Books are magic! Anyone who loves books knows how therapeutic they can be, how they can grab you, open up hidden worlds, teach you about yourself and the person you could become. But today I learned that books can actually Be Magic.
This morning I took a box of new books to one of the Rainbow Library nurseries. I stayed for a play and to read some books to the children. There are a lot of new kids at the nursery and they are all very, very small. Just little dots running around with their teddies and their blankets. I wasn’t sure how they would react to someone they didn’t know coming in to read with them. But I did have a secret in my bag that I thought might help!
When I go in to read at the nursery I like to plonk myself down on the comfy cushions, spread some books out on the floor and let the children come to me if they want to. It means I sometimes just get three or four children and sometimes I get jumped on by twelve of them. But it does give them the chance to explore the books at their own pace and to choose what they want to look at. Today I put out a few of the books from the That’s Not My… series and a couple of Maisy books, hoping they would be simple enough yet interactive enough to attract the attention of the little ones. And sure enough, a few bottoms edged over to me and soon we were all giggling and pretending to be robots.
Then, I released my Secret Supply!
Magic books! Books where the children had to join in, make the magic work, turn the pages, interact with the characters, the storyteller, the books themselves. And oh how they loved it! And oh how we laughed and oooohed and aaaaaahed.
Press Here is a very different book. It is a book that I think every teacher should be given when they complete their training. It should be kept in their cupboard and brought out on rainy days, at wet play, or when the children (or the teacher) need some magic. Because that is exactly what it holds between those deceptively simple covers. Magic!
The idea of the book is to involve the children in its progression. Each page asks them to interact with it. Press here, shake the book, tip it to the left. As the page turns the children can see the effect of their actions. The dots have multiplied, or tipped to the side of the book or changed colour. Such a simple idea, yet pure genius. And really, really good fun! It was like giving them a gift. Their faces lit up, they squealed with delight, they sat with their eyes wide and their mouths wider, they threw themselves backwards giggling.
Their reactions to the magic were contagious. Children turned to watch, came over to join in. It really was magic. It drew in children that hadn’t given the books a second glance before. It isn’t a normal book or a usual reading experience. Yes, we usually end up dancing and giggling and doing crazy actions when we read together at the nursery, but we don’t usually shake the books, or tip them upside down, or all sit in a circle and blow on them. Children were watching. Our reading had become a show. And I hope that they saw that books are fun. That books are interactive and they make you giggle and sit wide-eyed and bounce on your bottom with excitement.
It was interesting to see how the children reacted to the books after Press Here. They were instantly more involved, wanting to interact with the books and touch things on the page and see what happened. It was like they had learned that books work best when you interact with them, that they are more fun when you get involved. (Magic!)
Keep Out! Bears About! was an absolute hit. It is a brilliant concept which involves the children directly in the story – are they sure they want to carry on? Are they brave enough to go through that dark wood, even if there might be bears? Straightaway the children understood the concept and joined in. “This book looks ever so scary. Are you sure you want us to read it?’ begins the book. “Yes!!!!” Cried the children, and we were off. They were huddled around the book and lifting flaps and calling out and having a conversation with the book. These children are two and three year olds, fully engaged in a conversation with a book. Eat that Mr Gove! (Until the bears came and we all had to hide Very Quickly!)
Oh No is also a very interactive book but again it works in a different way. This book has no words past the title Oh No! Each page shows a double page scene which the children can alter by turning a transparent page and moving a section of the design. So a girl buying helium balloons can be moved to float off into the sky, and a gorilla can be released from its cage at the zoo. Can. The control and choice is in the hands of the children. They get to make their own story happen on each page, and then they can undo and repeat their actions. Liberating! Exciting! Fun!
Once they got the hang of how it worked the children sat together with this book and explored it on their own while I read to a small dot with a blanket. They took ownership and control of their own stories, and they loved it! I love this book for being different and for it’s genius design, but mostly for giving the children that experience of making their own stories.
Nahta Noj’s The Lion and the Mouse gave the children a similar experience of control and involvement. This book is so beautiful and bright, the colours and contrasts are stunning enough to draw in any child. But when you combine the artwork with peep holes and a butterfly with lion eyes, you have a winner! The book tells the traditional tale of the lion and the mouse helping each other, but with a Templar-twist. The peep holes and cut pages allow the children to move the story forward as they turn the page, transforming a lion’s mane into berries and giving them the power to rescue the mouse from the lion’s claws and release the lion from the hunter’s net. It’s a lovely concept, giving the children real involvement in the book but without losing any of the story. A beautiful combination.
I hope that the children I read with today learned that books are fun. I hope they saw that books are full of magic and you never know what a book might hold. I hope they learned that you can be actively involved in a story and the story can stay with you. And that sometimes you have to sit on a book so the bears can’t get out..
Big lessons for such little people. But books can do that, because they are magic!
As I left, one little boy piped up “will you bring that magic button book again next time?”
Source: Press Here – kindly donated to The Rainbow Library by Helen Dineen.
Keep Out! Bears About! – kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s books.
Oh No! – from the Rhino shelves, recommended by Loll at Storyseekersuk.
The Lion and the Mouse – Kindly sent for review by Templar Publishing.