If you’ve never used journaling to help your littles understand the fiction they’re reading, you are missing out.
We all want our littles to walk away from a book feeling like they learned something. And I don’t mean how poverty-stricken the London Streets were in Oliver Twist, but a better understanding of what that poverty meant to the characters and whether there could have been good ways to solve the problem.
We want them to have a deeper understanding. Because understanding fiction well is a path to understanding life well. The reason stories resonate with us and are such an integral part of our ives is that even the most fantastical is based in the human experience. And we want our littles well-armed to face the experiences to come.
Journaling can bring that understanding to them
With the right tools, journaling can cause your littles to think harder about what they’ve read, help them make connections between the book and real life, and give them a chance to practice empathy by putting themselves in a character’s shoes.
Empathy leads to compassion and compassion can lead us to try to problem-solve. Think of how your littles felt when Fern saved Wilbur from the axe. Or when Charlotte’s babies kited away. Writing down their feelings and responses can help them think about problems in their own lives and how the story might relate.
They make connections. Once they begin to do that, the whole world blows wide open to them. Back to the Oliver Twist example, if they journal enough about the circumstances brought to the characters by poverty, they may start to think about the homeless in their own area differently and how they would tackle the problem. Maybe they’ll grow up to be philanthropists, and God knows we need more of those in the world.
So what are the right tools?
A good journal, of course, with the best-spaced lines for your little and plenty of pages.
A comfortable writing tool. And don’t get a pencil if your little loves ink or a pen if your little tends to want to erase a lot. Get something your kiddo will love to write with. Seriously, it makes it less a chore. Consider getting some pencil grips to keep little fingers from getting too tired.
In fact, make a gift of the journal and writing utensils to get your little excited about the prospect. I’m always so surprised by how well that works. Even at their age, my boys love getting stuff like that as gifts that belong Only To Them and come in a pretty package. It’s silly how much it changes things.
Quality journaling prompts are also nice to have. I like to use general prompts that we can recycle book by book. Because of the different stories and characters, the entries are always vastly different from each other from book to book. The subscriber freebie today is a journal cover for your littles to glue inside their journals, but the prompts I use? They’re right here:
Book Journal Prompts
- After reading the first chapter, imagine what might have happened right before the story started and write about it.
- Think about the setting of the story. Is it anything like your own neighborhood/town? Why or why not?
- Imagine living in the place where the story is set. What would you see? Where would you live? Imagine the perfect house for you within that setting and describe it and its surroundings.
- Pick the character you think is most like you. Explain to the character why you understand him or her so well.
- Write a letter to the main character telling him/her how your lives are similar or different.
- Write a letter to the main character explaining how you would solve his/her problem.
- Pick a minor character and pretend you are him or her for a day. What will you do? Who will you see? What is your home life like?
- Which character would you most like to have as a friend? Explain why.
- Is there a character who reminds you of a real-life friend or relative? Explain their similarities and differences.
- If you were friends with the book’s characters, how would you convince the characters to do things differently?
- Write a letter to one of the characters explaining why he or she shouldn’t behave a certain way.
- Take one of the characters to school or to the park with you for a day. Would your friends like the character? What do you think would happen?
- What is the main character’s best quality? How can you work to develop that quality in yourself?
- Think about how the main character’s actions affect someone else in the story. Write a letter from the other character telling the main character how his/her actions made you feel.
- What do you think is the most important event in the book? Would you react to it in the same way as the main character did or would you react differently? Explain why.
- When you get about halfway through the book, predict how the story will end. Write your ending so when you’ve finished you can see if you’ve guessed right.
- Who is the antagonist in the story? What would you do if he or she came into your life and caused trouble?
- Think about the way the main character solved a problem in the story. What did you learn from his/her solution? How could you apply it to your own life?
- Would being part of this story make you feel excited, scared, sad, or some other emotion? Think about how you would feel if you were the main character and write about it.
- After reading the entire book, imagine what could have happened after the end and write about it.
(The prompts are included in the printable if you want to print them out. I’m cool like that.)
These prompts can help your littles deepen understanding, make connections to real–life situations, and learn lessons they will keep with them forever. Literally, if you never throw any of their stuff away (guilty!).
You never know, journaling could lead your little to be the next Mother Theresa. Or the next president or prime minister. And, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that.