I love Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems! It is so easy for young children to relate to Trixie and the angst that she feels when her beloved stuffed animal is lost. When I give a “Book Talk” about this story, I like to bring in one of my own children’s favorite blankets. I share how the blanket goes everywhere with us, sleeps in my daughter’s bed, and is very important. Then I ask the students if anyone has a special stuffed animal or blanket. I ask them to imagine, “How would you feel if your special thing got lost?” After I let them share their ideas, we read about what happens to Trixie.
Preschoolers (and many older students!) are visual learners. When you sit down to read a story, and begin with a mysterious bag full of objects, I guarantee that 100% of their attention will be on you! I like to fill a gift bag with items and pictures from the story and pull them out one at a time. As each item is revealed, encourage the students to make a prediction about the story. What is it going to be about?! This is the bag of objects I used for There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose!
Introducing a “Key Word” is another way to get our students thinking about the story before we read it. In The Scarecrow’s Hat by Ken Brown, I ask them if anyone knows what swap means. (Incidentally, I did this once, and had a very enthusiastic kindergartner raise his hand and shout, “ooh, ooh, me”! When I asked him what it meant, he replied, “Swap is when you hit your sister real hard on the arm.” I had to keep a straight face and let him know that he was probably thinking of the word swat!) Anyway, we talk about how “swap” means to trade. I invite them to talk about things they like to swap, and I tell them that in this book Chicken wants to swap something with Scarecrow. We make predictions about what they might swap.
Whenever we use reading strategies with our children we have to keep their attention spans in mind. I never use more than 1 strategy with each book and I try to make it quick! The goal is to get them thinking about the book and making predictions before reading but most of the time and effort should be the act of reading and enjoying the story.
What are some other strategies you use with your children to front-load a book and get them to think about the story before reading? I’d love to hear them!
Have fun playing, learning, and reading with your children today!
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