We may still be brushing beach sand of our kids' knees, but in just a few weeks, most of our little ones will be back in school and soaking up new knowledge every day! Even if you tried to read regularly with your kids over the summer, sometimes life just gets in the way, and learning skills can slip over these more relaxed months.
Research shows that kids can lose a significant amount of knowledge over the summer, and as a result, they often need to re-learn material from the previous grade at the beginning of the school year — instead of starting the new grade ahead.
But here’s the good news: Whether your child is heading back to preschool or elementary school, there’s still plenty of time to fine-tune those learning skills so they’re ready to thrive on the first day of school. Use your Malty the Blue Tiger book to follow these five tips, and your child will sharpen a wide range of skills essential for preschool or elementary success by roll call.
1. Compare Bolded Words to Boost Vocabulary
On most pages of Malty the Blue Tiger, you’ll notice that certain words are bolded or color-coded so you can easily compare them. You might already trace your finger along the text as you read, but take a moment to also point to and emphasize each bolded or highlighted word in both languages.
Not only will this familiarize your child with vocabulary they need to know in school — think colors, animal names, and onomatopoeia like “chirp” — but it’ll also teach them to closely observe text and the differences between words.
Next, ask your child which words look similar or the same in both languages (also known as cognates, these are words like the English “jungle” and the French “la jungle”). Seeing these similarities gives kids an initial boost of confidence as they learn words in a second language. Also ask your child which words look different from each other (like the English “orange” and the Spanish “anaranjado”).
2. Help Your Child Think Creatively.
Put a sticky note over one of the three illustrations on page 6, in which Malty is talking to the little orange fox. Next, give your child a piece of paper and crayons:
Ask them to draw what they think should be happening in the hidden illustration, according to what you or your child reads on that page. If they've already read the book, ask them to dream up their own illustration that's different from the book!
This stretches their creative muscles, fine motor skills (as they draw), and helps them to make the connection between context clues in the illustrations and those in the text to piece together a story.
3. Boost Critical Thinking With a New Ending
Read the entire story, but stop on page 26 (in which Malty is sad because she’s lost her way!). Put down the book, and ask your child to tell you how they think the story ends. Even if you’ve read the book together before, let them know they can create their very own ending.
Not only does this require your child to think critically about what’s happened in the story so far, and to use logic and creativity to finish the story, but it also helps them practice their language and communication skills. Storytelling is an incredibly beneficial skill to have, and will help them later on in school — for instance, when they’re giving oral reports or making a presentation at the science fair.
4. Ask Questions to Gauge Reading Comprehension
Whether your child is reading or hearing stories in school this year, reading comprehension is a critical skill to build — after all, it’s the foundation of learning and succeeding in any subject. While or after you read Malty the Blue Tiger, ask these three questions:
1. How would you describe Malty?
2. At the beginning of the book, Malty is sad because the orange fox doesn’t like her roar — have you ever been in a similar situation?
3. How do you think the story might go if it was told from the fox’s point of view?
5. Turn the Story Into a Game!
Play Malty Tic Tac Toe using a plain sheet of paper or a few craft supplies, and a photocopy of the vocabulary words at the end of the story (here are the instructions for the 3D version that you can use over and over!). Have your child say the what's in each image before placing a piece down — they can do so in English, or in another language if you want them to practice that vocabulary. Our special rules for this game make it a great way for your little ones to practice the vocabulary they learned in your Malty the Blue Tiger book.