Children will happily explore books outside. You can have a special den or tepee for reading, or just have them scattered throughout the play area and see what happens!
One of the first things I did when I took the plunge and became a freelance consultant was to set up listmanias on Amazon with books that I felt were natural springboards into outdoor play and learning. Over the years, the lists have changed, grown and been adapted. I have a lot of fun playing with them!
When I run outdoor literacy courses, I set aside time to use books as a basis for outdoor work. In the past I've found them to be a great inspiration for creative outdoor activity - either structured or unstructured both for children of all ages and myself. Most early years staff will talk enthusiastically about "We're going on a bear hunt" and some of the ideas participants have told me about have been incredibly creative and hugely enjoyable.
Imagine going on a bear hunt and finding yourself at this cave!
The opportunity to hear, join in and listen to books outside is just as enjoyable as indoors. If children are not used to being read to outside, then start slowly with a pair or small group and gradually increase the numbers.
I love this combo - books and sand!
Have lots of cushions, blankets and comfy mats to sit on, especially in cooler weather. Dens and shelters provide protection from the weather. Torches and lanterns add fun, interest and atmosphere when used with the right book.
Waterproof tarp, fleece blankets, insulating mats and sleeping bags all make cold weather reading a cosy event
Outdoor book bags can be created which can save time collating resources. These can be for use at your school or centre. However with a little bit of adapting, outdoor book bags add interest to the standard ones issued at transition times to children and their parent.
Choosing Books to Read Outside
Neil Griffiths, the founder of Storysack, recommends using the following criteria for selecting a book:
- · A strong story line
- · Quality illustrations
- · Can be read aloud with ease
- · A content and interest level appropriate to young children
- · Children’s favourites
- · Recommended by parents
- · Selected by staff as quality picture books
- · Recommended by a local bookshop
Props to Accompany Books
Any resources used outside will get worn more quickly. Cheap and cheerful resources are strongly recommended rather than beautiful matching games, etc. Consider providing:
· Puppets and soft toys that are machine washable
· Laminated photos, poems, backdrops and information sheets
· Games that are derived from natural materials such as sticks, stones, shells, etc.
· Resources with a clear local link, e.g. local wildlife soft toys
· Waterproof or plastic playmats
· Open ended resources such as a piece of material which can be used in many different ways
· A plastic sleeve or jacket for your book
Different books lend themselves to different outdoor activities. Some are naturally cross-curricular and can result in children initiating a range of activities. Others may only have a link in one or two different areas. The advantage of a book-based activity are that children get repeated exposure to the storyline, characters, setting and ideas. This helps reinforce many pre-reading skills.
This Swedish outdoor nursery has developed many stories using a washing line and laminated pictures. Look at the children's level of engagement!
What are your experiences of reading outdoors with children? I thought it was interesting that Gareth Malone in his Extraordinary School for Boys series chose to take children outside to read and be read to. At the overnight camp, parents took turns to read a ghost story aloud to the children. It's a cheap, simple step to learning outdoors.