7 Must Have Books for Toddler or Preschool Circle Time

preschool circle time

Special Education Preschool Stories

Running a special education preschool circle time can be challenging! Whether you are learning names or working on behavioral strategies, it takes a skill set! One of the common activities is a short story read. I love books! Keeping the students engaged during circle time is the trick. 

Here are some of my favorite young books for interactive circle time for toddler, preschool, or young special education students.

Touch, Feel, Open Interactive Books

For this group of books, think of your earliest or youngest learners, those who are just learning to sit in a small group, those who need limited language and opportunities to interact or manipulate to keep them engaged. Also, think SHORT, like 5 minutes tops! Sit with your students as close as you can, on the floor with them or all in chairs at the same height. You need to be able to shift your focus (and the book) to keep your students engaged with you. No lagging allowed!

This is my favorite quick book to pull out when I need a quick re-focus. I choose a student who is exhibiting expected group behavior (e.g., sitting, eyes focused, calm body) to “push” the button. Each tap on the page does something different on the next page, like multiplies the dots, makes them different colors, or we tilt the book to move the dots around. We clap to make the dots big. It’s cute, and it’s quick, and the kids love it.

Love! I have used this with the youngest of groups, from as young as 18-months (with parent support). Peek-a-….. animal sound, then the child, on their turn, gets to “unflap” the animal who is covering their eyes. This is a great book for learning animals and their sounds, waiting turns, and choral responding (everyone says the sound together when we uncover each animal).

Some Fun Preschool Social Emotional Learning Resources

Here is another lift the flap book, or lift the FELT is more accurate. The bug on each page is hidden by a flap of felt with the question, “Where’s the….?”. The child uncovers the bug, and we all say, “Here it is!” together. Very short book for your most basic learner. Great for taking turns, choral responding, and first answering “where” questions practice. The authors have other lift the flap books which are equally cute.

Oh, Eric Carle! You really can’t go wrong with his books. In this board book, You get a little riddle and the animal mostly covered up with a flap. For example, “I have a long trunk and big floppy ears. I roam in the grass, where I’ll live for many years.” Student lifts the flap to reveal, “I’m an elephant!” I have used this book in a variety of ways depending on the level of the student, whether we move quickly through it and just do the “reveal” with taking turns, to my reading the clue but not showing the visual until the students take a guess on their own. I have also had a student ACT OUT each animal as I read it and let the other students guess. Super fun for any age!

And some preschool academic resources!

Children make a wish on the star and rub the owl heads and send them off to bed. Great to use during quiet time as students settle in for nappies. The author has additional, similar books that are also great! 

Also, the sky is darkening, and we are saying good night to the animals. 

Perfect for quick-and-easy interaction for young students especially before quiet time.

I love this book! There is so much differentiation you can do with this simple board book. Each page spotlights a different animal, and on the page is a brief description, the picture, the animal sound in text, an interactive question (like, “Can you moo like a cow?”), a tactile spot on the animal (like fur to pet), and a button to push to hear the animal sound. The pictures are real photographs and include a picture of the adult and baby animal. I have used it for a quick focus activity, just waiting turns to push to hear the animal sounds, or to learn more about animals, and I’ve also used it as a song prompt for Old MacDonald. Very versatile! Similar books available, too.

There are so many options out there! Board books and books intended for toddlers actually work really well for this population. I am able to differentiate and make easier or harder almost any book. I look for books with great illustrations and with possible interactive elements. Those work the best!

Until next time! I’ll post another set of favorite books soon!

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Hi! I'm Audra!

I am a special education teacher, behavior analyst, and parent to an autistic adult. I love sharing the insights and resources I have gleaned over the past 25 years. Thanks for being here!

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