Children’s Lit Corner

When I was a little girl, there was an ancient cherry tree at the corner of my block. Happily, the old lady who lived in the house by the tree told the children of the neighborhood that we could eat as many cherries as we wanted! So many summer mornings I would leave my house after my chores were done, and with a book tucked down my shirt, I climbed up into the tree to a particularly comfortable branch, and spend hours reading my book and eating cherries. Those are wonderful memories.

Do children today have similar experiences? I hope so. I think the thirst for stories (and cherries) hasn’t diminished very much as people move from technology to technology. The pleasure a person can find in the anticipation of a day spent in the clutches of a good book is surpassed only by actually getting lost in that book. Of course there is always the risk of reading so much that everything else is neglected. How well I remember lolling around reading on the couch downstairs (because my bedroom was so messy I didn’t want to read in there) and having my mother come in with her hands on her hips, saying, “Kathryn, get your nose out of your book and do something productive!”

Maybe part of childhood should include a significant amount of unstructured time when a person can read, or play outside, or explore nature. This is a little bit counter-intuitive, perhaps. Shouldn’t we give our children all the lessons and sports opportunities and structured learning experiences our wallets can manage? Maybe so, but possibly there can be a compromise that will allow kids to play and learn and also loll about and read. I would hate to see the experience of lolling about reading disappear as electronic entertainment pushes out less glittery forms of amusement. But I think there are enough parents (and children) who appreciate a quiet time with a book that such activities won’t be lost during this generation.

This summer I have been writing short chore lists for my children to complete before they can turn on the computer or go “hang out” with friends. Included on those lists are times for reading or playing instruments or practicing other skills. My hope is that the half-hour of reading will expand to an hour or two, or three. Summer is a wonderful time for many things: playing outside, eating cherries, and certainly READING!

So let’s let our kids read. Here is a list of activities that involve reading or other cognitive processing related to books and stories and imagination. I’d like to see some of your own ideas as well. It might give me something else to include on the daily chore lists!

  • Cut words out of the newspaper. Arrange them on paper to make a funny letter.
  • Find a blog about something you’re interested in and read a few entries.
  • Make a treasure hunt for friends and leave clues to reach the treasure.
  • Plant a flower or vegetable seed. Make a graph to chart its growth.
  • Write a letter to a friend or grandparent and send it in the mail.
  • Make puppets out of paper bags and put on a puppet show.
  • Read the same book as a friend, then talk about it.
  • Write and illustrate a little book of your own.
  • Take a book on your vacation and read it.
  • Learn some words in another language.
  • Write a new ending to a familiar story.
  • Watch a movie after reading the book.
  • Read a book at night with a flashlight.
  • Make up and illustrate a comic strip.
  • Read up in a tree.
  • Read a magazine.
  • Read outside.
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5 Responses to Children’s Lit Corner

  1. Yeah, I was the kind of kid who would use forts and hideaways chiefly as places to read, and also as places to play with my action figures, which I used to make up my own stories and scenarios. Later, I spent hours every day playing Dungeons & Dragons, which was a very literate activity.

    I don’t think my kids do as much of that as I do. Maybe it’s partly their personalities, but I think it’s mostly due to the busy extracurricular schedules and all the entertainment options. Glad I had more freedom of time growing up…

  2. I remember reading while up in a tree, but I confess that I would have had fits if I’d known any of my children were doing such a crazy thing. (On the other hand, at one time my husband rigged rappelling ascenders up the big tree in our back yard, and if they’d used them to get up there and read, I would have been okay with that.)

    One of the things I did for my children in the summer time was have them read ten books of a certain length (depending on their ages and reading levels), and every time they did that, they could go out to lunch with me at a restaurant of their choice (first time we did it was to McDonald’s), and later, we expanded that to a movie of their choice. We did that summer after summer, and I really think it helped them to learn to enjoy reading. We certainly went out to lunch and movies a lot.

  3. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    So I heard somewhere that kids like electronic things. Smartest move I ever made was buying my 4th grader his own Kindle–and I got the cheap, no bells and whistles, ad loaded version. His school has a strict, “No electronics” policy, but when I pressed them about how they could say no to an e-reader, they allowed it. So now David carries his Kindle to school and has won cool points for it from the other kids. I give him a relatively early bedtime, but tell him he can read as long as he wants after that time. His memories may not be like mine–sitting with a book in the tall grass of an empty lot, or in a tree house, or under the blankets–but he will have memories of reading on his primitive Kindle and of his friends wanting to see how it works. I recommend it for all parents, but don’t buy the one that lets them play games. Mis-take.

  4. Emily says:

    I loved reading as a youth. Books were my thing. I hope that I can inspire that kind of love of reading in my own kids (now three years old and two months old), so I really appreciate the ideas listed here for as they get older.

    Funny story about reading to your children. I was attending the Summer Institute for Teachers in downtown Dallas one summer (Three week graduate course that involves reading a few thousand pages of classic literature and spending all day in lectures, discussion groups, etc. Heaven basically. Check for details.) near my father’s office, so I carpooled with him. I met him at work one afternoon and told a co-worker all about the program – which doesn’t sound like as much fun to accountants as it does to English teachers – and my dad said jokingly, “See? This is what happens when you read to your kids every day.”

  5. Barb Bohan says:

    I do think some children still have the same thirst for reading. I participate at Good Reads and there is a group there called Ignite Your Creativity, which is moderated by youth. I do agree that children need unstructured time. I read an article that said it is good for children to be bored and find ways to entertain themselves such as daydreaming, reading, and other creative ways that are unplugged(not that there can’t be some plugged in time too). I think organized sports and music lessons etc are good but not to excess. I benefited from organized sports. PS My grandparents had a cherry tree, which we picked so my mom would make cherry crisp. Yum!

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