As you know, when sharing stories with children, they often embody the characters and participate in the actions of the book without even thinking about it. A wiggle here and a shout there tells you that they are "in" the story. Children's spontaneous movements, sounds, and rhythms allow them to become part of the story's action. They feel characters' emotions and actions while using important literacy skills, such as listening, story sequencing, and characterization. Your group is also practicing indispensable cooperation, social interaction, and problem-solving skills.

Revisit Story Favorites

April is a good time to actively invite children into the process of reading stories. It's a great way to use up some of that spring fever energy yon may be noticing. You might want to revisit some favorite stories or introduce new ones. When you ask children to interpret a story, they use fundamental literacy skills to follow the sequence of a story from beginning to end. This work is an important precursor to reading comprehension skills. Instead of asking children to sit still and listen, give them something fun and meaningful to do. You can try these simple ideas to incorporate music and movement into children's literature:

Revisit a favorite story or introduce children to a new one. Ask them: "What happened first in the story? What problem occurred in the middle? How did it end?"

Ask children to suggest sounds, movements, or songs they can use to illustrate a story.

Offer basic rhythm instruments that can be used to represent different characters, actions, or sound effects.

Invite children to look around the dramaticplay area for simple props to use to enhance their movements.

Suggest that children choose roles or jobs. Remember that they might not he able to do all of these activities at once. Help them choose whether they will make sounds or movements. Read the book again while children move, sing, and make their sounds. Each repetition creates a new and deeper literature experience for children.

If possible, videotape the retelling. Children love to watch themselves on screen. Invite families to come to the classroom and have a "Bringing Books Alive" movie night. (Don't forget the popcorn!)

Choose Great Books

Here are two great books to explore with movement:

Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. This story is perfect for music and movement because of its repetitive text and events. Joe the zookeeper says goodnight to the animals as he makes his rounds at the zoo. When the gorilla lifts the keys from Joe's belt, the animals make a merry escape!

  • After reading the book to familiarize children with the story, invite them to suggest rhythm instruments, sounds, and movements that would bring the book to life. You might ask: "What instrument could make the sound of Joe's keys? What sounds can we make for each animal?"
  • Review the animals in the book and add movements for each. Ask: "Which animals escape from the zoo? What movements can we make for each?"
  • Do a follow-the-leader-style "Zigzag Zoo Parade" using a flashlight as a baton. Children can follow in a zigzag pattern as they tiptoe out of the "zoo."
  • Dim the lights to simulate nighttime and use a flashlight to read the story. Shine the light on the chest of each child as his character appears in the story. Incorporate children's movements and sounds.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. This classic book tells the story of a weary peddler whose caps are stolen by some mischievous monkeys when he is resting under a tree.

  • Read the story and discuss each of the characters and events.
  • Ask children to suggest movements for the peddler and monkeys. Ask: "How would the peddler walk with all the caps piled on his head? What props can we use for this? How does a monkey move?"
  • Invite children to suggest sounds and instruments for the story. Ask: "How can we make a monkey sound? What sound might represent the peddler walking?"
  • Try adding a song. Children may like to re-invent "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" to fit this story. You can ask: "How many monkeys take the hats? What new words can we add to the song?" After children rewrite the song they can act it out.
  • Reread the story adding the movements, sounds, and song.

Use Familiar Stories

Classic stories are excellent for music and movement because most children are already familiar with them. Try these:

  • Jack and the Beanstalk
  • Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • The Three Bears
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • The Little Engine That Could
  • Nursery Rhymes