Brrr! It is cold outside. Well, here in Florida maybe it's just cool, but the days are definitely shorter. So, there is not as much outside time for children. Although we heartily encourage adventures in nature for nurturing creativity, this may not be the time for it.
Animals hibernate in the winter but only after they have spent all fall gathering the resources they need to fuel their hibernations. We recommend winter as a time for children to gather their resources. This process is part of the stage of the creative process known as “preparation.” Probably the most important resource gathered during the preparation stage is background information. This information then can be used for incubation (thinking and reflecting on information to come up with ideas (which might be akin to animal hibernation) and ultimately used to generate new ideas.
Reading is one of the best ways to prepare and gather information to use for creative ideas later. We could write a whole book on reading and creativity (and in fact we are working on one currently), but here we want to talk about two activities that encourage reading and facilitate the connections between reading and creativity.
Not only does reading provide an opportunity to gather information, it allows individuals to develop their imaginations and visualization skills. Furthermore, it stokes curiosity while providing the means to satisfy that curiosity. And finally, reading helps individuals see topics, events, and issues from different viewpoints and develop multiple perspectives.
Hands down, we have found in our research that the most commonly held trait of highly creative individuals is avid reading.
So, what can you do to engage your child in reading in a way that accomplishes all of these? We will address this question periodically in our upcoming blogs, but today we focus on two methods for getting your children reading in ways that spur creative thinking.
Having your child write and publish book reviews is a great way to motivate them to read, but it also engages him/her in extending the reading. Because the child is evaluating the book and forming an opinion, he/she is putting his/her imagination into play and sharing his/her perspective. Plus, when children have a passion for a topic or genre, publishing a review is a great way to express that passion and share it with others.
There are several places to publish book reviews online or in print. We have included a couple of ideas below that we feel are relatively safe options for this type of activity.
Common Sense Media is a website whose overall mission is to provide parents and children with information about media (books, movies, websites, apps, etc.) so that they can make decisions about what they want to read, watch, etc. One feature of the website is the ability to review items. To review a book, you simply click on the title, scroll down, and post your review. You must be a member, though, which means providing an email, entering your name and zip code, and agreeing to their terms. Your published review does not have to have your name on it.
An option for getting a book review into print is Stone Soup magazine published by the Children’s Art Foundation, a highly reputable non-profit organization that was established over 40 years ago. The magazine is published digitally each month with an annual print compilation of the year’s editions.
Humans are social animals, and hibernating (gathering resources) completely alone may not be appealing. Thus, we also recommend book clubs as a way for children to get motivated to read and extend their reflections on the books they read.
If you are lucky, your local library has a children’s book club already in place and your child can just join the fun. If they do not have one, you might volunteer to start one at the library. Some libraries have kits ready to go for this purpose. See this example from the Montclair Public Library in New Jersey.
If this is not an option, consider starting your own book club. You can start a book club by identifying your child’s friends who would be interested and inviting them over for an organizational meeting. Depending on the age of the child, you might want this meeting to have a slightly party atmosphere with snacks and games.
For younger children, it might be good to keep it simple and let them read books together at the club meetings and talk about them with each other. This would require having several books on hand, but these can be obtained from the library.
Older children and adolescents can work together to decide on books they would like to read and then set schedules for reading them and meeting back for discussions. When they meet, in addition to discussing the book, you can provide activities to further their understanding and appreciation. The children can act out scenes in the book or conduct a Reader’s Theatre with a selection from the book. Or, each book club member might assume the identity of a character in the book and then they can interact with each other based on a prompt you provide for them.
Variations on the usual theme of all reading the same fiction book include:
· Organizing a group of children who have similar interests with your child and reading non-fiction books on that topic. Children can all read the same book, or better yet, read different books on the same topic and then share what they read.
· Having children bring their favorite books to the club and sharing about them.
· Organizing a virtual group or meeting virtually. You can use Skpye or a closed Facebook group for this purpose. Skype provides real time interaction, but Facebook allows you to monitor content. If you use the latter, children can video themselves talking about the book and other children can comment with their responses.
Several organizations have their own recommendations for starting children’s book clubs. Here are a couple of them:
· PBS Parents
· Multnomah County Library
As with anything you do online, please be sure to vet organizations appropriately. Our links are just suggestions.
Leave your own ideas and experiences related to book reviews and clubs for kids in our comments section below.
Happy hibernating with books (and gathering valuable information for later creative use)!