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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.

Let's leave the fun in learning

October 28, 2011

A staff member at a child care center I visited this week looked at me very skeptically when I said that we were going to have a good time together. I was there to introduce the staff to children's books and how media and hands-on activities help lay a firm literacy foundation.

For the next hour, we read, watched a short clip from a children's television program, sang, made noise, read some more, discussed educational benefits and generally had a good time. I was heartened when the skeptic in the group actually smiled.

Why would anyone be skeptical when learning is associated with fun? When did learning become the antithesis of pleasure? What sucked the light out of education?

I suppose it really doesn't matter but let's start taking pleasure in not only what children learn but how they learn it.

What might children gain when they and their teachers, child care providers or parents share a book like The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort (Holt)? (You can tell from the title it's a take-off on the familiar song, 'The Wheels on the Bus.')

Children will recognize the pattern of language, how to predict from textual and visual clues, differentiate sounds, encounter different animals in an unlikely setting — all while having fun and building on (or meeting for the first time) a recognizable tune — and having a good time with an adult.

Both children and adults enjoy the sound of the nonsense words, are introduced to a jazz great, and have a ball with Chris Raschka's Charlie Parker Played Be Bop (Scholastic). This picture book was inspired by Parker's rendition of 'A Night in Tunisia.' It's a fascinating book to share in lots of different ways: as a call and response, fast or slow, with exaggeration, and more.

(Even if you're familiar with bebop, jazz or scat, it's worth seeing — and hearing — how this book is shared on Between the Lions.)

Don't we do more of the things that we enjoy? Keeping or sometimes putting the fun back in learning may make it easier for all of us to do more of it — a crucial notion to share with our children.

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"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." — Roald Dahl