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June 28, 2021

Connecting with Books: Practical Nuggets

Karen Windon, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

Often families are looking for practical ways to share books with their children. They ask about ways to bring books and learning to life, in addition to the traditional reading of books. There are many great tips to share with families and especially with younger pre-readers. Using some of these ideas can make well-loved books come alive again and add dimension to new books! As I watched a recent Campaign for Grade-Level Reading webinar entitled “Tools of the Mind: Key Steps in Creating a Culture of Learning,” I was impressed by the practical nuggets embedded in theory and practice.

One tip was related to the connection between the story and physical movement. Acting out the story or just parts of the book creates an engagement with books that reminds kids that reading can be fun! For a book about dinosaurs, allowing the big ROARS! and stomping is not only ok but builds a strong connection to the story. For a story about a canoe, an empty laundry basket on a rug becomes a boat adventure through the wilds! As kids mature in their reading, it naturally becomes a more solitary activity, but in early reading, the movement connects with meaning.

Another concept related to using big movements as a precursor to writing is choosing words in the book or from the title and having the child air draw the letters, first with their arms and then with smaller motions with their fingers. While fine motor skills may still be lacking at this age, the gross motor practice with big movements can build the foundation for developing smaller movement skills such as forming shapes and letters.

Another idea with huge potential is letting the child be a learning buddy to the parent. Let the child ask the questions as though they are the teacher. Make-believe is a powerful learning tool. “Daddy, can you make the sounds of each of the letters in the word in the title of this book? Very good, Daddy, you have been learning!” Or the child can ask the parent to act out scenes from the book. “How would you sneak into the kitchen?” or “Why did the dog bark when he went to the school?” Learning buddies can be powerful and can reinforce the understanding of what the kiddo is reading.

Reminding parents to have fun with the books is always critical:

  • Sharing them with their child
  • Laughing at the silly parts
  • Laughing at their memories of books and life experiences

Being silly together builds learning and relationships. Making connections between reading and life is important in learning to learn.

Lastly, remind parents that libraries can be magical and exciting places. Recently at a local library, we heard a parent ask her soon-to-be first grader, “Do you want to go in and see what a library looks like?” As her daughter nodded eagerly, we hoped that she would not only see what it looks like, but experience the joy of choosing from so many books and participate in various programs and events.

As Dr. Seuss was known to say, “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book!”

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