Over the past year, we have all spent more time than we would like isolated and in front of screens. The warming weather is a welcome invitation to get outside and get moving (in spite of the pollen). If your school-aged children or toddlers are feeling especially antsy after too much indoor time, consider reading interactive books to incorporate more activity in your day.
Though it can certainly be calm and relaxing, reading does not have to be a stationary activity – and those who have tried reading with young children know often that it is not. If your toddler would rather roll, wiggle, or practice acrobatics on your furniture than be read to, try directing their fidgets by encouraging physical activity during reading time. In growing brains, movement helps create neural pathways, so incorporating physical movement into reading can be a great way to engage kids in the story while also improving early literacy skills and contributing to critical brain development.
If you are wondering where to begin, there are many engaging books that invite children to mirror the actions of the main characters. Yoga picture books, in particular, offer guided examples of how movement can be woven into storytelling. Recently, publishing trends have followed the growing popularity of yoga practices in classrooms and after-school centers, so there are plenty of quality titles to choose from.
Books like “Yoga Bunny” by David Russo and “You are a Lion: by Taeeun Yoo guide readers through a simple story while introducing poses for children to practice as they read. If you are reading with older children or are interested in digging deeper into more advanced poses, titles like “Yoga Animals” by Paige Towler and “Play Yoga” by Lorena Pajalunga offer in-depth instructions to guide readers through a series of poses. Still other books like “Goodnight Yoga” by Mariam Gates and “I am Yoga” by Susan Verde focus on mindful moments and calming poses, making them good choices to incorporate into bedtime routines.
Aside from physical benefits, yoga story books offer practical methods of emotional regulation and focus techniques. Though research focusing on the effects of children practicing yoga is slim, some studies suggest that doing yoga can improve both executive functioning and academic performance.
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Caregivers do not need to be limited to yoga story books to incorporate movement into their reading time. Many picture books can be adapted in a more dynamic way by simply encouraging children to mimic the actions they see characters performing on the page. Titles like Eric Carle’s “From Head to Toe” or “I Got the Rhythm” by Connie Schofield-Morrison have easy-to-follow illustrations and story prompts.
Books featuring animals offer excellent opportunities for movement. Just as you practice animal sounds, try pointing to animals on a page and asking questions like, “How does a snake move?” After a couple of example prompts, your child will likely begin freely offering their own animal interpretations. Even wordless picture books, such as Molly Idle’s beautifully illustrated “Flora” series (“Flora and the Flamingo” and others), which feature a young girl mimicking the elaborate movements of birds, provide fun inspiration for dynamic movement along with the opportunity to flex those comprehension skills.
If you are on the lookout for other ways to make reading fun, check out seasonal and ongoing reading challenges through Live Oak Public Libraries. Reading challenges are open to all ages, so parents and caregivers can sign up too! One of the best ways to encourage the young readers in your life is to lead by example!
Kasey Haessler is a youth services librarian at Live Oak Public Libraries’ Bull Street Library location. Visit your local library or connect at liveoakpl.org, @liveoakpl and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reading and moving
Get motivated with books available in the collections:
• The “Flora” series by Molly Idle
• “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle
• “Good Night Yoga: A Pose by Pose Bedtime Story” by Miriam Gates
• “I am the Jungle: A Yoga Adventure” by Melissa Hurt
• “I am Yoga” by Susan Verde
• “I Got the Rhythm” by Connie Schofield-Morrison
• “Little Yoga: A Toddler’s First Book of Yoga” by Rebecca Whitford
• “Yoga Animals: A Wild Introduction to Kid-Friendly Poses” by Paige Towler
• “Yoga Bunny” by Brian Russo
• “Yoga for Kids: Simple Animal Poses for Any Age” by Lorena Pajalunga
• “The Yoga Game by the Sea” by Kathy Beliveau
• “You are a Lion” by Taeeun Yoo