Coming of age is a wonderful journey. As we grow, our skill set to perform becomes sharper. We find that as our vocabulary expands and knowledge about life is understood more clearly. In order for these progressive pathways to branch, whether we knew it at the time or not, we encountered transitional periods. These developmental time spans allowed our mind to fluidly adjust an expansionary mind set. Books, such as the Berenstain Bears, Junie B. Jones, Captain Underpants, The Lord of the Flies, Catcher and the Rye, and Harry Potter have all attributed to our developmental transitional reading.
How do you ask? Let us review four stepping stones all of these classic novels have included:
1. Sniff Out the Trail
Every great book has made the classic list due to its engaging story line. It captivates the reader to continue. Think of a book you could not put down; the novel that brought your mind to a world outside of ours. This is because the story had a fundamental plot, or author's guide. A plot is an organized pattern of events that are related to one another. All plots follow the same trend line. We begin with an introduction; followed by a rising action, a climax, a falling action, then a conclusion.
Take Away: We can improve our children's reading by discussing this story line. Have your child recount the plot prior to beginning the next section of reading. Ask questions related to the story line the main character has journeyed thus far in the novel. This will allow children to solidify the unfolded words to a painted picture within their head. Additionally, this practice allows children to gain a better grasp for the definition of words, or to ask questions if an unfamiliar one is stumbled upon.
2. Identify the Heart
Between the space of every sentence is the unconscious beating heart of the novel. As each paragraph passes, the author intends for the reader to grasp the over arching significance. It is the portion of the iceberg which is hidden from plain text, but abundantly present to drive the plot from beneath the surface. We call this the theme of the book. The theme is generally considered to be the core meaning. It is considered the spiritual soul that illuminates something about the world, a human trait, or society.
Take Away: Have your children develop a bird's eye view while reading. When we dive into the pages we loose ourselves in the warm welcoming plot the author has laid out. This time during the reading our minds are in auto pilot, allowing the story to unfold. It is not until we stop to digest what we have read that the theme becomes visible.
Take this time after each reading to relate the plot to your child's life. Have them provide examples on how the character(s) are similar or different from them. It is also important to have your children verbally soundboard what events the character(s) are facing. Allowing your child to recite exercises the mind to correlate the plot to reality.
3. "I Spy"
When we read novels, the author will leave bread crumbs for the reader to find a pattern. This is how the theme is made clear, through recurring puzzle pieces being placed among characters or explained in the story line. These focal points are usually objectives tied to the main character - a motif. A motif reinforces the theme in a narrative measure. A theme and a motif are bound at the hip, but motifs are presented to the reader throughout the actual texts. A motif is a recurrent image, sound, or words that explain the central idea. For example, the scar on Harry's face is the glue to all seven books in the series.
Take Away: After completing a novel, ask your child, "what stood out to you?" Use open ended questions as such to stoke discussion. You will find that your child will recount how their was a repetitive image, sound, or words spoken throughout. Have your child play "I spy" as you read with them. Let their investigative thought process pick up on Waldo as he is spotted recurring throughout the journey.
4. Man's Best Friend
Allured stories feature fond characters. Regardless of genre, what makes a great book is that the character is relatable. The plot may be interesting, but it is the character who binds our spirit. As the pages turn we read to see the main character develop and grow. It is this understanding that leads the reader to become attached emotionally. When the character encounters a tumultuous time, or promising path, we as the reader feel enlightened to take action on behalf of the fictional being. This is what makes a book worth reading and a novel one for the ages.
Take Away: Have your child describe each character in the book. Let their mind wonder on what each of the characters would do in a particular situation your child may be facing at that moment. Allow the attributes of these fictional characters to be mobilized by your child's actions. Doing so will allow your child to link positive character traits to real life scenarios. When an author breaths literary life into the text, he/she provides mentoring ideals for the reader to walk away harnessing.
Another simple, yet impactful, read related to transitional reading is a blog post by Melissa Taylor, "How to Help Your Child Transition to Chapter Books". Take a gander!