Hooray for PreK! Early Childhood Literacy for 4s and 5s

Hooray for PreK! is an interactive weekly storytime that incorporates the five early literacy practices (talk, sing, read, write and play) as well as science and math concepts. Four- and five-year-old children attend this registered program with an adult caregiver.

Woman and children raising their arms
A librarian leads an activity during the Hooray for PreK! program.

Each of the four yearly storytime sessions at Skokie Public Library spans five to six weeks, typically with two four-week breaks in between. Sessions are typically aligned with the school year: September/October, November/December, January/February and March/April. Most children attend all four sessions. Hooray for PreK! aims to serve a more specific audience than our traditional Preschool Storytimes, which are open to children ages three to five. While a parent would ideally come to Hooray for PreK! with only their four- or five-year-old child, younger siblings often come along.

Hooray for PreK! themes

Each Hooray for PreK! session has an overall theme, and each week we explore a different facet of that theme. For example, the overall theme last fall was size and measurement. This is a great subject for introducing children to both science and math concepts with lots of great stories as well as nonfiction titles to choose from. Since it’s a theme covered in lots of preschool curricula, there are plenty of hands-on activities to choose from on Pinterest, too. 

I broke the size and measurement overall theme into the following weekly storytime themes:

  • Week 1: Comparing sizes (longer than, shorter than, heavier than, etc.)
  • Week 2: Measuring with nonstandard units
  • Week 3: Measuring unit: What’s an inch?
  • Week 4: Measuring solids and liquids
  • Week 5: Wrap-up with a story followed by games and activity stations

While we encourage registered families to attend Hooray for PreK! every week, each storytime could stand on its own.

Outline for a sample Hooray for PreK! program

Here is an outline for a sample Hooray for PreK! program — in this case, from the first week of the size and measurement theme.

After our welcome song, I introduce our letter of the week: "A." We identify the capital and lowercase "A," then say the letter's sound together. Next we see if there are any children in the room whose names start with "A," has an "A" in the middle, or has an "A" at the end. Lastly, we try to find other words that begin with "A."

Next we move right into an "A is for alien" nametag activity; we used this image as inspiration, found on Pinterest and shared by Pinterest user MistyBlue. While waiting for the paint and glue on their nametags to dry, kids and their caregivers have a chance to compare the size of their handprints. (Note: We like to reuse nametags over the entire storytime sessions, so I put contact paper over these nametags after the kids leaves to make sure the eyes, etc., last for the entire session.)

Next I read "You are (not) Small" by Anna Kang before moving on to the next hands-on activity. Kids can use crayons to draw a picture of their own face on a face template, which I found for free online from A to Z Teacher Stuff.

Now to the size and measurement fun: each caregiver takes some yarn and measures their child (Note: this is easiest with the kids lying down). The yarn is taped to the back of the self-portraits, which we hang on the wall and compare kids’ heights.

Onto another read-aloud: "The Long and Short of It" by Cheryl Nathan, which we follow with a fun activity that’s great for developing listening skills. For this activity all about comparative size, children use a legal size blank piece of paper and a pencil to draw an animal while listening to these instructions:

A body as big as your fist.
A neck as long as your pencil.
A head as big as your thumb.
Fur shorter than a staple.
Nose as short as your finger nail.
A tail longer than and as wide as a crayon.
Eyes smaller than a penny
Ears longer than a key. 
A mouth as long as a paper clip.

(Activity Credit: mathandliteracymorales.weebly.com/childrens-literature.html)

While the children color their animals, I very briefly booktalk some other size-related picture books from our collection.

General details about Hooray for PreK! programs

kids raising their hands during a program
Learning to take turns is one of the self-regulation skills covered in the Hooray for PreK! program.

Hooray for PreK! takes place in our program room, but our craft room (which has a sink and tables with chairs) is next door, and we often use that room as well depending on the specifics of an activity.

For most activities in the program room, children sit on the floor with the caregiver sitting on a stool behind their child. Each participating child has a lap desk; ours look like the ones found here. In addition to supporting early childhood literacy and foundational science and math skills, Hooray for PreK! also aims to support development of self-regulation skills. While learning to wait your turn is a skill we hope children will get better at while attending these programs, these desks make moving from one activity to the next much easier.

We keep a sharpened pencil, scissors and a glue stick on one side of each desk and about 10 crayons on the other side. 

Resources frequently used to plan Hooray for PreK!

Gudrun Priemer is a youth services librarian, and she’s been working at Skokie Public Library for 12 years. She’s very excited about recently adding Rain by Manya Stojic to her storytime collection.