If you know any kids in the K-5 set, you've probably seen them making and wearing bracelets and necklaces made out of small colored rubber bands. Like this:
You might notice those are two boys in the first picture. Boy participation has made this phenomenon of the moment get an extra share of attention. Articles are being written about how this craze has single handedly caused boys to do what they have never wanted to do before: arts and crafts.
Nonsense. Boys like to do crafts. They always have. And there is something that inspires them to do so more than anything, even more than brightly colored little rubber bands. And that something is interesting non fiction books for kids.
A few months ago when I started working with five year old boys, I worried I wouldn't know how to relate to their needs and interests. But then I learned that crafting and creativity was just as palpable to them if presented in the right way. So “arts and crafts” and “making something nice” was no longer spoken. Now we were doing “projects” and “constructing things”, “making replicas”, "figuring out how things go together." Now we were cooking with gas.
Here are a few examples of how I used nonfiction books to inspire boys to happily become serious crafters.
We read a couple of different books on jellyfish (Jellies. The Life of Jellyfish by Twig C. George, Jellyfish by Rebecca Stefoff). The books they were drawn to had detailed photographs. Luckily one of the photos was of the dangerous Australian box jellyfish, known to have killed numerous people. Intrigue, poison, possible death: perfect. So when I gave them their paper plates, paints, and streamers they spent 45 minutes trying to recreate the most accurate version of the deadly jellyfish imaginable.
Ken Robbins books have the kind of photographs that these five year old realists truly appreciate. We used his book on leaves (Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins) to try to identify some leaves we had collected on a nature walk. Then we made, constructed, and assembled some of our own trees with branches and leaves that we could now recognize by name and shape.
Look! Look! Look! At Sculpture by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. We talked about sculpture and looked at the many different examples this interesting book offers. Then I gave them some recycled materials and some model magic and let them make their own sculpture. Bones can be sculpture? That’s great, I never would have thought of that. But never underestimate a five year old with a good book and a project idea.