Exploring Books: Valuable Language and Literacy Experiences

It is commonly said that “It’s about the process, not the product” when children explore art and construction materials. In other words, the learning that takes place as children explore the materials, work with the tools, and learn from their experience is more important than what the final product looks like.

The same can be said for when exploring books with young children.  Reading a book, uninterrupted, from cover to cover is a wonderful experience for children, but there are many ways to add rich language and literacy experiences for children beyond listening to the words of the story.  When exploring books with young children, consider some of the following practices:

  • Multiple reads – Plan to explore a book multiple times within a week, month, or project.  This allows children to activate prior knowledge when interacting with the book.
  • Book Walks – Book walks are activities where children get to walk through the pages of the book, exploring the pictures, making observations and predictions, without reading the words on the pages.  Book walks can occur prior to reading a book, or after the book has been read a few times.
  • Ask questions – Preview the book prior to reading it to children to create a list of questions that you will ask during the reading of the book.  You might ask questions about the characters actions or feelings, the conflict, or the end of the story.
  • Plan for discussions – Understand that when you ask questions, several children may have ideas to share.  This will add to the length of time that reading the books will take.  Keep in mind the attention span of the children in your care and be one the lookout for body language telling you that they have been seated for too long..  You may want to plan a stopping point where you can pause, place a book mark in the book, and move on to the next activity.  Pick up the book again later in the day and ask children to tell you the last thing they remember.
  • Alternate endings – Create an activity that encourages children to come up with their own ending to the story.  Children can draw pictures, use clay, or in some other way represent their new ending to the story.
  • Act it out – Add story related props to the dramatic play area and encourage children to act out the story with their friends.
  • Retellings – Create puppets or felt characters that children can use to retell the story.  You can create, or have children create, sequence cards containing important elements of the story.  Children can then use the cards to retell the story in order.
  • Compare stories – You might read several similar stories, or stories by the same author, and make comparisons of the books.

What other engaging activities have you used to explore books with young children? Share on our Facebook page here.