What animal is big and gray, has a long nose, can fly, and makes a buzzing sound?
The last time we traveled back to the United States to see my family, in 2008, I made an interesting find in a school supply store: a pack of “self-stick dry erase sheets,” like large stickers that can be affixed to the wall and used as a whiteboard.
At the time (Lulu was then 4 and Roy was just a year old), I wasn’t sure how I might make use of them, but I thought they were cool and could come in handy one day.
In fact, these “whiteboard stickers” turned out to be the perfect tool for promoting captive reading.
Messages, riddles, and more
I’ve described how I now post short stories on the bathroom door to increase the amount of reading my kids do. Well, before they reached this somewhat higher reading level, I took advantage of the same captive reading strategy by putting one of these large “whiteboard stickers” on the bathroom wall and writing a simple sentence on it each day.
Sometimes I wrote short messages (like “Watch out! I’m going to give you a tickle when I see you!”). Other times I wrote little riddles, usually about animals (“What animal is black and white, runs fast, and looks like a horse?”), without offering the solution. After puzzling out the text, they would run to me with their answer.
Both of those worked pretty well, but I think the kids’ favorite was a crazier kind of riddle that combines two animals. For example, here’s the question I posed earlier, along with the answer (just click the plus sign to open the box)…
Let’s try one more…
In fact, since I introduced these “Crazy Creature Riddles,” they’ve become part of our mealtime conversations, too, with Lulu and Roy eager to join in and ask their own inventive riddles. (Try it in your own target language! It’s a fun, imaginative way to engage a child’s oral ability!)
Of course, this same captive reading idea can be used to support an earlier stage of literacy as well. If your child needs practice on phonics words, or sight words, why not display a handful of these each day? It won’t be long before you can combine such words into simple sentences, then gently increase the length and difficulty of the target text.
I highly recommend putting one of these removable “whiteboard stickers” in the bathroom or another “captive location” in your home. (The stickers are ideal for this activity, but a regular whiteboard, or even just sheets of paper, will serve the same purpose.) It’s a cheap and effective tactic for bolstering a child’s budding reading skill, at any stage of proficiency.