National Simultaneous Storytime activity ideas for your school

A poster for National Simultaneous Storytime. It features an illustration of a pink sloth wearing a yellow running outfit. It reads: National Simultaneous Storytime. The Speedy Sloth by Rebecca Young and Heath McKenzie. 24 May 2023.

Published: May 16th, 2023

National Simultaneous Storytime 2023 is coming up this May. Here’s all you need to know about the day, including activity ideas to help your school and community get involved. 

What is National Simultaneous Storytime?

National Simultaneous Storytime is an annual event held by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Each year, the ALIA selects a book written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator to be read simultaneously in schools and libraries across Australia. The event promotes Australian literature and the value of reading and literacy and is a great opportunity for parents, grandparents and the wider community to get involved in student learning.

First held in 2001, the event has been growing in popularity ever since. In 2022, the event was a huge success, with 2,186,347 registered participants holding events in 59,038 locations!

When is National Simultaneous Storytime?

This year, National Simultaneous Storytime is at 11am on Wednesday May 24.

What is this year’s book?

Each year, the association chooses a book by an Australian author and illustrator. The book, which must address key learning areas of the National Curriculum, is chosen to celebrate Australian literature.

This year, the book is The Speedy Sloth by award-winning author Rebecca Young and award-winning children’s book illustrator Heath McKenzie. The picture book, which “celebrates all winners (especially those that don’t come first)”  tells the story of Spike the sloth and her big race.

National Simultaneous Storytime resources

On Monday May 22, a digital PDF copy of the book will be sent to all registered participants. You can register for free here. In addition to the digital book, the ALIA provides a number of resources to support the storytime event, including merchandise, downloadable promotional materials, and free activity materials.

How to hold a National Simultaneous Storytime event

If you’re planning on holding a National Simultaneous Storytime reading, make sure to register your event. All registered participants will be sent a free digital version of The Speedy Sloth on Monday May 22 in time for National Simultaneous Storytime on May 24.

In addition, registered participants will be given access to a range of resources including videos and audio recordings. You will be able to access and use these resources for the entire week of National Simultaneous Storytime (May 22 to May 26).

National Simultaneous Storytime activities

One criteria for choosing the book for National Simultaneous Storytime is how well it lends itself to storytime events and activities. Each year, many schools and libraries choose to celebrate with themed activities based on the book.

Here are some activity ideas for your school.

1. Complete a book report

In the week following the reading, ask your students to prepare a book report. Some ideas for what to include in the report are: the title, the characters, the author and illustrator, what the book is about, a review (and rating) of the book, and drawings inspired by the book.

2. Learn about sloths

The Speedy Sloth features a sloth named Spike. This opens up an opportunity to learn more about this fascinating animal. Start with some YouTube videos, such as this nature video, these 10 odd facts, or this video about a baby sloth orphanage. In addition to YouTube, there are a wealth of online resources for learning about sloths, such as the WWF, National Geographic, Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Smithsonian. Your students can learn lots of interesting facts about the sloth, such as why they’re so slow, where they live, and what they eat.

3. Create a cookbook

In the book, Spike’s Mum cooks Spike her favourite meal – spaghetti. Ask your students to prepare a presentation about their favourite meals. The presentation can include information about who cooks in their household, what ingredients are included in the meal, how the meal is cooked, and pictures of them enjoying the meal. Using Promethean’s interactive displays to present their information, students can display their work with enhanced collaboration and participation throughout the class. 

You could even choose to collate these recipes and pictures into an e-cookbook for the whole class to enjoy. Using a free tool like myfoodbook, you can create your own cookbook online. Upload your students’ recipes, customise your e-book’s cover and photos, and share the completed e-cookbook with your students and their families.

4. Run a race

In the book, Spike the sloth competes in a big running race. Help your students expend some energy by holding your own race day. Some fun race ideas for kids include an egg-and-spoon race, three-legged race, and a wheelbarrow race.

4. Dress up as your favourite animal

Alongside Spike the sloth, The Speedy Sloth features a range of other animal characters, all beautifully illustrated by Heath McKenzie. To celebrate the book, ask your students to come dressed as their favourite animal.

5. Learn to draw the speedy sloth

The ALIA provides a number of free activity resources, including step-by-step instructions for drawing the speedy sloth. Use this template to teach your students how to draw the speedy sloth. Once your students have learnt to draw Spike, ask them to draw their other favourite animals inspired by the book.

6. Create a cut-out sloth mask

Another activity provided by the ALIA, this sloth mask template can be coloured in by your students and cut out to create a sloth mask. Kids will love wearing their sloth mask during storytime.

7. Colour in Spike the sloth

The ALIA also provides this free colouring-in activity. With the ActivPanel students can use this colouring-in template and get artistic with the Instant Whiteboard app, which allows them to insert their pictures and draw and edit them to create works of art; a fun and creative way to celebrate this year’s book. 

8. Learn about Nacho the sloth

In celebration of the book The Speedy Sloth, the ALIA has adopted their very own two-fingered sloth Nacho. Alongside the certificate of adoption, the adoption comes with a biography on Nacho. The biography includes information about Nacho’s home (the Limon province of Costa Rica), and his participation in the Urban Sloth Project, a study into how changes in Nacho’s environment impact him. The biography also includes some fun facts about sloths. Using this biography, teach your students about Nacho, Costa Rica, and the impact that changes to natural habitats are having on Costa Rica’s sloths. 

9. Access book activities from Learn From Play

Sign up at to access free and premium book activities based on The Speedy Sloth. There are a huge range of downloadable templates for activities and games, including puzzles, Sudokus, card games, find-a-words, drawings, comprehension activities, and much more.

10. Make a bookmark

Use a free bookmark creation tool, such as this one offered by Canva, to allow your students to design and print their own unique bookmarks. The tool offers a range of templates, illustrations and photos for creating colourful bookmarks. Simply choose a template, customise the design using Canva’s library of graphics (or upload your own images), download and print.

11. Create your own story

From memoirs, to picture books and comics, to fictional stories, there are many book creation tools available online that your students can use to create their very own books and stories.

Provide your students with a fun writing prompt to get their creative juices flowing, or ask them to interview and write a memoir about a family member or friend. For something more visual, use a comic or picture book creation tool to enable your students to create their own comic or picture books, or use a tool like Book Creator to create interactive stories that combine text, video and audio. Some book creation tools even allow for groups and classes to create books and stories collaboratively!

How to use technology to make the most of National Simultaneous Storytime Week

National Simultaneous Storytime takes place online. To access your digital PDF copy of The Speedy Sloth, as well as other digital resources provided by the ALIA, such as videos and audio recordings, you’ll need a digital device, such as Promethean’s interactive panel and digital whiteboard, the ActivPanel 9. Using an interactive display, you can easily and seamlessly present the beautiful picture book to your students at your storytime event.

An interactive display can also help make activities more engaging and accessible. Using an interactive panel and teaching software, you can test reading comprehension with quizzes and polls, create your own e-books with online book-creation tools, and access a world of online resources for additional study and research.

To find out more about Promethean’s classroom solutions, including our interactive displays and teaching software, get in touch for a free demo.

Recommended articles:

●     6 creative ideas for your next classroom presentation

●     How interactive technologies are radically changing learning