This is a guest post by Margaret Wellwood, a children’s book writer, editor, and grandmother. Margaret offers here her take, with links to some of her favorite stories for sharing.
How Can We Teach Little Ones to Value Books and Stories? Nine Tips from the Trenches
Tender-hearted toddler that she is, Eliana loves babies. Here, she’s immersed in the babies and buzzing bees in Laurie Salisbury’s Nothing to Fear.
Black and White for Tinies
The endearing drawings in Baby Animals Black and White held great appeal for two-year-old May. Indeed, her profound comments on that wordless little volume ushered in an illustrious career as Book Review Assistant, Toddler Division.
Perhaps May had done her research and was hearkening back to her earliest days. According to Gary Heiting, OD, she could only see in shades of gray for the first week.
Make It Work
I announce, “I’m going to read a story.”
“Elly ’tory!” asserts my small charge.
Eliana can “read” from back to front, skip pages, and say much or little about the pictures. I do, however, try to keep the book right side up and out of her mouth.
When it’s my turn, I may or may not read the text as is—most often I just comment on the pictures. Eliana can turn the pages for me, but they must be turned one at a time, and only after I’ve given permission. I always keep the book right side up and never, ever put it in my mouth.
Growl, Meow, and Roar
Read with lots of expression. Franklin in the Dark offers great opportunity to hone your drama skills as Franklin’s would-be counselors growl, roar, quack and chirp their sage counsel. Little ones love to participate, too—encourage your child to meow and growl!
Little ones aren’t designed for sitting still, and many of the rest of us do too much of it. Eliana and I like to yawn, stretch, and hug along with the parents and children in Bedtime.
Drama Kings and Queens
A special young man and I acted out a highly-edited version of Leo Tolstoy’s famous Christmas story about Martin the Cobbler for a group of lower elementary children. This classic take on Matthew 25: 34–40 can be retold very simply for younger children, and it gives older ones an understanding of another era, and of hardships that few of us have experienced.
Not only do drama kings and queens enjoy acting out stories, drama can play a critical role in teaching children to be kind. According to Marie E. Cecchini MS:
Children who participate in dramatic play experiences are better able to show empathy for others because they have ‘tried out’ being that someone else for a while
In the Forecast . . .
Children love to predict, and what a great way to build suspense before you turn the page! In fact, children’s picture books should be laid out so that the suspenseful text is on the righthand page, prompting the young reader to turn.
Franklin Wants a Pet is great for that. After all, what could Franklin possibly want other than a kitten or puppy?
The Monkey Goes Bananas is an unusual story with very few words and a wealth of opportunities for making predictions.
Where Is That Cat? is a perfectly predictable story—and perfectly delightful because of it. We all know that the cat will hide from those who would take him away from Miss Perkins. The only things we don’t know are where he’ll hide next, and when Miss Perkins will realize that he’s right where he belongs.
What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? is the ultimate guessing book, and provides opportunities for questions like, “Does your mom ever tell you to roll up your pant legs so you can hear better?”
In the same vein, Whose HOUSE is This? has us guess what (besides termites) live in a termite hill, and what lives in a burrow, flaps its flippers, and screams like a donkey.
Use the language itself to make predictions
Many of the Dr. Seuss books (Green Eggs and Ham, anyone?) provide opportunities to predict based on rhyme and pictures.
Little Bunny’s Own Storybook uses context clues (e.g. Little Bunny is sad, but his story is the “antidote”) as well as rhyme to encourage children to make predictions.
Be astonished when your young listener predicts that the monkey will get the bananas, or that the picky eater will eat green eggs and ham in a house AND with a mouse. Who knew?
In the Know
Knowledge is power, they say. And isn’t it fun to be in the know? In Where Is That Cat? only you and the cat know where he’s hiding. And when Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, the dog, and the reader know what’s going on—the two diggers, not so much.
Harry the Dirty Dog features another savvy dog. Rebellious but beloved, white-furred, black-spotted Harry escapes for a happy day of grime time. Alas! He reappears as a black dog with white spots. Even artful renditions of old tricks cannot persuade the family that this “new dog” is their beloved Harry. What will it take?
Read a sweet, comforting story at bedtime—and try not to get tired of reading the same one night after night! Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon is a classic, and so is The Runaway Bunny. I Love You, Daddy is an oversize board book with wonderful, comforting pictures.
Play before Work
Someday May and Eliana will learn that some books contain algebra problems, and historical facts to memorize. And hopefully, they’ll be fine with that. But for now, books are treasures to share with family, or for downtime with a stuffed animal or blanket. Let’s lay a strong foundation of comfort and pleasure for a lifetime love of books and learning.
And let’s remember the Quaker saying, “I shall not pass this way again.” Trust me—today she’s in playschool, tomorrow she’ll be in junior high.
Margaret Welwood savored storytime with the five children she and her husband raised. She now delights in writing and editing books for children, reading and playing with her grandchildren, and tutoring English as a Second Language and literacy.
Please visit Grandma’s Bookshelf to learn about Margaret’s picture books for children and her editing services. Margaret’s books are available on Amazon. You may also connect with her on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and google+.