Turning Reading Moments into Learning Moments

Let’s face it – there’s just not enough time in the day to get everything done when you’re a working parent. I love to cut corners anywhere I can. So, when I figured out that I could use story times to teach other lessons, I was thrilled.

boy readingIt was actually my older son who brought this possibility to my attention when, after a reading of “Green Eggs and Ham,” he turned to me and said: “He really should have tried something new before saying he didn’t like it.” It was like a light bulb went on over my head. “Yes,” I replied. “Like when you say you don’t like celery, but you’ve never tried it…” Well, you see where I’m going with this.

Soon, I realized that a lot of our favorite books, classics and new reads alike, offered subtle lessons that easily lead to a couple minutes of discussion when the last page was turned. Here, I offer you my own list of great books that teach great lessons:

  • “The Tortoise and the Hare” We all know that the hare could’ve won the race if he wasn’t so lazy and conceited. I like to focus on the turtle. He may not be the swiftest, but his dedication earned him a great victory.
  • “The Little Engine that Could” This tale of the tiny train engine who brought the load of toys and treats over the mountain, even when he thought he couldn’t, resonates with my little train-loving boys. But it’s also fun to remind them about the train every time they whine, “I caaaaannnn’t.” I just say back: “I think I can, I think I can….”
  • “No Matter What” When I get angry with my boys, they sometimes ask, “Do you still love me?” This book, about a large wolf who loves her small wolf, even when he’s grumpy, is a great reminder to my kids that there is nothing they can do that will make me love them any less.
  • “Duplicitous” Poor Pinkalicious gets the blues when the all the kids make fun of her for loving pink so much … until she meets another girl who tells her how powerful it is because, without pink, there would be no purple. My boys don’t even care that the color is “pink,” they know from this sweet book that it’s not nice to make fun of anybody about what they like, because everybody is different.
  • “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” OK, it may be cliché, but I swear my younger son learned lessons about lying from the shepherd boy who tried to spice up his life with false cries of “Wolf!” If you lie, I told him, no one will ever believe you, like the shepherd boy. Now, he believes me.
  • “The Gulps” The Gulps family is fat. So fat, their American Dreamliner RV won’t go any further. When they get stranded on a farm, they learn that fresh-from-the-garden meals and outdoor work is good for the body. I’ll take any chance I get to remind my boys about the importance of eating right and exercise, and the Gulps give me lots of opportunities.
  • “The Parrot Tico Tango” This book’s colorful illustrations and catchy rhyme scheme is a great attention grabber. But the lesson lies with the kleptomaniac parrot who finds, after he steals all his rainforest friends’ fruit, that it’s not right to take from others. When we read this book, my younger son likes to point out how wrong the bird is and how it’s better to share.
  • “The Lost Duckling” What scares a little kid more than the idea of being lost? When the little duckling doesn’t listen to his mom and stays behind at the pond, he is threatened by the fox and feels all alone. There are several versions of this classic tale in print, each sure to make any kid think twice before wandering away.
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