Some books are made for the outdoors — try these ideas

Some children’s books tell an elaborate tale designed to carry readers, young and old, off into a fantastical world far from everyday life. Others introduce new words and new concepts like counting, opposites, sequences, information about nature or how things work. And then there are picture books that use animated images and delicious sounding words to create an experience, part real and part imagined, full of anticipation and delight.

Try This Book!

“Going on a Bear Hunt” (1989) by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury is just such a book. The exciting story, rich with watercolor illustrations and accompanied by an old chant adapted for the book, is fun to read aloud the first time and even more entertaining to retell, or chant, from memory. Just a couple of readings will provide enough fodder for families to recite at home, in the car, or out on a “bear hunt,” real or pretend. Retelling stories, acting them out, and playing with unusual sounds (“swishy, swashy”) strengthens young children’s early literacy skills and nurtures a love of stories and reading. Books like Rosen and Oxenbury’s are also rich with activity ideas that help children apply the new words and ideas they learn in books to their real life and dramatic play.

Summer@HPL, the library’s summer reading and learning program for kids, teens and adults, begins on May 29th and the library will again host a summer Story Walk® featuring “Going on a Bear Hunt” as well as three other picture books, including “Rex Wrecks it,” “I Don’t Want to Be a Frog” and “Maybe Something Beautiful.” Reading books while on the library’s trail, and trying out the accompanying activities, is another way to share stories and grow readers. Using multiple senses to learn, known as multisensory learning, activates different parts of the brain simultaneously, which enhances memory and provides more ways to understand, remember and recall new information at a later time. It also helps young children and their grown-ups try out different learning styles. All children benefit from this type of learning and the Story Walk® takes the benefits of the library’s multi-media, multisensory storytime experience to the outdoors.

Not every book is made for the outdoor, Story Walk® environment, but sharing stories, creating play experiences around a book or story, and learning more about the ideas, places and topics featured is always possible. Try some of these activities:

• Find out what it feels like to “squelch, squerch!” in the mud, as the family does on their bear hunt in Rosen’s book.

• Take art supplies and a picnic lunch on a hike at Eveline State Park and paint the grassy field when it is full of wild flowers this summer. Does it look like the watercolor, double page spread Oxenbury created for the book? On stay-at-home days, try recreating the book’s illustrations or paint your own version of the story.

• Talk about bear safety, learn more about Alaska bears at the Pratt Museum, or share stories from a family hunting trip.

• Watch the author Michael Rosen read “Going on a Bear Hunt” on YouTube.

• Read other books told with a similar chant or that have text that rhymes (try “Chicka, Chicka Boom, Boom” or “Jamberry”). Reading these types of books, as well as singing, helps children feel the rhythm of language and hear the individual sounds of words, both important for learning to read.

Designing multisensory learning experiences around digital media is also important. Using digital media like apps, websites and DVDs to learn more about a topic you discover in a story can support learning in different ways. Modeling healthy media diets for kids, an important part of becoming a digital citizen, often starts with intentional use of digital media. Using high quality digital media as a tool to learn and build relationships, for example sharing a story app together, listening to a digital audiobook, writing a message to a family member and creating a video or digital illustration, can support literacy and positive digital media use, but use of phones, tablets, gaming systems and TVs should not replace active play or time with other children and adults. Establishing your family’s digital media plan, and emphasizing a healthy digital media diet, will help kids grow as readers, learners, and successful digital citizens.

Try This App!

Instagram may not be new to your family, but how you use the social media platform this summer may be. As a family you can participate in the A-Z Scavenger Hunt Learning Challenge as part of the Summer@HPL program. If you take the challenge during the ten week program, your quest will be to find each of the 26 letters in the English alphabet in your environment, taking a photo of each letter (without people), and then posting them to Instagram (tagging the library). Once you have found all of the letters, for example the letter “S” on a sign or letter “A” drawn in the sand, you will be awarded a Summer@HPL digital badge. Combining literacy, outdoor activity, family time and positive digital media use is a great way to support kids.

Claudia Haines is the Youth Services Librarian at the Homer Public Library. Have a question about early literacy, reading, or digital media use with kids? She can be reached at 235-3180 or