Making Books Come Alive for Young Children - Interview with Melissa Jensen
Last month was Literacy Month and one way we’re celebrating is by recognizing how we can use books to achieve specific goals for each child. Overall, our philosophy is that every session should include a book. Natalie OHalloran interviewed Melissa Jensen, Teacher of the Deaf at ******* to hear how they integrate books and coach parents along the way. Read on for suggestions about incorporating books into classroom activities and coaching parents.
NO: How do you integrate sharing a book or book reading in your classroom? How do you make it ‘come alive’ for your kids?
MJ: I am a classroom teacher, so I use books a lot. I have a literacy "theme" for the month and create my activities around it. Last month was "Go Dog Go" so I read bits of the book, acted it out, created craft activities related to it and so on. For acting, I had each child take a turn sitting in a car and "Going" with another student holding up a GO sign and telling them to GO. Then the student would change to STOP and tell them to STOP. Another example from that book is having them put on hats and ask, "Do you like my hat?" and answer, "No, I do not."
Another book I used was, "The Itsy Bitsy Snowman". It was great for acting out. I built a pretend hill and we would sled down it, and then have a snowball fight, and then build put the pieces back on our snowman.
NO: What parent coaching strategies have you found to be helpful to equip families to share books with their child?
MJ: I show parents that you don't have to read all (or really ANY) of the words. I have also sent home sticky notes with questions in the book to help the family get started. I have had the fortune to have each of my parents share a book in class so there has been opportunity to coach. I am also lucky that I talk to every family at least 3 times a week. I will mention to them what I am working on and ask questions about strategies. Just today I was explaining to a caregiver about wait time and how critical it is for this particular child.
NO: What do you do in your classroom when you have a reluctant reader?
MJ: I have some little ones who are not yet ready for a traditional "story time" so I choose a lot of books that we can act out or that have movements built in. I use VERY short stories, and multiple senses and presentations. I also sub in the students as much as possible. For example, this week we are doing "Humpty Dumpty". I have a felt board Humpty, a book version, and I use their photos to "fall off the wall". Then, I give each student the opportunity to come sit on a big, red block, fall off, and try to get put back together.
NO: What are some of your “tried and true” books that are your “go tos” and why? Do you have some specific books for specific ages or goals?
MJ: As I said, I used "Go Dog Go" last month. I also used "The Itsy Bitsy Snowman". It was great for acting out. I love all the Karen Katz books for very young children. They work great for eliciting very early language like "open" or even "mine" and prepositions.
Thanks for sharing, Melissa!