This holiday break, will your family home be full of cries of, “I’m bored, I don’t know what to do?” Or will it be full of winter adventures — both real and imagined?
I am a university instructor, teaching child development, early years foundations and cultural competency. A former regional director at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and elementary teacher in Micronesia, I have also travelled the globe witnessing great diversity in how families plan their winter adventures.
Some families enjoy sledding and playing in the snow, others plan fun winter picnics on the beach. Each place I have travelled — from Guam, to California, to Ukraine to Winnipeg in Canada where I now live — has taught me new traditions.
I wanted to put together a reading list for parents and early readers, which would allow them the space and time to travel beyond their own living rooms. Some call this a strategy of creating in children a “global mindset” — the capacity and confidence to move across borders and in multiple cultures and languages.
So here are a few books you might enjoy, as you build a global mindset for your family and set your imagination to “Go!”
Good Night Guam: A sleepy bedtime rhyme
Written by Mary Aflague. Illustrated by Gerard Aflague. (2017, Gerard Aflague Collection.)
Enjoy a child’s view on the sights, sounds and wildlife of the island of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean. This bedtime storybook includes local Chamorro words that all readers can understand by enjoying the brightly colored hand-drawn pictures.
I treasure my own memories of a visit to Guam at Christmas. I will always remember celebrating the holidays while eating red rice, kelaguen and coconut candy. Reading this story, you too will have the chance to see the geckos and the hermit crabs of this beautiful island.
Written by John Rocco. (2014, Disney Hyperion.)
This book is about the great 1978 blizzard that hit the east coast of the United States. It snowed four feet in two days and the snow covered the front window of our house in Ohio.
Blizzard is the story of a family who found the winter adventure in a natural disaster. It is a great story to listen to, because of the conversation blurbs, and the funny details in the pictures (a kid who is stuck at the top of the tree, the grocery list of coffee, peanut butter and cat food). There is a bonus double fold-out map of the main character’s trip to the grocery store to get supplies for his family and neighbours.
Blizzard can be a great conversation starter with your kids about their own neighbourhood, and can stimulate a map-making activity of your own. For older youth, mapping can be a great way of identifying the resources, assets and deficits of a neighbourhood.
Small, Medium & Large
Written by Jane Monroe Donovan. (2010, Cherry Lake Publishing.)
Animal lovers of all ages will enjoy this whimsical picture story about a girl and her wish to Santa.
Three boxes arrive: One small, one medium and one large. In each box is a beloved new pet, each bringing a special winter adventure to her life. Together with a Siamese cat, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and a miniature horse, she explores the snowy outdoors, building snow forts, sledding and making special snow creatures. They also bake cookies and cuddle up by the fire to enjoy their holiday time.
My favourite part of this beautiful story of friendship are the illustrations. I have read this book with young children as a way to encourage them to make up their own story about what they see. Storytelling not only allows their imagination to come to life, but it helps children build vocabulary and become familiar with new words and sounds.
Skippyjon Jones Snow What
Written by Judy Schachner. (2014, Dial Books.)
Readers of all ages will enjoy the playful Spanish words that are included in this imaginative story of a kitty who thinks he is a Chihuahua.
In this winter adventure, Skippito Friskito tells his version of Snow White and the seven small amigos in their cozy cottage. Their mission: To free Nieve Que (Snow What) from a deep sleep. Even though he thinks kissing the princesa would be yucky, he does his best to save Snow What and fight the dragon, just in time to cuddle up with Mama before bedtime.
Research shows that children can distinguish all the various sounds of language even better than adults, and this helps in acquiring a second language. One of the best ways to engage children in learning a new language is to spark their imagination through play and storytelling — using rhyming words with a variety of sounds and silly words that they can mimic, to create their own words and stories.
Written by Adam Lehrhaupt. (2017, HarperCollins Publishers.)
This Level One “I Can Read!” book is a perfect winter adventure for any early reader. Together, best friends Zoey the chicken and Sam the pig search for the North Pole. But the adventure is in the journey as they climb a mountain, and then slide down it, finding surprising creatures along the way. They almost lose their way home, but thank goodness for winter mittens.
As the story unfolds, there are visual hints to the reader about how the mittens may save the day. For parents who are interested in developing literacy at home, there are three cues that you can guide your child to look for in a book like this one. The first cue is meaning — use the pictures in the book to figure out what is happening in the story, and what might come next. The second cue is the grammatical structure of the sentence. The third cue is visual information — in Chicken Mittens, the “thread” of the story says it all.