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Reading activities for kids

Encouraging a Love of Art Through Reading

by MaryAnn F. Kohl
Book Cover Image. Title: Storybook Art:  Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of 100 Great Picture Book Illustrators (Bright Ideas for Learning Series), Author: by MaryAnn F. Kohl, MaryAnn F. Kohl, Jean Potter, Rebecca Van Slyke, Rebecca Van Slyke

Storybook Artby MaryAnn F. KohlMaryAnn F. KohlJean PotterRebecca Van SlykeRebecca Van Slyke

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Does hearing the names of famous picture book illustrators make you hop up and run to the bookshelf to find a treasured storybook to read? People like Leo Lionni (Swimmy), Eric Carle (Very Hungry Caterpillar), Ian Falconer (Olivia), Lois Ehlert (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), Clement Hurd (Goodnight Moon), Ezra Jack Keats (The Snowy Day), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), to name just a few. What these creative people have given to children through their classic storybooks is more than stories to love — it's an everlasting open door to creativity and imagination. What a gift!

If there's anything I love more than children's picture books, it's seeing kids use children's picture books as springboards to create their own art experiences.

Picture Books Inspire Kids to Create Art

Can art encourage a love of reading? Can reading encourage a love of art? Yes and yes! Reading a picture book can help a child become inspired to create art — a virtual springboard to art activities. What might lead a child to gather her favorite art supplies — a pad of newsprint and crayons, a box of watercolor paints, or a basket of paper scraps and glue? Try this: read the classic Lionni book Little Blue and Little Yellow to your child. Enjoy the illustrations together with your child as you read, noting the blue and the yellow circle characters, and what happens when they hug and turn green! After reading the book, provide colorful blue and yellow tissue papers, scissors, and glue — and see what your child creates in response to the picture book. There's no need to tell your child what to make, just let her work with the materials and create freely. I can promise you that when you read the book again, your child will be more deeply attuned to the illustrations as well as the meaning of the story, and her comprehension and appreciation will soar.

Another art and reading connection you might enjoy is based on Ezra Jack Keats' classic The Snowy Day. The book's snowy illustrations are depicted in muted rainbow watercolors and bright shapes. After reading the story together, provide white paper and watercolor paints for your child to paint rainbow snow or other ideas that have inspired your child. Comprehension of the story will increase, and appreciation of the artwork and the story will grow exponentially.

Getting to Know the Great Masters of Art

Sometimes the connection of art with reading can be a surprise. Not long ago I was reading Goodnight Moon to a small group of first-grade children. One little boy said, "Mrs. Kohl, that bunny's bedroom looks just like Van Gogh's!" Here was a connection I had missed, and this six-year old surprised me with his insight. How right he was! The little bunny in Goodnight Moon is tucked into a cozy, brightly colored bed, not unlike Van Gogh's famous painting of his own cozy bedroom at Arles in France. If you can help children make these kinds of connections from their picture books to art of the great masters, you will be giving them breadth and depth in their perceptions of the world. At the same time, you will be motivating them to read and reread their favorite picture books, all with greater meaning and appreciation.

Do you have a reluctant reader? Try this idea: comic books have "call outs" or "speech balloons" allowing the comic character to speak through a cloud-shaped balloon. And who is most famous for employing speech balloons in his masterful artworks? The great American artist, Roy Lichtenstein. Simply imitating Lichtenstein's speech balloons with crayon drawings is an easy connection from reading to art, especially for kids who have some reluctance to read "real" books.

Keeping a Sketchbook Journal

An often overlooked way to connect reading and art is with a "Sketchbook Journal." Provide a sketch pad for your child, and encourage them to draw and write whatever they wish with complete freedom. Keep the sketchbook handy for your child to use when on a car trip, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, before bedtime, or any time. Let it be an ever-present choice of free activity for your child. When your child looks back through his sketchbook journal and reads what he has written, art and reading are once again connected in a most personal and individual way. Don't be surprised to see your child draw and write about favorite picture books, often keeping a favorite story going and going.

Story Time and Art Time

As you and your children become accustomed to reading picture books and looking at illustrations together, you will also become accustomed to following your story time with art time. Your children will become equally accustomed to appreciating art beyond the picture book. It won't be unusual to be walking along the street together and hear one of your kids say, "Mommy, that park looks like a drawing from Where the Wild Things Are!" Or on a visit to the local museum, your child may say, "That painting of goldfish looks just like Swimmy! Did Leo Lionni paint it?" Maybe later that night while reading Swimmy yet again, your child might reflect, "I like the fish painting at the museum today. I think the artist used fat brushes to make his fish." When these connections take place, you know you've opened the door for your children to not only create their own art, but to become equally inspired to love reading books with greater depth, appreciation, and understanding. And in the process, art and reading become an integral part of children's daily lives.
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Meet Our Expert
MaryAnn F. Kohl
Art Author and Educator
MaryAnn Faubion Kohl, award-winning author, publisher, and educational consultant, has devoted her professional life to children's art and creativity. Her philosophy, "It's the process, not the product," guides her writing as she provides open-ended art activities for children of all ages. MaryAnn's books focus on the child's exploration and experience of art, not the final product. She launched Bright Ring Publishing, Inc. in 1985 with her first book, Scribble Cookies (new edition Scribble Art), now celebrating its 25th Anniversary.

MaryAnn has written eight books for Bright Ring Publishing, Inc. on topics of art for children, their parents, teachers, and care providers, as well as fifteen titles for Gryphon House, Inc. She presents internationally to educators, librarians, parenting experts, children, and parents on topics supporting creative art experiences for children. Her workshops explore teaching art to children and using art as a tool to promote children's self-esteem, teaching literacy through art, and fostering creativity in children. She has appeared on many television shows, including Home Matters on the Discovery Channel; Take Part! (Canadian children's television) as the 'Mudworks lady'; and was a featured guest on 1, 2, 3 Grow! (Health Network). Ms. Kohl was also a consultant for a children's activity television show produced by the Jim Henson Company (Odyssey Network), and she works with SUNY-Albany as one of their expert guests for numerous educational video conferences.

MaryAnn enjoys being a contributor for Family Fun magazine, and writes for numerous other magazines including Parenting, Cricket, Scholastic, Early Childhood News, and Daycaring. She also has been a program consultant for children's television productions, Blues Clues and Little Einsteins.

MaryAnn began her career as an elementary school teacher, and she continues to guest teach at various universities and community colleges. In her free time, MaryAnn enjoys skiing, gardening, spending time with her family, and writing essays on memorable childhood experiences. MaryAnn and her husband, Michael, reside in Bellingham, Washington at the foot of a steaming volcano.

You can find out more on MaryAnn F. Kohl's website.
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Book Cover Image. Title: Scribble Art:  Independent Creative Art Experiences for Children (Bright Ideas for Learning), Author: by MaryAnn F. Kohl, MaryAnn F. Kohl, Judy McCoy

Scribble Artby MaryAnn F. KohlMaryAnn F. KohlJudy McCoy

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