How to Use these Stories and Songs
A lot of kindergarten is about learning to get along with others, but a chance for children to learn about the world around them is also a big part of it.
The needs of children really don’t change that much over the years, so stories written decades ago are still wonderful for little children.
To be honest, spending some time reading these stories has made me feel peaceful and happy, so I’m sure they must have the same effect on children!
In fact, most of these stories were written by experienced kindergarten teachers who knew exactly what little children want to hear about and need to learn about.
These stories and songs are not meant for a four or five year old to be able to read: these stories are meant to be shared with children that age, either by an adult or by an older child. Many of these stories are actually written in a “storytelling” style to make the children feel that they are being told a story rather than reading. Don’t forget, oral literacy (listening and speaking) is also important for young children.
Listening to and sharing stories is really more important for young children than reading. Yes, I know there are educators who disagree with me, but the fact is that many young children are not ready to read. The idea is to prepare them for literacy, and that is what sharing stories does.
Sharing stories also teaches children about the world around them and helps them bring order to their world.
Waiting to formally teach a child reading never hurts, but pushing it can. Children do not learn anything faster just because they started younger, but they do get frustrated.
Locating These Books Online
While most of these books are free, good editions of some are only available at a low cost; however, all of them are automatically in the public domain (published prior to 1924) so sharing them without permission is legal.
For most of the books on this list, I’ve found a link that allows you to link and share individual stories, which comes in handy if you are a teacher and want to save them to online lesson or unit plans…or send stories to match what you’re doing in school home to parents.
Everyday life (100 years ago)
About Harriet by Clara Whitehill Hunt
About Harriet is a long for a kindergartner, but because it’s about everyday life, it makes a great first chapter book to have read aloud. The story is about a four-year-old girl named Harriet. Each chapter is about a day of the week (starting with Friday), and what she does is covered…in quite a lot of detail, but the story is sweet and gentle.
In some ways, Harriet’s life might seem privileged (it certainly was 100 years ago), but then again, those are the families who would have had money for books. Even then, it’s idealized, and parts of the story seem to be coded messages about good childcare practices that are intended for parents (e.g. give the children a book or drawing materials to distract them when they need to be quiet, take them outside to play, have them help with chores, etc.).
Harriet is an only child, and I’m pretty impressed with her ability to entertain herself although honestly, her parents are pretty involved as well, which I suspect is at least a part of the point.
Because each chapter focuses on a day of the week, this book would also help very young children order their world.
Since this book is over 100 years old, the interest for children now would also be in what ways Harriet’s life is the same as theirs and in what ways it’s different.
About Harriet is not available on Kindle, but it is available to read online at the link below. It is in public domain, so sharing it freely is fine.
Note: There are a couple references in the book that are racist . Be prepared to either skip or explain them (pages 74 and 98).
About Harriet by Clara Whitehill Hunt (Full text online)
Mother Stories and More Mother Stories
Mother Stories and More Mother Stories are collections of very short stories about everyday things, with some magical elements, that are meant as modern day fables. At the beginning of each story, on a separate page, is a “motto for mother” so that busy “mother” doesn’t have to figure out what these stories are supposed to be about!
Collections of the stories are available on Kindle, and there is also an online version that allows you to link individual stories.
Mother Stories clickable links
More Mother Stories clickable links
About the authors: Maud McKnight Lindsay and Clara Whitehall Hunt
Maud M. Lindsay founded the first free kindergarten in Alabama, and she crossed the lines of social class to do so. During her long career, she refused to leave her school in Alabama and even declined a position with Maria Montessori. She was also childhood friend of Helen Keller.
Clara Whitehill Hunt was at least a second-generation teacher who later trained as a librarian. She was instrumental in the development of the children’s department of the Brooklyn Public Library and founded a collection of antique children’s books going back to the 18th century that remains at the BPL today. She also served on the first committee for the Newbery Award.
Parent and Teacher Resource
Hunt explained her views about the importance of quality literature in the lives of children in her book, What Shall We Read, to the Children?
Be sure to check out this article about her contributions to the BPL that includes a photograph of the real “Harriet” that inspired the book above: The Brooklyn Children’s Library and How It Grew Thanks to Founder Clara Whitehall Hunt
Singing Nursery Rhymes with Walter Crane
Walter Crane was a well known and prolific illustrator of children’s books. The books are charming, with their colors, designs and vivid detail, and traditional stories.
Unfortunately, most of the Kindle versions you will find on Amazon are text only, which is pointless; however, two of his most unusual books are available online via link with illustrations and recordings.
The books are songbooks for young children with traditional songs, mostly from England but also a few in German and French.
Each page is linked individually for easy sharing.
As you can see from the sample below, the actual sheet of music, with words and musical notation, are beautifully decorated. If you use the links, the “start” button for the audio file is at the top of each page.
This is a case where the digital version actually improves upon the original!
If you do have a piano or keyboard and can read music, the songs are easy to pick out.
Also don’t miss Crane’s book, The Baby’s Own Aesop. If you get a digital text, make sure that the illustrations are included. The cover art for this post is a page from this book.
Mixed anthologies of Nature, Everyday Life, Fairy Tales, Holiday Stories, and more.
These anthologies have a little bit of everything drawn from different sources. These books seemed to be designed for teachers to use in the classroom and read each week.
Repetition is good for children, so don’t be afraid to read stories over and over for several days. This can especially help them if they are starting to recognize words.
These books cost a few dollars in e-book form although they are in the public domain; however, there is an online version that allows you to link or share individual stories. The fact that you need to pay for the Kindle version hints to me that it remains useful for lots of people!
Kindergarten Gems has very short stories and poems loosely linked to different school events, holidays, and seasons throughout the year…including some that are a big deal to little kids such as a bird’s visit to the classroom window!
For the Children’s Hour is a collection of stories divided by topic: The Home, Holidays, Seasons, Fairy Tales, and Fables. Within the categories, there are realistic stories (that would be more historical now), stories from mythology and the Bible.
About the authors: Agnes Taylor Ketchum and Ida M. Jorgenson
The Lois Level was unable to discover any information about these authors. If you have any, please let us know!
About the authors: Carolyn S. Bailey and Clara M. Lewis
Carolyn Sherwin Bailey was a children’s book author and graduate of Teacher’s College at Columbia University. She won the Newbery Award for Miss Hickory in 1947. It’s relatively rare for books for younger readers to win the Newbery Award, which should give you an idea of how good Bailey was.
Clara M. Lewis
The Lois Level was unable to find information about Clara Lewis; if you have any sources, please let us know!
About the Cover Photo