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Sharing the Storytime Joy

by Katie B. | Dec 04, 2018

Welcome to our weekly blog post - Sharing the Storytime Joy! Today's post is by Katie, who works with children and families in Children's Services at the Main Library.


One of my favorite things to do when planning a storytime is to use a piggyback song to follow the theme of a book.  Although you might not be familiar with the term piggyback song I can almost guarantee you know a few (and probably use them too). 

A piggyback song is simply a song using a traditional or well-known melody with new or different lyrics. If you have ever made up new words to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “London Bridge is Falling Down” you have written a piggyback song. I love using piggyback songs in my storytimes.  It keeps me from getting tired of the same songs over and over while using songs the kids already know. 

Hooray for Hat

For example, one of my favorite storytime books is Hooray for Hat by Brian Won.  As we read the story we have fun pretending to be grumpy like the animals in the story and shouting “Hooray!” every time a new hat is shared.  After the story I like to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” with the kids, but I don’t follow the original lyrics.  The first verse is traditional, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” but on the second verse I change it up.  We sing, “If you’re grumpy and you know it, stomp your feet” and we make our grumpy faces and cross our arms just like we did with all of the grumpy animals in Hooray for Hat.  Then, we sing, “If you’re sad and you know it, cry boo-hoo” and we make really sad faces just like lion in the story and pretend to cry.  But, we don’t want to end on a sad note so we sing another traditional verse (and one that ties in nicely with Hooray for Hat) “If you’re happy and you know it, shout hooray!” The kids have a lot of fun exaggerating the different emotions and they pick up the new words and motions quickly because we already did them during the story.

There are even several books that are based on the idea of the piggyback song. Ed Emberly’s If You’re A Monster and You Know It or If You’re a Robot and You Know It by David Carter are just two examples of other piggyback versions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

If You're aMonster  If You're a Robot

For a Halloween storytime at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in October we sang

“Horns, Fangs, Knees, and Claws

Knees and Claws

Knees and Claws

Horns, Fangs, Knees and Claws

 Eyes, Ears, Mouth and Paws”

instead of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.”  The kids loved making horns with their fingers, swishing their “tails”, and shaking their paws as we sang along to a tune they already knew well.

I also love to use “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” but instead of just rowing gently down a stream sometimes we row. . .

“down the jungle stream, if you see a crocodile don’t forget to scream”


“through the jungle mist, if you see a snake, don’t forget to hiss”


“past the jungle shore, if you see a tiger, don’t forget to roar”


“in the jungle swamp, if you see an elephant, don’t forget to stomp”


Piggyback songs are great for kids because they already know the melody of the song, it is just a few new words for them to learn.  And, because most traditional children’s songs are repetitive, even new lyrics can be picked up quickly by little ones.  It’s easier than you might think to make up a new piggyback song so give it a try.
                                      Happy singing!

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