A snow day brings joy to children and sends parents scrambling, but with planning, it’s easy for to keep kids engaged and productive through something as simple as a book.
“Reading is a critical step in educational and emotional development,” said Terri Collier, West Virginia University Extension Service literacy specialist. “It helps develop concentration, language and logical thinking skills in children.”
Collier said that a snow day is an opportunity for parents, caregivers or older siblings to keep a child positively engaged and immersed in the many benefits books can provide.
“Starting the habit early allows the child to associate reading with pleasure,” she said. “They’ll view it as an indulgence and seek out books on their own as they grow older — then reap all of the benefits that a healthy, lifelong relationship with books provides.”
To actively engage younger children who are starting to read, practice “shared reading” in which both child and partner are actively participating. It’s important for the reading partner to create a fun, positive experience for the child. Techniques to engage in shared reading include echoing, unison, whispering and turn taking.
Many activities can be paired with a book which include writing or expression through art. All children are able to make what they read more meaningful and increase comprehension through drawing or painting a picture, or creating a sculpture relevant to the story.
Special supplies aren’t needed; try using found objects around the house to make characters, places or items from the story. Example items include egg cartons, paper bags, cardboard boxes, newspaper or paper towel rolls.
Writing activities strengthen the connection to the words on the page and can reinforce learning and literacy skills even further. Shared writing, like shared reading, can also be a fun activity, but requires active participation from the writing partner.
Another activity that can be effective involves children making up their own stories through writing letters to characters from the book, or writing an alternative ending to the story.
The following reading list from WVU Extension Service and AmeriCorps’ statewide Energy Express Program and provides guidance on age appropriate books for children:
Books for younger (5-8 years old) students:
“When I Grow Up” by Al Yankovic
“How I Became a Pirate” by Melinda Long
“The Sandwich Swap” by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah, Kelle diPucchio and Tricia Tuso
“Llama Llama Home With Mama” by Anna Dewdney
“Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza” by Philomen Sturges and Amy Walrod
“All the Water in the World” by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson
Books for older (9-12 years old) students:
“Wilma Unlimited” by Kathleen Krull
“The Princess and the Pig” by Jonathan Emmett
“Koko’s Kitten” by Francene Patterson and Ronald Cohn
“Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“One Hen” by Katie Smith Milway
“Now and Ben” by Gene Baretta
Of course, it’s important to choose books based on your child’s preferences and interests.
Energy Express is a summer literacy and nutrition program that helps youths to maintain reading skills and ensure that children of the community have continued access to nourishing meals.
Adult mentors read with children one-on-one and make learning fun for small groups of school-age children by creating a safe, enriching environment focused on reading, writing, art and drama.
To learn more about the Energy Express program or to get tips on reading aloud to a child, visit energyexpress.ext.wvu.edu, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU Extension Service
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