I invented a game for reading-aloud children’s books that are, well…long or potentially boring in the eyes of the child. Poetry! Fact books! In my heart, I know these books are hugely important. I just needed to find a way to engage children and help them see, the way that I see. Or, perhaps the way that I know. I do know, and the “how to do it” just comes to me. The Stop Game is the perfect answer, a solution that children love.
Here is how it works: I hold a book up and partially open it, so I can fan the pages with my thumb. I tell the children, “On the count of three, say STOP.” I begin to fan the pages on the count of one. Breathless anticipation is an understatement. I keep fanning the pages, and when I get to three the children yell STOP. Oh, how they yell, because they’re excited. Then, I show them that page, the one when they said STOP.
We are learning about dinosaurs this month. Besides making great dinosaur art projects, I wanted to teach children facts. After we used a 100-foot measuring tape in the hallway to see the real size of dinosaurs (Brachiosaurus was 85-feet, the entire length of our hallway), I knew children were ready for more learning. I had a great fact book about different dinosaurs, so we played The Stop Game. Oh my, today is day three of children begging for this. And, they remember the facts! The Stop Game repeated a dinosaur page today. When children asked where the dinosaur lived, Kate blurted out, “Australia!” There is a column along the right that lists location, size, enemy, food, and more. I am grilled on these facts every day. Isn’t that wonderful?
Children are excited to learn specifics about dinosaurs. They can’t get enough. They’re four-years-old. Thank you, The Stop Game.
Poetry is a fundamental in reading, words, and rhyming. The simplest of words written in poetry have the most powerful meanings. I read poetry to children. And, we play The Stop Game to make the words come alive. Poetry+The Stop Game=Understanding.
The first poetry book I fell in love with was Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic. It is a classic, and continues to be one of the best poetry books for children. Every page that The Stop Game lands on, is a good poem.
My favorite new children’s poetry book is Outside Your Window. The poetry goes through the seasons and all the animals within each season. There is a wide variety of poetic style, so every poem sparks a different conversation. Children love this book. They love poetry. Playing The Stop Game allows them an opportunity to really listen to the words. It is wonderful.
“The Stop Game” actually started with the dictionary, years ago. A big Scholastic Children’s Dictionary. Every time we read a new word, I used the dictionary to look it up, with the children of course. It was exciting to pull out this big book, show children the fore edge (opposite the spine) with red markings that indicated the letters in the alphabet- and then open the dictionary to see those red alphabet markings. Honestly, this was very exciting. After we looked up the new word, we wanted to look up many more new words, over and over again. So, we played The Stop Game, opened a page, and discovered a world of words. Author Patricia MacLachlan would have said, “Word After Word After Word.”