“Reading is the gateway for children that makes all other learning possible.” – Barack Obama
What we do and say matters
How we carry Peace and Anti-bias Education into the classroom is more than these books, and leads us back to them as well.
Once you have the book then what?
Reading with children is different than reading to children. When you have found the book that you believe will delight and inspire children, think about how to read with them. Engage their curiosity and imagination and encourage a lifetime love of reading.
Once you have the books in your hands it is important to think about how to read with children. What matters most to a child is the interaction with YOU! Sharing a story is an opportunity to connect and delight in discoveries with your child.
Here are a few important considerations:
- Consider the age of the child. We have selections of books by age in our “Find Books” section of the website. Once you have found an age-appropriate book read at the pace of the child, follow their interest. Younger children enjoy repetition. Repetition may be in the text of the book. For younger children, it is also reading the same book over and over and over again. Older children enjoy books that expand on their own interests and ideas.
- Start with questions. What do children know about this book or the ideas in the book? What do they wonder? What children already know is important. Engaging their own ideas will increase their interest in the story.
- Pause and take time to notice how the child is responding to the reading. Watch an infant’s gaze and comment on what they are focusing on. Give language to their interests, “Do you see the red bird on the branch?” With older children, listen as they insert questions and ideas into the story. Reflect what they share and wonder aloud with them.
- Ask open ended questions as you get to key moments in a story. “What do you think will happen next?” OR “What do you see?” Wait and listen for their responses.
- Your tone conveys your own interest in the story. Use your voice as a tool while reading. Show delight, curiosity and surprise with changes in your voice.
- Encourage children to explore books on their own. Make books accessible in their environments and delight in how they discover and explore the stories. Teach children how to handle books with care so the story can be shared again. As children pick up a book ask them if they want you to read it with them. Notice all of the ways they enjoy exploring the books.
- We have found great information about effective read aloud techniques in the Jim Trelease Read Aloud Handbook.
There are many videos of children’s books online. When searching for a video to use with children or to share a book with others, choose videos that focus on the books themselves. Many of the videos created have lots of extra graphics and sounds that can be confusing for children. Keep it simple. The art in the books should be the focus.
There are wonderful read aloud videos such as Bodies Are Cool on our Featured Books page.
When looking for good videos of reading online, look for:
- Videos where the book is laying flat on a surface so it remains still during the reading will allow a child to see the illustrations. The video should focus largely on the pages of the book. Great children’s books have wonderful art. Let children enjoy the art and look at the pictures closely as they listen to the story.
- Whenever possible, try to get videos of the authors reading the book. It’s a wonderful opportunity to understand who wrote the book. However, some author readings are more focused on the authors, and the video is taken from too far out to see the illustrations in the book. Choose a video that focuses on the book itself as the first priority.
- The reader should introduce the book with the title and author’s and illustrator’s names. Make sure they give credit to the people who created the book.
- Readings should be slow enough that children can follow the story with inflections and voice changes to bring the story to life.
- As the reader reads the story, there should be pauses to allow children to wonder and think about what is happening. At key moments, they may pause and ask the children about what they think, or if they do something similar at school or home.
- When possible enjoy the reading with children delighting and discovering together. Remember, reading is influenced by the relationship between you and the child(ren). Watch and enjoy the video with your child.
- There are many other tips for reading aloud in person in the Jim Trelease Read Aloud Handbook that should also be implemented when reading online as well.
One of the many ways children learn about their culture, their family and the world around them is storytelling. Even without a book you can share in the art of storytelling with children. The younger the child the simpler the story. Storytelling may be inspired by you sharing an important moment in the child’s life, the child telling a story or you sharing story telling together.
- 4-5 characters
- 1-2 places and
- 2-3 objects
Once I have their ideas, we shake them all up inside our heads, and I begin, trying to set the scene and the characters as best I can. I make up names, I add places, I find unconventional uses for things they have suggested. Sometimes the characters have names that rhyme with the children’s own names, or the names of the teachers – other times it is completely irrelevant. We tell silly stories, soft stories, adventurous stories, stories without any purpose at all, and stories with lessons folded neatly inside them. As I weave the tale, I try to pause as much as possible and ask them for help – “When they got to the door, what was inside?” “A chicken!” “You’re right…it was a chicken,” and so forth.
Sometimes all of the ideas come together (with joy and silliness) and we create something together that is absolutely fantastic.”
Here is a sample of one of Holly’s stories created with the children in her program:
“Well what do you want the story to be about?”
“A STORY MACHINE!”
“Yeah! In a tree! Like Tinkerbell!”
“One with orange wings!”
“And our names! Put our names in it!”
“You need an evil guy.”
“A bad magician!”
“And a castle!”
“And some batteries!”
(My thought process: oh…boy….)
The Story Tree: A Tale with a Happy Ending
In a place on the Earth that is far far far far far far far far far away from everything else, on a hill, in the sunlight, is the most miraculous tree you have ever seen. The tree is so beautiful, it sparkles in the sun, which always shines on it, no matter what time it is – in the day, and even in the night.
This tree, as you can tell, is no ordinary tree. You see, this tree, is the Story Tree. Inside it is a Story Machine which powers every story ever told. It tells stories that are pretend, stories that are real, stories from long ago, and stories that have yet to happen. The Story Tree holds every possible story in the entire existence of the Earth, and without it, people would have no stories to tell. The story machine is powered by several large, important batteries, which keep working as long as the sun is shining on them. And as long as the batteries work, the stories keep coming.
And that is how the trouble began.
Far across the land, in a dark and gloomy tower, in a dark and gloomy place, lived….”Frank!” the grumpiest Wizard of them all.
You see, Frank had a problem. Because he was such a powerful and gloomy and grumpy wizard, the stories about him were always the same. He was always the bad-guy, and never, ever got to have a happy ending. Poor Frank.
Well, one day, Frank had had enough. The ending from his last story was so miserable, so infuriating, that he stirred up his potion, waved his wand, and cast a spell. The sky filled with clouds, the sun disappeared, and the batteries in the story tree ran out – with no sun to power the batteries, to warm its branches, to shine it’s lovely light, withered and froze.
And without the story tree…the world turned gray. And all the stories disappeared. Stories that people made up, stories that were true, even the oldest stories in the world were gone. And with that, imagination flew away – because without stories, where is imagination supposed to go?
All of the world forgot all of the stories, except one beautiful, wonderful, brilliant fairy named….
“Yeah, you! You’re the fairy!”
“Yeah! You are the story machine! You have it!”
“Are you sure? Ok…”
…Holly. And she had sparkly, lovely orange wings, and she remembered how important the stories were. And she knew exactly where she would find the help she needed. And so she went to Tree House Hollow where the loveliest, most imaginative children she knew, went to school. Because even with the gray world – she knew that a child’s imagination would never, ever really go away.
“Children,” she cried, “I need your help! All the stories have gone away, and we must visit the Story Tree and see if we can help!”
“Okay! We can help!”
“Yeah, we are in the story,”
“I want to be a unicorn!”
“If you come with me, you will need something special,” she said, and she pulled out her wand. She waved it, and poof.
(This is where I had asked each child to describe his/her wings, but my memory isn’t all that perfect, so, for this purpose, I sent out a mass message on Facebook to my clever friends, who were kind enough to fill in for me)
Tim had feathered wings of fire.
Tyler, some beautiful, albeit small, butterfly wings that contrasted poorly with his overall appearance.
Sara, blue and black butterfly wings, vibrant as the evening sky.
Nate had wings like an angel.
Mary, a pair of Fairy’s wings, which appeared fragile but were indeed strong and true.
Emily, a pair of wings like a moth, with feathers like a hawk, and all the colors she could think of.
Abagail, a simple pair of birds wings, practical and lovely.
James, a pair of great crow-like wings, black as the night.
And Hayley, like James, beautiful, glossy dark wings as well.
And when all had examined each other and tested their new treasures, they were ready.
And they flew and they flew and they flew and they flew and they flew. And then, they found the Story Tree.
“Story Tree! Please, give us back our stories! We don’t know what to do!”
The Story Tree sighed, and shook its branches. “I wish I could, but my batteries are dead. We need the sunshine.”
“Where did it go?” they asked.
“I’m not sure. But when I think about the stories, I wonder if perhaps, Frank the Wizard had something to do with it.”
“We have to visit him, and ask him to fix it, then!” they cried.
“Be careful,” said the Tree, “he is quite grumpy, and may not want to help.”
And so they flew and the flew and they flew and they flew. And then, they stopped. And there they found the spookiest, the grumpiest, the darkest, the pointiest castle they had ever seen.
They knocked on the door.
“Go away!” said a grumpy, grumpy voice.
“Please, Frank, let us in! We need your help!” they asked.
“No one ever asks for my help,” said Frank, and he cracked the door. “No one thinks I can help. Go away.”
“We think you can, let us in!”
And the door opened.
And there stood the most crinkly, grumpy, floppy-hatted wizard you have ever seen. He frowned at the children, and at the fairy. “What do you want?”
“Please, Frank, the Story Tree needs the Sun, and we think you can help us.”
“Of course it doesn’t work,” Frank laughed (though looking still, quite grumpy) “I decided it won’t, anymore!”
“But, without the Story Tree, all the color is gone. All the joy is gone. We need stories. We have to have stories.”
“I don’t want to be in the stories,” he said. “I’m not going to help.”
The children knew what to ask. (They were always ready to solve a problem). “What can we do?” They asked. “How can we help you? You are so grumpy. You are so mad.”
“I never get a happy ending. I’m always the bad guy! It’s not fair! My magic can do lovely things, too!” He frowned.
“Maybe we can help you – come with us, and we will talk to the Story Tree, and we can help.”
Frank scowled, but he agreed. “We’ll have to make a potion,” he said. “Go find ingredients for the sun, and put them in this pot,” he tapped his cauldron.
And so the children ran out and fetched…
“A unicorn horn!”
“Yeah and ice cream!”
“A talking backpack!”
“A walking and talking table!”
The children threw everything in, and Frank muttered a spell, and stirred and “WHAM!” up flew the magic, pushing away the clouds, and the sun shone down on the Story Tree once more. The batteries filled up, and the Story Tree began to work – sending out all the stories, and everyone remembered. The children brought Frank to the Story Tree.
“Frank, that was very unkind, what you did,” scolded the Tree.
Frank glared down at his shoes. “I was frustrated,” he explained. “I never get a happy ending – not ever!”
“Oh…Frank, I am so sorry!” she cried. “That isn’t fair at all – I didn’t realize. Oh my! From now on, you shall only have happy endings, as long as you promise to use your magic for only the loveliest things.”
And Frank agreed. And so, the children waved goodbye to Frank, and the fairy, and the Tree, and flew back home. And that night, as they were snug in their beds, they heard many lovely stories, from many lovely books, and all of them had the loveliest endings.
And that’s the end of that tale.
Here are a few of our favorite books to use:
The Colors We Share by Angélica Daas adds provocation to an art table set up to explore skin tone paint colors.
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale is a wonderful accent to a block area encouraging children to imagine taller and more interesting structures.
How Do You Dance? by Thyra Heder adds curiosity and fun to a music area encouraging children to dance and explore their bodies with music.
The ABC’s of Black History by Rio Cortez set in a Writing Center provides children literacy support while encouraging them to explore the diversity of their world.
There are many more books to explore in our collection that can be used in curriculum set ups around the classroom. For more ideas visit our “Find Books” page on the website.
For more information about connecting children’s books throughout a classroom, here are some articles from NAEYC.
Teaching and Learning with Children’s Books, an article published by NAEYC, explores the importance of providing books that support emergent curriculum while reflecting children’s cultures and experiences.
Building Bridges to Understanding in the Pre-K Block Center: A Morning in the Block Center, another article published by NAEYC, discusses ways to encourage children’s construction inspirations with support from children’s books.
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