This is the only real oil painting that I own. I commissioned it 12 years ago especially for my newly purchased cottage near the beach – a house, by the way, that I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever be able to buy. Every evening, with the electric fire place blazing, I look at it in the dark and quiet living room while I reflect on my day. I like my pelican -named him Pete -because it reminds me of myself – strong, determined, and proud. These – along with kind, loving, and generous – are some of the words I would choose as my own character traits.
As a Reading Specialist, I believe that it is very powerful to read books to your kids and talk about them as you read together. When your kids can figure out that a character is “like me” because he or she is brave or scared, smart or funny, they make a connection between a literary character and themselves which brings the fictional character to life. This allows your child to understand character motives, feelings, and actions that move the story forward. I’ve worked in schools with students from first to 12th grade (and college) and all English Language Arts classes require that kind of deep thinking about characters.
Those of you who follow me know that I am a big proponent of reading aloud to children using high-quality picture books and talking about them as you read. The power of this interactive reading is well documented. It is my opinion that this kind of reading should go on from the time your small child can talk about a book right on up to junior high. Yea, I know what you’re thinking about that age. In the junior high school and high school,though, we read appropriate stories to students all the time using them as examples or introductions toother subjects. As the parent, only you know what is acceptable with your own children.
Again, the appropriate books are the key to kids of all ages. Refer to the Lexile chart on the side and remember that kids can understand a book read to them that is about 2 years above what they can read alone. Please, please, please take note of these reading levels of books advertised to children. In my opinion, they are often way too hard for an average reader of the suggested age to read and understand alone. By all means, read together first, and then let your children read alone if they want.
Below is a list of stories that I like because they contain characters who exhibit traits of strength and resilience, determination, and pride.
By helping your children analyze character traits in fictional characters at a young age in the natural setting of reading together in your own home, it enables an easy transition to using this kind of scrutiny when your kids are called upon to do it in school.
Start by asking your child to talk about his/her own personality traits and then guide them during the reading to think about actions of characters and what trait it shows. Ask if the trait is a good one or not and why. After reading, have some fun talking about what would have happened if the character exhibited a different trait. How would the story be different? A character – like real people – can change during a story. Talk about that too. Remember that during character analysis in school we always ask for proof from the text. Go back into the story with them and help them find the proof. Help them to become “Smart-thinking Readers!”
I’d love to hear from you about what books you read and the character traits you and your children came up with for them. “Happy Reading!”