This morning in our 2 year old story time, our theme was M is for Moose. This was the perfect time to pull out Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky. If you haven't read it before and work with young children, you definitely need to pick it up. It will work with themes on mooses, abc's, or funny stories.
With 2 year olds, they really want to be "in" on the joke. Most of them like to laugh, even if it is for no reason. This book has lots of silly things going on. To get them ready, we practice our abc's before we read the story. Then, we look at the title and sound out the word "moose". We talk about what letter moose might start with. Could it start with "m" like mouse or mom? What else is on the cover? Then, we sound out "zebra". What letter could zebra start with?
This book works well because the kids can help tell the story if you want them to. I start off with "a is for" and let them fill in the blank. With a large apple illustration, you will get a lot of "apple" answers. The illustrations are familiar enough that they should be able to get most of them, but I did have to help them with fox and glove. By the time you get to "m", the kids will be laughing. When you keep going and the zebra is "protecting" the illustrations, they will almost be rolling on the floor with laughter.
For those of us who use early literacy messages in our story times, this is a good book to use for your example. In addition to reading the story, you can talk about the illustrations or what might happen next. The kids are practicing their reading skills when you let them read along. Even if they don't know the actual words, they know the shapes (like they know a picture of an apple is an apple). The more of these connections that they put together, the better they will get at it, and the more prepared they will be to actually read when the time comes.