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Statewide Culture 1

The Gift of an Arkansas Children’s Book


One of our favorite activities is attending storytime at our local library and children’s toy store. We always find this a low-key outing and a great way to build community with other moms and children or set up a meet-up for new friendships we are building with other families. These interactive times also cultivate reading, comprehension, connection, and creativity.

As we look at books by Arkansas authors that are great for children’s storytime experiences, these are also great books to add to your child’s wish list for Christmas, grab for a unique birthday gift, or grow your collection at home.

What qualities make great children’s books?

Many teachers and childhood literary specialists would tell you books with rhyming words or alliterations that focus on similar-sounding words or letter patterns are incredible for childhood literacy development. Find a topic your kid loves and look for books on that theme.

What elements are a fun part of hosting a storytime?

Hosting a storytime can be done with a church group, school group, or just a group of moms as an extension of early childhood learning or home-school curriculum. While it’s often geared to toddlers and preschoolers, there is no reason these same elements couldn’t apply to a kindergarten after-school club or elementary reading circle. This is also something that a school or nonprofit group could use as a fundraiser.

  • A book – the subject and topic create the theme. If you find a local author, invite them to read their story. A teacher, community helper, older sibling or grandparent makes great readers.
  • Fun songs or hand games – use all the internet research tools or teacher books for ideas
  • An activity – this can be a game, a craft, a science experiment or a color page – something that brings out creativity and helps reinforce the story themes
  • Fun background music
  • A snack – this one is OPTIONAL depending on the group and time frame

It’s often easier to find books with a theme to the time of year or topics on the calendar like Christmas, Thanksgiving, basketball, love, friendship or spring flowers. If your readers are a particular age group, you may find books to prepare them for the next learning stage or an upcoming trip. Reading is a great way to introduce new ideas or explore hard feelings.

What Arkansas authors have great book options for early childhood storytimes?

Benny in the Garden by Matt and Melissa Cooper

Benny is based on a boy we met at storytime with fluffy cheeks and a joy for discovery. Matt, the author, is an Arkansas Master Gardner, and he combines his knowledge of garden planning with his wife’s background as an elementary teacher and her understanding of colors, words, and reading development. This book, about summer gardening, is an excellent addition to any childhood book collection.

Storytime themes: gardening, vegetables, playing, sequence, grids, parent-child relationships

The Story of Grady Bear by Ace Collins

Grady is not like the other bears. He decides to stay away until Christmas and not hibernate. While meeting other friends and playing through winter, he discovers that being different is exactly how he is supposed to be. The messages of hope, love, and kindness are perfect for the Christmas season.

Storytime themes: Christmas, winter, hibernation, forest animals, snow, kindness, friendship, being unique

The Clam Before the Storm by Brandy Mincer

Beautifully illustrated, this book about Sam the Clam helps children work through their fears by understanding that other people have fears, too. The lyrical and rhyming nature of the book makes it a fun read-aloud and early reader practice with phonetics and sight words. Those of faith will appreciate that this book points readers to trust in God when they are afraid. Mincer is currently working on a series that explores Sam’s friends and other characters in the book.

Storytime themes: fear, anxiety, emotions, underwater, sea creatures, soft textures

Dave the Friendly Fireman by David Carr

A Springdale firefighter wrote this book to help children understand the role of firefighters and how they help the community. It’s a tool the force uses locally for school visits to interact with families and help them understand equipment, the fire station and fire safety. It’s always a fun experience to combine a fire book with a visit from a local fire team where children can explore the truck and ask questions.

Storytime themes: fire, firefighters, fire safety, dalmatians, fire truck, community helpers, dreams, determination

Faithful Furry Friends: Service Dogs by The Sisters

Big letters and cute illustrations hold children’s attention while they learn the role of different types of service dogs and how to interact with them if they see them in public. This is a great lesson for special education students and sensory activities. The book was written by Fayetteville dog trainers, and they use the book as a way to practice with their dogs in public situations and being around children.

Storytime themes: dogs/pets, animals, feelings, therapy, counseling, pet care

Koala is not a Bear by Kristin L Gray

Two marsupials meet at an overnight camp. Silly language and great clues help readers learn where they can find a place to fit in and enjoy the time at camp. This engaging story allows kids to talk about friendship, differences, and going to summer camp. Kristin also has other books on topics like space, flight, and responsibility.

Storytime themes: camp, camping, bears, kangaroo, friendship, self-discovery, confidence

Tinyville Town Books by Brian Biggs

This series is a great way to help preschoolers explore their community, natural events, and the community helpers they will encounter. Biggs is an author and illustrator bent toward the silly and comical. Readers will learn about their community, how it functions, and the people who live there to help and keep them safe.

Storytime themes: community helpers, towns, school buses, firefighters, police, school relationships, teachers


The I Did That Cat by P.L. Rainey

As an educator for 40 years, Rainey learned many dilemmas children face in decision making and navigating moral issues. She is now creating a series of books to help parents, teachers, and counselors easily open the conversation about honesty, believing in yourself, and first impressions. This book helps kids own up to their mistakes and realize it’s okay to be wrong.

Other Children’s Books by Arkansas Authors:

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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