Tell Stories Like a Rock Star–The BEST Interactive Picture Books

Using interactive picture books in a storytime is a great way to energize your program.  It doesn’t just make books more fun, it’s also educational.  For younger groups, it creates body awareness through movement, and for older kiddos, it teaches how to follow instructions in a group setting.  Oh yeah, and they’re just really entertaining.

Here’s an example of me using interactive elements to make the story A LOT more fun:

Some of these books I have on my list will work better than others, depending on age and group size.  Like “Press Here” can only work with 2-3 kids at a time.  But there are ways to modify the experience, like when I do “Don’t Push the Button” I hand out a bunch of buttons I made for the kids to press and participate with, or just have my kids reach out in their seats and pretend to push the button.

What’s great about interactive picture books, is that once you’ve done enough of them, you can start incorporating those skills you’ve learned into just normal picture books too, trying to add some interactive elements and just make it more fun.  Like when I do “Penguin Problems” by Jory John, I have my kids waddle around and shake their achy flippers, making it interactive even though the book is not specifically an interactive picture book.

Before I get to my list, here’s some tips I picked up over the years when using interactive picture books:

  • Don’t be afraid to skip an interactive element, and just read the page like normal.  You don’t have to DO SOMETHING every page.  If you feel the action won’t work, just don’t do it.
  • Don’t be afraid to change an interactive element into something that will actually work.  For example, if the interactive element is “blinking” or “jumping on one foot,” that’s probably going to be too hard for a younger audience.  Change it to something they can actually do.
  • Don’t be afraid to stop and regain control.  A little craziness is okay but sometimes these books can get a bit out of hand because they are so much fun, especially the ones involving jumping or running.  After a more exciting action, take a pause and ask the kids to sit back down and wait for the next page.  Maybe make a mental note of any problems so that you can give better instructions the next time, so things don’t get crazy.

A lot of the lists I’ve found over the years are outdated, so I WILL be updating mine periodically, so make sure to check back (I just updated this for 2023!)  I sorted these by recommended age groups, but some of these could definitely work for either, so make sure to read the whole list and the description beneath to try and get a better feel for it.

Here we go:

Younger Audience (Toddler-Pre K)

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
Let’s get some of the obvious ones out of the way!  This is easily the best one to get started with.  Great for all ages.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
Another classic, and works great for this age!

Wiggle and Stretch by Doreen Cronin
Good lesson I learned with this one is don’t be afraid to just read a page and skip the action if you don’t think it will translate well.

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont
For this one, I hand out cheap paintbrushes and have the kids paint the body part we’re talking about.

Nose to Toes, You are Yummy! by Tim Harrington
Another good one for moving around different body parts. 

Can You Make a Scary Face? and Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas
“Is Everyone Ready for Fun?” is probably stronger, but “Can You Make a Scary Face?” is a good one for a Halloween story time.

Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter
Like I mentioned above, I cut out little buttons for my kiddos to press, otherwise I’d have 30 kids coming up to press the button.  Or you can have kids just reach out in their spots and pretend to touch the button. Another good one for all ages. I do have a activity that goes with this book here.

The Button Book by Sally Nicholls
A lot like “Don’t Push the Button,” only the audience has to do different sounds and actions. I do have a activity that goes with this book here.  

Little Penguin Stays Awake by Tadgh Bentley
This one may work better with older kiddos, since they might understand more of what’s going on, but included it here since I rarely do this for my older groups. Really silly and some great movement.

Tap the Magic Tree and Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Mathenson
This is one of the first books where I learned to change some of the interactive elements into something better.  Don’t be afraid to change the action from the one specified in the book.  If you think it won’t work for a particular group, do something else.

Shake the Tree! by Chiara Vignocchi
Not super interactive, since you only shake left and shake right, but still a good one to keep in mind since it’s so simple.

Get Out of My Bath! and Don’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup
I have the kids do the actions for “Don’t Wake Up the Tiger,” while I kinda act it out up front with puppets.

If You’re a Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter
Currently out of print, but so much fun to sing and pretend to shoot laser beams out of your eyes!

Bunny Slopes, Hungry Bunny, and Huff and Puff by Claudia Rueda
Really simple concepts and great movements that would work for a variety of age groups!

Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig
This one isn’t my favorite, but I like doing it because I have a pizza hat that I use.  I skip around a lot in this one and make up the story a bit to make it flow better.

In the Driver’s Seat by Max Haynes
I think this one is out of print, but it’s good for a transportation storytime.

Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson
Great for this age group and the kindergarten class, since it has a lot of simple movements.

Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson
Great for animal storytime. A lot of fun repetition.

Older Audience (Kindergarten-2nd Grade)

I Say Ooh! You Say Ahh! by John Kane
Kids love this one, great for school visits.  It gets really silly really fast.

Book of Rules by Brian Gehrlein
This is my new go-to for the beginning of the school year.  Teaches the rules of storytime, but in a very fun way.  

There’s a Monster in Your Book and There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher
This is a series you’re probably familiar with–feel that these two are the strongest in the series. These ones definitely work for younger crowds as well.

Yes, Please!  No, Thank You! by Valerie Wheeler and More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt
Thiess are more of a call and response, where the audience has to say the title.  I do “Yes Please! No Thank You!” for kindergarten and “More Bears!” for 2nd grade.

Black and White Factory by Eric Telchin
This is literally my favorite book to do.  I do the first part in a boring monotone voice, and then get crazy when all the actions start happening halfway through the book. Watch the video!

Kiwi Cannot Reach! by Jason Tharp
Kids love this one!  Works great with groups.  There aren’t that many interactive elements but it’s really funny.

I Will Race You Through This Book! by Jonathan Fenske
Same as “Kiwi Cannot Reach!”–not that many interactive elements but pretty funny.

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett
Super silly and a lot of fun to do, but definitely for older groups since there’s a lot going on.  My 2nd graders love it.

It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle
Another one that my 2nd graders love.  Really funny and kids love to participate in this one.  I always have an extra copy of this on hand for emergencies, since it’s just so good.

Spells by Emily Gravett
For this one I brought out a giant dice for the kids to roll.  Whatever it landed on, that’s how many times I would flip either the top or the bottom section.  Then we would try to act out the animal (jump like a frog and hiss like a snake when it landed on “Fake”).

What’s Next Door? by Nicola O’Byrne
Love doing this one since there’s A LOT of interactive elements in this one, BUT it’s great for asking questions of your audience. Before we go through the doors, we talk about something that might be hot or cold to help the “magic” work, so it’s great to get ideas of things that are hot like hot chocolate or lava from my kiddos!

Hi Five Animals! by Ross Burach
Looks like a board book, but probably for an older group.  It’s fun to do all the different hi-fives, but just tell your kiddos to respect their friends and give gentle hi-fives.

Pet This Book and Play This Book by Jessica Young and Daniel Wiseman
“Play This Book” is the stronger of the two, but both would work well.  I did “Play This Book” for some elementary grades, and they loved playing air guitar!

Test This Book by Louie Zong
I was surprised by how much my 2nd graders love this book.  It was great to reinforce the stages of a lab report.

Find Fergus by Mike Boldt
Maybe not an interactive picture book since you are NOT doing things in this one, but still wanted it on here. It’s an amazing twist on the “Where’s Waldo?” formula. And I have an activity for it here.

Hope this helps! Again, stop by from time to time as I update and add to the list!

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10 thoughts on “Tell Stories Like a Rock Star–The BEST Interactive Picture Books

Add yours

  1. Your reading of the Black and White is fantastic! I’m currently going through colors at my story time so I think this would be an excellent finisher for the final story time in the series! I may even have to find me some black and white clothes to wear, too!


    1. Oh haha, I did this video during quarantine, so had time to edit in colors. You don’t have to put colors on your face to make this funny though, it’s so interactive that kids will have so much fun. If you really want to add color to your face, you could have some make-up sponges premade, and smear some on your face really quick with your back to the audience. Think that would be funny but it’s obviously more work.


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