I’ve really loved reading Heidi to my little ones, but sometimes we come across passages that are difficult to understand, and it’s hard to sustain their attention.
Here are a few ways I have learned to help them understand what’s going on.
1. Immediately define a word that they might not know.
Immediately define a word that they might not know. My Aunt Gayle, who taught first grade for years, gave this advice.
She told me to just define the new word quickly and move on with the story. For example, you might say “On the left stood an enormous–enormous means very large– mass of rock.”
“Should I ask them first if they know what the word means first?” I asked.
“No, just immediately define a word that you think they probably don’t know and keep reading.”
“Should I just substitute the simpler word directly?” I asked her.
“No!” she said with all of her school teacher authority. ” If you want to increase their vocabulary, they’ve got to hear words they don’t know.”
Doing a quick definition made all of the difference.
2. Put your child in the protagonist’s shoes.
This is very easy to do with Heidi since my little Debi is the same age as Heidi.
“How would you like to walk up a mountain with three heavy dresses on, Deborah?”
“It would be hot,” she says. “Why does she have to wear three dresses?”
“Why do you think she is wearing three dresses?” I ask.
“I want to wear three dresses!” Debi answered. Of course.
“Would you like to wear three dresses if you are climbing up a mountain under the warm sun?”
“N-o-o-o-o!” she said.
“Do you think she had to wear the dresses because it would be too hard to carry a suitcase up the mountain?”
3. Make it a Choose Your Own Adventure Book.
I just love asking the question, “What would you do?” Sometimes the questions are really simple like, “Would you want to stay with grandpa at the cabin or would you want to go up the mountain with Peter?”
But when a character must make a very important decision or when the character is faced with a difficult moral dilemma, these questions can become very powerful. This helps children think through moral and ethical issues, giving them practice for when they are faced with their own tough decisions.
4. Use pictures as much as possible.
Younger children need pictures to hold their attention. Last night we went on the computer and looked up pictures of the Swiss Alps and bluebell flowers. And while the Heidi edition we are reading has a few pictures, I checked out a few children’s pictures books of Heidi as well. It’s great when they draw their own pictures too.
5. Hold your children as you read to them.
Hold your children as you read to them. This will keep them close. Stroke their hair, scratch their back, squeeze their arm, and they will also become more emotionally connected to the story. They will associate these stories with your tenderness which will make them love the stories forever.
What ways have you