My theme today is sort of a two-for-one. I thought it would be fun to talk about using books to encourage imagination and imaginative play AND I thought it would be fun to talk about foreshadowing in picture books.
As you know, one of the many skills kids get from books is the ability to recognize patterns, anticipate connections and predict based on experience and story cues. In my books, the story always comes first, but then I work to layer in material that will help kids build these skills. In a rhyming book like my book, Chicken Bedtime is Really Early, or a book with a repeated pattern (like the rhyming jokes in my book Chicken Butt!), kids can easily anticipate what is coming. Reading aloud, I love pausing before the rhymes and listening as kids – even those who are hearing the book for the very first time – chime in with the rhymes. Since Dotty is not a rhyming book, I wanted to establish visual cues (like the polka dots Ida wears in every scene to show the close bond between Ida and Dotty) and text repetition (like the repeated “… and Dotty” to show the fact that even though the seasons change and Ida does too, Dotty is always there). I also wanted to hide one more cue in the illustrations, so that when kids reread the book after learning the ending, they notice things that were hiding the first time.
In writing Dotty, I wanted to tell a story about the importance of imagination and the fact that it should not be outgrown like a set of training wheels. Everyone needs imagination… it is what fuels all sorts of wonderful innovations, it is what takes us to magical worlds, and it is even what occupies us when standing in a looooong grocery checkout line. And I think books made great jumping off points for imagination. You can start a good “what if” conversation while you are reading by discussing what might happen next… and if you’ve read the story before, explore what might happen if the story went a different way… supposed Dotty didn’t charge into Katya? What would have happened then? These what ifs are fun to act out and to draw… in fact, drawing a storyboard of Dotty was one of the ways I originally wrote the book!
I also think it is fun to spin out fantasy scenarios involving book characters in unexpected places. For example, at the grocery store, you can have a great time spinning out what you might buy if, say, Winnie the Pooh was coming for dinner… or Dotty, for that matter. After all, the book doesn’t say what she likes to eat (though we know that she nibbles the rug). What do YOU think she likes to eat? And what does your imaginary friend like to eat, now that I mention it?
If you don’t have an imaginary friend, here’s a great tool for designing one. Take a sheet of paper and fold it in thirds. Then, with a friend or two, draw a head of any kind (animal or person) in the top third, and draw lines (for the neck) that continue into the next third. Cover what you have drawn with the bottom third and pass the paper. Then, on the paper you receive, draw the torso, arms and tops of the legs of the creature. Again, draw lines to show where the legs should continue, cover your drawing, and pass it. Then draw the legs and feet. Pass again, unwrap and giggle. Now name your new creatures and get to work on writing a story starring them!
♦GIVEAWAY♦ Would you like to win a copy of Dotty? In the comments below, share one way you incorporate imagination/make-believe into your child’s day. Provide an email address so that you may be contacted in the event that you win. One person will be randomly chosen to win a copy of Dotty! Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on Friday, September 10th. ♦GIVEAWAY♦
To follow Erica on her tour, check out the following blogs:
9/4 Pragmatic Mom
9/7 Literacy Toolbox
9/9 The Hiding Spot