I LOVE today’s post. So much so that I wish I read something like it back when my firstborn was, well, first born. This is something I’m sure most parents can relate to (instead of hiding books on the top of the fridge, ours end up underneath furniture, for example), and I’m excited to try out some of the techniques and ideas she mentions in the future!
I’m guest posting for the fabulous Jessica while she is off loving on her new sweet little baby and getting back into the swing of things. Let me introduce myself. I’m Jenna from Shallow Roots living. I’m a 30-something stay-at-home mom to a 34-week preemie little boy, a military spouse, and a retired (for now anyway) teacher. My bookshelves are overflowing, as is my vanity, dresser and craft closet. My kitchen is over used and my running shoes are neglected more than I would like—one day they’ll balance each other out. As traveler at heart, I enjoy the benefits of our military lifestyle which doesn’t keep us in one place very long. I find that surrounding myself with amazing friends, beautiful scenery, and a delicious bottle of wine I can make anyplace feel like home. This shallow root living isn’t for everyone but it suits me just fine.
It was a typical night in our home. Andy was freshly bathed, and wearing clean PJ’s when I asked him to pick out a book to read before bed. He picks a book (or three) from his bookshelf then snuggles into my lap. Sure enough, without fail, he picked THAT book. Again. You know the one. The one you tossed on top of the fridge or into the back of the closet because you have read it so many times you have it memorized. I dread seeing THAT book.
For me, THAT book is…
“The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear” by Don and Audrey Wood
I bought him this book because I loved using it in my classroom. The story was simple and different but now the sight of it makes my stomach turn. After a week in the closet and numerous fits from Andy because of its absence, I decided to steer into the skid. I needed to find a way that I could enjoy the book the way I used to; the way that Andy enjoys it every time we read it.
So how do you enjoy a book when are incredibly over it?
I started by shaking things up and adding a new aspect of it for me. I set out to find the book in another language. We want Andy to be exposed to other languages and cultures even at such a young age. What better way to do this than to take something he already knows and put it in a different language. I found the book in Greek, Spanish, French, Italian and German thanks to Amazon. I picked up the French version since I had taken the language in high school, so it gave me an opportunity to shake the dust off of my conversational French. Even if it was readying the same book changing the language seemed to give it a new twist.
Another way to shake things up for me was to incorporate something we already do. Since he was born I have been using sign language with him. While he doesn’t have any problems with his hearing, I liked that once he picked up on signing it would give him a way to communicate before he could verbally express himself. The thought, oddly enough, had never occurred to me before that I could reinforce (or start fresh) the use of ASL through the books he reads over and over again. I don’t go crazy with it, but I pick out several words that repeat in the book that could be useful for him to know. We started simple with “bear,” “strawberry,” “mouse,” and “hello.”
After a few times through the book Andy was signing every now and then with me. Don’t know sign language don’t fret! There are tons of resources online or at the library that can help you learn a few signs that you can use with your child’s favorite book.
This brings me to my next way of keeping it fresh, make the book interactive! This could be as simple as asking the child questions about the story.
For my son’s favorite book the story says, “…Sniff, sniff, sniff…” I asked Andy what you use to sniff. Obviously he pointed to his nose. Then I asked what does the bear trying to find when he sniffs? He picked up the book and began to take big sniffs of the strawberry on the page. This is an easy way to get the child interacting if you don’t want to break out the crafts.
If you want to get crafty there are tons of ways to do that too.After staring at THAT book for the millionth time I got really sick of seeing the same pictures over and over again. So one nap time I got bored and decided it was time to get crafty. I made felt board characters and items from the story. I didn’t need to make everything, just enough to get main points of the story. To make the pieces I found a coloring book page(s) online, printed it up and cut out whatever it is that I wanted to make. This was helpful for things like the mouse as my drawing skills are not good. Other things, like the key or spoon, I could do free hand. If that’s too much for you or you want to save time then simply color and cut the pieces you need from the coloring page(s) and attach a decent size piece of felt to the back to make your pieces. If you have the ability to laminate them it will make them last longer (two pieces of packaging tape trimmed to fit can work too.) I then made the board/backdrop. Felt sticks to felt so I glued a larger piece of tan felt to some stiff cardboard as my backdrop. It is just a standard size sheet, nothing big. Don’t feel you have to go crazy with it because they enjoy it all the same. That evening I brought it all out and had Andy help me with the story. He liked getting his hands on the pieces and moving them around. This is a great way that little ones can get involved.
The more into a story they get the more they love it. I like to have kids be very hands on—if you have older children they can even help color or cut the pieces. Then, later, they can see their work come to life. I left the board out and found Andy playing with the pieces. These are all fabulous educational ways to make a played out book exciting for everyone.
If you want to go outside of the book itself you could easily use the story line or plot to guide an activity. Using story stretchers can help solidify other concepts while using something the child already likes. These can be especially good to use if your child has a bit too much energy to sit still for story time. For our book I make a few different strawberries and placed them around the room. Whenever I said the word, “strawberry,” Andy had to go get one and bring it back to me.Stepping aside from our specific book for a moment, there are plenty of other books that lend themselves to different activities.
“We’re going on a Bear hunt” by Helen Oxenbury—you could recreate the bear hunt or make up moves for each section of the book.
“Brown Bear, Brown Bear” by Eric Carle—you could have the child find something in the room that is the same color as the animal in the page. Hint: the little ones that don’t know color will follow the older ones. Just let the older ones know that it is ok that they are touching the same thing.
This interaction means kids of all ages can play, learn and work together. It also can make a simple book geared towards younger kids more exciting for older kids. For other books you can make a scavenger hunt based on the book. This worked well for us with “Little Blue Truck” by Alice Schertle. I would ask Andy to find a brown horse or a yellow truck among a box of toys I put together and bring it to me. Andy is still really young for this we we work together on it. Simple tasks like this helped keep him engaged in the story especially when he has energy to burn! Just know that in adding toys into the mix they will sometimes he play with the toys while I read. That is a-okay with me because he is still hearing the story.
Story stretchers, like I mentioned earlier, takes you away from the physical reading of the book while still engaging the child in the story itself. For our over-used book “The Red Ripe Strawberry…” I could have him do any number of activities.
Color a coloring page from the book
Color a strawberry
Add seeds to a strawberry picture with finger paint
Help make a strawberry smoothie
Practice cutting skills by cutting strawberries in two along a line. This is from the book where he cuts the strawberry in half
Match up the strawberry halves he preciously cut
Take turns hiding a strawberry that the “bear” can find. Just don’t use a real strawberry 😉
Go strawberry picking
Give the child a blank page and ask them to draw the bear. (Hint: you never see the bear)
The possibilities are endless. No matter what book your kid is obsessed with you can find some activity that is age appropriate that they would like.
Finally, when you really are at your wits end and can’t get of reading the book you can ask someone else to do it for you. In my house this means we turn to the computer or iPad for help. I am not big on TV or computers for children especially at a young age, but they can serve a great purpose.
Listening and watching Daddy read him a story!
Sometimes you can find a DVD of your child’s favorite story but if there isn’t one then you can simply record yourself reading the book. Scratch that. Better yet have someone else read the book on camera. I had my husband do this before deployment so Andy could hear him and see him even when he wasn’t there. It helped greatly with him getting used to Daddy when he first came home. It also gave me a break from reading for a night. Andy liked it so much that we still watch the stories even now that he is home. I set up the laptop on the coffee table, gave Andy the book and let him follow along as he wants. Some days he watches the video and others he is following along with the book.
This works so well for us we have even asked several family member when they visited to read a story (or two or three) on camera for Andy to watch later. The military often makes living near family difficult so we try to find ways to get family involved even if they can’t physically be with us. It is a fabulous way to get grandma and grandpa or whomever involved with Andy’s day to day routine when I need a break. It also helps the child recognize people they don’t see as often! What better way get family involved then to let them read a story to your child before bed. In fact we have more than one person read the same exact book and that way the child (or you) can pick and choose who they want reading to them. Using a recorded version may sound like an easy out but let’s face it some days you just don’t want to be the one reading the story and that’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
I have found that while the book may get old for me what doesn’t get old is seeing my child discover or learn new skills by introducing one or more of the tips I talked about above. Spreading them out over the course of a few days or weeks can add mileage to your tolerance level of a repeated book. When all else fails you can always use one of the tricks to make a different book stand out or seem more appealing while the old book sits on the top of the fridge.
Do you have any tips or tricks on how to stay sane while reading the same book over and over and over again? Share them below!