First, they offer reluctant readers (especially boys) another way into reading.
Second, they require and teach literacy skills not generally used in narrative forms.
Third, they encourage creativity and problem solving.
Fourth, they get children doing things in an age when it's easy to be inactive.
The books I mention in this post don't just matter, they teach! They engage children by getting them to make, explore or manipulate things. The examples are generally just as appealing for girls as boys. Books of this type can also act as 'breakthrough' books for boys (and some girls) to get them reading. I've written previously about the role of non-fiction, cross section and diagrammatic books, science & technology, and generally how to make reading exciting for boys.
'Make and Do' books teach varied literacy skills. They require readers to:
Comprehend specific instructionsHere are a few good examples of the type of books I'm talking about. I'd welcome your suggestions for other good examples.
Learn subject specific vocabulary
Become familiar with the language of instruction
Use their body, not just their heads
Be creative and use problem solving
'The Lego Ideas Book' by Daniel Lipkowitz and published by DK Publishing
'How Machines Work: The Interactive Guide to Simple Machines and Mechanisms' by Nick Arnold & Allan Sanders, published by Quarto Children's Books and distributed in Australia by Walker Books.
'The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists' by Sean Connolly, published by Icon Books and distributed in Australia by Allen & Unwin.
The reader can rediscover the wheel and axle with the ancient Sumerians, or perform an astounding experiment demonstrating the theory of angular momentum. Children can build a simple telescope like Galileo's and find the four moons he discovered orbiting Jupiter. They can experiment safely with electricity and avoid the more risky approach of Ben Franklin with his Lightning experiment. They will also learn how to re-create the Hadron Collider in a microwave with marshmallows, calculator, and a ruler to demonstrate the speed of light. Or they might simply crush a can using Stephenson's steam can experiment. This is a wonderful book for children aged 9-12 years.
'Sewing School: Hand-Sewing Projects Kids Will Love' by Amie Plumley & Andria Lisle and published by Storey Publishing.
|Photo courtesy littlerockmamas.com|
The 150-page book has 12 chapters that cover basic instructions and foundational sewing skills. It then has a variety of projects arranged in categories. These include items to hug (e.g. blanket, pillow, doll), things to hold (e.g. wallet, tote, apron, pouch), gifts (e.g. coasters, pot holder, toy mouse), things to wear (e.g. hat, dolls dress), repairing clothes (e.g. patches, fixing rips, hems) and repairing soft toys (e.g. sewing eyes back on). Each project has step-by-step instructions at a reading level of about 7 years, photos of every step, and also a photo of the final project. The book also has some full-size patterns and instructions for how grownups can help.
'Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas' by Fiona Watt and published by Usborne
'Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook' by Angela Wilkes and published by DK Publishing.
The book also outlines cooking techniques, good food hygiene, kitchen safety, and step-by-step instructions. Full colour photographs are used throughout the book
The Dangerous Book for Boys. by Conn Iggulden & Hal Iggulden and published by Harper Collins
This book offers a range of ideas for making and doing things. For example, how to make the greatest paper plane in the world, building a tree house, all about dinosaurs, making a G0-cart, how to go fishing, juggling, all about Australian snakes, skimming stones and so on. This isn't a simple book (about grade 4-5 standard) but the content will help boys to 'stretch' themselves. It is also a great book for boys to read and 'do' with an adult. I've reviewed it in more detail here.
'The Daring Book for Girls' by Andrea J. Buchanan & Miriam Peskowitz and published by Harper Collins is a companion volume to 'The Dangerous Book for Boys'.
Like its predecessor, it is designed for children aged 7-12 years. It includes a mix of things to make and do, information about things that girls might like to know, biographical material, poetry etc. It has been produced again by Harper Collins and has a similar layout, size and range of contents. Even the cover is similar in design, to build on the success of the previous book. Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz have written the book. The Australian edition was released in 2008 and mirrors the US edition released by Harper Collins in 2007, but it includes some different Australian content.