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!
by Amy Seto Forrester
Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes is one of my favorite go-to toddler story time picture books. I’ve had some pretty wiggly two-year-olds in my story times, but this deceptively simple story always holds their attention. The story’s satisfying message encourages little ones to explore their world with the reassurance that loving family members will be there to comfort and protect them when it’s time to come home.
The story follows Little White Rabbit as he explores the natural world, wondering what it might be like to be green as the grass, tall as a tree, still as a stone, and fluttery as a butterfly. He wonders — and wanders — until he’s frightened by a cat that makes him hop and hop and hop home to his loving family.
Short sentences with carefully chosen words make this an excellent fit for a movement-based toddler story time. Using a sunny pastel palette and thick outlines, the illustrations not only provide visual inspiration but also create natural pauses at places ripe for movement. Several gorgeous two-page spreads wordlessly show the expressive rabbit imagining himself as a part of the natural world. In a subtle way, this book explores concepts of opposites, such as tall and short, moving and still, up and down, and hard and soft. These concepts can easily be reinforced through movement, which is a great way to introduce and practice new vocabulary. Studies show that the more kids hear and use words, the more they will remember them. The more words kids know, the easier it will be when it’s time for them to learn how to read.
Here are a few movement ideas to expand this story:
- Have the kids imitate the grass, trees, stones, butterflies, and other objects that Little White Rabbit encounters in the story. You can have the kids stand up if you have room, but it’s also easy to modify the movements for a seated position if there are space constraints.
- If you have more space, have the kids move in a circle. You can have them do each movement a few times or even for a whole circle rotation.
- Add sound effects along with the movements to engage another sense. Swish like the green grass, rustle like the branches of a tree, and so on. If you’re unsure what sound to make, ask the kids! This is a fun way for them to exercise their imaginations and contribute to communal storytelling.
- Get the whole body involved by incorporating yoga poses into your reading. You can start with rabbit and progress through grass (waving your arms up high), tree, rock (child’s pose), butterfly, and cat, finishing in relaxation or savasana pose. You may want to read the story once to examine the pictures and then a second time with poses.
- Read this book once and then retell it with a flannel board and movements. As you tell it, ask the kids to help by reminding you what comes next.
- Set up a storybook walk around the room or library. Scan and print each two-page spread and post the spreads in order. Provide printed instructions for movements at each station. This is a wonderful way to encourage caregiver-child interaction. It can be used during a specific time or be left up all day/week/month as more of a passive, self-guided program.
Other delightful books to read aloud that seem to beg for movement include The Runaway Rabbit by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, and My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann. Another lovely resource is the teacher guide for Little White Rabbit, which was created by Greenwillow Books and includes more ideas for moving, thinking, and discussing:
Amy Seto Forrester is a children’s librarian for Denver Public Library’s Central Children’s Library and earned her MLS at Texas Woman’s University. She is an active ALSC member and served on the Library Services to Special Populations Committee, as well as the 2016 Geisel Award Committee. She is always looking for creative ways to incorporate the arts into children’s services and programming to extend books beyond the page. Check out Amy’s blogs: http://picturebookaday.blogspot.com/ & http://chapterbookexplorer.blogspot.com/.