Okay, so following through on last week's discussion of two picture books in Daniel Kirk's Library Mouse series, Sam's friends are all book characters, until a boy named Tom discovers his secret and becomes his "pen pal." I don't want to ruin the book's mystery by giving away all of the details, so I'll just leave it at that.
I love a good mystery, don't you? When you stop and think about it, the best of teachers and writers use it to spark interest in a lesson or a book. In Daniel Kirk's case, he's using a secret to motivate children to read, write, and visit the library. What a genius!
If motivation is the key to learning, then why does it remain as mysterious as Sam the mouse? It doesn't have to be, if we find creative ways to bring it to life, by weaving together stories, objects, art, music, movement, nature, and drama. It all starts with finding that special stone to make that special learning soup. And once you find that stone, children will be quick to seek out and add even more ingredients to the pot.
So, might Daniel Kirk's Library Mouse picture books unlock the mystery of motivating your child to read, write, and connect the dots of learning? Here are just a few ways to get those creative juices flowing and simmering even more:
- Questions to Ponder: How is Sam like a real mouse? Do real mice wear clothes? Where do you think Sam gets his clothes? Why does Sam not want to be seen by people? Why does Tom keep his secret? Why do you think Sam writes so many books? Could you write a book, by yourself or with a friend? What if Sam lived in a bookstore? A greeting card store? A restaurant?
- Play "I Spy" to find a familiar book, and then take a trip to the library to find it: The author has scattered some popular children's books throughout Library Mouse: A Friend's Tale. Does your child recognize one or more that s/he's read or would like to read? S/he could give you clues as to the title, cover, and/or author, and then you could look for the book at the library together.
- Compare/Contrast Book Characters: Ask your child how Sam the Mouse is similar to or different from Library Lion and/or Happy Lion. S/he could draw the book characters while thinking of ideas, and even write a story about the characters meeting. Homeschool parents might like to help a child organize ideas by introducing a graphic organizer, such as a Venn Diagram.
- Talk about the difference between reality and fantasy, and/or fiction and nonfiction. Use some books as examples, such as Leo Lionni's Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse and/or Geraldine, the Music Mouse, and various photographic books about mice.
- Ask your public or school librarian to start a "Writers and Illustrators Club," or start one at your own home! Have each child bring a favorite stuffed animal or doll. Put out plenty of paper, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, and other art supplies, and see if they want to write and/or illustrate some books. You could even read aloud a favorite book, or just put out some favorite children's books to spark ideas and interest.
- If your child is wondering what to write about, have him or her look in the mirror, just as Sam had the children in the library do. What special stories could s/he be holding inside? Is there an author somewhere in there, or an artist of some sort?
- Encourage your child to look out for all kinds of real life connections with books. Like songs can remind us of memories, objects and activities and can remind us of our favorite children's books.
Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in skills, tests, worksheets and such, that we forget to add a dose of fun. Each of us defines that word differently, and your child might have a very different definition of it than you do! So, since you know your child best, please modify these activities accordingly, or omit them entirely. You don't want a simple read aloud to seem like work for your child.
While I'm all for connecting the dots, it'll come naturally for your child if you explore the wonder of picture books together, starting at a very young age. Your enthusiasm for books and reading is the greatest gift you could ever pass on to your child, and the memories will last a lifetime.
In other words, the more you read together today, the less of a mystery motivation will be tomorrow. Here are some prior, related posts which you might have missed:
As always, if you have any books, ideas, or suggestions to add, please leave a comment! And if you know of a parent or teacher who would appreciate this post or series, I would really appreciate it if you'd forward the information. Thank you so much.
Here's a link to the next post in this series: Open 2 Books: Give Me a Library, and I'll Show You the World