By Mary Scott Hackman, Early Childhood Programs Coordinator, Providence Children’s Museum
Have you ever watched a time-lapse video of a flower opening in the spring?Â I imagine that’s what a child’s brain looks like when it connects with a storybook. Â If you have read aloud to children, either alone or in a group, you know what I mean.Â While you’re reading, you can almost see the child going into a zone.Â At the end of the book, for a moment, she may sit and smile or ask a question.Â But almost every time, if she connects with the story, she will come away with something: a deeper understanding, an emotion, an inspiration, an inside giggle.Â That is the magic of storybooks.
Many ideas and concepts can be conveyed to a child through storybooks.Â Recently, I presented a workshop to teachers of Head Start children about embracing diversity in the classroom through stories.Â In preparation I scoured the library shelves and was delighted to find them brimming with books on this topic.Â There’s the story of the mixed-race child, Black, White, Just Right! by Marguerite W. Davol.Â This book, by a grandmother of two mixed-race grandchildren, is fun and beautiful.Â And it lightly depicts parents playing non-traditional roles so it has broad appeal as it addresses difference within a family.
On My Beach There Are Many Pebbles by Leo Lionni is a surprise as it uses stones to show the beauty of differences in nature.Â Â Then there are authors whose books celebrate cultural differences. Â Ann Morris produced a whole set with images of people from around the world, including Houses and Homes, Families, and her latest, Play.Â There are some books that are simple in their imagery and text. Â It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr has funny cartoon characters that say things like, “It’s okay to wear glasses,” “It’s okay to have different moms,” and “It’s okay to eat macaroni and cheese…in the bathtub.”Â The simple message to kids (and adults): whoever you are, whatever is going on in your life…it’s okay!
Being an early childhood educator, I have had a love affair with children’s literature.Â When I find a new book I feel my brain expanding like the flower.Â It explodes with ideas for how I can use the book, what children will get from it, and what related activities I can offer.Â A storybook is my wellspring, my source.Â It can be yours, too.Â The next time you want to convey a concept to a child or comfort them or even tickle their funny bone, open a book.
You often hear, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Â I’d add that a good storybook can connect a child to a thousand worlds.Â Or just one — theirs!
- Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
- What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child —Â and All the Best Times to Read Them by Pam Allyn
- The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
- The Horn Book Magazine
- Your local library
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Storybooks are the stars at Providence Children’s Museum this weekend during Seussational! —Â a wonderfully wacky celebration full of silly Seuss stories and crazy characters.Â Inspired by Bartholomew and the Oobleck, explore ooey-gooey slime.Â Dress up in Seuss-inspired costumes, create Cat and the Hat-style bow ties, and join a musical Seussical parade!Â Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4 from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM.Â For more information, visit www.ChildrenMuseum.org.