Banish the I’m-Bored Blues from your house with this smorgasbord of activities drawn directly from the pages of some of BookPage’s favorite picture books!
Every month, experienced teacher and children’s librarian Emmie Stuart offers Tips for Teachers, a column of book recommendations accompanied by guides for classroom teachers. Now that homes have become classrooms, BookPage children’s and YA editor Stephanie Appell has selected the most at-home-friendly suggestions from the Tips for Teachers archive to help parent-teachers organize educational, boredom-busting activities with supplies readily available around the house.
A Ride to Remember
written by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Sharon Langley tells the story of her first ride on a carousel in a park that she and her family helped to desegregate. The Gwynne Oak Amusement Park carousel, renamed the Carousel on the Mall, was installed on Washington’s National Mall in 1981. Using Google Earth, show children the carousel. Ask, “Why is this carousel so important that it is deserves a place along the National Mall?” Guide them to the idea that historical objects are valuable and special because of what they symbolize. The carousel itself is just painted wooden horses, but it serves as a reminder of the our Civil Rights journey. It is a tangible representation of the idea that equality means “nobody first and nobody last, everyone equal, having fun together.” Show children other historical objects that are significant for what they represent. Using the Smithsonian’s online collection, we looked at the Greensboro lunch counter and a broken bus window and discussed what these objects represented in the fight for Civil Rights.
It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Children’s book author-illustrator Gyo Fujikawa faced many challenges. In school, Gyo Fujikawa often felt invisible; when her family was sent to an internment camp, her heart was broken. At first, she was so sad that she could not draw, but eventually she began to take comfort in color. Color lifted her spirit, and she wondered, “Could art comfort and lift others too?” Allow time for children to think and journal about a time when they felt invisible, worried, anxious or sad. Come back together and discuss strategies for working through these hard feelings. Ask another question: “What comforts and lifts you when the world feels gray?” For many children (and adults), expressing feelings through a creative project can be a comforting and healthy way of processing emotions. Provide art supplies and let children get lost in a creative project.
Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist
written by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki
Tyrus Wong immigrated from China as a young boy and grew up to become an artist who worked at Walt Disney Studios. Wong attended art school in Los Angeles and studied artwork from China’s Song dynasty. Combining Western and Eastern styles and influences in his painting allowed him to offer a unique artistic perspective to Bambi. Enlarge a few landscape paintings from the Song Dynasty. Give children time to study them and write down or orally share their observations. Then compare the paintings with stills from Walt Disney’s Bambi, or screen the film together as a family. Invite children to share how they think the Song Dynasty paintings influenced Wong’s work in Bambi.
Hi, I’m Norman: The Story of American Illustrator Norman Rockwell
written by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor
Hi, I’m Norman is a solid introduction to one of America’s most recognized and beloved illustrators. In the book, Rockwell explains, “Doing covers is doubly hard because a cover has to tell the whole story in just one picture.” Give children time to share or journal about a humorous or meaningful small moment from their life. Can they tell this story through a single illustration? After they have had time to experiment, brainstorm and doodle, provide blank white paper or a Saturday Evening Post template and let them illustrate their story.
by Alison Farrell
Best friends Wren, El and Hattie hike together and learn that the joy really is in the journey. As author-illustrator Alison Farrell mentioned in this interview, at the heart of her book are some lines from a Mary Oliver poem, “Sometimes.”
Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.
Write these lines on a big sheet of paper and let children share their interpretations. Ask, “Do you do this?” and “What does Mary Oliver mean when she says, ‘Pay attention?’’ When we did this in the classroom, I showed my students this Norman Rockwell painting and this photograph; the two images prompted a cacophony of indignant and incredulous responses! Give children time to copy the lines (goodness, children still need handwriting and fine motor skills!) onto an index card. Their assignment is to “Pay attention,” “be astonished” and decide how they will “tell about it.” This exercise gave me new insights into each child’s individual personality, not only because of what astonished them but also through the way they chose to tell about it. Song lyrics, watercolor paintings, digital presentations and Lego creations are just a sampling of the ways my students communicated their astonishments.
Tiny, Perfect Things
written by M.H. Clark, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper
A young girl and her grandfather walk around their neighborhood and notice the small splendors that surround them. Read the book once through, then read it again and record each of the tiny, perfect things that the little girl noticed on her walk. In the classroom, I wrote each item on an index card and used magnets to stick them on the white board, but you could stick your notes on a refrigerator or bulletin board. Let children determine categories, then divide the items into the appropriate categories. Animals/nature/people was the first (and most obvious) category, but with encouragement, children will expand their thinking. My students recategorized items into living/nonliving, singular/plural, and red/not red; what categories will you create?
My Papi Has a Motorcycle
written by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña
Daisy cherishes her motorcycle rides with Papa. Ask children to reflect on a ritual or tradition they share with a special person. Invite them to write a narrative explaining the tradition. Walk them through a sensory writing exercise and encourage them to address all five senses in their writing. What are the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures of their special memory? After they have crafted their narrative, let them use various art supplies to illustrate their memory.
This is My Eye: A New York Story
by Neela Vaswani
Neela Vaswani’s story of a young girl living in New York City is told with photographs “taken” from the girl’s perspective. Write the phrase, “It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see” on a big piece of paper. Give children time to think about the meaning and then read the book again. Go on a walk around your house, and let children use the camera app on your phone (or a camera, if you have one). Their mission is to take 10 photographs while keeping the phrase “it’s what you see” in mind. When you’re finished, give them time to write sentences to go along with their photographs. When you’re able, you can extend this project by asking children to take photographs in the local community.
by Yuyi Morales
When author and illustrator Yuyi Morales and her infant son migrate to the United States, the library becomes like a second home for them. My students loved identifying the familiar picture books that Morales includes in her illustrations. In the back of the book, she includes a list of “Books That Inspired Me (and Still Do).” Gather some books that have influenced your life. Hold each one up and explain why and how it influenced/es your life. Challenge children to make a similar list. Give them a few days to think about their books. My students and I created life timelines, drawing and labeling our books at the specific points when they first influenced us.
by Randall de Séve, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
A new girl named Zola moves in next door, and the narrator is convinced that inside her big box is an elephant. At the end of the book, one of my nonfiction-loving students inquired, “How big of a box do you need to move a real elephant?” I didn’t have an immediate answer, but I was delighted to discover this article by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. It covers all the fascinating transportation details that were required to move an elephant from the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C., to the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta. We looked at photographs of the journey and even did a few math equations with the details provided. Afterward, we watched a video of an elephant being transported from a conservatory to a wildlife compound.