I’ve lived in the Bay Area now for almost 15 years, and I still don’t understand the weather. The only things I know for certain are that it’s good to bring a jacket, even when it’s seventy degrees outside, because ten minutes from now it might be twenty degrees colder. September is often hot. June is often cold. And winter is always rainy. Until now. Now the reservoirs are so low that we’ve all been urged to cut our water usage by twenty percent, and many towns across the state are in danger of running out of water entirely.
So, in lieu of a rain dance, I did a rain storytime. The weather report now says it’s going to rain all this weekend, so maybe it worked! Here’s what we read:
There’s a new goal in our library system to incorporate more nonfiction into storytimes, so I gave it a try tonight. This book is actually a cumulative poem about the water cycle. It starts with “This is the ocean, big and vast/that holds the rainwater from the past.” Each page adds a new part of the cycle: water vapor, clouds, and then a depiction of water running down streams back into the ocean. I had to explain some of the terminology, like “vapor,” and talk a bit about what was happening. I don’t think it was the best book I could have chosen in terms of giving a clear explanation of what makes the rain, but the kids loved the illustrations! Jane Wattenberg has filled the book with funny visual jokes: dinosaurs in the ocean (to represent the past); starfish in place of stars; birds holding umbrellas. The kids were all clambering around me, pointing and explaining over every page, and the book was quickly snatched up at the end.
Mo Willems makes my job so easy. All of his books are so much fun to read aloud, but especially the Gerald and Piggie books. They are written ostensibly as beginning readers, with very simple text, usually with a fair amount of repetition. But they are also hilarious. They are especially fun to read with a partner, and they would be perfect for small groups of kids to act out. In this one, Piggie is upset when it starts raining, ruining her plans to play outside. Then she and Gerald discover how much fun it can be to play in the rain… just as the rain stops. Luckily, Gerald saves the day by creating a rain shower of his own. I got lots of laughs over this one, and a small tugging match ensued at the end over who was going to get to check it out.
This book also reads like a beginning reader, with simple, rhyming text. Four crocodiles named Sam, Pam, Will and Jill are all bored on a rainy day. They decide to go outside anyway, and wind up playing mini-golf and baseball (with hailstones!), finding a dog, and going to the library. The kids liked the rabbit librarian, cowering in terror from the crocodiles.
I brought this one out in my stack, but I hadn’t planned to read it because it was so similar to Rainy Day, but several of the kids spotted the cover and begged to hear it. I was glad because it was a hit! This book is about four puppies who are bored on a rainy day, who decide to pretend they are at the beach. In the end, they pour water all over the living room floor, and have a wonderful time playing in the “ocean,” until their parents walk in the room…
SONGS AND ACTIVITIES:
If All the Raindrops
I used this song a lot when my daughter was a toddler, to get her to open her mouth for the toothbrush. For storytime, I sang the first verse through normally, then asked the kids what they would like the snow and sunbeams to be. We added their suggestions into the second and third verses, so we had sunbeams made of lemonade and butter (and hair!). These are the original lyrics (click on the arrow above to hear the tune):
If all the raindrops
Were lemondrops and gumdrops
Oh, what a rain that would be!
Standing outside, with my mouth open wide
Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah!
If all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops,
Oh, what a rain it would be!
If all the snowflakes
Were candy bars and milkshakes…
If all the sunbeams
Were bubblegum and ice cream…
Making a Rain Storm
This is such a simple activity, but always fun. I ask the kids to do what I’m doing in order to make a rainstorm. First we rub our hands together, then click our tongues (to sound like drops of rain), then clap our hands, then slap our knees, then stomp our feet. Finally I have them all stand up, and we all jump at the same time to make a thunderclap, and then we do all of the actions in reverse to make the rain “stop.”
CRAFT: Rain on the Green Grass Book
I got the idea of making a book from my coworker, Reeba Lynn. I was almost kicking myself for not doing one earlier. In Kindergarten, my son was so proud of his “keep box,” a little collection of simple paper books he made throughout the year. And my daughter has made several similar books in her preschool class that she loves to read to me.
The book Reeba showed me had a more complicated rain poem, but I decided to do the nursery rhyme Rain on the Green Grass (Rain on the green grass/Rain on the tree/Rain on the rooftops/But not on ME!). I cut out Reeba’s umbrella picture (there are lots of other ones online), and printed out the words to go on each page (here’s a Word document for the text: Rain on the green grass). For the rest of the illustrations I cut out basic shapes from colored construction paper: jagged green strips for the grass; lumpy round green shapes for the treetops; brown strips for the tree trunk; red squares for the house; and blue triangles for the roof. It did take a fair amount of prep, but I was able to do a lot of the cutting with the paper cutter.
I folded two sheets of white paper to make each book, and stapled them along the side. I had an example for the kids to follow, and for the most part, they did a good job (there were a couple of kids who accidentally made their books read from left to right, but I explained that’s how books are made in Japan, so they could either read it that way, or consider it a whole new rhyme). If I had more time, I would have glued the text on ahead of time, so they could just add the pictures. I had them glue the umbrella on the cover, along with the title, “RAIN! by ________.” Then they glued the text and pictures on each page, and added rain with markers. For the last page (“But not on ME!”), I asked them to draw a picture of themselves. Each book turned out a little bit differently, and they all seemed engaged by the process of making them.
OTHER BOOKS ABOUT RAIN:
There were lots of other books I could have read (I had originally planned to read the new California Young Reader Medal nominees, but some of the books didn’t come in time, so I had to change topics, and work with the rain books that were available in our small local branches). Anyway, here are a few others:
Franklin Branley writes wonderfully clear science books for early elementary school children. This one explains every step of the water cycle with a few simple science experiments to illustrate some of the concepts.
When the animals on a small farm hear there’s a storm coming, they all think Storm must be a scary monster. They hide in the barn in terror, and then are happy when wind, rain, lightning and thunder apparently scare Storm away. Cute story with colorful illustrations.
Such a sweet story, I wish I had been able to get it in time to share. A little girl can’t wait to wear her new red rain boots and carry the umbrella she receives for her birthday, but her parents insist she has to wait for a rainy day. It’s not only a lovely story about rain, but about the small steps kids take towards growing up.
Perfect for toddlers, this is about a red tow truck who pulls a school bus from a deep puddle. There are lots of fun truck noises for the kisd to join in on.
A little cloud worries that she is not big enough to make a difference, until she finds her own way to save the day. I’ve read this one several times, and the kids always love it. The illustrations are adorable.
This one was a little too long for my group, but it sums up how I’ve been feeling through this dry winter. A little girl in a hot city neighborhood can’t wait for the rain. When it finally comes, she and her friends go out dancing in their bathing suits, and so do their mothers!
This one was also a little too long, but it’s one of my favorite picture books. A little girl is afraid of the thunder, until her grandmother teaches her how to make thunder cake. I’ve never tried the recipe on the last page, but it looks delicious. The story also teaches kids how to count the seconds between the lightning and thunder to see how close the storm is. We very rarely get thunder here (I actually miss it!), but this is a lovely story about overcoming your fears.
An extended version of the nursery rhyme, featuring an old man in a wide variety of weather and precarious situations. The illustrations are colorful and funny. I’ve used this many times for baby and toddler storytimes.
A clever parody of the Ants Go Marching song (which would also have been a good one to include for storytime). This is a counting book about a little girl and her aunts who go marching through town in the rain. Lots of great drum noises, and fun to sing.
What are your favorite books about rain? Please share them in the comments.