Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing Column 40
This editorial article was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.
How to Combine Literacy Skills and Outside Time
The Children’s Book Review
Warmer weather is upon us, so the time is almost here to add more Vitamin D and bucket-filling time outside into our daily schedules!
Here are some fun tips on how to do this while organically adding in a little literacy and getting a mental health boost, too!
Create an Outdoor Book Nook
Perhaps you have an indoor book nook for your kids to curl up and read their favorite books. If you don’t, we highly recommend doing so! (Check out our article What to Do When Your Child Hates to Read for tips on how to get started.) What about creating an outdoor book nook space?
Help your kids take the lead on this project —encourage them to brainstorm independently (or with a bit of help from an adult), invite them to sketch out a plan, create a to-do list and take ownership of the project.
How can you help them to incorporate more elements from nature, too? We’re not the first ones to come up with this idea. One simple search on Pinterest can help inspire your design plan. Before you know it, your kids will seek refuge in their new favorite spot—the outdoor book nook!
Volunteer at a Local Community Garden
Fun Fact thanks to Lisa Freedman, the Executive Lifestyle Director at The Kitchn:
"Community gardens can do a lot to make more good: Studies find they help reduce crime, bring in new businesses to the area, create a better network of neighbors, and have a positive effect on property values. Some community gardens even deliver fresh food to the people who need it the most."
Another way to get some Vitamin D and fill your bucket is to seek out gardens in your area that need extra hands. We are lucky to have a community garden in our neighborhood blocks away from our home. They often need help weeding, harvesting, and executing fun events like farmer’s markets. Find out if there is a garden near you that could use some extra assistance—bring the whole family. What’s better than spending quality time together, sans devices, and doing some good? Of course, not much, in our opinion…besides reading in our cozy book nooks.
Not any community gardens near you? No need to worry! Why not talk to your friends, neighbors, and fellow community members to see if anyone would be interested in helping to create one? If there’s interest, explore areas where this community garden might work and inquire if the owner would be willing to lease it to you and your friends.
Another option might be your community neighborhood school. What an excellent way to show other kids how gardens bring people together. Our neighborhood school has a gardening club that holds harvest sales in the fall. The kids learn so much, bringing the entire community so much joy!
Want to know more about why Gardening is so great for kids? Check out our article How to Raise a Reader and a Gardner!
Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors
The benefits of spending time outdoors are insanely impressive, in our opinion. Such a simple thing can reap HUGE benefits! According to the Child Mind Institute:
"Spending time outdoors isn't just enjoyable — it's also necessary. Many researchers agree that kids who play outside are happier, better at paying attention and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. Spending time in nature can build their confidence".
Being outside is a great way to get kids moving and exercising. If your kids claim to be bored when you send them out, well, the jokes on them because that is actually a good thing! Allowing our kids to feel bored is a stepping stone to helping them use their imaginations and letting their creative sides flow.
It’s pretty evident that spending time outside fills our buckets and improves our moods. Still, in case you need more evidence, according to the American Psychological Association, whether it’s “a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.”
Plus, Natural sunlight also provides a healthy dose of Vitamin D—which helps strengthen bones and immune systems. Yes to all this, please!
Check out Some of These Great Books!
Whether these books below encourage mindfulness and adventure or remind us of all the joys nature and the great outdoors can bring, they are all great books to add to your next library haul or local book-shopping excursion. Enjoy!
Fatima’s Great Outdoors
Written by Ambreen Tariq
Illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Ages 4+ | 40 Pages
Publisher: Kokila | ISBN-13: 9781984816955
Publisher’s Book Summary: An immigrant family embarks on their first camping trip in the Midwest in this lively picture book by Ambreen Tariq, outdoors activist and founder of @BrownPeopleCamping
Fatima Khazi is excited about the weekend. Her family is headed to a local state park for their first camping trip! The school week might not have gone as planned, but outdoors, Fatima can achieve anything. She sets up a tent with her father, builds a fire with her mother, and survives an eight-legged mutant spider (a daddy longlegs with an impressive shadow) with her sister.
At the end of an adventurous day, the family snuggles inside one big tent, serenaded by the sounds of the forest. The thought of leaving the magic of the outdoors tugs at Fatima’s heart, but her sister reminds her that they can keep the memory alive through stories–and they can always daydream about what their next camping trip will look like.
Ambreen Tariq’s picture book debut, with cheerful illustrations by Stevie Lewis, is a rollicking family adventure, a love letter to the outdoors, and a reminder that public land belongs to all of us.
Buy the Book
Sydney and Simon Go Green!
Written by Paul A. Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Ages 6+ | 48 Pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge | ISBN-13: 9781580896771
Publisher’s Book Summary: STEAM problem-solvers and twin mice Sydney and Simon learn about the dangers of pollution—and the power of recycling—in this illustrated chapter book for young readers
Last we saw them, Sydney & Simon used science, technology, engineering, arts, and math skills to save wilting flowers in their window box. Now the twin mice are back to apply STEAM thinking to recycling!
During a class field trip to the Aquarium, Sydney is upset when she realizes that a green sea turtle has been harmed by garbage that made its way to the ocean. She must convince Simon that even if others don’t intend to litter, the garbage everyone puts in a trashcan may accidentally get swept into sewers, streams, and rivers and possibly end up in the ocean.
The twins collect data on the trash habits of their household and school and find they are all part of the problem! They need to figure out a way that their family, their neighborhood, and their school can cut down on garbage production and make better use of their discarded items.
Short chapters paired with Peter H. Reynolds’s lively illustrations will inspire readers to take a closer look at their recycling habits and implement small changes to make a big difference.
Buy the Book
I Hear You, Forest
Written by Kallie George
Illustrated by Carmen Mok
Ages 3+ | 36 Pages
Publisher: Greystone Kids | ISBN-13: 9781771647366
Publisher’s Book Summary: Kids will look forward to their next nature walk after reading this playful yet calming book about wonderful forest sounds.
The forest has lots to say… if you listen.
When a child steps into the forest, her ears are open and her heart is too. She listens carefully and hears marvelous things. She hears the rustling of leaves sharing their secrets. She hears a beetle balancing on a branch. And the more she listens, the more she learns.
I Hear You, Forest is a perfect book for outdoor education, classroom learning and homeschooling, helping to teach:
- Empathy and connection with all living things
- Mindfulness and appreciation with the world around us
- That the forest is full of magical sounds—you just have to listen!
Buy the Book
The Bear’s Garden
Written by Marcie Colleen
Illustrated by Alison Oliver
Ages 3+ | 40 Pages
Publisher: Imprint | ISBN-13: 9781250314819
Publisher’s Book Summary: Inspired by the true story of a community garden in Brooklyn, New York, this picture book, The Bear’s Garden, by writer Marcie Colleen and illustrator Alison Oliver, is a testament to how imagination and dedication can transform communities and create beauty for everyone in unexpected places.
A little girl sees an empty lot in a city and imagines what it can be.
a place to grow,
a place to play,
and a place to love.
With the help of her stuffed bear, the girl brings her community together to create a beautiful garden.
Buy the Book
Written and Illustrated by Alison Farrell
Ages 2+ | 56 Pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books | ISBN-13: 9781452174617
Publisher’s Book Summary: The Hike is a must-have for budding scientists, best friends, and all adventurers in preschool and kindergarten.
A plucky and sweet adventure story, The Hike celebrates how fun and rewarding it is to explore nature in your own backyard!
Three intrepid young female explorers set out to conquer the outdoors in their local forest, enjoying the process in their own different ways. Wren brings a sketchbook and a flag, El brings a poetry notebook, and Hattie brings feathers (and holds Bean the dog’s leash). They get lost and use maps to find their way. They draw wildlife, spot deer tracks, and see a deer before it startles and disappears, all before they finally and joyfully reach their destination.
Filled with lyrical language that captures the majesty of the natural world, coupled with a fun narrative, this spirited picture book tells the story of the girls’ friendship—and their tribulations and triumphs in the great outdoors.
Buy the Book
More Reading That Supports Literacy and Outdoor Learning
How To Raise a Reader and a Gardener
5 Gorgeous Gardening Books For Kids
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, by Kate Messner
Thank you for reading the Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing column. Bookmark this Growing Readers Column link or subscribe to our e-newsletter so you do not miss out on the monthly reading tips. How to Combine Literacy Skills and Outside Time was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.—follow her on Instagram: @wildflower_learning_denver.
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