Books You Can Play

Let’s say that you’re walking through the woods on your way to school. All of a sudden your lunch box is yanked out of your hand, and you spin around to see a wolf running away with your lunch in one direction and a friendly looking bear with a picnic basket in the other direction. You hate to skip lunch, so you’ll have to choose: will you chase after the wolf, or will you stroll over to see what that bear is up to?

It’s one thing to read about a character making a decision, but when you get to choose which path the story takes you have a lot more invested in finding out what happens next. It’s a simple idea, and some might even dismiss it as a gimmick, but it‘s a powerful motivator. I read every book like this that I could get my hands on in elementary school. I also loved puzzle books (they usually had more visual problems to solve), and books that posed mysteries for me to solve based on the clues in the text.

I would bet that many teachers have passed these sorts of books to the more reluctant readers in their classes over the years, but I think they have a lot to offer for even them most avid reader. For example, they are great for:

  • Introducing a genre of story: mystery, romance, adventure, fantasy, horror, and science fiction are all represented
  • Practicing important skills: problem solving, math, logic, and reading comprehension
  • Bonding: read them together for fun, they are a kind of game after all.

I could go on and on about the “Choose Your Own Adventure” and “Two-minute Mysteries” that I read as a child, and these books are still out there. Some are even in electronic form, and I recently discovered that there are many written for adolescent and even adult audiences.  Some of them even offer an experience closer to playing a board game than the “turn-to-page…” adventure stories that I remember. There are even tools to help people write and create their own game books online. So, if you do want to play with your stories, there are lots of options out there for you to choose from.


National Family Literacy Day

This year’s theme for National Family Literacy Day on January 27 is “15 Minutes of Fun”.  It reflects the fact that it doesn’t always take a long time to do literacy activities with your children and that it should be fun for everyone!

What kind of activities can you do with your kids every day?  ABC Life Literacy has developed a list of suggestions at

Here’s what my kids and I came up with – I look forward to you adding your ideas to our list!

  • Make up a silly song from one we already know
  • Do a rhythm story game (clap, clap, snap, snap – one word for each clap or snap and we go around in a circle)
  • Read a book
  • Talk about traditions
  • Go for a walk
  • Play a letter game (name an animal then the next person has to name an animal that starts with the letter the last one ended with – eg. wolf – fox)

The Centre for Family Literacy has partnered with MacEwan University students in the Golden Key International Honour Society, to celebrate Family Literacy Day this year.  Bring your family to the Family Literacy Carnival event from 1-4 pm at the main floor of Robbins Health Learning Centre, downtown campus on Sunday, January 27.  More details can be found at:

Story in a Box

There are so many ways to engage children with books. One example is our “Story in a Box” craft. We have used the board book “Barnyard Banter” by Denise Fleming, as our starting point for this activity. We created the barnyard setting in the box, as well as the animals found in the story, using materials from a local craft store. This craft provides opportunities for children to interact with the story, or make up their own.
*This craft would work with other children’s books of your choosing as well.
Materials Used:
– 1 Pizza box
– Various colours of felt
– Animal pictures found online
– Hot glue gun and glue
– 1 Permanent black marker
– 1 Pair of scissors
– Take your pizza box (or a box of your choosing) and make sure it is clean and empty.
– Cut out the pieces of felt according to the scene you are creating.
– Using the hot glue gun, glue the pieces of felt into the box. It is best to glue the background colours on first and then glue the smaller felt objects on afterwards.
– Using the animal pictures you found online, glue them onto pieces of felt. It is a good idea to cut and leave a small edge of felt around the animal picture. *You may want to use pictures from flyers, newspapers, magazines, old photographs, etc. instead of pictures found online. Or you could always hand-draw the characters yourself.
–  Using the marker, draw in any extra details you would like.
Now you and your child have created the setting of the story and its characters. Have fun interacting with the story together as a family!