Your secret weapon: illustrations.
Pictures, art, and any sort of visual are a great way to get your kids interested in—and even excited about—reading. The art is just as important as the story, so don't forget to take the time to linger over the pages and focus on the illustrations.
From Pencil to Print. Check out this video to get an idea of how Mike Litwin, illustrator of New York Times bestselling My Name Is Not Isabella, went through his creative process to bring Isabella—the sassy little girl with the soaring imagination—to life.
How can you captivate your child with picture books?
• Choose beautiful art. It's very common that children will end up picking out books to read based on what the cover looks like. As a parent, you want to be sure to bring home books with attention-grabbing art on the cover and within the book's pages. Better yet, try bringing your child with you to the library or the bookstore and let them select a book to read with you.
• Vary your picture book collection. Don't be afraid to select daring art. Picture books with eccentric artwork or illustrations are a great way to introduce new topics and spark new discussions with your child, allowing them to be more imaginative and ask questions. Conversely, feel free to choose books that may be comforting to your child as well. Realistic plotlines with simple illustrations might move your child at different times in different ways. A more familiar story with simple artwork could be a fitting option before bedtime.
• Tour the illustrations before you read the story. This is a great way to observe how your child responds to and processes what they see on the page. As you thumb through the illustrations together, maybe your child will come up with a story of their own. And especially if your child can't read yet, it can be a fun challenge to go through and see if they can use the illustrations to tell you a story. Or, if you've read the story together before, this can also be a great exercise to see what your child can remember. (They can test your memory too!)
• Engage your child with the art. Explore. Soak it all in. Pause during the story to take time to explain the illustrations, or ask your child what they think about a certain image or artwork. Ask them what they see and how it makes them feel. Think of ways to incorporate your child into the story. See if you can connect them to the artwork or story by relating them to a character or particular instance in the plot.
We read to connect. Illustrations and pictures help form connections.
One of the main goals of reading with your children is to help them build responsive connections and establish an appreciation for language, art, expression, and communication. By sharing art and stories with your child and engaging them with what's happening on the pages, you're opening up their minds to thinking abstractly, creatively, and critically. And, on top of all that, it's fun for everyone!
Imagination is one of the best (and most accessible!) tools for your child's development, and here's why...
Imagination is a super power. Or is the super power just part of the imagination? (How often does your child dress up as Batman, Superman, or some sort of newly-invented super hero?)
In addition to allowing your child be anyone or go anywhere, an active imagination enables your child to develop a strong sense of social awareness. It can help our sons and daughters expand their world and knowledge; to understand and attempt to feel the experiences of others. If you're worried that your child has an over-active imagination, below are a few reasons why you should be celebrating—and nurturing—your child's imagination. You can be proud to know that your child will grow up to be:
• A Problem Solver: Imagination is the window to thinking abstractly and conceptually. If your children can visualize a rainbow stretching over a faraway land, then they can think to magnificent measures. Your kids are able to instinctively adapt photographs, pictures, or real-life scenes they've seen to create something grand out of their imagination—or maybe they just thought it up all together. Imagination enhances memory, thought processes, and expands visions and vibrancy in the mind. When playing make believe, there's usually some sort of conflict that needs to be resolved, and your kids have the most interesting ways of going about that. They learn to think out of the box.
• Self-Confident: Your children need to feel like they can do anything or be anyone (an astronaut, a nurse, a firefighter, a veterinarian, a rock star)—it's this sense of self-direction that enables them to believe they can move forward in their lives with big dreams and goals. This builds and develops confidence, especially in their abilities and achievements. It also allows them to feel in control during situations that may be scary or unfamiliar.
• A Strong Communicator: Playing pretend, or acting out real-life or made-up scenarios help your children explore relationships. By playing house, for example, your kids imagine how it feels to be a particular person in a certain situation. This practice teaches empathy, sharing, understanding, and cooperation. It also introduces them to the importance of language and expression, i.e. words, sound effects, hand gestures etc.
• Best of all, imagination teaches your child to be adventurous, fearless, and creative! Playing make-believe or pretend can help your children work through fears, doubts, and worries about real-life situations. They can then take those fears and learn how to tackle them….using their imagination!
Where should you start to help spark a healthy imagination?
Read and share stories! Books, picture books, sounds, and stories are a few of the most important things that help trigger more creativity and imagination in your child. Make music and draw together. After all, your child was designed to be imaginative, inventive, maybe even a little silly at times, and they have you to share those qualities with.
Coming Next Week!
What is a reluctant reader?
A reluctant reader is someone who does not express an interest in reading. There are many different levels of reluctant readers, from kids who just need an extra push to those who may act out during silent reading or when it's time to read for homework. If your child is misbehaving when it comes to reading, it might be helpful to do a little digging to get to the root of the problem. Don't be afraid to think outside the box or try new things with your child—you might just be the one who helps them get excited about reading!
Here are a few tips for helping out a reluctant reader:
• Talk to the teacher to see if he or she has noticed any problems with your child's reading abilities or can offer tips for you to try at home.
• Become a role model reader—when your child sees a person they look up to enjoying reading, they may want to join in on the fun too.
• Individualize the reading experience. Every child is different, so make sure you are catering to each child's interests, needs, and levels for learning.
• Children need to "see" themselves in the story they are reading. Make sure to find books that your child can directly connect with.
At the end of the day, the important thing is that your child is having fun reading and learning because that is how they will continue to grow.