How to Create Family Book Adventures With Fictional Characters
Want to take that a step further and introduce more ways to bring books to life?
Have a family book adventure and help the stories live on.
Teach your kids to make friends with fictional characters from books and they won’t be bored at all this summer.
In this article I’ll show you six fun ways to create book adventures with fictional characters for lots of family fun. They’ll encourage your kids to read more, stretch their imaginations and play.
Why Explore Fictional Characters?
Summer is a time to relax and have fun with your kids. You may be tempted (and they may be begging) to turn on the TV, video games and other electronic devices to cure your kids’ boredom. But it’s healthier to encourage your kids to connect with fictional characters that don’t require an “on” switch.
Books introduce you to an endless range of incredible fictional characters and give you a peek into places and times you may have never imagined—even whole new imaginary worlds. (Dr. Seuss, anyone?)
You and your kids can enjoy your favorite books and the characters you meet in them long after you’ve reached “The End.”
There are many ways to extend your kids’ interest in characters from books—write stories, draw pictures, play games, the list goes on and on.
The six steps below will show you how to find great books with your kids and explore the imaginary or faraway places inside them, where you can befriend the fictional characters, live alongside them for a while and have a blast making up your own stories about them.
Reading books is an excellent way to learn about other cultures and history, as the popularity of American Girl dolls demonstrates (and the popularity of Little House on the Prairie a generation ago).
A bonus of keeping your children plugged into reading: It’ll help avoid the dreaded summer slide, which will make it easier to get up to academic speed in the fall.
Here are six ways to encourage kids to unplug from screens and plug into summer fun through reading.
Be sure to join your kids on this reading adventure, as your love of reading will likely rub off on them. You may even discover a new favorite book of your own.
Ready to bring books to life?
#1: Make a List and Check It Out (at the Library)
First, it’s important to find books that are interesting and engaging.
Compile a list of book options ahead of time. Five or six books, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, ought to do it for starters. Here are some places to look:
- Pick a few books from your child’s summer reading list from school.
- Check online for recommended reading lists by age or grade.
- Get book recommendations from friends who have slightly older kids.
- Ask older siblings for suggestions.
- Add your own favorite books from childhood to the list.
Before you head to the library, ask your kids if there are characters or topics they want to read about this summer. Add their ideas to the list. If your child mentions a screen character, see if it’s available as a book.
Your kids may be surprised that their favorite shows started out as books.
If you have trouble tearing kids away from their screen-time activities, ease them into your reading adventures with books about their favorite characters from TV, movies and games. After all, many of the most popular shows started out as books. Give this a try, and by the end of summer, your kids may just be saying, “The book was much better than the movie.”
If your kids want to read books that are old favorites or multiples in a series, include one on the list, but encourage them to explore some new stories too, so they can develop relationships with characters they’ve never encountered before.
Now, list in hand, head to the library, explore the stacks and check out some books.
Get each of your children a library card if they don’t already have one.
While you’re there, get the kids registered for your library’s read-a-thon or summer reading program, if they offer one. That way, the kids can earn prizes for all of the books they’ll be reading on your adventure.
Bonus Activity: A library can be one of the best resources for families, even beyond all of the books you can borrow for free. Check out (ha ha) your local library’s events page for character visits, author visits and series get-togethers during the summer.
#2: Read (Together)
Reading during the summer is one of the most important things your children can do. Help your kids make good book choices and introduce them to characters they’ll love so they’ll want to read.
Schedule family reading time every day for at least 30 minutes. Read books aloud together or have everyone read their books in the same room at the same time (depending on the ages of the kids).
Be sure to leave all electronic devices outside the room during family reading time.
Bonus Activity: Create your own family book club: Spend time talking to each other about the books you’ve read at least once a week. Ask your kids to describe the characters they’ve “met” in their books and tell you what their new friends are like.
#3: Act Up
Are your kids born performers? Do they like to act out or mimic what they see on TV or in movies? Do they talk back to the characters on the screen or imagine what might happen next when a show comes to an end?
The same is true for books. Encourage your kids to insert themselves into the story, take on the roles of different characters they read about and recreate their favorite scenes from the books, live.
Take turns playing the main character if you have more than one child, so everyone gets a turn as the “star.” Parents, don’t sit just back and watch the kids. Take an active role too. You know you want to!
To add some flair to this exercise, dress up for your dramatic playtime. Put together a dress-up box and keep it in close proximity. Use old dress-up clothes or Halloween costumes, or make new costumes based on the time and place of the book characters.
The older the kids, the more intricate the costumes. Teach them to sew for yet another screen-free activity.
#4: Now You’re Cooking!
Every character has a connection to food, right? Winnie-the-Pooh loves honey. Sam I Am had issues with Green Eggs and Ham. And what about Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Choose a relevant food in your book and make it with your kids.
Find a recipe online or in a cookbook from the library. Or experiment with food and create your own.
If your character is from another time and place, make foods from that culture.
If your character is an animal, research what that animal likes to eat.
Younger kids may need help with the cooking. Encourage kids to come up with their own ideas and help with the preparation. (Younger children will need some supervision and help, of course.)
Bonus Activity: Cook a whole meal that reflects the time, history and culture of your book’s setting. Make place cards and decorations too! Is your story set during a time when people had to eat by candlelight?
#5: Write Your Own Ending
One of the great things about TV shows is that characters keep going on new adventures with each episode—the storylines go on and on.
You can do the same with books. Encourage your kids to extend the storyline beyond the end of the books they’re reading or branch out and create new stories for minor characters or parts of the plot that weren’t developed.
Write a story involving your favorite character. Extend the storyline, write an adventure or new plotline that could happen in the book, transport your character to a different setting entirely, write a journal entry for your character or write a story with you as a character in the book. Or all of the above.
Writing about characters that already exist is a great way to explore them without the pressure of creating fiction from scratch. It’s also a great way to examine characters’ strengths and weaknesses and discuss some of the issues that are not addressed in the book.
Assign a special journal or premade book for the purpose of writing stories solely about fictional characters. Keep the book handy for whenever your kids are in the mood to write.
Writing is a good anytime adventure!
Bonus Activity: Go beyond writing about the characters. Use printables for additional exploration. Find printable activities online—book discussion questions, word fun, crossword puzzles—that are thematic and based on your favorite characters, books and locations. It’s a fun way to sneak in a little extra summer learning.
#6: Go There
Take your child’s interest in a book to the extreme. Explore some of the locations in the book. Here are some questions you can ask to identify places to visit:
- What’s the setting of the book—time and place?
- Where do the characters hang out?
- Is there a special place they enjoy visiting?
- Does the main character go to school? Have a job or a hobby?
Make a list of 10 locations in the book and determine which ones your family could visit.
Be creative! Reading about dinosaurs? How about a trip to the natural history museum?
Discuss what kinds of adventures your characters may have had there and what your family should do once you arrive at the location.
To learn more about your characters, explore all aspects of their lives, including where they live and where they like to go. Compare your character’s life to your own. What are the similarities? What are the differences?
You may find your characters like to go the same places you like to go—the local zoo, aquarium, beach, park, lake, river, museum or trail, even if you live in different centuries or on different continents.
See how many different literary outdoor adventures you can go on this summer! And imagine how your character would feel in your shoes.
After your adventure, go back to Activity #5 and write a new story about your adventure or what the character might do in that situation.
Bonus Activity: Take pictures during each adventure and compile a memory book at the end of the summer. Or use them to illustrate your own writing.
Some Final Thoughts…
Reading helps kids develop and maintain academic skills. It expands the vocabulary and improves comprehension ability. But more importantly, reading is a launchpad for many creative adventures.
Make the journey together with your kids and create wonderful summer memories as you bring books to life.
Books take you more places than you could ever travel in your lifetime. Encourage reading and creativity, and your kids could have the summer of their lives. No screens necessary.
What do you think? What are your children’s favorite books? What are their favorite characters? Which activity will you try first? What other ways can you explore fictional characters creatively? Share your experience and pictures in the comments below.
Kim Vij shares ideas for making everyday moments into teachable opportunities at The Educators’ Spin On It and on an award winning Pinterest board. Other posts by Kim Vij »