Imagine you are snuggled on the couch with your little one, fully immersed in their favorite book. You might be wondering: What can you do now to capture the magic and spark a lifelong love of reading?
Educators believe it’s important to select books that spur a child’s imagination and help teach important life lessons. “Books can be the perfect way to launch conversations with your child in ways that help them feel safe and secure,” says Susan Michal, preschool director at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “Explain how we all fail sometimes and that the characters in the book never give up.
“Books can also supplement conversations on how to handle our feelings and emotions when navigating social situations,” Michal continues. “Seeing Mo Willems characters handle their situations allows our children to see that they are not alone, and that others go through similar challenges.”
Consider these questions when looking for books that can help inspire children to begin reading, improve their reading, and nurture a desire to read more.
- How does the book connect with real-life situations? Growing up is tough. Books can help children understand and articulate new emotions and experiences as parents help them navigate the challenges that come with growing up.
- Does the book describe healthy friendships? How does it tackle feelings and social situations that all children experience?
- Can you read the book over and over again? Educators stress that repetition is key to instilling a love of reading.
- Are the words simple enough for little ones to understand? Depending on the age of your child, ask them what letters are in a certain word. For example, point out how C-A-T spells cat.
While words are important, so are pictures. Pictures help bring stories to life and can serve as inspiration for children to create their own art. Simple drawings make it easier for younger children to replicate and therefore find another outlet for their creativity.
One series of books checks most of these boxes. Celebrated author Mo Willems has created a whimsical world full of humor that children love to visit through his picture books. A cast of lovable characters include best friend duo Elephant Gerald and Piggie, faithful companion Knuffle Bunny and The Pigeon, the wily city bird best known for his antics in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
“These picture books navigate real-world experiences that can appear to be complex, and explains them in easy-to-understand ways,” Michal says. “The challenges of growing up, like learning to make yourself understood or figuring out what it means to be a good friend, are gentle themes throughout his stories.”
You can explore this memorable world in The Pigeon and Pals! A Mo Willems Art and Play Exhibit at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, February 8 – May 10. From launching foam hotdogs at The Pigeon to uncovering Knuffle Bunny in the laundromat, this immersive exhibit encourages hours of play. Throughout the space, you’ll find spots where you can sit together and read Willems’ award-winning picture books together.
Educators say Willems’ books contain many of the elements that serve as great tools to help children love reading. And by visiting an exhibit inspired by his books, grownups can help spark this lifelong love of reading.
Brought to you by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.