Monday, January 21, 2013

Get More Bang for your Buck with Kidlit

Get More Bang for your Buck with Kidlit
by Susan Stephenson,

Children's literature ("kidlit" for short) can be expensive, so it makes sense to get as much out of books with our kids as we can. By using a book as the focus for other activities, kids' learning and literacy skills are extended, we get more value for our money, and usually a good time is had by all.

So how can we add value to children's books? One useful way is by combining a shared or independent reading with creative learning activities. To find suggestions for such activities, Google can be our best friend. Many parents and teachers pin literacy activities linked with literature onto Pinterest boards. Also, publishers' sites may have useful information - look for tabs marked teacher notes or similar as they often have excellent activities to do with kids to help them further their literacy, creative and thinking skills. Finally, authors themselves often add value to their books by providing notes, games, colouring sheets and interactive activities.

* Book Resources for Parents - Guest Post by Tania McCartney has a great list of useful places to get you started.

* Here's an example of some lovely enrichment activities built around Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree books. It even has a recipe for Pop Tarts!

* The blog I consider to be an amazing source of activities based on children's literature is Playing by the Book. Zoe comes up with so many creative ideas and her two girls obviously relish them, and love reading.

* Another way to get more bang for our buck with kids' books is to find a different book on the same theme. Pairing a fiction with a nonfiction book on a similar topic contributes to children's understanding of a topic, and also caters to children's genre preferences.

* Adding the watching of a movie to the book it was based on can be a great discussion starter. Ask kids to say which version they prefer and find similarities/differences between the two.

* Brainstorming ideas with your kids about activities that seem to suit the theme or topic of a book gives them more ownership of their learning. Perhaps you could think of great online tools you know, or favourite family games that would enhance a particular book. Make a list of these and choose the ones you think will be most fun and/or most beneficial. This is the technique I follow when I write posts like Activities for Children's Book Week 2012.

* Starting a Mother/Daughter, Father/Son or Teacher/Student Book Club adds a social dimension to reading. It helps kids and adults learn of new and interesting books, and provides an opportunity for linked activities as diverse as crafts and video trailer creation.

* Have a literature/literacy party. Kids can make bookmarks and other cool things. Bring books to swap. Share read alouds. If you're really brave, have food and a sleep over!

Let's look at an example of a book, and some possible ways to get more bang for our buck from it.

Example: a Harry Potter book

For kids with a really good knowledge of the books, have them develop a bestiary of the Harry Potter world's creatures. This is a great way to demonstrate understanding, and practise creative thinking and writing.

For kids with only a superficial knowledge of the books, or only of some Harry Potter books, have them develop a board game with a general Harry Potter or fantasy theme. The board game format lends itself to collaborative learning, and encourages kids to hypothesize, apply, evaluate, and create.

Which is a class's favourite HP character? How will kids find that out? They could create a poll to administer to fellow students using pen and paper, a word-processed document or an online poll maker like Tricider.

Another collaborative activity that develops skills needed for Geography/HSIE is creating a plan of Hogwarts, or a timeline for one particular adventure or book.

Have individuals design their own favourite HP character or an assigned character as a collectible card. Older children can show they have thought carefully about characters by the pictures they choose and the character summaries they write.

Have groups create an improvised advertisement for a particular potion or book. The advertisement could be in the form of a print poster or digital document. If time, groups of kids can improvise an ad using movement, voice, and other drama skills, practise it and then use a video camera to record.

There's a website (with a determined pop-up ad) that has a Harry Potter doll and a Snape doll. They have Draco and Ron too. Could kids design their own paper HP dolls? Or maybe even shadow puppets?

Kids could dress toys in Potter garb and set up shots for their cameras to create a short scene from a Harry Potter book.

For more ideas, browse Scholastic's Harry Potter Reading Club or check out some of their resources on this Pinterest board.


  1. What a great idea for a post Susan, and I'm honoured to be included in your round up of great resources. Thank you.

  2. @Playing by the bookYour blog is a constant source of inspiration to me, Zoe!


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