Presenting a new children's book to your class is a way of taking kids on an exciting adventure. However, that adventure can be further enriched when you have a plan for opening their eyes to every aspect of the book. Kids need guidance in order to fully appreciate any new experience -- and that includes reading. Providing them with pertinent background information, activities involving the characters and the plot and an opportunity to share their opinions about the book are all methods for enhancing a child's experience.
Plan an activity that sets the scene for a children's picture book before presenting the book itself. If the story is set in another country -- China, for example -- point out that country on a map and talk about how far away it is from where you live. Show some photographs of Chinese children at play or in school. If the story takes place in another time period, prepare students by talking about what life was like for children in ancient Rome, for example. Discuss what inventions we take for granted were not yet part of people's lives at that time.
Read each page of the picture book aloud without showing the illustrations. After you have read each page, ask students to guess what the illustration on that page depicts.
Discuss student answers and help them to understand why the illustration was probably chosen. Point out pictures of the main characters and ask kids to remember the names: "This is the boy the story is about. What was his name?"
Ask children to guess what will happen in the book a few pages before the ending. Explain that there is usually a problem in a story and that we often read anticipating what will happen. Brainstorm these ideas, commenting that the author could have chosen any of them but that it is up to the person who writes the book to decide on the ending she thinks is best.
Re-read the picture book without interruption, displaying the illustrations as you read. This step will help fix the story in the children's minds before you continue with post-reading activities.
Provide students with unlined paper and markers. Ask them to draw the main characters, one to a page. They may create stick figures or full-blown illustrations; however, they need to leave room above the drawing for the name of the character. They will also need to leave margins on the sides where, following a class discussion, they will write descriptive words and/or phrases for each character, such as caring, forgetful and full of energy.
Give each student a brightly colored index card. Ask children to write on the card one sentence giving their opinion of the book along with a reason for that opinion. Make a display of the children's character drawings with the cards interspersed.
Give students the choice of drawing the characters freehand or selecting sheets that already have an outline of the character for them to fill in with facial features, clothing and so on.