Posts filed under ‘Engaging Families’

Storytelling Workshop Activity for Children

A student works on writing her own story in the Storyteller Workshop.

This summer, ReadBoston has been experimenting with new supplemental literacy activities in a pilot program at several Storymobile sites. In an effort to design a more comprehensive literacy curriculum to accompany the Storymobile program, we have been developing new activities and leading workshops on some new ideas to accompany our Storymobile program.
This activity, introduced by one of ReadBoston’s summer staffers, has proved to be a favorite with children of many age groups! Called the “Storytelling Workshop,” the activity complements the storytelling theme already present in the Storymobile programming and encourages children to be creative while practicing many skills that are important to improving literacy. The group conversation time at the beginning reinforces new vocabulary and verbal communication, while the storytelling aspect helps to develop memory and critical thinking. Though the individual writing component itself has obvious benefits, the focus of this exercise is on developing ideas rather than on grammar and spelling. Sometimes, a fear of being wrong can discourage children from even trying to write. However, by emphasizing the importance of creativity, children are free to practice without fear of making mistakes.

The activity is fairly straightforward and easy to do with any number of students: together, kids and their teacher come up with the beginning of an original storyline with fully developed characters, setting, and conflict. Together, the class composes sentences and begins to tell the story. However, when the story reaches its climax, students break off to write their own creative endings. Once finished, these stories can be copied and made into books!

All you need is paper and colored pens. It can be good to set up larger sheets of paper on the walls so everyone can see what the group is brainstorming (or you can use a whiteboard if you have access to one). You can start by talking about components of the story, like characters, plot, setting, dialogue, and conflict. For more advanced children, this conversation can be more in depth and include complex ideas like themes, points of view, and climax. Then, once the kids have an understanding of the story components, start to develop your own story by asking them questions about your main characters, the setting, and the plot. The more detail the better, so ask them to be specific! As you work together, you can start writing the story out as the students describe it.
Once the story gets to an exciting cliffhanger—with lots of questions, split up the kids to write their own endings. Supply them with paper and colored pens or crayons and encourage them to use the tools you talked about to finish the story in their own creative way. If students don’t feel comfortable writing, they can draw pictures to express their ideas. Once they’re finished, you can turn their endings into individual books by adding the beginning section you wrote together, making front and back covers, and binding the pages to each other.
This project can be as elaborate and advanced as you’d like depending on how much time you have and the reading experience of the children. Practicing storytelling in this way can strengthen literacy skills of all kinds while reinforcing the natural creativity of the students.


August 9, 2012 at 1:27 PM Leave a comment

Show Love, Develop Fine Motor Skills

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for both parents and childcare providers to engage children in activities that will improve their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the coordination of small muscle movements which occur e.g., in the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes. These skills are vital to our everyday life and impact our ability to do all sorts of things ranging from being able to pick up small items, being able to button a shirt to drawing and writing in the classroom. However, these skills are not innate to humans and need to be developed over time and craft projects are an excellent way to do so.

Drawing and Tracing: If your program will be celebrating Valentines’ Day try creating “mailboxes” for each child made of cardstock, brown paper bags, or recycled boxes. Have the children decorate their mailbox with crayons, colored pencils, markers, or even paint. Provide stencils for them to trace hearts, flowers or other shapes onto the mailbox.

Using tools:  Have children make their own Valentines to give away with colorful construction paper and safety scissors. Encourage the children to decorate their Valentines with glitter, stickers, stamps or paint.  This would be a great opportunity for children to practice picking up and manipulating small objects.

The basic arts and crafts of Valentine’s Day offer great fine motor skills practice to children and a lot of fun at the same time! While they create their tokens of affection, you can show your care by encouraging them to develop the skills they need for the rest of their lives.

February 9, 2012 at 2:38 PM Leave a comment

Wordless Books and Reading

Here at ReadBoston, we’re strong advocates for reading aloud to children. In fact, research says that, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”  In order to develop a love of reading, children need to hear stories, many stories, read aloud.  And, hearing books read aloud is fun, exciting and helps children connect with the magic and wonder of stories.

One way we love to read to babies, toddlers and young children is to use wordless books. We recently created a list of our favorite wordless books that adults and children can look at together to create their own stories to go along with the illustrations. Wordless picture books are a wonderful way to introduce young children to concepts they will later apply when learning to read, such as building vocabulary, comprehension skills and sequencing of events in a story.  Wordless books are also great for English language learners and adults whose first language is not English- families can “read” wordless picture books as a way of creatively sharing stories together.

Click here for a list of some of our favorite wordless picture books.

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February 1, 2012 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

The Storymobile rolls on….for an extra week!

The ReadBoston Storymobile has been delighting children across Boston with stories and free books since July 5 of this year. We’ll continue to visit 78 sites each week through August 12, but the fun doesn’t stop there! New this year, we have added a week of special events from August 15-19. The brightly colored van will make stops at some very special Boston locations like Fenway Park, the Bunker Hill Monument, Spectacle Island, the Boston Common and Boston College’s Alumni Stadium. Not only will children hear stories and receive free, new books, but they’ll also get to participate in other activities at each location. This week of special events was designed to give kids an experiential session that will support new language and literacy skills in a new setting. 

All sessions are free and open to the public: 

Fenway Park– Gate D: Monday, August 15, 12:00 PM

Bunker Hill Monument–Charlestown: Tuesday, August 16, 11:00 AM

Spectacle Island–Boston Harbor Islands: Wednesday, August 17, 12:30 PM

 TADPole Playground –Boston Common: Thursday, August 18, 11:00 AM

 Boston College Alumni Stadium – Gate D: Friday, August 19, 12:00 PM

 For additional information, including a full schedule, visit Questions? Call 617-918-5289.


July 26, 2011 at 2:59 PM Leave a comment

Beep! Beep! Here comes the Storymobile!

It’s that time of year again! The ReadBoston Storymobile will be rolling through the streets of Boston visiting 78 sites each week from July 5-August 12. At each Storymobile session, children participate in a fun, interactive storytelling with a professional storyteller and receive a free, new book to take home. By the end of the summer, children will have received at least six free, new books to keep as their own!

The goal of the Storymobile program is to promote literacy as a year round endeavor that doesn’t end when school doors close for summer. Too often ReadBoston’s Storymobile provides the only literacy activities that Boston kids, especially ages 2-7, experience throughout the summer break. The summer slide, as termed by researchers, which many low-income children experience, might be avoided by providing as few as six books for them to read, and re-read, during the summer months. 

ReadBoston is very excited to include some new features in this year’s program:

  • Two weekly evening sessions:
    • Tuesdays, beginning July 12, 7 pm at Jamaica Pond
    • Thursdays, beginning July 14, 5 pm at the Franklin Park Zoo, outside of the Zebra Gate
  • Weekly session at the Leahy-Holloran Community Center in Dorchester(Tuesdays at 1:15) that is open to all and will include Autism friendly programming
  • A week of special events from August 15-19 including sessions at Fenway Park, Spectacle Island, Boston College and Bunker Hill 

The Storymobile program is open to all children across the city of Boston. Click here for a location near you! 

Questions? Call ReadBoston at 617-918-5289.

June 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM Leave a comment

Stroll Into Summer with East Boston Children Thrive

Our go-to store for milk, eggs and just about anything we run out of last minute is a little bodega on our corner.  The owner knows our 3 year old and is great about including her in our transaction, whether it is just by asking her about her day or by asking her what color the lollipop he has given her is.  The owner also posts flyers about community events and tells us about things he’s heard of that he thinks may interest my family. 

East Boston Children Thrive, led by the Community Partnerships for Children East Boston neighborhood cluster, is highlighting these kind of family-friendly businesses and giving families a fun opportunity to meet each other in their Stroll Into Summer event this Saturday in East Boston.  Families are meeting at Bertulli Park in Central Square at 9 am on Saturday, June 11th for a stroll to 6 family-friendly businesses in their neighborhood.  There is a prize for the best decorated stroller and other family giveaways. 

East Boston Children Thrive engages families and businesses to support school readiness.

This unique event is just one way Boston Children Thrive is engaging businesses in supporting school readiness and helping parents build connections with each other and with their community.

I’ll post next week about how the event went.  In the meantime, if you know any East Boston families with young children, please spread the word about this event.  And if you have any creative ideas for how to engage the business community in supporting school readiness, please feel free to share that too.

June 8, 2011 at 10:10 AM 1 comment

Talk, Read, Play Day!

Mayor Thomas Menino kicked off Talk Read Play Day by flipping the switch and illuminating the TD Garden with the Talk Read Play logo. In the photo, left to right: Dr. Carol Johnson, Supt. of Boston Public Schools, Mike Durkin, President of United Way, Mayor Thomas Menino, Joe Blumenfeld, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lisa Hughes, WBZTV and Curious George.

On Tuesday, April 12, thousands of volunteers and early childhood educators donned brightly colored teal shirts emblazoned with a simple statement: Talk, Read, Play. The t-shirts commemorated “Talk Read Play Day,” a citywide effort that aims to create awareness of the need for parents to actively engage verbally with their infants, toddlers and young children. Across the city and throughout the day, sponsors, volunteers and early educators helped promote the program’s message through conversations with parents and story time activities with children. In addition, families received tips on how to talk, read and play at home, along with a goodie bags filled with crayons and stencils and a brand new Curious George book to keep, thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This citywide visibility effort reached more than 10,000 parents and children. 

The Talk, Read, Play campaign is a comprehensive reminder of the simple but sometimes overlooked steps that lead to a child’s healthy development:

  • Talking to a child from birth is one of the most important things that a parent can do to foster vocabulary, critical to the future

    Curious George helps celebrate Talk Read Play Day at the Mattapan Head Start.

    development of reading and writing abilities.

  • Reading with infants and toddlers helps them develop a longer attention span, a larger vocabulary, an eagerness to read, the ability to predict a storyline, and book-handling skills, all of which will help with learning to read later.
  • Playing exposes children to essential social interactions that help to develop creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills. This interaction also prepares them emotionally for the classroom setting.

 “Talk, Read, Play” is a collaboration between ReadBoston and Countdown to Kindergarten. The message of the campaign is to promote parents as their child’s first and most important teachers. The campaign provides critical information and resources to support parents in educating their young children. 

To learn more, visit

April 14, 2011 at 10:54 AM Leave a comment

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