By Stacey Loscalzo
The temperature hovers around freezing. Snow covers the playground. No one wants to play outside but all the children are tired of the usual indoor games. Each year, I promise not to let the winter blues invade our house but as I flip calendar pages, cabin fever hits despite my best efforts. That’s when I pull out the books and get to work banishing the winter blues.
To get creative with reading and writing activities:
Choose a family read aloud: Children of all ages can enjoy listening to the same book. In order to embrace the family read aloud, it is important for parents to remember that picture books are still great for older children and that younger children benefit immensely from listening to chapter books. For older children, picture books activate visual thinking, tackle tough subjects in approachable ways and remind children, who may have forgotten, that reading is fun. For younger children, chapter books build background knowledge and vocabulary and teach important story structures.
Picture books that can be fun for the whole family include, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, Bear Has a Story to Tellby Phillip Stead and Blackout by John Rocco. For family chapter books check out, Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke and Marty McGuire by Kate Messner.
Create and perform a play based on a favourite book: While children love listening to stories read aloud, they also love performing. Combine these loves by choosing a favorite book and turning it into a play. To keep things simple, choose a book with a small number of characters and lots of action. Depending on the age of the children, write a script, plan costumes and create tickets for a planned show. For younger children, parents can read a book aloud, while the children take to the stage, performing actions as their parents read.
Some book ideas for younger children include, Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman, I’ll Save You Bobo by Eileen and Mark Rosenthal and Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox. Books for older children that contain a small number of characters include, Let’s Go for a Drive by Mo Weillems, The Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker and Mouse and Mole, A Winter Wonderland by Wong Herbert Yee.
Hold an election for your family’s favourite book: While most families have favorites books that all children agree on, there are also books that become personal favorites. Plan a “Favorite Book Election” and encourage children to campaign for their favourite book. Children can create campaign posters and speeches in an attempt to convince other members to love a new book. If children don’t have particular favourites books, create an election around famous book characters. How about Clifford vs. Biscuit? Or Franklin vs. Froggy?
Listen to an audio book in front of the fire: While reading aloud is great fun for everyone, listening to audio books gives all the family members a chance to relax. As the temperature drops and fires fill the fireplaces, choose a selection of audio books, curl up by the fire and let the author and narrator do the entertaining. Visit your local library for books on CD or download books to your computer or smart phone.
Some books that transition especially well to audio include, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Clementine by Sara Pennypacker.
Watch your favourite book during family movie night: Your family can celebrate their love of books during family movie night. Many great children’s books are used as inspiration for quality films. It is exciting to watch a movie after the family has read the book and compare how the book and movie are similar and different. It can be equally fun to watch a movie before reading the book. If a book seems a bit advanced and complicated for your children, it can work well to watch the movie before reading the book. By doing this, younger children can gain a basic understanding of the characters and plot and will then be able to relax and enjoy the book.
Here's a list of recent movies based on great books.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Dr. Suess’ The Lorax
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Ramona and Beezus
The Secret World of Arrietty