Book Learning with Katherine Gibson
Hello, fellow readers!
My name is Katherine Gibson, and I’m the assistant managing editor for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
I’m no stranger to Eerdlings, but in case this is your first time encountering me, here’s what you need to know:
- I’ve been at Eerdmans for over three years, and in that time
- I’ve filmed 100 episodes of Coffee Break with Ahna Ziegler, during which
- I’ve given lots of advice to writers, teachers, librarians, and parents
Sadly, Coffee Break did what all good things must do. And since it ended, I’ve been sitting in my office and publishing books with nary an outlet for all my great advice and ideas.
Yes, just like the villains in the scary movie sequels that many Americans (not me) will be watching this weekend, I’m back.
But I promise I don’t have a chainsaw. Just a bunch of ideas about how librarians, teachers, and parents can help kids get the most out of their reading experience.
A lot of our books already have discussion guides, coloring pages, and (thanks to Jessica) some super-cool crafts. This blog column will provide exactly none of those things. Instead, I’ll share book-related activities, reading suggestions, and fine, maybe some discussion questions to help you engage kids in reading.
Let’s start with one of my favorite books coming out this fall: At Night by Helga Bansch. In case you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a bedtime story in which our nice, orderly world literally gets turned upside down. In one half of the book, you have dogs dozing in doghouses, polar bears sleeping in ice caves, children snuggled in their beds. Then you flip the book over, and suddenly the doghouse is perched on top of the polar bear (he can’t actually be in the doghouse — he’s a polar bear), and a leopard is playing Goldilocks. Just like the movie Inception, it’s all a dream. (Or is it? I’m still not convinced I understand Inception, you guys.)
Anyway, the point is: this is an awesome book. And if you want to keep the awesomeness going, here are some activities and reading suggestions for you.
- On a piece of paper, make a list of your favorite animals (be sure to leave space between them), then write down each animal’s habitat. Cut out all the words and put the strips of paper into a bowl or hat. Pull out words at random and see what fun animal/habitat combinations you make!
Bonus: Once you have drawn all the pieces of paper from your hat-bowl, match up the animals to their proper habitat, so that everyone’s back where they’re supposed to be.
Tip: Instead of using generic animal names, you can use the names of your family members, friends, and pets.
- Have each person draw something that happened in a dream they recently had. Don’t tell anyone what you’re drawing, and as I say about everything: the sillier, the better. Then trade drawings and try to guess what is happening in the picture you’re looking at. I’m not telling you that you have to give a prize to the person who has the closest guess (or conversely, the most ridiculous), but I know I personally tend to work better when there are cookies involved.
If you’re looking for other whimsical reads (I mean, who isn’t?) I’ve got some ideas for you:
- The Big Book of Slumber is, as you might guess, also perfect for bedtime. And just like At Night, it has weird but wonderful art. I can’t properly explain why the image of camels sleeping in bunk beds is so charming, but sometimes when I’m having a bad day, I think about that spread and I start to feel better. And that fox though.
- If you want something more apt for the middle of the day, the Flora books by Molly Idle are always crowd pleasers. They’re wordless, but they’re similar to At Night in that they’re interactive — lots of clever flaps to play with — so any of those books is perfect for sharing on a lap…or during library story time if you have laryngitis. Personally, Flora and the Penguins is my favorite (because PENGUINS), but if you’re just starting the Flora series, Flora and the Flamingo is probably the place to begin. Plus it’s got that bright, shiny Caldecott Honor.