A Twist on Picture Books

activitiesYou probably won’t be surprised to hear that I love, LOVE picture books. For me, sitting on the couch with a few kids reading books for an hour is pretty much an ideal morning at preschool. But a few years ago I went to a workshop at NAEYC about using photos with children, and heard this wonderful idea for jazzing up a favorite book. I’ve sadly forgotten the name of the presenter, but lots of her ideas have made their way into my classrooms.

This idea works best with a single child, but you could do it with a small group too. Take a photo of the child, and print it out. You could either do the child’s whole body, in which case you’d probably want to print it so it’s 3 or 4 inches tall, or just the child’s head, in which case you’d probably want it to be an inch or two. Print it on real photo paper (or at least card stock), and cut it out. Put a little piece of sticky-tac on the back, or double-sided tape that’s not too sticky. Then have the child pick a favorite book to read together. Let’s say the child’s name is Zach, and he chooses The Runaway Bunny (and a finer choice he could not make).

Turning to the first page, you plop Zach’s photo right on top of the little bunny and read, “Once there was a little Zachy who wanted to run away…” When you turn the page, move the photo. “‘If you run after me,’ said the little Zachy, ‘I will be come a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.'” And so on, until the end. “‘Shucks,’ said Zach, ‘I might just as well stay where I am and be your little Zachy.’ And so he did. ‘Have a carrot,’ said the mother bunny.”

You have just made Zach the protagonist in all of his favorite books. Ta-da!

It works best with books the child knows very well—part of the joy is seeing themselves inside familiar plots and roles. If you’re reading to more than one child at a time, you could try to keep each child’s picture with a particular character, but it can get confusing. It works better just to take turns.

This is a great game for kids who love books, but it’s also a way to get kids who don’t like to read more engaged. Every book is now about them!

Thank you, to the teacher whose name I forget, for teaching me this one. It’s like magic.


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