My children are no longer little. We don’t cuddle up on the sofa and read picture books every day anymore. But sometimes we still do. Yes, even at 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20 years old, they will sprawl out - long arms and legs spilling onto the floor and listen to one of our old favorites - for two reasons:
1) We have deep memories attached to these stories.
2) The best children’s literature is just as much fun to read as an adult as it was when one was a child. Sometimes it’s even better.
If I could recommend ONE activity that positively shaped our family life over the years, it would be reading together. Cuddling up together to share stories created connections, instilled shared memories, produced inside jokes, awakened imagination, inspired play, developed grammar and writing abilities, and cemented a love of learning in all of us. Choosing “living books” as educator Charlotte Mason called them made all the difference.
A living book is one that is beautifully written and that contains thoughtful ideas. It inspires deep thinking and fosters an attitude of wonder, causing us to find connections to other ideas and to see the world differently.
All this from well-chosen picture books? Yes.
Today, I’m sharing one of our favorite Fall read-alouds, a living book on many levels, “The Apple Pie that Papa Baked” written by Lauren Thompson and, just as importantly, illustrated by Jonathan Bean.
I’m also sharing my lesson plans for this book so you can simply read it to your children or also extend that activity in several beneficial and FUN ways.
1) Sit together and read the story. Isn't it sweet? Go slow enough that your children can observe the details in the illustrations. Some of the story is told with illustrations alone. You might let your children “tell” you the story found in the pictures. Don't make it a quiz. Just enjoy the story together. Let them react in their own way - there are no right answers. In fact, they might notice something that you didn’t see.
2) Read it again (in the same sitting or later), noticing the rhythm and repetition in the story. You might use your voice to emphasize how it builds. Don’t talk about the rhythm, just read it in a way that makes it evident.
3) Art: Notice the illustrations - they are made with woodcut printing. From here, you can either find other examples of woodcut artwork or, when you encounter it in other places, see if your children make the connection. “This reminds me of ________.” is a valuable line of thinking to use across all of life.
4) Grammar: Read it another time, emphasizing the ADJECTIVES with your voice.
5) Read it on another occasion, this time, leaving out the adjectives without telling your children you are doing so. They will notice and it will be funny! Talk about adjectives. “An adjective is a word that describes a noun.” Do the adjectives make the story better? You can extend this activity throughout your life this week. Ask your child to be more descriptive by asking, “What kind of __________?” or “Which one?” about everyday things. Whenever they speak a noun, ask for more detail. This will become a silly game, an inside joke, a point of camaraderie and connection with your children.
“How was the car ride?” “Long and boring.”
What kind of orange was it? “Juicy and sweet.”
What is your coach like? “Tall and kind.”
Which sweatshirt would you like to wear? “ - the one that is blue, warm and cozy.”
You can take this grammar lesson as far as you want. We got to the point where we were assigning a part of speech to each kid who was piled on the sofa when we read this story. I was the narrator and one kid would speak all the nouns, one only the adjectives, one the verbs, one the prepositions, one the articles, etc…. It was hilarious! And it was grammar.
6) Do an activity together: Go apple picking. Eat some apples, Make an apple pie.
Isn’t it amazing how much we can do with just ONE beautifully written children’s book? I’d love to hear what ideas you come up with to extend this story into other areas of life and learning. Share with us in the comments below.
At the very least, read this story, cuddled up with your children. Let the rhythm and the illustrations comfort and entertain. Enjoy it!