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Read Up! 7 Creative Ideas to Inspire a Love of Books

Chowdhury lead image

We all know the power of cuddling up and reading a book together, but research suggests that teaching children to read is about much more than repetition and memorization. That’s why Dee Dee Chowdhury goes way beyond story time to turn the four-year-olds in her classroom into book lovers.

“Stories teach children to listen, to imagine, to speak, and to write. Stories can help kids learn empathy and respect differences. There is no end to what we can learn from a book,” says this award-winning educator. 

Ready to take your book learning to a new level? Hear from this master teacher—who also holds a master’s degree in English—are seven incredible ways to really make reading come alive.

1. Become a (Google) translator.

Chowdhury speaks four languages (English, her native Bangla, Hindi, and Urdu) and she believes that simply learning to say “hello” in other languages teaches children respect for others. You can incorporate foreign languages into your child’s learning, even if you don’t speak one. Here’s how: Grab your little one’s current favorite book, crack open Google Translate, and discover how to say some key words—like fire truck, wheel, dog, or red—in Spanish, Japanese, or whatever you please. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your little learner can pick it up!

2. Make a 3-D book.

Use an empty cereal box to make a replica of your child’s favorite book. Have your child draw her own cover illustration on a sheet of paper—a sweet rendering of Bear Snores On, perhaps—and glue it to the front of the cereal box (it’ll look like a closed book standing on end). Read the real book together and ask, Who wrote it? Add the author’s name and the illustrator’s name (if there is one) to the front cover. “The author does all the thinking and all the writing. It’s a very interesting job and it’s important for children to know that,” says Chowdhury.  

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3. Write your own story.

Use your child’s name to write a story. On the first page of your book, write the first letter of your child’s name—like an M for Malik—and let your child pick a word that starts with the same letter, like magic. Write down the word and let your child create an illustration to go with it. On the second page of the book, write and illustrate the second letter of his name and so on until his full name is written and the book is complete. Ask your child who he’d like to dedicate it to (from a favorite aunt to the new friend from school). Add the dedication to the inside front cover, and invite the guest of honor over (or get on Facetime) to read the story together. 

4. Have a poetry slam.

Read a poem together. From Maya Angelou to Emily Dickinson, there is a wonderful world of poetry for children to discover. Look for shorter poems and read one aloud while your child listens. Ask, Did you hear any words that rhyme? “Children are often able to tell you right away,” says Chowdhury. Recognizing that cat, hat, and mat rhyme helps kids learn language patterns and sounds that are essential to learning to read on their own.

5. Create a book theater.

Get several sheets of large poster board or card-stock and pull a beloved book off the shelf (we love The Very Hungry Caterpillar). Read the book together. Then, using one sheet of poster board for each page in the book, have your child create a picture for every scene.  If you like, try using different art materials (like crayons, construction paper, paint, markers, etc.) to create unique illustrations for each page. Once she’s finished, put all the “pages” back in order and find a small, attentive audience—such as Dad or even the family dog! Read the book together and have your child turn the extra-large pages as the story unfolds.

6. Grab some books on tape.

  Download a great children’s audio book (Audible has a bunch of fun titles to choose from), turn it on, and let your little star act out the story. This gets kids moving, really interacting, and really listening. “When I put a story on tape, listening skills grow, and so does a child’s ability to visualize pictures. Their imagination opens up,” says Chowdhury. 

7. Read all about it in The Family Post.

Make your own newspaper! Start by checking out the elements of a real newspaper together, like the front page, comics, and sports section. Talk about how the front page is where your community’s most important stories are published, and discuss what your family’s most important story of the week might be. Get a new pet? Take a picture of your furry friend and write up a report. Make it your own: include some local weather reporting, perhaps the scores of a recent T-Ball tournament, or even an interview with the budding young artist whose work adorns your fridge. Play the role of “typesetter” by typing up your child’s stories on the computer newsletter-style, and then print out copies for home delivery! 

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With all of these creative ideas, does Chowdhury ever just sit down with her class and, you know, read a book? “Oh yes,” she says. “I use traditional story time for transitions, to calm kids before nap time, or gather them for lunch.”

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