Children's books and learning go hand in hand for me. For ten years in a classroom, I structured entire units of learning around either mine or my class's favourite stories. Whether the kids were 11 years old or 4 years old, picture books and novels were always our leaping off point for learning. Now that I have kids of my own, that hasn't changed. Except we use books as a starting point for our play and exploration.
So why do we play with our books? Taking ideas or characters from a story and creating playful opportunities with them really helps deepen our understanding of what is going on in the text. Interacting with a book through a craft or sensory activity appeals to different learning types because it is now kinesthetic (hands on) as well as auditory (hearing) and visual (seeing). The more we understand, the more we tend to enjoy something.
Now I can't say this enough to parents - helping your child develop a love and joy of reading is one of the most important things you can do for them in life. It quite literally can level the playing field for their learning journey. Studies have proven that pupils who read for pleasure are at more of an advantage than pupils with parents who went to university. So KIDS WHO READ FOR FUN have an advantage that is FOUR TIMES GREATER than the advantage you already gain if you have a parent who attended higher education (read more from the study HERE). That stat just blows my mind every time I hear it.
So yeah, playing with books is a pretty big priority in our house. A few months back I was lucky to meet some other ladies online who also feel pretty similar. They value play as much as we do and like to get creative with their books. I wanted to highlight a few of them here so you can have even more places to turn to when you need bookish inspiration!
If you aren't on Instagram yet, my only question is why not? I know some people don't like sharing personal photos so they shy away from certain types of social media. These days though, social media is more like a massive resource bank and community group. You don't even have to share photos to take advantage. Want a recipe? Search a hashtag. Enjoy interior design? Search a hashtag. Want a suggestion for what to read next? Search a hashtag. Thinking about getting a tattoo? Search a hashtag.
Love these book inspired play ideas? Then try out the hashtag #bookishplay. It now has more than 2,000 tags on Instagram. Teri from @petitbookcorner (pictured above), gathered the group together and got the ball rolling with the #bookishplay tag. It really is a great way to find ideas for activities that you can pair up with books. Other great hashtags for book and play ideas are #bookinspiredplay, #beyondthebook, #bookactivity.
Do you have a favourite book and can't find an activity to go with it? Here are some simple ways to to design your own book inspired play.
1) Create, colour, make!
Art projects are one of the easiest ways to interact with books. In Teri's example above, they made the paper dolls from the story. For little ones, adults can always draw or cut the main shape and little hands can colour and decorate. In the example below from Lycie at The Paige Diaries, they used the beautiful illustrations in The Rainbow to inspire their art. You can simply colour a picture of a character or try to sketch in the style of the artist. You can sculpt an object from the story or build one out of paper. Possibilities are as endless as your art supplies!
2) Sensory trays
Little kids and big kids alike enjoy plunging their hands into interesting materials. Anyone who goes to preschool or has been to a play group will have experienced a water or sand table. They are always popular and not only because they appeal to the senses. Kids can scoop, pour, separate, cut, ball up, toss and crumble the materials. Don't stop at water and sand though. Try oats, like Lycie did (above right) to go along with Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Try stones, water beads, pine cones, corn kernels, cloud dough. Can you create a scene similar to one in a book? Add a toy or character similar to one in the book? Get creative and remind your little ones of the story as they play by using vocabulary from it or encouraging talk about the characters.
3) Story baskets & Invitations to play
An invitation to play is a sort of curated play space. You might choose a set of toys that go well with your story and leave them on a table with a book for your child to discover after a nap, before dinner (while you are making it!) or when they get up in the morning. If you can read the book again together, even better. Then let your little one explore what you have left for them. There might be finger puppets like Sian had out above, to go along with Little Red Riding Hood, or a cape for some imaginative play. We explored books about colour once and our invitations to play were simply a collection of toys that were the same colour. The important thing is to let your child lead the play and not to have expectations that they will fully recreate the story or build a masterpiece with the materials.
4) Invitation to create
Similar to above, an invitation to create is when you leave a set of materials out and allow kids to explore them as they choose. Jacqui at Playful Wren set up a lovely craft prompt to go with See You Later Alligator (above right). Depending on your child's age, they may just mush, stick, bend or fiddle what you left out. If they are a bit older or very craftily inclined they may create an amazing character from the story. The important part is that they are engaging with the story in any way they choose.
5) Review a concept
Often books present important concepts that you probably want to reinforce. It could be about kindness. Or part of a bedtime routine. Or a safety concept like waiting at traffic lights, like you can see Meg from Bedtime Stories Forevermore worked on in the picture (above right). Books are so valuable when it comes to learning life skills, so playing with those ideas and rehearsing them can really help our little people remember to use them.
6) Be the character!
This was one of my absolute favourite ways to make books come to life in the classroom - by doing what the character does! Think about what the character is doing in the story. Is there anything you can recreate together? Scroll back up to see how Teri put on a tea party to go along with The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Kim from Book Bairn (above) had her wee one try out new shells like in the story Norman's New Shell. My little guys loved writing invitations to post after reading Postman Bear. It might take a bit more thought and creativity to come up with, but this kind of play is one of the best.
So there are 6 ways to get started with your own book inspired play. We haven't even touched on bringing in more traditional learning like the alphabet and numbers. We'll leave that for another post but you can search one of the bookish hashtags we suggested and you'll see lots of ideas for those. Also, we've included a list of all the other #bookishplay participants from July below. Please do click through to their Instagram accounts for an absolute treasure chest of play ideas.
The winners of two prestigious literary awards were announced a few days ago and we are taking a quick look at the books given honours. You might not know much about these awards but you've likely noticed the stickers on many book covers you've picked up. I'll be honest, when I'm at the library I almost always pop the book in my bag if without a second glance if it has one of the winner labels on it. It's (almost) always bound to be great.
What I didn't know before, was the different between the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Medal. Well, they are both awarded by Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) which is a division of the American Library Association.
The ALSC states, "The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually . . . to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." So in other words it is awarded to beautiful children's picture books.
The Newbery on the other hand, ". . . was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually . . . to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." So more of a focus on longer books for children.
I'm going to try and keep our focus on picture books today (although I will be heading out tomorrow to pick up some of those Newbery titles), so here are the descriptions from publishers of both the winner and honor winners.
Get your hands on it here:
Caldecott Winner - Wolf in the Snow
Author and Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home?
Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. Here is a book set on a wintry night that will spark imaginations and warm hearts, from Matthew Cordell, author of Trouble Gum and Another Brother.
Get your hands on it here:
Caldecott Honor - A Different Pond
Author: Bao Phi
Illustrator: Thi Bui
Publisher: Coughlan Publishing
Acclaimed poet Bao Phi delivers a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son - and between cultures, old and new. A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event - a long-ago fishing trip. As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father's long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao's father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. The New York Times has said that Bao Phi's poetry "rhymes with the truth." Kirkus Reviews calls A Different Pond "a must-read for our times." Thi Bui's striking, evocative art paired with Phi's expertly crafted prose has earned this powerful picture books six starred reviews.
Get your hands on it here:
Caldecott Honor - Big Cat, Little Cat
Author and Illustrator: Elisha Cooper
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
There was a cat
who lived alone.
Until the day
a new cat came . . .
And so a story of friendship begins, following two cats through their days, months, and years until one day, the older cat has to go. And he doesn't come back.
This is a poignant story, told in measured text and bold black-and-white illustrations about life and the act of moving on.
Get your hands on it here:
Caldecott Honor - Crown : An ode to the fresh cut
Author: Derrick Barnes
Illustrator: Gordon C. James
Publisher: Agate Bolden
Derrick Barnes’s smooth, fresh words and Gordon C. James’s lush, vibrant illustrations capture the confidence, pride, and magic black and brown boys feel the moment they get a new haircut and admire their own beautiful reflections in the mirror. The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.
A fresh cut makes boys fly.
This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.
Get your hands on it here:
Caldecott Honor - Grand Canyon
Author and Illustrator: Jason Chin
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Rivers wind through earth, cutting down and eroding the soil for millions of years, creating a cavity in the ground 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep known as the Grand Canyon.
Home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived and evolved within its walls for millennia, the Grand Canyon is much more than just a hole in the ground. Follow a father and daughter as they make their way through the cavernous wonder, discovering life both present and past.
Weave in and out of time as perfectly placed die cuts show you that a fossil today was a creature much long ago, perhaps in a completely different environment. Complete with a spectacular double gatefold, an intricate map and extensive back matter.
Our Halloween book choices and activities have been filling up our Instagram feed this month. Have you had a chance to check them out? We have now posted them all on the website so you can come back for them any time. This is just a peek at some of the fun we have had.
We started off with Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket. Using some leaves from our garden, we painted spooky ghosts on them to hang up as decoration. We also tried some scissor practise for toddlers, with chalk drawing and googly eyes, inspired by the ghosts in the story!
See our Goldfish Ghost activity page HERE!
Little Boo was probably our favourite new find this season. It is such a sweet story, you have to check it out. If you are a teacher or homeschooler, this book would be great for examining life cycles of plants. We looked at pumpkin seeds, did some sensory play with all the pumpkin goop, made our own cardboard pumpkin and wrote about things we can't wait to do when we grow up!
See our Little Boo activity page HERE!
J is for Jack-O-Lantern turned out to be way more than just an ABC book. There are loads of interesting facts in there which make it appropriate for older readers while the ABC factor is great for younger ones.
We decided to make some play dough jack-o-lanterns and did a shadow and light investigation with our pumpkin templates.
See our J is for Jack-O-Lantern activity page HERE!
Our final read was probably the spookiest of them all! A few household objects come to life which might scare some younger readers (but is a really fun read for anyone who can handle it). To offset any fear, we made light of objects coming to life by adding adorable little eyes to furniture around our house.
See our Rules of the House activity page HERE!
New book alert! Who isn't a sucker for new children's books? We sure are. Especially in this day and age when they are finally starting to represent so many more people in this world (who have previously been absent!).
There are really too many to choose from, so here is just a little round up of some of the books we can't wait to get our hands on. All book descriptions come directly from publishers and were not written by us. Let us know if you pick any up and how you enjoy them!
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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