waiting. Use this book as a simple springboard and inspiration for a freeze dance with the group. The basic premise of “freeze dance” is moving and then stopping. After reading the book, use music for the activity, and stop the music each time you want the group to pause their dancing.

I recommend playful music with a fast tempo, such as the version of “Flight of the Bumble Bee” by Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma. The “hurried” movements can be fast walking, jumping, and shaking. When the music stops, everyone has to “wait.” Use your verbal prompts to lead the group. For example: “Let’s start with some hurried walking….fast walking like the mom and boy in the book. Here we go………we are in a rush!”

The Main Event: Up & Down by Britta Teckentrup

Up & Down is a lighthearted lift-the-flap book about a penguin’s journey to re-unite with another penguin. Little Penguin travels through the ocean — above, below, over, and under until he finally reaches his friend.

Read the entire book to the group first. Then, spread out around the space. You will become the narrator of the story — re-reading the book to the group and offering “side coaching” to encourage movement to accompany each section of the story.

Music to inspire the journey can be “Linus and Lucy ” from the album Joe Cool’s Blues by jazz musicians Ellis Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis.

Encourage the group to move high and low, reaching to the ceiling and crawling and scooting on the ground. For the section of the book about a tunnel, encourage the adults to line up and make tunnels with their legs for the young ones to crawl through.

At the end of the book, the two penguins are re-united. Have this be a “together dance” with the children and their caregivers at your story time. Change the music for this section to another song, like “Charlie Brown,” also from Joe Cool’s Blues by Ellis Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis.

Other Books to Explore

Books for more reading on opposites and word pairs include:

  • Big Bear Little Chair – Lizi Boyd
  • Earth, Sky, Wet, Dry – Durga Bernhard
  • Fast and Slow: An Animal Opposites Book – Lisa Bullard
  • Eric Carle’s Opposites – Eric Carle
  • Up! Tall! and High! – Ethan Long

jillhJill Randall is passionate about the intersection of language and movement. She teaches dance at The Hamlin School in San Francisco and has been a teaching artist for over 18 years. Jill maintains the blog Dancing Words, about children’s books on dance and books that inspire dancing. Her article “What Makes a Good Book about Dance?” was published in the January/February 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Jill also has a chapter on the intersection of language and movement in preschool and kindergarten dance classes in the book Moving Ideas: Multimodality and Embodied Learning in Communities and Schools. Jill’s latest publication is Dance Education Essentials: 55 Objects and Ideas for New Preschool-12th Grade Teaching Artists.

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