Chinese New Year Storytime


Happy Chinese New Year!

The most important Chinese holiday for the year, the Lunar New Year, started yesterday and will go on for the next 15 days. I have an extreme fondness of Chinese holidays and have many Chinese parents and families that regularly attend Sunday storytime, so having a Chinese New Year storytime is a must. Lily, a friend and parent who often brings her daughter to programs, was my special guest. She read the Chinese translation of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt while I read the English to the kids. It was so much fun!

This particular storytime was also the first storytime since the library’s move into a new building. What better way to break in the new library than by celebrating the New Lunar Year? New year, new library!

Here’s what we read and crafted to celebrate…

Chinese New Year Storytime Lineup:

Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin

Grace Lin does an excellent job with this book and her other picture books of introducing Chinese culture, customs, and holidays to young children. Bright illustrations and a simple, yet entertaining story teaches children how to bring in the New Year.

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Anne Wilson

A fun folk story paired with unique illustrations, The Great Race is a storytime winner. The kids and I discussed how this year is the Year of the Snake, and how this story is how it came to be that there are 12 years named after 12 different animals. After storytime, I handed out a Chinese zodiac chart so they could find what year they were born into.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Chinese & English edition) by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxembury

Okay, so this was my favorite part of storytime. As I mentioned earlier, I had a wonderful volunteer, Lily, read with me the Chinese translation of a story most of the children were already familar with, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Here’s a short video my husband took of us reading:

Paper Lantern Craft:

I know paper lanterns are pretty much the go-to Chinese New Year craft. It’s not my most original storytime craft, especially compared to last year, but they turned out swell nonetheless. They also fulfilled a teaching moment since lanterns play an important part in the Chinese New Year. On the 15th day, the last day, of the New Year celebration is the Lantern Festival. Thousands of lanterns are hung around the city or town and families parade the streets with their own stick lanterns. Additionally, red and yellow are believed to be lucky colors, so we made our lanterns in the staple New Year color palette of red, yellow, and gold.

Here’s how we made our paper lanterns:

Materials used:

  • red and yellow paper or construction paper
  • school glue
  • tape
  • scissors
  • glitter
  • tassels (found at a craft store)

Using a piece of yellow paper, I rolled the short sides of the paper into a cylinder so that the ends overlap by a 1/2 inch. Tape together and set it aside. (Note: You can also substitute glue for tape within these steps.)

Take a piece of red paper and fold it length-wise (hot dog way). On the folded edge, cut slits equal in length and size, but do not cut all the way to the open end. Be sure to leave at least a 1/4 inch at the end of each cut. These first two steps I prepared ahead of time for the younger kids. I left sheets of paper out for the older kids who have no problem using scissors, so they could accomplish the above steps on their own.

Unfold your red sheet of paper and decorate. The kids decorated their lanterns with markers and later with glitter.

Using your rolled yellow sheet of paper, wrap the red, opened piece of paper around the yellow. Secure by taping the red ends together and by also taping the red paper to the yellow paper.


If you’d like, decorate your lantern with glue and glitter at this time. I can’t help myself when it comes to glitter, so I decorated mine with glittery-gold sparkles. Let dry.

To make a handle and a tassel bottom on your lanter, cut out two strips of paper and cut one of the strips in half. (This is another step I did ahead of time for the younger kids)

Using the longer strip, fasten both ends to the inside of the lantern using tape.

Using the shorter strip of paper, loop your tassel onto it, and then fasten the ends of the strip to the bottom inside of the lantern with tape.

Hang and enjoy! This year, the Lantern Festival is on February 24, 2013.

Additional Reading:

Moonbeams, Dumplings, & Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, & The Children’s Museum, Boston, illustrated by Meilo So

A great deal of information I gathered for this particular storytime, as well as the inspiration behind the lantern craft above, came from this book, Moonbeams Dumplings, & Dragon Boats. A fantastic guide of ancient folklore, facts, activities, crafts, and recipes for celebrating Chinese festivals throughout the year. And Meilo So’s illustrations are absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend checking it out.

image source: lantern festival illustration by meilo so


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