“Once upon a time”…
Written by Andrea J. Fonte Weaver, Founder & Executive Director, Bridges Together Inc.
So begins the traditional story. That proverbial question hasn’t changed over the decades but our understanding about reading has, even giving way to a specialty in education.
Reading supports our development as people across our lifespan. Research has shown that reading to infants helps them develop important vocabulary and social skills. Reading can exercise our brains – which are muscles – helping us learn new things as well as exploring different topics, points of view, and feelings.
“Bibliotherapy” is a technique used by adults to explore difficult topics with children by reading and discussing a book about the topic. This allows for listeners to share as much or as little as they want, and to put the focus back on the character or plot, rather than themselves.
Like learning to walk, learning to read is a process. When babies open a book and turn the pages, they are taking the “first steps” of reading.
Today, teachers are endorsing many “new” ways to “read” – including “reading” graphic novels, listening to audio books, and watching videos of books being read (plentiful on YouTube). We can also read “books” on our phones or mobile devices.
Here are some ideas to help you engage with your grands around books. If you are wondering where to begin? Check out this video of our favorite intergenerational books.
Spark A New Conversation About Books
- What is your favorite book of all time? Character?
- Have you ever read to someone else? If so, tell me about the person and the book.
- Have you ever been in any reading programs or book clubs? (This exemplifies lifelong learning and friendships!)
- How do you learn about the news and current events? Has this changed in the last decade or ten years?
TIP: It is good to use big vocabulary words like “decade” and then give the definition – or have someone look it up!
Tips for Discussing Books
- What were the lifelong journeys of different characters?
- Were there any stereotypes in the book? In the popular Putter & Tabby series, Mr. Putter is depicted as someone who has goals for the day, but then only eats and rests – reinforcing the stereotype of “old person”.
- Can you compare and contrast your experiences and the characters’?
- Who were the people in the main character’s circle of love (the people who loved and supported them)?
Activities with Books
- Out of the Book. Take the lead from the book and follow up with a related activity. For example, make a collage like Eric Carle’s hungry caterpillar. Or cook a recipe featured in the book. Find a list of picture books about cooking with suggestions for activities and conversation starters on the Bridges Together website.
- Live long distance? Read the same book and then discuss it, chapter by chapter. Consider doing the same “homework” as your student and sharing.
- Read in a novel place. Head into the yard, down by the dock, or in the square.
- Send or bring Flat Stanley on a journey. Read the book about a boy who travels “flattened” in an envelope. Then, make your own Flat Stanley, send him off and ask his recipients to send back photos, videos and written adventures. It would be eye-opening for YOU to take Flat Stanley and write about one day together. Children often have no idea what their grandparents do all day long!
- Share the gift of books. Give them as gifts or collaborate with your grands and their friends to collect and donate books to those in need. It is amazing how many families with young children have books they no longer read and are thrilled to give them away.
So, “What happens next?” That’s a great question to consider after reading a book. We pose that question to you now that you’ve read this column. Share with us at …… Maybe together with our grands, we’ll be able to “live happily ever after!”
Want more… conversation starters, tips, activities about reading? Get a free how-to-guide from Bridges Together. https://www.bridgestogether.org/tools-resources/how-to-guides/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR –
Andrea J. Fonte Weaver is Founder & Executive Director of Bridges Together, Inc., an internationally recognized nonprofit providing intergenerational training and tools for grandparents, schools, communities, and companies. For more info, visit: www.BridgesTogether.org