Children’s books help kids learn how to play and interact with the world around them. As the child care professional, you can make reading even more fun and engaging by bringing books to life to make reading feel real. By using art projects, objects found in nature, and a little technology, you can take a story right off the pages and into the child’s reality.

Begin by following these easy steps:

  1. Read a book with your child that he or she really enjoys.
  2. Discuss what he or she likes most about the book.
  3. Find items that correlate to the story and incorporate them into a fun activity.

We’ve compiled a few examples that can help you bring a book to life and help a child get an even better understanding of the story.

Blue banner with text saying "When your daily nanny makes every day magical" and showing a caregiver and a toddler sitting together, smiling and clapping.Virtual Playdate Project (Ages 4+)

In the past few years, some really great books came out that helped families through the pandemic, and “Are Your Stars Like My Stars” by Leslie Helakoski was definitely one of them. By showing how people all over the world express themselves through color and culture in surprisingly similar ways, it’s all about making real connections even when you’re far away.

One way we can make reading real is through the use of online chat platforms like Zoom or Google Meet to host virtual playdates with your child’s favorite buddies and family members. In “Are Your Stars”, the author asks the question ‘do you see what I see?’ when looking at a color or an object in nature. Have each child create poster board or construction paper collages based on a selected color or theme. Then, share and compare them on-screen to see what is strikingly different as well as curiously similar.

This project is a real conversation starter, and connects everyone despite their distance apart. If you’re in another neighborhood, city, state, or even overseas, what do you think of when we talk about the color red? Do you have the same types of trees and flowers in your backyard? Try using a textile collage style similar to what the illustrator Heidi Woodward Sheffield uses in the book to tie it all together.

Choose Your Own Adventure (Ages 5-8)

“The Biggest Story” by Sarah Coyle is another book that has been helpful during these times of extended isolation, by encouraging children to really dive right into their limitless imaginations. The main character, Errol, finds himself bored and uninspired. His busy mother suggests that instead of waiting on her to tell him a story, he should create his own. What follows is this wild, wacky story that he imagines, featuring many animals, characters, and far-off worlds.

After reading it together, pull out a pencil and sheet of paper and help your young reader brainstorm his or her own story. Once you’ve pieced together your unpublished masterpiece, you can bring it to life with a sock puppet show using very simple arts and crafts to make faces and costumes. Are there animal characters in your tale? Use paper plates to make a monkey mask or a cat with paper whiskers. Is there an exciting car race or train ride? Use your mobile device to help the child create a short video complete with voiceover and cool filters.

When he or she reads their own story aloud while seeing all of its interesting elements physically come to life, they’ll be so excited to read the next book and keep coming up with ideas that connect what they are reading to their own lived experiences.

Green banner with text saying "When your peace of mind is their new best friend" and showing a babysitter linking arms with a girl.Let’s Rock! (Ages 9-12)

Many children’s books are inspired by actual people and events. The Kids of Widney High are a popular revolving band composed of vocalists with special abilities and instruments played by the teachers and volunteers who support them. Their story was adapted into a chapter book entitled “The Kids of Widney Junior High Take Over the World” by Matthew Klickstein. It serves as an introduction to the band members, but also as a way to help normalize the subject of disabilities and show just how awesome these cool musical teenagers really are.

There are several online music videos of the band. If your preteen has a drum set or even just a couple of sticks, watch one of their videos while singing and playing along. Next, visit a website that serves kids with disabilities where the child can discover ways they can help out and spread awareness. It can be a great way for kids to learn the importance of giving back, while providing them with a better understanding of people who are artistically gifted despite being physically challenged.

If you’re struggling to find new activities, or observe that the child is losing interest in reading, try one of these examples or create your own project with a book that you love. It doesn’t have to be super elaborate or drawn out. The most important part of this is to keep the child engaged, have fun, and help them discover that books are not just words and pictures, but reflections of real life.

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