Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Getting Kids to Connect MEANINGFULLY with their Characters

I apologize for the, well, the long time off. It's just not been easy to get a moment with my computer without someone interrupting.

But a lot has been going on in my mind to share with you.

A really fun thing - the Kindle...I like the convenience, however, I still prefer dog earring my pages, putting post its where I want to share something with someone, and the feel of going through the book, in my hands.  BUT very easy to take everywhere and pull out. My boys fight for it, so that's good...

Also, I have been working with my kids to go deeper in their thinking. We talk a lot about how kids have to have connections with their book, but I have been pushing MEANINGFUL connections. Not just, "I have a bike too," but "I know how that feels in my body when I am riding my bike. I love the free feeling in my stomach, the way my legs are working hard, and how my breath gets fast with my heart. I like going fast, and feeling light."

So many books have characters with experiences our kids haven't ever how do they connect? ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL. This takes thought, however. You have to know HOW your character is feeling. Examine thoughts, words, and actions. Find character traits. Then ask them to relate. Ask them how it feels in their bodies when they feel that way. What do they do when they feel like that? Have them think of an example of a time they felt that way.

For example, in a book we were reading, Jin Woo, by Eve Bunting, the character is 4 - his parents have adopted a baby from Korea, and he relates the story of how he goes from one feeling to another in this process. The kids easily identified he had a "change of heart" through the course of the story, but I pushed them harder.

I had them write down three character traits of their choice, and next to the traits, I had them write examples from the text as proof of it. Then I gave them an example of how to deepen the connection.

"I know that you all haven't gone through exactly David's (main character) experience, but I saw in the story that he was WORRIED. I saw that when he talked about his stomach hurting when they got the letter that Jin Woo was coming. I also saw it when he watched mom and dad in the nursery and how they were spending so much time preparing the room and fussing over the baby. He mentions a few times how he is scared mom and dad won't have time for him.

I have felt worried too! Not about a new baby brother, but my example is really happening today. Tomorrow I have to go to the dentist and I have to get a root canal. I know those are really painful, and I am so worried about it. My stomach is knotted up, it keeps popping up into my thoughts, and I don't feel like eating. So I can really connect to that feeling with David of worry."

I tell them that it is so important to care about your character and to try and relate on a HUMAN level. Even fantasy stories. None of us have been to Hogwarts, but we can feel with Harry when he feels scared. We all know that feeling.

Wondering why your child doesn't enjoy and engage with reading? It may be that they are not connecting with their character.

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