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What even is book-based play?
Somebody recently asked me about my beliefs and values.
It was a rather hard-hitting question for my sleep-deprived soul, and one that should probably only be answered after at least two morning coffees.
Somewhere in amongst all the umm-ing and aah-ing, I replied “I believe that reading is as important as breathing.”
Especially for children.
Reading aloud to and with children brings a crazy array of benefits.
Letter and sound awareness. Increased vocabulary. Helping little minds make sense of the world. Imagination development.
The list goes on. And on. And on.
If you want to take things to the next level, encouraging book-based play will do just that.
How to encourage book-based play at yours!
What in the holy bananas is book-based play?
It’s when you create play and learning opportunities that take things beyond the book.
These experiences deepen understandings of story and character and help little people make meaning of the texts they have read.
During May, I took part in the #bookishplay initiative over on Instagram, the mastermind of Teri from Petit Book Corner.
A group of book-loving Instagrammers shared oodles of excellent book-based play ideas.
For one of my posts, I shared my process for encouraging bookish play.
Emma from @play_at_home_mummy commented that I should turn my tips into a flowchart.
ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE, PEOPLE!
AKA I take things very literally.
So here you go.
A poster summarising how I encourage book-based play at my place.
Print it out. Hang it somewhere. Hand it to friends.
Be like “that” preacher at Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, and preach!
It’s as important as breathing, people.
Let me walk you through it with a bit more detail.
1. Read a book
This seems like an obvious place to start. So don’t miss this step. It’s probably the most vital step in the whole process.
Let your child have ownership over the process and ask them to choose a book to share together. And you don’t have to be a thespian. I know that some people feel a bit silly reading aloud. You don’t have to worry about putting on a voice for each character. Just read the book!
For example: We read Spirit by Cherri Ryan and Christina Booth.
2. Look for recurring symbols or themes
As I read, I tune in for the main themes or symbols. If you don’t feel confident doing this on the spot with your child, I encourage you to choose a few books and have a go sans child. It goes against my advice in Step 1 of letting your child choose the book- but better to build your confidence in this process first!
For example: Spirit is a tale of a girl who makes a toy boat and experiments with sailing it in different places. It explores the themes of resilience and rising above frustrations.
3. How can you playfully extend the book’s themes or symbols?
Could you set up a Small World? Make some puppets out of paper bags to retell the story? Anything goes at this step!
For example: With Spirit, it was pretty easy- “Hey, guys- who wants to try and make their own boat?”
4. Create and Play
This step will obviously vary based upon what activity you choose to do.
During this step, I also try and tune in for the Teachable Moments.
Model vocabulary used in the books.
Use open-ended questions to ask your young reader about their thoughts on characters and plot.
For example: We gathered our recyclables and began a Design and Make process.
What materials will sink? Which will float? What shape will your sail be? How will we keep the mast upright? Hypothesising. Predicting. Experimenting.
OH EM GEE DO YOU SEE ALL THE LEARNING AND RICH VOCAB HAPPENING HERE?? Teacher-Nerd-Happy-Dance
Boat-making led to some frustrations- “it won’t stand up.” “It’s not what I want.”
HELLO TEACHABLE MOMENTS! We related our frustrations back to the frustrations of the main character.
5. Gather and Keep Exploring
I then try and gather a few books on the same topic/ themes and leave them out so we can keep discussing and exploring. And so the cycle begins again.
NB- I obviously don’t do this for every.single.book we read. Once you start though, you begin to see the possibilities everywhere!
Pin for later to encourage book-based play at yours: