The LitWits Kit for MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN by Jean Craighead George - LitWits Workshops

How Hands-on Literature Helps Kids Learn

When kids taste, touch, hear, and smell the story,it gets up off the page and becomes more real to them.  They get it.  Participating in characters’ experiences, handling interesting items, listening to traditional music, recreating objects, and dining on food from the book are ways of bringing that other world up close. It’s really a way of traveling through time!  When kids experience a story firsthand, it’s easier for them to relate to the characters, and understand the impact of time and place.  And that helps them see the dynamic, creative impact of their own setting on their own character, too.

When we play games and do puzzles or skits that lead us to deeper meanings within a story, we help kids learn discernment and develop their intuition. There’s so much more to a great book than meets the eye, and discovering its symbols is like finding clues to a treasure — that is, the theme and its universal truths. Figuring out what an author was really trying to say develops critical thinking skills.  There’s lifelong value in the ability to notice patterns, connect meanings, read between the lines, and decipher underlying messages.

When we bring cultural allusions into three dimensions through art, music, props, and other tactile experiences, we help children understand that literature lets them in on the references made by adults — and they’ll want to read more because they enjoy the feeling of being well-read.  No one likes to feel left out!  Making these allusions understandable and memorable through sensory involvement is a great way to help kids feel included in society.  It builds confidence to “get it” – to be in on the joke, the allusion, the quotation.  And when they comprehend that literature is a prime source of these references, they’re more motivated to read enduring, enriching books.

When we engage kids in activities and projects that help them see the way a story is plotted, they have an easier time understanding what’s happening and why — which helps them intuitively plan their own story writing, too. And when kids artistically enhance a scene or recreate an important item, it helps them really see and feel it in three dimensions. 

When we help kids visualize and “touch” the author’s world,they understand why he or she felt certain ways about certain things that show up in the book.  Getting under the author’s skin and grasping the idea of influence is key to developing critical thinking skills – and, someday, to writing thesis papers. When we use sensory “clues” to help kids spot connections between the author’s life and book, they see that a book represents a real person.  It’s a level of awareness they’ll draw on as they develop their own power to impart their beliefs on a page.

Experiencing literature allows kids to absorb its subtle lessons naturally.  Because books, after all, are not about words but experiences of action and being.  By joining the characters in their experiences, kids connect with great books — and want to read more.

Thanks for letting us share! We’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments, below.

Happy reading,

Becky and Jenny

Jenny Walicek

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