Reading for its own sake is a marvelous thing, especially for people who love the act of reading, love the book they are reading, or find reading “easy”. When children are learning to read, there are many times when reading can feel like homework, a task that they are required to do, or can feel way too hard because they are still struggling to solve words. The activity of reading has to compete with other enticing hobbies like video games or TV shows.
But reading and fun shouldn’t be competing! This post will help you encourage a positive habit of reading by pairing it with activities that can spark our creative minds and create joyful memories.
Books and field trips
Sometimes when we read about something, we have an urge to go see or do it! If it’s possible, try to incorporate a real-life experience that supports the book topic you and your child are reading. For example, if you are reading a book about alligators, see if your local zoo features alligators. (Helpful hint: many local library memberships feature free tickets to local zoos, aquariums or museums during the week). If you’re reading Last Stop on Market Street, ride the bus around town or to school and try to notice the surroundings like the little boy, CJ, did in the story.
Taking a field trip to all of the places our books takes us to is not feasible but using the internet to find images or videos to take a “virtual” field trip is always another great option, too!
Books and art projects
Books can take us on many journeys, but they can also spark creativity right at home. Many books can ignite a passion to create. When reading a book, it’s possible to engage our imagination and make the story’s theme or topic into a tangible art project. It can be low-cost or free if you get inventive and use things around the house that you already have.
Take the book One Plastic Bag: Istou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, for example. In this book, Isatou led the movement of recycling plastic bags – even when they tore and became unusable. To make this concept a little more real, turn this into a mini project. Have your child collect any unused plastic bags. Encourage them to make something out of that plastic – maybe a bracelet or puppet. You could get very artistic and cut pieces of several bags of various colors and glue them to paper to create a piece of art.
Some books won’t lend themselves to an art project but sparking that creativity inside is the point!
Try to remember this and do similar activities when reading the next book with your child.
Books and writing or drawing
Many books bring out the author within us because we are seeing and reading model writing. Reading a favorite book can cause us to want to become that author and write a book of our own. Looking closely at beautiful illustrations can sometimes prompt us to draw. A favorite among many children of all ages, the Elephant & Piggie series, has made many young readers want to write humorous stories with fun text of all shapes and sizes.
Illustrations like the ones in Where the Wild Things Are or Ezra Jack Keat’s The Snowy Day set a good example of a range of illustrations, some simple but engaging (The Snowy Day) and others detailed and whimsical (Where the Wild Things Are).
Books and theater
Making books into movies or plays is a popular thing to do – just look at Hollywood or Broadway! Encouraging your child to do something similar is a fun way to make the book come alive – and has the added benefit of getting to know the story or topic in a deeper way. This is typically done with fiction books that feature characters, settings, a problem, and a solution, but you could get creative with nonfiction texts, too.
Pretend you and your child are news anchors and are reporting on new topics. Make a family podcast and share some cool new facts that you and your child learned about construction, the rainforest, or service dogs. If there are items lying around the house or playground that you can use as props, go for it! If there are siblings or friends around, see if they can work together to put on a production. Either way, make sure it’s a fun extension activity and not an exact match to the original story.
These ideas make reading more engaging and memorable for you and your child.
What are some other activities you’ve paired with reading? What have you done before or after a favorite book that has strengthened you or your child’s understanding of the book?
What sort of books have been your favorite to plan activities around? Has your child’s teachers or school given you any assignments or ideas?