BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK
Books are good tools to use to keep your children mentally engaged this winter break, but children need to do more than just read. Children should not only be able to recite words from the text with ease, they should also be able to report what they read and analyze elements-character, plot, and theme-in order to make sense of the story. Below are just a few creative ways to have your children respond to what they read.

All of the activities can be used with the same book, are kid-inspired, and require very little guidance from you. So take a fresh spin on an old idea and get your child ready to read this winter break.

Before having your child start on any of these activities, be sure to select books that meet your child’s reading level. A book that your child cannot read will only make these activities more difficult for your child to complete and quicker for the youth to dismiss. You can inquire about your child’s reading level from the teacher. You may also sit with your young one as they read less-difficult-to-more-challenging books and see with which one your child is most comfortable. Then have the young one use this book to complete one or more of the activities below.

Book mark

Children use everything from photos to receipts to save their place in a good book, so why not have your child create a book mark for a book of interest that will withstand and make them smarter? Cut a four-inch by eight-inch rectangle from a piece of lightly colored cardstock. Fold the cardstock in half, the long way, and glue the inside pieces together. Once dry, have your child write the name and author of the book on one side of the cardstock; on the opposite side, draw three reoccurring objects from the book or write three terms that best represent the book. For example, your child might draw a web, a barn, and blue ribbon or write the words “Some Pig,” “support,” and “friendship” for the book Charlotte’s Web.

Movie poster

On an 11-inch by 17-inch or longer sheet of paper, have your child create a movie poster to publicize a particular book. The poster should include the title of the book, the names/faces of the main characters, and an illustration of an important scene from the story (perhaps their favorite part). Although books do not have movie ratings, have your child write what rating the book would receive were it in theaters. Then have them write a brief description of the book in the lower half of the movie poster.

Facebook page

Older students will enjoy creating a Facebook page in a Word document for the main character in one of their favorite books. First, have your child copy an image of how they imagine the character would look if he were a real person. Your child should also include the character’s status (how they feel for the day or something on the character’s mind) and a list of the possible “likes” of the character, such as music, television, and movies. Finally, have your child insert a table in the document to create a wall of messages written by other characters from the story.

Soundtrack

Tap into your children’s musical talents by having them create soundtracks for one of their favorite books. First, have your child select five scenes from the story to which he or she would like to set music; then, find a song that best represents each of the scenes. This may also be a good way to expose your child to different genres of music. For example, he or she might use Marvin Sapp’s gospel song “Never Would Have Made It” to go along with one scene from the story but Taylor Swift’s country pop song “You Belong with Me” to back up another. Once a song for each of the scenes is selected, have the child read the scenes from the book to you while the music plays softly in the background.

After the wrapping paper has been thrown away this winter break, use these activities as a creative way to help your children understand what they read. Make use of their love of art, media, and music to retain the reading skills they already know.

• China Hill is a teacher at KIPP Ascend Charter School on the West Side.