Tips and Strategies for Using Readers Theater with Students in Your Classroom or Library

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readers theater stage

In my last blog post I shared a collection of readers theater scripts adapted from published picture books.  Today I’m sharing resources to help you get started with readers theater, or to make your current experience even better.

readers theater script

Let’s start with things I’ve learned through trial and error:

  • Students perform better when they have some familiarity with the script.  Reading the picture book version of the story aloud first helps them understand the “big picture” and allows them to hear any unfamiliar words.  Bonus points if they can see the words on the pages as you read!  You can also use scripts from familiar tales.
  • Even young readers can participate with the right script.  They may require more preparation and more practice, but they enjoy the spotlight just as much as older students!
  • Highlight each character’s lines on a separate script to make it easy for readers to know when to speak, and be sure the pages of your script are numbered so you can easily redirect students who become lost.  You use less paper when you print scripts on the front and back of each page, but it can be easier for students to follow along if their lines are only printed on one side of the page.
  • Your performance will go more smoothly when you have better readers performing the more difficult parts.  This sounds obvious, but even the least adept readers will often beg for a starring role so try to be aware of who can handle voicing a main character and who can’t, and assign parts accordingly.  Classmates quickly become frustrated with poor readings, and their comments and complaints can be hurtful and discouraging.
  • Check with individual students after giving out the scripts to see if there are any words in their part they’re unfamiliar with.  Asking a general question of the whole group (“Anyone need help with any words in your part?”) will NOT result in kids asking for help, whereas one-on-one conferencing will allow you to assist as needed before the performance.
  • Encourage students to be LOUD, and to experiment with different voices and accents, by giving LOTS of praise to the kids who throw themselves into their role.  Keep it fun!
  • Don’t hesitate to give repeat performances throughout the year, or even during the same class period.  Students who don’t get a part the first time around will appreciate the opportunity to switch from audience member to performer.  And as they become more familiar with the script, they will be able to give a smoother reading.
  • And speaking of audience members, prepare the students who don’t have a speaking part to participate appropriately.  Lead a discussion about the characteristics of a good listener, be clear with your expectations for the audience, and provide a copy of the script for everyone to follow along.

readers theater sign

Here are links to some articles with more readers theater advice:

Now it’s your turn to share your favorite tips and resources for using readers theater.  Please leave a comment and let us in on your secrets!

All images in this post created by Lori June using Canva


Note: All book titles in my posts are affiliate links to Amazon. 
Their "Look Inside" feature allows you to preview the books, 
and I earn a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase. 
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Read Aloud Picture Books with Readers Theater Scripts for Each Month of the School Year

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Y’all, my students LOVE performing Readers Theater!  Even the less-proficient readers clamor for a part when I start passing out scripts.  And since you can reinforce so many soft skills along with the academic ones with readers theater, I try to use use it with each grade level at some point during the year.

Here are some of my favorite picture books to read aloud and follow up with readers theater performances:

The Gruffalo The Gruffalo – by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
A mouse is taking a stroll through the deep, dark wood when along comes a hungry fox, then an owl, and then a snake. The mouse is good enough to eat but smart enough to know this, so he invents the gruffalo!

I like this choice to introduce students to readers theater in September.  The story is funny and suspenseful, there’s lots of repetition which makes it easy for readers to do their part, and it’s a rhyming book that is done REALLY WELL (which is not always the case).  Plus there are lots of additional resources to use with the book:



Piggie Pie Piggie Pie – written by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Howard Fine
Gritch the Witch is grouchy, grumpy, and very hungry. The only thing that could make her happy is something extra special for lunch, and that is: Piggie Pie! Gritch zooms off on her broomstick to find eight plump piggies on Old MacDonald’s Farm.

This is a super silly book that’s great to use in October because it involves costumes/disguises and a witch, which makes it seasonal.  Performing the script is fun for kids because they get to practice using different voices (and it’s fun for me to watch them try to outdo one another making their classmates laugh!), and it also involves lots of repetition so most of the parts are easy to perform.

There are two sequels to the book: Zoom Broom and Broom Mates. The author herself has provided an activity guide for the Gritch books, and you can get a 5-day lesson plan from Mrs. Jump’s Class.



Turk and Runt Turk and Runt – written by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Frank Ansley
Turk’s parents are proud of him, the biggest, strongest, most graceful bird at Wishbone Farm. “He’s a dancer,” says his mother. “He’s an athlete,” says his father. “He’s a goner,” says his little brother, Runt.
But no one ever listens to Runt — even after people with seasonal plans and roasting pans begin showing up at Wishbone Farm, or even after the juiciest turkeys are chosen, one by one.

This is my choice for November since it’s a Thanksgiving story.  This is another book that is humorous, involves funny voices, and has some repetition.  (Are you seeing a theme in my readers theater preference?!?)  By  now the kids are getting more comfortable with performing, so they tend to really ham it up, and by this point you can add some movement rather than having kids remain in their seats (if you choose) and the kids enjoy imitating a ballet dancer, a football player, a little old lady, etc.

The author has an activity guide on her website, or you can use this activity guide from Wild Geese Guides If you’d rather have kids present this as a puppet show, you can get printable paper bag puppets for all the characters (to color yourself) from the author’s website.



One Eye, Two eyes, Three Eyes One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes: a Very Grimm Fairy Tale – retold by Aaron Shepherd, illustrated by Gary Clement
In this playful retelling of a tale from the Brothers Grimm, a young lady with cruel sisters gets help from an old woman, a handsome knight, and some magical verses — and in the end finds out she is not so alone as she believed.

December is usually too busy for reader’s theater, but in January we’re ready for another funny tale.  This story is longer and more complex than the previous ones, so it’s better to use it with more experienced “thespians” and readers.

Aaron Shepherd has a whole website dedicated to folk tales and readers theater scripts, if you don’t need a picture book version of the stories to introduce them to students.  He has a section of resources for the book, including the text of the tale, a music file for the magic song, and some color posters of the characters.



The Moon Over Star The Moon Over Star – written by Diane Hutts Aston, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
In July 1969, the world witnessed an awe-inspiring historical achievement when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon. For Mae, the young protagonist of this lyrical and hopeful picture book, that landing is something that inspires her to make one giant step toward all of the possibilities that life has to offer.

I always use this book in February since it ties into Black History Month.  In addition to using it for readers theater, it’s a nice segue into introducing students to Mae Jemison and Guion Bluford, the first African American female and male astronauts.  (Side note: We also mention Ronald McNair, the second African American male astronaut in space because he’s from our home state of South Carolina.)  This is the first book on the list that’s not humorous; by now the students are invested in readers theater, and the listeners can handle “straight” material versus comedy.

Because this book is a multiple award-winner, there are lots of extra resources available:



The Little Red Hen The Little Red Hen – written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

In March I’m ready to introduce readers theater to my beginner readers, so this simple story is great for second grade and sometimes even first grade.  We can then riff on the traditional story by enjoying variations like The Little Red Hen Makes Pizza and The Little Red Pen.  Of course there are many other traditional versions of The Little Red Hen, like the one by Paul Galdone (an oldie but a goodie) or the one by Heather Forest (with lots of fun rhymes), but I like the Pinkney retelling (his second appearance on this list!) with its oversize format and its use of color in the text to denote the different animals speaking.



Clara Caterpillar Clara Caterpillar – written by Pamela Duncan Edwarts, illustrated by Henry Cole
A carefree cabbage caterpillar named Clara, who becomes a common cream-colored butterfly, can′t possibly compete with a catty, conceited caterpillar named Catisha, who becomes a captivating crimson-colored butterfly. Or can she?

Spring is a great time for a story about caterpillars and butterflies, so we read this book along with Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert in April.  If you didn’t catch it in the book summary above, this book is FULL of alliteration!  Many of the words are new to (and a little difficult for) my students, so using it in the spring after they’ve had time to develop their reading skills a bit makes sense.  This author/illustrator duo have also published Some Smug Slug, Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke, Dinorella, and Rosie’s Roses (among others) if you’re looking for other books to teach alliteration.  Here’s an activity guide that can be used with any of their alliteration books.



The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors – written by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Adam Rex
Tells a humorous story of how the rock, paper, and scissors found each other and formed a battle game.

You know I have to end the year on a humorous note, and this book fills the bill.  Just be prepared for games of rock, paper, scissors to randomly break out all over the room!  (I bow to the inevitable and give everyone 5-10 minutes to get it out of their system before I even begin reading!)  And yes, that is the same author of the book The Day the Crayons Quit!

Harper Collins put out an activity guide, and you can get a classroom activity packet from Stories by Storie.  If you’d like to have students make popsicle stick puppets, you can use this printout of the characters to color and cut out.



BONUS: You’ll want to bookmark this huge collection (769 pages!) of printable readers theater scripts adapted from picture books by James Servis.  I just found this resource while writing this post so I haven’t used any of the scripts myself yet, but I’m looking forward to taking a closer look at them.

Check back for my next post (or subscribe to the blog using the link on the left to receive updates by email), which will feature some tips and tricks for using readers theater activities with students.  In the meantime, if you have a favorite book or two that lends itself to a fun performance, please share in the comments!

Note: All book titles in my posts are affiliate links to Amazon. 
Their "Look Inside" feature allows you to preview the books, 
and I earn a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase. 
Thank you for your support!




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Create Your Own Book Cover Bingo Cards

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Happy Read Across America Week!  We have several activities and spirit days planned at my school this week, including something new: Book Cover Bingo!

By using the Bingo Baker website I was able to create custom Bingo cards featuring images of books I know most of my students will recognize. You can search for premade cards, or you can create your own cards from scratch.  You can use words, numbers, or images — or a combination of all three — and choose the size of the grid you want to use (3X3, 4X4, 5X5, 6X6, or 7X7).  You can even play question & answer bingo!  Print your cards out to play in person, or share a link with users to play online.

I made two sets of cards; one featuring picture books for younger readers and another set with chapter books for older readers.  You’re welcome to use them as-is, or edit them to suit your needs.

Note that with a free account you are limited in the number of cards you can print out.  I ended up purchasing a lifetime membership so that I could print enough for each grade level, but I know I’ll be using the site many more times so I feel like it was a good investment.




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Valentine Books and Activities for Students

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Love – or at least like – is in the air, and valentines are changing hands.  Valentine’s Day is a big deal in elementary school, and these books and activities will help you celebrate with your students without getting too mushy!

This is Not a Valentine  This is Not a Valentine – written by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
A book for when you care about someone, but not in a romantic, sugary kind of way; for when want to show you like someone every day, not just one day a year; for when you have a true friendship and want to make sure the other person knows how you feel.

This is a great book to reinforce the idea that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for boyfriends and girlfriends but rather for all friends.  The illustrations depict an inclusive classroom, and the ideas for showing someone you care are meaningful and practical for the elementary audience.


Valensteins  Valensteins – written and illustrated by Ethan Long
The members of the Fright Club are all wondering what Frank K. Stein is making with his scissors and pink paper.  Of course, the kids will know right away but that won’t stop them from giggling at all the wrong guesses before the valentine is revealed!

Choose this read-aloud for your younger students who want a silly story for Valentine’s Day.  This book is part of the Fright Club series, which features funny/scary stories about ghosts, werewolves, and of course Frankenstein for your readers and listeners.  You can find somefollow-up printable activities at the author’s website.


Here Comes Valentine Cat  Here Comes Valentine Cat – written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Cat does NOT like Valentine’s Day. It’s much too mushy, and no way is he making anyone a valentine—especially not his new neighbor (Dog) who keeps throwing bones over the fence and hitting him in the head!

Your students will have fun making predictions and writing their own valentine messages from Cat to Dog when you share this book.  My introduction to this Here Comes Cat series from Underwood and Rueda was the book Here Comes Santa Cat, and I was instantly in love!  The expressions on Cat’s face in EVERY illustration are absolutely spot on, and the stories are brimming with humor.  See for yourself in this Valentine Cat read-aloud video from Brightly Storytime.


Love Ruby Valentine  Love, Ruby Valentine – written by Laurie Friedman, illustrated by Lynne Avril
Ruby works so hard preparing treats for her friends that she sleeps right through Valentine’s Day.

This book sends a lovely message about doing for others, as opposed to thinking only about what you’ll get on Valentine’s Day, and provides an important reminder that you can show appreciation for your loved ones any day of the year.  You might need a little practice with the rhythm of the rhyming text, and there’s a lot of small detail in the illustrations so it’s best to use a document camera if you’re sharing the book with a group.

Our follow-up activity when reading this book is to use origami paper to create valentines that fold up into their own envelopes.  You can find the directions at the Tinkerlab website, which includes a great step-by-step photo tutorial.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll share your winning Valentine read-aloud books in the comments!


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Read Aloud Polar Bear Nonfiction Books

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Nonfiction Polar Bear Books

My last post was focused on polar bear fiction books and included a variety of activities to go with them, so today I’m going to share some nonfiction titles that make good read-alouds.  Criteria for inclusion in this list includes narrative style with nonfiction text features, large format for group sharing, and of course plentiful facts for learning!

Day in the Life of a Polar Bear  A Day in the Life of a Polar Bear – by Sharon Katz Cooper
Follows a mother polar bear throughout her day with her cubs as they hunt for food, swim, play, bathe, and go to sleep.

I like this book because it includes action-packed photos that actually relate to the information being shared, rather than just stock photos of random polar bears walking around.  The text is quite child-friendly and lends itself to a chronological retelling by students (perhaps even using a Judy clock to reinforce the skill of telling time).  Includes a “Polar Bear Lifecycle” diagram and some critical thinking questions.

Do You Really Want to Meet a Polar bear  Do You Really Want to Meet a Polar Bear – written by Marcie Aboff, illustrated by Daniele Fabbri
The hero of our story, a bored student researcher, decides to visit the Arctic and learn about polar bears firsthand.

This book (which is part of a series that includes a dozen other animals) is a great introduction to an animal research project, and presents a perfect opportunity to compare primary and secondary information sources.  It’s also told in the second person, addressing the listening audience directly.  The author includes a collection of simple facts, along with a glossary and a bibliography of additional books and websites for curious readers.

Polar Bears Hunters  Polar Bears: Hunters of the Snow and Ice – by Elaine Landau
Learn all about the life of a polar bear, including its characteristics, habitat, diet, mating season, and threats to its way of life.

The text in this book is a little more dense than the previous two, but it’s still relayed in a second-person conversational style that will grab listeners’ attention and put them in the center of the action.  Most of the photos are large and clear (although the book itself is not oversized) and there are a few nice closeups of the clawed paw and hollow fur.  The author includes a page of fun facts about polar bears, along with a glossary and a bibliography of additional books and websites for further exploration.

A Polar Bear's World  A Polar Bear’s World – by Caroline Arnold
Find out what happens in a polar bear’s world when mother and her two cubs venture from their warm den into the Arctic  world.

Physically, this is the largest of these four books, measuring almost 11″ x 11″ and it features cut-paper illustrations (versus photos) that are easily seen in a group setting.  The main story is told in narrative fashion, with caption boxes providing additional facts and statistics on each page, and follows a mother and her cubs for the first two years of their lives.  Labeled illustrations of other arctic animals the bears encounter are included, although no other information about them is provided.  The author does include a map of their native habitat, a list of polar bear fun facts, and a glossary.  The author also shares a variety of follow-up activities for her books on her website.

If you have a favorite nonfiction polar book to use with students, I hope you’ll share it in the comments!


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Polar Bear Books and Activities for Learning in the Library

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Polar Bear Fiction Books

We haven’t had any snow (yet) this year, but that won’t stop us from enjoying some polar bear fun in the library!  After all, February 27 is International Polar Bear Day and these animals need our help.  Polar bears happen to be one of my all-time favorite animals, thanks in part to the amazing polar bear exhibit we used to have at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC.  There was an underwater viewing window in their habitat where I would gaze completely enthralled at the playful bears, just longing to swim with them.  That exhibit closed long ago, so now I have to settle for tuning into a polar bear zoo cam.  (I’ve included links to a few at the end of this post.)

Polar bear live cam image

In the meantime, I can enjoy sharing polar bear books like these with my students:

The Bear Report  The Bear Report – written and Illustrated by Thyra Heder
Sophie seems a little bored by the polar bears she’s supposed to be reporting on, but when one (named Olafur) appears and takes her on a tour of his home she becomes a big fan. Includes an author’s note about her trip to Iceland.  And may I say, I really love these light-infused illustrations!

It’s obvious that this book makes a great introduction to a unit on researching and writing about animals, and the idea of Sophie taking a tour of a polar bear habitat provides a natural introduction to using videos as information sources in addition to using print resources.  Along with presenting facts (in narrative style) about polar bears, this book also touches on whales, seals, arctic foxes, and glacier mice as well, which makes it a good segue story into other polar animals.  And there’s also a mention of the northern lights, which would make a perfect prompt for a watercolor project.

You can also share a video school visit presentation by the author.

  You’re Snug With Me – written by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry
A mother bear has given birth to two cubs, and as they snuggle cozily together she shares a lyrical description of what the world is like beyond their warm den.  Try to use a document camera or ebook version of this story when sharing with students, because the dazzlingly intricate illustrations deserve close-up examination.

As someone who enjoys zentangle and mandala drawing myself, I was immediately inspired to pick up a pen and create some drawings of my own, so I searched out some line-drawing clip art of polar animals to give my students so they could try some patterns themselves.  If your kids don’t have time to draw their own patterns, Teaching Books has some coloring sheets available for download.  The author also provides some activities on her website.

Note there are two other gorgeous books in this series: You’re Safe with Me about a mama elephant, and You’re Strong with Me about a mother giraffe.

Hush Little Polar Bear  Hush Little Polar Bear – written and illustrated by Jeff Mack
Follow a little polar bear through his dreams to places anyone would love to visit: the beach, the farm, a waterfall, the jungle, and more until finally he drifts into the home of a sleeping girl who dreaming of polar bear travels herself.

The rhyme scheme of this book totally lends itself to singing the words (to the tune of Hush Little Baby), although it’s a bit long for a performance.  Naturally it makes a wonderful bedtime book to send home with your younger students, and it would make a sweet bedtime song.  You can find instrumental versions of the song on YouTube.

I like to use this book as the basis for an art exercise, where I read the words to the students but I don’t show them the pictures.  Students then either activate prior knowledge about the locations in the story or use their research skills to find out about them.  They then create their own illustrations to share with the class.

Three Snow Bears  The Three Snow Bears – written and illustrated by Jan Brett
A retelling of the Goldilocks story substituting polar bears for woodland bears, Brett incorporates elements of the Inuit lifestyle into this entertaining story.  As we enjoy the tale of Aloo-ki investigating the bears’ igloo and then getting caught by them, we also follow the story of the bears’ day out as well as the adventure her own huskies have when they float out to see on a loose patch of ice.

This is another book that students will want to get a good look at, as the drawings in the margins are rather small, so a document camera or a small-group setting would be best.

Brett always scrupulously researches clothing when she’s drawing characters from other cultures, and the designs she used in this book can be compared to the Indian patterns in You’re Snug With Me.  For this book she traveled to Iqualuit, capital of the Nunavut Territory in northern Canada, to meet and learn about the Inuit people. Read her newsletter to learn more about how she prepared to write this book.

This makes a great addition to a fairy tale comparison unit, but it’s also a fun stand-alone story.  You could also compare it to similar books by Brett, such as Trouble With Trolls (inspired by a trip to Norway), and The Mitten which has a Ukrainian influence.  Or you could contrast it with her Three Little Dassies which features bold African printed clothing, and the Persian folktale The Tale of the Tiger Slippers.

Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favorite nonfiction Polar Bear books.  In the meantime, please share your favorite polar bear books and resources in the comments, and here are the links to the Polar Bear Cams I promised you:









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Mermaid Read Aloud Lesson Plan Resources

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In my last post I shared a collection of mermaid read-aloud books and follow-up activities to use with elementary kids.  In this follow-up post I’m sharing some additional resources and supplies to go with the books.  I’ve researched everything from mermaid costume elements for the reader to craft supplies and reading buddies for the students, along with instructions and printables for all of the activities. Note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links so if you use the link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Mermaid Wearables
  • Glitter and Glam Seashell Necklace or Bracelet – requires seashells, white glue and small brushes, glitter and/or gems, and satin cord or elastic cord attached with a low-temp glue gun (for safety).  Students brush the front of a shell with layer of white glue and add some bling, then hot glue a cord to the back for a dazzling necklace or bracelet.  Watch this video for more information, keeping in mind that you’ll need to adjust your cord length for jewelry.  You can also get satin necklace cords with clasps attached as well.

Paper Mermaid Crowns

Mermaid Building Projects
  • Mermaid Castle – requires building supplies of your choice.  This could be cardboard boxes, wooden blocks, playdoh or clay, magnetic blocks, or whatever you choose.  We have access to lots of LEGOs and KEVA planks at my school so that’s what we’ll be using.
  • Mermaid Sand Castle – requires kinetic sand, which you can purchase, or you can make your own by thoroughly mixing together 8 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 cup of oil.  You can use baby oil, or if you are worried about kids tasting it, you can use vegetable oil.  You may want to provide some sand castle molds or various sizes of cups to assist with the creativity, and some small plastic trays to keep any mess contained..  Kids can decorate their castles by pressing colorful shells and pieces of sea glass into the sand.

kinetic sand castle

Mermaid Paper Art
  • Scratch Art – if you’re making it from scratch (ha!) you’ll need white cardstock, oil pastels (or you can use crayons), black acrylic paint, liquid dish soap, foam brushes, and wooden stylus tools.  You’ll cut the cardstock to the desired size and have students color one entire side with oil pastels in an abstract design using several different colors.  Mix 3 parts black paint to 1 part dish soap and paint over the drawing using a form brush.  (If you don’t get complete coverage, you may need to paint a second coat of black paint once the first coat dries.)  Once the paint is completely dry, use a wooden stick to “draw” a picture.
  • Scratch Art Kits – if you want to save time (and mess!) you can provide scratch art cards for the students so they can go straight to “drawing” a picture with the wooden stylus.  This Rainbow Scratch Art kit includes 100 5×7″ cards, four stylus tools, and a set of stencils.  This Holographic Glitter Scratch Art kit includes 400 3.5×3.5″ cards (200 rainbow, 200 silver) and 8 wooden stylus tools.


Other Mermaid Crafts

Turtle made from abandoned fishing net

  • Wooden Spoon Mermaids – requires wooden spoons, yarn in assorted colors, googly eyes, felt in assorted colors, markers, scissors, and glue.  Glue on the yarn for the hair, wrap and tie off the yarn for the bikini top and upper portion of the tail.  Finish the tail with felt cut in the shape of mermaid fins glued to the bottom of the stick.  Draw a face and add two googly eyes.

Mermaid Craft with Wooden Spoons

Reading Buddies
  • Your students will enjoy reading aloud to their own mermaid buddies!  A pink princess mermaid, a purple cutie mermaid, or a golden princess mermaid will surely entice your girls to sit down and read.

I hope this post has given you some useful ideas and resources for hosting your own mermaid extravaganza!  If you have any favorite mermaid activities, please share them in the comments!


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