Reading: Not Just a Fad

If you’ve worked with young children for close to three decades like MaryAnn Annable-Roots has, you’ve seen a lot of tears, laughter and runny noses.

You’ve also seen your fair share of fads.

Decades ago, children were enamoured with Star Wars figurines. In my day, He-Man and She-Ra were the rage, then Pokemon blew that hype out of the water and now … well, now there are just too many “cool” characters out there to list.

With all these lovable personae comes a slough of merchandising: lunch boxes, clothing, DVDs, fruit snacks, room décor, video-games … the list goes on and on.

And, of course, books are right up there on the marketing-mogul’s list of surefire moneymakers.

So how does a person like Annable-Roots, a teacher with Chickadees Pre-school program, manage to get children interested in classic children’s stories?

Annable-Roots proves it is possible to engage children without necessarily using computer-generated images.

The Nutcracker, written in 1815 and turned into a ballet in 1892 by Tchaikovsky, is very different from the modern child’s entertainment standard of action and flashy images. Despite all that, Annable-Roots reads it to groups of three and four-year-olds and keeps them riveted.

She’s done this by making the story experience interactive, something she does quite naturally thanks to her experience teaching at a Waldorf school in California.

Waldorf Education aims to teach children through the heart, hands and head. Pre-school and kindergarten kids are taught mainly through storytelling, puppetry, singing, movement, games, art, cooking/baking and show and tell.

Surprisingly, all of these activities can be initiated with a story book.

For The Nutcracker, Chickadees students got to use a real wooden soldier nutcracker, touch ballet point shoes, they listen to music from the ballet and dance with scarves to the various musical overtures.

They read numerous versions of the holiday classic and wrapped it up with a trip to the Yukon Arts Centre to enjoy a live performance of the ballet. This really made the story come alive for the children at Chickadees.

These kinds of imaginative activities are initiated anytime a story is read to the pre-school group.

You don’t have to be a creative genius to bring the story to life. It’s as simple as baking gingerbread cookies after reading The Gingerbread Man.

Anytime you can link daily life to the books you read with children is great. If you need ideas, the Internet is an endless resource. Lots of parents and childcare workers share ideas over the net and all you have to do is type the name of the book and “activities” into a search-engine and you will get never-ending suggestions.

If you’d like to get your children involved with Chickadees Pre-school, a parent run co-operative, call Kathy Elliot at 668-1831 for more information.

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