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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Making meaning

June 29, 2011

Sometimes books come with separate pieces that can be manipulated, adding a special dimension. Books are turned into games, mysteries, or some other kind of activity. Some are successful, others not so, but each of these books tries to engage, entertain, educate, and stimulate readers' interest.

A unique book by Lulu Delacre and Katharine Swanson has come to my attention entitled Jay and Ben (Lee & Low).

The book was conceived and created especially for children with learning differences but its use shouldn't be limited by its intent.

The sturdy, oversized board book format, sequential but clearly labeled (and very charming) illustrations, and dual-sided "game" pieces to add to the pages (there are outlines of boxes for just this purpose at the bottom of each page) make it broadly appealing.

The story reveals an increasingly independent boy who sometimes feels lonely until he imaginatively, perhaps magically, finds a friend. The straightforward text and clear illustration briefly and successfully introduces sequencing of the action as well as number sequencing. It could become or inspire a pictograph or perhaps a rebus as words and pictures create meaning.

It's a fine tool and an engaging book/game sure to be enjoyed by children with and without learning differences. While extension activities are suggested on the final pages, the bottom line is that books like this can generate even more ideas to share narrative, symbol, learning, and fun with all children.

By doing so, adults are helping children make sense of the world around them as they learn to decode it.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase