Rewriting the classics: Jumpstart your child’s storytelling skills

September 2, 2010 at 3:21 pm 3 comments

Imitation, so they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s also a great way to start developing your child’s storytelling muscles.  Young children often memorize the words to their favorite books. It’s a short step from that to changing the words slightly to make your own version. Here are five popular picture books that you may have in your house that are a great jumping-off point for writing your own stories with your preschool-age child.  This is a great activity for a lazy summer afternoon.

Goodnightmoon written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd1)     Goodnight Moon (by Margaret Wise Brown).  Create your own goodnight story featuring the stuff in your child’s bedroom.  You can illustrate it with cutout photos of the actual objects, and make the book out of folded construction paper stapled together at the side. This is also great to bring along when you are travelling as a way to remember home and make bedtime more familiar.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond 2)     If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond). This is an easy structure to work with and allows you to explore cause and effect, and the humor of unintended consequences.  Can your child imagine what happens if you give a bear a banana or give an ape an apple?  Play out the scenario and see where it takes you.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems3)     Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (by Mo Willems). What else should we not let the pigeon do? Don’t let the pigeon make your lunch? Get you dressed? Clean your room? Imagine the excuses the pigeon comes up with. You can illustrate your version with pencil, and older children may be able to create their own versions of the pigeon. (PS, did you know the pigeon has his own twitter account? Follow him @the_pigeon.)

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle4)     From Head to Toe (by Eric Carle). Imitating this simple structure by imagining what different animals can do and repeating it is a great imagination exercise for active preschoolers. Write down their ideas, illustrate with photos or drawings of the animals, or just act it out together.

5)    Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson Harold and the Purple Crayon (by Crockett Johnson). For older kids who may be able to draw, this book is a great device: Have your child imagine she is in a sticky situation – how can she use the purple crayon to get out of it? What would be the equivalent dream picnic for your child of Harold’s nine kinds of pies?  How does she get back home to her bed?

Once your child is comfortable with the basic idea of creating new stories, you can start from scratch. You can always go back to the well and look for inspiration from other books. Happy writing!

-Anna Barber
Co-founder and CEO

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Erin @ Letter Soup  |  September 27, 2010 at 4:09 am

    I love this! We’ve been using some of these very same books for my emergent reader to practice “reading” aloud. This idea is another perfect way to use these predictable, memorized books.
    I’m actually posting about it on my blog this week, so I’ll be sure to add this idea and link here.

    Reply
  • 2. Pawan  |  October 4, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Super idea! I’ve tried making the pigeon books with my class and the results are always fantastic. Books like these that have such a clear voice work really well. We’ve also done this with Mr. Men books and Little Miss books – they love making up their own identity.

    Reply
    • 3. Anna Barber  |  October 6, 2010 at 6:29 pm

      Mr. Men and Little Miss – those are great ideas. We’ll try that in our Great Books class for 5 and 6 year olds and see how it goes.
      We love your blog Pancakes for Recess – thanks for visiting!

      Reply

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