Every day, there are opportunities to make connections when we read with our children – connections that matter! As I mentioned in a previous post, life lessons in stories are the real nitty gritty of their messages. And, we don’t need to jam values and lessons down the throats of our kids. We can make “natural” connections as we read and talk.
In reading, there are three types of connections: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world. When children can connect something they are reading to themselves, they can identify with the feelings, motives, and actions of a character – either real or fictional. By connecting what they are reading to another story, book, or even a TV show or movie, they can expand the information into a broader context. And, when kids can understand that the ideas, actions, themes (the “So-What” Factor The “So What?” Factor) matter to people of their community, school, or the world, it might motivate them to take action to start or participate in a cause they find important.
With this recent viral posting of the unlikely friendship between the disabled chihuahua and pigeon, we as parents, teachers, and adults have the unique opportunity in real time to talk to our kids about diversity and friendship. We can read stories with them and help them make connections that matter.
This kind of connection to the world can start kids thinking about the importance of making friends with all people – not just with those who they think are popular or cool. We can talk about the values that we want in our friends.
Likewise, reading stories with our children about other unlikely friendships can start conversations about what really matters – we are all people and we are all different in one way or the other. We can compare and contrast animals and do some fun research in an educational way as well. Here are just a few stories that come to mind.
This is one of my favorite stories about an orphaned baby hippo after the 2004 tsunami who is taken to a rescue center in Kenya and forges a friendship with a 130 year old tortoise living there. My students couldn’t get enough of this real story with beautiful photographs. Please notice the Lexile level of 920 makes it way too difficult for the targeted audience of children in preschool to grade 3. Again, I urge parents and adults to read interactively with their children taking time to stop and talk. Ask questions. Help your kids make the connections about why this story matters. What can they do in their own community to help animals? Is there an animal shelter who could use some supplies? One Christmas, my whole family gathered dog and cat food and brought them to a local rescue center. Many local aquariums (or online) allow families to “adopt” an animal through a donation.
In this beloved and popular fictional picture book, a lost baby bat is taken in and cared for by a family nest of birds. This book is often read to young children in grades K-4. When reading it to our own children, be sure to stop and talk about the differences and similarities of bats and birds in their looks, sleeping habits, and diet. Help your kids make connections to the world again by putting up a bird house or bat house in the yard to help these natives make a home in our never-diminishing forests.
This is one of my long-time favorites. It is a simple read for young children and one that is fun to read aloud to them because of the repetition. I love the predictable parts when kids can chime in with me as I read. There are a number of animals who join Little Beaver on his quest to find friends – all unlikely friends who set out together.
These three picture book stories and the news account of the other can bridge the gap for kids between making friends and helping others in stories and in real life. Kids love stories about animals, especially the babies. We can use them as “natural” life lessons
that kindness, friendships, and diversity matter.
I am attaching a downloadable Read-Aloud Guide for this wonderful picture book, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, because it focuses on identifying the personality traits you value. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach Read You can pick and choose how much or little of this guide to use when reading with your kids. Please note the high Lexile level of this story and read it with young kids first before letting them go off and read it on their own. Have fun with it. I’ve read this story with a diverse population of elementary school students and we all had a great time coming up with lists and lists of qualities we look for in our friends.