Children love playgrounds. They are a place of adventure and action. In such a place children can meet others and quickly develop friendships, within the parameters set by their parents. It is always exciting to see how fast young ones can make friends. Visiting an international playground in Seoul I witnessed children, who did not share a spoken language, beautifully enjoying time together on swings and slides.
They shared a desire to play together and communication took place through play, even though they did not share the same words.
Some young ones also love reading. Books can be places of adventure and action. Children can begin to read a text, that their family determines is appropriate, and quickly connect to the reading.
Every book has a purpose. Perhaps it was written to bring enjoyment, like a playground is built to bring. Playgrounds are much more fun when there are others there for the action. Books are more enticing when others are experiencing them as well. They give us a commonality, a point to begin connecting. Parents have the wonderful opportunity to read with their children and challenge them to grow through the experience.
This weekend I was told of a lovely book, Du Iz Tak? (Candlewick Press, 2016) by Carson Ellis. She has written this tale through a fictitious language, but the story is so engaging it has been translated into twenty-four languages (it was taken from that nonsensical language to English, into another language, and then into a fitting nonsensical language). This reminds me yet again the importance of connecting to a text. The connection can be much deeper than to the words alone.
How do we help children connect to a book? As teachers we often use this list to help young readers engage with text.
Text-to-Self: This invites the child to see how the book connects to their own lives. It could be as simple as noticing that there is a dog in the story and the reader herself loves dogs. Perhaps by reading My Old Pal, Oscar (2016, Abrams Books for Young Readers) by Amy Hest and illustrated by Amy Bates, a child recognizes how much they are missing a loved one.
Text-to-Text: Making this type of connection means that the student reads a text and then thinks about how it relates to something else they have read. Maybe reading My Old Pal, Oscar means that the child recalls the book Dogs and their People (2019, Page Street Kids) by Anne Lambelet.
Text-to-World: Connecting the text to the world means the child is thinking beyond themselves. Reading My Old Pal, Oscar may remind a child of the number of pets in need of homes or how hard it is for people anywhere to grieve the loss of a loved one.
Text-to-Faith: Connecting a book that is read to one’s faith is immeasurably valuable. It means a child is taking what they believe and applying it to what they read. Parents have the joy and responsibility of modeling this. When reading My Old Pal, Oscar a child may remember how painful it is to grieve the loss of a loved one and what words his own parents used about their faith to walk through that low valley.
Connecting to a text helps make it memorable for a child. Recalling the book’s purpose will be more natural when deliberate connections have taken place. That invitation to read with purpose will help students relate to others, much like a child at a playground.
When we read, we make connections.