This article originally went to print in Westside Mama Mag. Lots of great tips to help you bring books to life with kids.
Reinventing Our Favourite Children’s Books
Here in Australia there are no shortage of magnificent children’s books. In celebration of Book Week, which is August 18th to the 25th, and the Premier’s Reading Challenge, an annual event that encourages students to read from a long list of titles from Australian authors, I created a program called ‘Books Alive’.
During the workshop, the students and I bring the story to life through drama, movement and music. We turn the story on its head and make it our own. I weave in mindful moments to keep us calm, clear and connected.
There are lots of ways that you can nurture and encourage your child’s creative expression and love of books. I have created a list of activities to help you bring these stories to life with your children in a way that honours their voice.
- Read the Pictures: Instead of reading the words tell your child, “Let’s pretend the words have gone missing. We are going to use the pictures to help us predict what the words may be.” Stories where the pictures show the characters expressing a range of emotions is a wonderful opportunity to start discussing what different emotions look and feel like. You can prompt your child with, “I wonder how the main character is feeling in this picture?” At the end, you can read the story with your child and compare your version with the authors.
- What Happens Next?: Using questions to keep the story going is a wonderful way to spend more time with our favourite characters. “I wonder what the next story is going to be about? Where is the main character going to go? What are they going to do?” This next chapter may be based on your version of the story or the authors. Maybe they go to the park or the shop. Help create these spaces in your home and then let your child run with the story. Try real-world settings like the park, beach or shop. My oldest child, who is now six was in character everywhere we went, from ages three to five. We received lots of smiles. It’s amazing how a little person in a pirate suit can brighten some one’s day.
- You Do The Talking: If you see talking marks in the text you can say to your child, “You see these marks this means someone is talking. I wonder what their voice sounds like? Let’s try on silly voices. What do you notice about the characters face or body language? How do you think they feel? What would their voice sound like if they feel happy, sad, etc.?” Alternatively, turn the sound of the T.V. and get your child to choose a character and you choose a character. Take turns speaking along with your chosen characters.
- Create the Pictures: Take pictures of your child while they are acting out the story. Print the pictures and have your child retell the story while they are looking at the them. Record their story by writing under the pictures or create a word document or a PDF for printing or saving. Stories I have created with my kids became presents for their grandparents, other family members, friends or they became a prized a creative keepsake.
- Bed Time Visulisation: After you have read a bedtime story have your child close their eyes and tell them the story is going to continue. Describe a setting. Make it someplace familiar the bush, the beach or a special place you have traveled to before. Making a connection to their prior knowledge of a familiar place makes it easier for them to get a picture in their head. Then say, “There is a special friend who is walking down a path towards you. As they get closer you realise it’s (insert character’s name here). They walk up to you and they have a special message for you. In your dreams tonight, the two of you are going to go on lots of adventures. I can’t wait to hear all about it in the morning.”
When children enter primary school, they learn reading strategies to help them comprehend the text, such as making predictions, questioning, making connections, using their prior knowledge, visualisation, and retelling the story. As parents, we can easily start this process before they get to school. Bringing a story to life through imaginative play can support your child in understanding these concepts on a deeper level.
I am passionate about creating scenarios and spaces where children can explore, enhance and develop their creative expression because validating their unique ideas increases self-confidence and happiness. I see many children come to school and have trouble connecting to the well of creativity that exists within. The list above is a good start to wake up your child’s creative genius, inner author, hidden interests and set them up to be book worms who shine bright!
Cathy Koman is a mother, primary school teacher and workshop facilitator. Her program Mindful Storytelling is delivered at primary Schools and kinders around Victoria.
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