Children may learn how to read at school, but they learn to love reading at home… and the degree to which we, as parents, value reading, engage in it ourselves, and share it with our kids is one of the most significant indicators as to whether or not a child will grow up to be an elective reader. We must remain proactively involved in our children’s reading experiences as they grow by continuing to read with them whenever possible, and by looking for ways to underscore the primal connection between reading and joy.
One of the best ways to achieve this is via reading enrichment activities, which build on the ideas or themes within a book and make for a multi-dimensional experience. Films, television shows, and board or computer games based on children’s books abound—but there are myriad other wonderful activities to explore, such as baking recipes, building models, making crafts, attending exhibits, listening to music, or taking trips inspired by books. For example, if your child is reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia”, you might:
- Explore The Narnia Cookbook, by Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson, and experiment with some of the many recipes inspired by the books. Sample some store-bought Turkish Delight, or make your own!
- Delve into the photo-biography C. S. Lewis: Images of His World, by Douglas R. Gilbert and Clyde S. Kilby.
- Explore some of C.S. Lewis’s influences and passions—the Icelandic Sagas, Norse, Greek and Irish mythology, and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (his friend and colleague at Oxford), as well as W.B. Yeats and Beatrix Potter.
- Visit “The Chronicles of Narnia: International Museum Exhibition”, a state-of-the-art educational exhibit currently touring around the world.
- Listen to the soundtracks from the various Narnia films, as well as The Roar of Love: A Musical Journey into the Wonder of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia by 2nd Chapter of Acts.
- Do a study of Narnia art—numerous artists and illustrators have crafted their own versions of the world and its characters.
Of course, there are also all the other books in the series to explore, as well as other works by Lewis—including his poetry and essays. Why not conduct a C.S. Lewis author study?
Enrichment activities work equally well with younger kids. For instance, if your child enjoys The Cat in the Hat, you might:
- Pick up a copy of The Cat in the Hat Songbook. Each silly song has a full piano score by Eugene Poddany, and many have simple guitar chords, too. You’ll find songs that are “good for tongues, and necks and knees, of people, bees, and chimpanzees.”
- Discuss favorite rainy day activities and create a rainy day bulletin board or “Hat Full of Ideas.”
- Visit the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museums in Springfield, Massachusetts.
- Make wearable Cat Hats, with either red and white construction paper or felt, or “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” outfits, using plain red T-shirts and white iron-on letters or transfers.
- Rewrite or retell the story from the cat’s perspective.
- Have a cleanup relay race—set the timer for when “Mom will be home,” don your cat hats, and set to it!
- Instead of “Duck, Duck, Goose” play “Cat, Cat, Hat.”
- See how many (soft or unbreakable!) things you can balance at once.
- Eat cake in the bath.
- Do an author study of Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss). Read his other books, study his biography, and research him in an encyclopedia or online.
This idea works equally well in reverse. My daughter has recently become enamored of horses, and in addition to having riding lessons, making horse masks and other craft projects, and riding hobby horses (and each other) around the house, we have been devouring Jean Betancourt’s Pony Pals series of chapter books. Next up is Misty of Chincoteague!
For more enrichment activity ideas, check out:
Crafts from Your Favorite Fairy Tales by Kathy Ross.
Story S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-r-s: Activities to Expand Children’s Favorite Books by Shirley C. Raines and Robert J. Canady.
www.thebestkidsbooksite.com—“An Interactive Media Channel where Books, Crafts, Podcasts, Online Video, and Web Resources Intersect”
Disney Family Video's crafts section—for craft ideas Or simply start by conducting an internet search on a beloved book or story title, and see where it takes you. Ask your librarian for even more resources!
EMMA WALTON HAMILTON is a best-selling children’s book author, editor and arts educator. She has co-authored twenty children’s books with her mother, Julie Andrews, five of which have been on the New York Times best-seller list. Her own book, Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment (find @ your library), premiered as a #1 best-seller on Amazon.com in the literacy category. Emma is a faculty member of Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Writing and Literature Program, where she directs the annual Southampton Children’s Literature Conference, and is Executive Director of the Young American Writers Project, an inter-disciplinary writing program for middle and high school students. She also works as a freelance children’s book editor and teaches picture book writing courses at the university and online. Visit emmawaltonhamilton.com for details.
Photo credit: Kids making Cat in the Hat hats at the Raymond Timberland Library. Image used under Creative Commons license.