Using CLEL Bell Titles in Storytime

by Karen Walker, Kids and Families Core Service Librarian, Jefferson County Public Library, Colorado, member of the 2024 CLEL Bell Awards committee

“Have any of you been camping? ¿Alguien ha ido a acampar?” That was the question Rodney the Rat with his little backpack asked the kids at storytimes in May at one of my local public preschools. Hands shot up to signal that many of the children had been camping. Rodney went on to ask them what are some of the things they bring camping? Then, he went searching in his little backpack to see if it was something he brought or should think of bringing next time. After sharing all his camping gear, Rodney did a quick scan of the room to see if the kids were ready for a story and assured me, they were and so was he (“I was born ready for stories, Ms. Karen”). Time to read a new book! One, Two, Grandpa Loves You by Shelly Becker.

Let me back up here. I was prepping a camping story time and had a few favorites (to me) like Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas and La Paloma encuentra un perro caliente by Mo Willems. I thought hot dogs could tie into camping and roasting food over a fire or cooking on a camping stove (because of course Rodney promotes camping stoves living in a high fire danger state like Colorado!). These titles are wonderful and funny but lack that real connection to kids and the camping experience. 

Then I found the title, The Camping Trip by Jennifer Mann and loved it! Unfortunately, it was a bit long for my school visits. I grabbed it and a non-fiction book on camping as options. I still felt my storytime was lacking something new, something with diverse representation, something with fewer words to engage my young, wiggly audiences. Then, one fateful Friday, it happened. I was checking my mailbox when I saw a CLEL Bell suggested title I hadn’t put on hold yet, One, Two, Grandpa Loves You by Shelly Becker. 

The cover was fun and joyful—a grandpa holding his grandchild in the air. I opened the book and could not believe it. A NEW book about camping! Not just camping, but camping in the mountains! The illustrations, colorful and bold, share the characters’ camping experiences from packing and driving to hiking and exploring to setting up camp and snuggling under the stars. The story is simple and the words are an adapted version of the classic nursery rhyme One, two, buckle my shoe with that same rhythmic flow easily recognizable to many kids and teachers. I said “YES!” out loud and checked it out for storytime. 

The day had arrived. It was time to test the title on my audience because anyone who has done storytime knows what may appeal to me as a librarian may not appeal to an audience of 3-5-year-olds. Rodney did his thing, and I told the kids I was very excited to share a new book. I read the title out loud. Automatically, a child blurted out “It’s like One, Two, Buckle my shoe!” Yes! The kids, teachers, and I proceeded to recite the whole rhyme. On the first page, I read the words and encouraged the kids to say them with me. We did this for a few pages until I got caught up in talking about the illustrations. I asked the kids questions like, “Have you ever sung in the car?” “What does that sign mean?” Shouts from a few kids said, “It’s a walking sign!” I added that it can also be called a hiking trail sign. 

We kept reading. “Have any of you been on a hike or a walk and found things like pinecones, leaves, or feathers?” Even those kids who did not raise hands when Rodney asked if they had been camping raised their hands now. I asked, “Who likes marshmallows?” It’s unanimous: apparently marshmallows are very popular, whether they are called malvaviscos, bómbons or marshmallows. We talked about why we can see more stars in the sky in the mountains versus the city. “Because it’s night time,” shouted a child. I explained it’s also because there are no lights or much fewer lights in the wilderness to drown out the dark in the night sky like the lights near the city. We continued like this until the end of the story. Y colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado. 

To sum up my experience, I recommend One, Two, Grandpa Loves You for storytimes with babies, toddlers, or preschoolers. If you share this title, please reply in the comments section about your experience. And don’t forget to suggest your favorite 2023 titles that represent Read, Write, Talk, Play or Sing for a 2024 CLEL Bell Award. Happy reading, all!

Karen Walker (she/her)

Karen has been an active ally to kids and families and the Spanish speaking community in Jefferson County Colorado for over 20 years as a teacher, librarian and volunteer. Sharing picture books from diverse perspectives in English and Spanish with our youngest learners is very important to her. She is very excited to join the CLEL Bell Selection Committee to continue to elevate her joy and knowledge of Children’s books and share that love of books with the children and families we all serve. When she isn’t immersed in books and Cuentancuentos story time outreach, she loves to ski, hike, mountain bike and nature journal wherever her travels take her.