World Book Day
To celebrate World Book Day this post is all about books and imagination.
How can I make story time fun and encourage children to engage with books?
Engagement with books can start very early, especially if there are pictures. Babies can be encouraged to hold board or cloth books, experiment with turning the page, focus on pictures and listen to simple stories. Toddlers are often able to recite parts of the narrative, turn the page at appropriate moments and point to the pictures. When their language skills are more developed you can talk about the pictures and what they show about the characters and what they’re feeling.
A story sack associated with a book gets children to anticipate what happens next by providing visual cues. For familiar stories this jogs the memory and for new books it encourages them to let their imagination fill in the blanks before you read on.
Many children enjoy the process of learning to read, engaging with letter recognition and decoding, although it can also be frustrating. Keeping children focused on the story and what the words are communicating rather than the shape of the words themselves means reading doesn’t become a chore, but a way of accessing meaning.
Communication and reading together is important long after a child can read unaided. Children learn enthusiasm for suspense, the pleasure of unexpected twists in the tale and how to respond emotionally to stories by talking about them with others. By reading together children can access books which are beyond their reading level but within their intellectual capacity and this extends their language skills.
We don’t have many books
Whether it’s cost or space holding you back, you don’t have to own books to enjoy them. Find out where your nearest library is here (if you live in England) and join up to borrow books for free. If you don’t have a library, see whether anyone in your circle of friends would be interested in book swaps. Toddler groups and activity centres often also have a collection of books so make a beeline for them and make time to sit for five minutes and enjoy a book together. School aged children may be able to borrow books from the school if you have a quiet word with the teacher.
If you find a really great book, keep it in mind for a birthday or Christmas present. It’s worth owning books you will read time and again, even if you have to sacrifice some space to do so. Also it’s not necessarily the number of books that matters as recent research shows reading the same books over and over may in fact be beneficial for toddlers to expand their vocabulary. Even if the same word appears in many different books it may not be picked up as toddlers focus on other details. Familiarity with the story means it’s likely they can pay attention to the vocabulary and absorb it.
What can I do with books that isn’t just reading?
If you feel you lack imagination to move beyond what is written on the page, you aren’t alone. Start by using visual supports, such as puppets, to act out parts of the story or encourage children to incorporate actions such as wading through the grass or splashing in the river in ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’. You can then use the start of the story when playing with the puppets and ask children to continue with their own version or pick up on the actions to create your own hunting story. When playing with toys, suggest that you act out the story together, for example a tea set can easily be used as props to act The Tiger Who Came To Tea.
Stories can be incorporated into art and craft activities too. Children’s own artwork can be used to inspire a story, or books can provide inspiration. Why not use fingerpaint to make a Hungry Caterpillar eating his way through the week? Or if you’re feeling ambitious try it in 3D with papier mâché! How about making a woodland scene using natural materials complete with a Gruffalo or making the animals in their crates from Dear Zoo?
Let your imagination run wild!