A Bookbug Co-ordinator's Top Books and Songs for Bookbug Sessions

You may have noticed that our resident Bookbug Detective hasn't been around for a few weeks. We're pleased to announce that she's at home spending some quality time reading, singing, and playing with her brand new baby girl. But there's no need to panic - over the forthcoming months, we'll be sharing some great book recommendations from librarians, nursery staff, booksellers, children's authors, and many others involved with the early years. This month, we hear from Patsy Smith, recently retired Bookbug Coordinator for Orkney, on some of her Bookbug Session favourites.


I recently retired from my role as Bookbug Co-ordinator for Orkney, having spent the last 14 years gifting bags of books and running song and rhyme sessions. There have been quite a few changes during this time, but the joy of working with little ones and seeing them grow and build in confidence never ceases to amaze me. I love gifting the Bookbug P1 Family Bags because you get lots of pupils saying, 'I remember coming to Bookbug!'.

Our first song and rhyme session was held in the Orkney Library & Archive in February 2004. At that time we held one session per month. Sessions have gone from strength to strength and we now have four Bookbug Session Leaders and run five Bookbug Sessions per week. The sessions are really well attended and we've had to split them at Kirkwall Library into baby and toddler sessions. Baby sessions are much calmer and we focus on lots of bouncing and tickling rhymes and songs: My little pony walks then stops is a favourite, and I love seeing the anticipation on all the little faces when we do Cross, cross, line, line, Spider crawling up your spine! We do lots more songs with actions at the toddler session, and it's great when you see them joining in with the actions to the songs for the first time. 

Bookbug session with lycra
Using the lycra for songs and rhymes is always a popular part of the Bookbug Session. I find that doing the same songs and rhymes faster, and then slower works well, and bouncing a teddy or a soft ball on the lycra makes for much hilarity! (see image, left)

Reading a story was always the part of the session that made me most nervous, but I soon came to realise that even the youngest baby was able to focus on the book for a short period of time.

 I usually have more than one book in my 'bag of tricks' - some days you just get a feeling for what's going to work or not

Choosing the right book is very important. I usually have more than one book in my 'bag of tricks' - some days you just get a feeling for what's going to work or not. Books with flaps are great, but if you have a very boisterous group it's better not to use this type of book! I feel that nice pictures and not too much text is usually the best way to go. With our older groups, I like to use books that they can join in with by doing some actions or saying a line that's repeated several times. I also think books that you can sing are good; Whoosh around the Mulberry Bush is my favourite for this.

Some of my other favourite Bookbug Session books are:

  • Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: there are so many different things you can do with this depending on the size and age of your group – with older children it’s good to get them to guess which animal comes next and also to get them to “waddle like a penguin”, “swing like a monkey”
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? by Eric Carle: we have a large copy of this book and the brightly coloured animals are great – the fact that some of the animals are unusual colours also amuses the children!
  • Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt: this is great for repetition and I always get the children to pretend to look through their telescopes
  • Yawn by Sally Symes and Nick Sharratt: this book is so simple and great for the really little ones
  • All Change! by Ian Whybrow and David Melling: again, the children love to guess what comes next and they find the illustrations amusing!

I always have lots of books set out for adults to share with their little ones while they wait for the session to start. When I’m asked to visit playgroups and nurseries, I like to bring along a selection of books and encourage the little ones to take a look. I often find that a book in which you can spot things is a good way of encouraging children to join in; I usually start by showing it to one child and then end up with quite a few gathering around to join in - sometimes it does become quite competitive! Books I use for this activity are 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe and Spot It! Find the Hidden Creatures by Delphine Chedru. Books like You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt are also good for drawing in children who might not come and listen to a story straight away.

I am really going to miss seeing all the little ones on a regular basis, but hopefully they’ll let me come back to help out sometimes!


You can listen to some of the songs and rhymes that Patsy mentions above on our Bookbug Songs and Rhymes pages. To find out about Bookbug Sessions in your area, please click here.

Patsy Smith

Patsy Smith recently retired as Bookbug Co-ordinator for Orkney. She has spent 14 years gifting bags of boogs and leading song and rhyme sessions.