Saturday, 6 April 2013

Dinosaur Fun with Reference Books!

A friend asked me yesterday how you know if you're encouraging your child in a hobby that the child really wants to do, or if you are just pushing them towards an activity that you want them to want to do. Difficult question! And I'm not about to provide you with a wise answer, either, cos I haven't got one! But I did find myself asking myself the same question last night after I'd put my little book bugs to bed. You see, I love dinosaurs ( see this post, too), and recently my bugs are getting into them as well. Am I forcing them to by giving them cool books about them and wanting to play dinosaurs at any available moment? Or am I just offering them something interesting that they can take or leave? Who knows?! But I'm definitely going to make the most of it while it lasts!

I'm going to talk about two books today, both of them reference books, not stories. This is one of them:

Larousse Enciclopedia Increïble: Dinosaures, 2010

Our copy's in Catalan, and I've found it in Spanish too, but it doesn't appear to be published in English :-(  But I do want to tell you why we like it and what we get out of it anyway, then you can see for yourselves what you can find in whatever language you need! And if you can use it in either Spanish or Catalan, I thoroughly recommend it!

It's only got 35 pages, so it's not too long for little minds to take in (my bugs are just 3 and almost 5), but those pages are jam-packed with information that little minds really want to take in. All organised around topics like how dinosaurs were (and still are) discovered, the different types of creatures that lived in prehistoric times and what they looked like, what they ate, how they attacked each other and defended themselves, how they laid their eggs, how they were wiped out, etc. Each page has small chunks of information in little frames, like this:

or tucked into pockets on take-out cards, or behind flaps, or on open-out pages:

in ways that I would used to have thought were just gimmicky, but that the boys love, and that do make it easier for them to take in what they hearing. They relate the stuff we talk about to each box or set of cards or flap, and remember all of it. I wish me memory were half as good! They choose the chunks they want read to them, and we move on when they're saturated. It also makes it easier for us to end reading time, or just allocate a very short time from the outset because we can limit how many pages or little boxes we're going to read. Our younger bug enjoys pulling the cards out and naming and arranging them and putting them back in, or opening and closing flaps, while the older one can digest much more information about each part. And as they get older, there's still a lot more to go back over and understand.

Interestingly, my bugs always insisted that I tell them in English whatever we may have been reading, whichever language it was written in. But since the big one has cottoned on to this reading thing, and what it means to have words on the page and that they are actually written in one language or another, he insists that I read the actual text to him. None of this translating as I go along or that paraphrasing stuff is acceptable anymore.

But back to the encyclopedia... Many of the pages are printed on a black background, which makes the gleaming eyes, shining claws and fangs, and the  rich browny orangey greens of the dinosaurs really stand out. And if not, then the background is a dinosaury theme, with the realistic dinosaurs doing their thing in context. And there are obviously lots of scary claws and pointed teeth in gaping mouths, which is what everyone really wants in a book about dinosaurs, isn't it???

So anyway, there's lots of useful information about these formidable creatures in this book, with touchy feely, openy closey, pull about and play with bits to satisfy itchy fingers and minds of all ages.

Our second favourite book of the moment is also a reference book, but on a much simpler level:

My Giant Fold-out Book of Dinosaurs, Priddy Books, 2010.

This board book is like a portrait gallery of the fearsome beasts rather than an encyclopedia. Pictures and names, with fold outs on every page, but pictures of plastic toy dinosaurs with the odd painted picture too. What I like about this is that it's really accessible for the boys. The pictures are real close-ups so they can see exactly what each dinosaur was like, and the sparsity of the print encourages my big bug to try his emerging reading skills with things like "Gentle giants" or ""Meat eaters". Euoplocephalus is a little beyond him yet, mind you...

They can get a lot out of this book by themselves as well as with an adult, and they really do both recognise several different dinosaurs now!

This book would be great to use with non-natives for a variety of things, especially animal body parts, how animals move (walking, flying, swimming, fast, slow...), habitats, food, and a million adjectives (especially linked with Dinosaur Roar by Paul & Henrietta Stickland).

Something I always used to feel about not-story books and young children was that it would be somehow boring to sit and go through them time after time. Once you, as an adult, had seen the information, that was it, you wouldn't want to read them again and again. However, apart from enjoying my book bugs enjoying the books, it really is amazing what they've come up with as far as how to enjoy these books goes. They can talk about crests, horns, teeth, claws and size for ages, but there's more too. One favourite with the picture gallery one is "Which dinosaur do you want to be?" on each page. Simple: you choose one, and then get to crawl/ stomp/ leap/ fly... around the room in the style of your chosen terrible lizard. Another one is "Which one would you most/least like to meet in a field/ down a lane/ while swimming in the sea, etc?" And of course, "which of these would win in a fight?"

On my little bug's third birthday he was given one of those paleontologists' dig eggs in which you have to scrape a rubber dino skeleton out of a plaster of paris. Have you seen them?

They could hardly wait till after the party to get digging:

And as a result of our paleontological find, we had to make a dino mini-world for our new pet and his friends to live in!

And then we all went to bed!



  1. Què xulo! Els llibres i el "dino-world". M'entren ganes de llegir els llibres amb les nenes!

  2. Te'ls deixaré. Quan la obsessió diminueixi una mica!

    Una abraçada. Kai.


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