Happy Almost Thanksgiving! Turkey day is my all time favorite holiday. Food, family, togetherness, and no gifts, love it. Plus it isn't necessarily tied to religious traditions and can be more easily celebrated by a wide swath of the population. (Okay I married into an Alaskan Native family and I know many Native American groups do not advocate it - my mother-in-law calls it the feast of the oppressors, but I think she's joking.)
However I don't love most kids Thanksgiving books. They either present the rosy version of what is actually a fairly troubling history or I just don't like them. There are a few exceptions, but I didn't want to do only Thanksgiving stories. Instead I chose to do a manners storytime to help prep kids for the big meals. Several parents thanked me for it; it was one of my more popular themes.
I did this as a toddler (18 months to 36 months) storytime, but I'm giving you suggestions for going a little older with the books.
Intro and sign:
I talked about thanksgiving was a good time to practice manners because it was an extra special meal with people we maybe didn't get to see very often, but we should use good manners all the time. Our signs (American Sign Language) for the week were please, thank you, and you're welcome.
Books I used:
Please Say Please: A Penguin's Guide to Manners by Margery Cuyler and Will Hillenbrand, a cute story about penguin's animal friends coming over and showing good and bad manners. Easy to encourage audience participation since every situation ends with "Is that right?" followed by "No, that's wrong." This is the longest book I used and I skipped a few animals because my group was getting restless. Sadly out of print.
How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, honestly the entire "how do dinosaurs" line is a great one for kids and very well known. But it is always a crowd pleaser, it rhymes, and has nice big clear pictures that work well in groups.
The Nice Book by David Ezra Stein, this is as much a behavior as a manners book, though it has some manners in there. But it is quite short with clear simplistic pictures. It is a great third book for a toddler group because of it's brevity and eye catching illustrations. It is also my choice this week for (the only book I'll read in) baby storytime.
Other Book Options:
Thank You Thanksgiving by David Milgrim, I would have used this if I had reserved it in time. Short, simple, all about saying thank you and about Thanksgiving. Perfect. My favorite kids Thanksgiving book.
Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners by Judy Sierra, Tim Bowers. Good book, but I already had one on dinosaurs and it was a bit too long. (It would be fine as a first book for toddler storytime, but not as a second.) Plus it focused on general out and about manners not mealtime manners.
Emily's Out and About Book by Cindy Post Senning. Good book, written by the heir to the Emily Post/Miss Manners empire. However it is again a more general manners book and I was focusing on mealtime manners.
I don't know specific manners songs, but I added verses to favorite songs.
If you're happy and you know it...
(After the three traditional verses)
If you're polite and you know it, say please & thank you...
If you're polite and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you're polite and you know it...
The Wheels on the Bus
(Do however many traditional verses you want)
The children on the bus say please and thank you, please and thank you, please and thank you...
The driver on the bus says you are welcome, you are welcome, you are welcome...
(Here we use the signs for those words)
By the by I always end "The Wheels on the Bus" with: "The librarians on the bus say READ A BOOK" and use a motion like opening a book (the American Sign Language sign for book).
I cheated here and used the Very Hungry Caterpillar flannel board. Hey, it's about eating!
We don't do crafts, just coloring pages. So we did a turkey coloring page. A very simple craft is to let kids decorate placemats. Either just coloring placemat sized sheets of paper or even gluing on shapes that represent where the fork, knife, plate, etc go. They can be "flash laminated" with contact paper. I have done this in the past and it was widely popular.
A turkey for thanksgiving, or a star because stars use good manners. Or a Thank You one from the card making section of the craft store.
There you go - this is a widely popular storytime (at least for the parents). And it probably reaffirms the role of librarians in socializing to a specific set of class norms, but I can live with that.