Monday, June 4, 2012

Worms and School Visits

Not long ago, I volunteered again at the Children’s Garden at the Arboretum.  My station was set up to teach kids about recycling and to show them live worms.  Every kid—even the girls—stretched out their hands to hold a slimy wiggly worm.  And they loved it.  They giggled and squealed.  Holding and feeling the worms helped the children connect with the mini lesson.

What does this have to do with writing for children?  Plenty!  Imagine you’re doing a school visit.  You sit before a group of children.  You open your book, read a page and then show the illustrations.  But halfway through the story, a kid or two loses interest.  Soon more kids are talking, and only a handful is paying attention.  How can you avoid this?  How can you guarantee that you’ll have an entire captive audience? 

Several days before your visit, locate items that are mentioned in your picture book which are easy to transport and light enough for children to hold.  You can bring items that are interesting to touch, taste, and smell.  Take small musical percussion instruments so that children can make sounds that may relate to the story.  Put the objects in a colorful box in the order in which they appear in your story, so that when you reach for them, you can easily pass them out.  Reinforce listening by having the children raise their hands if they are holding an object that is mentioned in the book. 

By using their senses, children will connect better with the story.  More, they will actually be involved in the story.  Children will not only enjoy your presentation, they will remember you.  (And if your book is about worms, you’ll have a giggly, squealing audience—just don’t forget the wipes!)

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