Summer is well and truly settled in, so what better time to grab a copy of Storytime and read outdoors? It’s warm, the world is alive with nature and there’s always a shady spot to welcome you if you look hard enough.
Unfortunately, long daylight hours coupled with wonderful weather can put a stop to regular Storytime sessions, and outdoor play often takes the place of reading. In anticipation of the summer holidays, reading books and magazines can fall by the wayside.
It’s a real pity, as you can get so much more engagement from children when you read outdoors. Does anyone else have happy memories of those rare, precious days at school when your teacher suggested going outside for stories? It was the ultimate form of escapism – not just into the welcoming world of fiction, but away from the stuffy heat and confines of a classroom. There’s lots of solid research on the benefits of outdoor learning and reading is a key part of that.
You can increase engagement, enjoyment and learning even more dramatically by choosing stories that are set in the great outdoors too. This is an effective way to fire up the imagination. You can also springboard into activities that are linked to your story or stories. Use them to dig deeper into curriculum themes or areas that interest your child.
In Storytime Issue 46, there are several stories we recommend you read outdoors, plus there are many more in our Storytime Back Issues. We’ve listed our favourites here with some ideas for activities too.
10 Great Stories to Read Outdoors
1. The Famous Firefly (Storytime Issue 46) This fable features a firefly who dreams of fame, but learns an important lesson about being thankful for what you have. Its beautiful illustrations by Chorkung are set in the garden during daytime and nighttime, so it shows a contrasting world of nocturnal and diurnal animals, and a whole host of creatures you can discuss. You can also talk about glow worms (which we have in the UK) and fireflies, and find out more about them. A great story to read in a green space.
2. Playgrounds (Storytime Issue 46) A poem by Laurence Alma-Tadema, which celebrates how skilled children are at turning any environment into a place of play – the garden, the seaside, the snow – and how adept they are at using their imaginations. You can read this poem just about anywhere and it still works, but read it in the local or school playground and it really comes to life. How about reading it alongside a Design Technology project to design the perfect playground? You could read it alongside Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Swing, which featured in Storytime Issue 3.
3. Alphabet Ocean (Storytime Issue 46) This is the ideal poem to pack in your case if you’re going to the seaside. Read it on the beach and imagine you’re swimming deep in the ocean and can see all the amazing creatures listed in our verse. Alternatively, take it on a trip to an aquarium and see the animals in our poem brought to life. Use it as a spotter’s guide. Can you find the whole A to Z we’ve written about in real life? Tick them all off.
4. Magic of the Rainforest (Storytime Issue 46) You might not have access to the Amazon, but an overgrown bit of garden or a forest coupled with a child’s imagination can transport you to anywhere. This story from South America’s famous rainforest follows the adventures of a little girl who gets lost in the jungle. She encounters some amazing fruits and animals. When you read outdoors, imagine you’re in the jungle too, then learn more about the rainforest and the creatures who live there. How does it differ from where you live? Follow a fruit trail and see what you find at the end.
5. The Great Snail Race (Storytime Issue 39) In a funny and clever tale from Laos, the local trickster is fooled by a smart snail. Read this story outside, then go on a snail hunt. When everyone has their own snail, host your own snail race or make little snail houses – a whole community of them. Perhaps they’ll get together and do something clever, just like in the story.
6. Doris the Singing Cow (Storytime Issue 36) Next time you go to the farm, take this story with you. It’s about a cow who auditions in a talent show and the farmyard friends who support her. It will put a new perspective on the animals you encounter and it’s a fun and imaginative way to begin a farm animal topic. Alternatively, read Henny Penny from Storytime Issue 19.
7. The Butterfly and the Rose (Storytime Issue 35) Make sure you’re surrounded by flowers when you read this one. You might just spot the butterfly and rose from this fable to really bring it to life for your audience. It’s not just a sweet story, it’s a springboard for learning about the crucial role pollinators play in the garden. Perhaps you could plant your own butterfly and rose garden?
8. Daffodils (Storytime Issue 31) What story could be better to read in spring than this classic by William Wordsworth? Reading it in the setting that inspired by the poem will help increase understanding of the words. Furthermore, you can demonstrate what the poet meant in his use of particular words and phrases. When you’ve finished, plant mini daffodils or make them from paper. Learn about the life cycle of a flower.
9. Betushka and the Wood Fairy (Storytime Issue 29) A magical story from the Czech Republic, set in a forest and featuring a fairy who loves to dance. Find a clearing in the woods and read this story, then wait for the magic to happen. Bird song plays an important role in this tale, so listen out for birds. See if you can spot any. Can you name them? Can you learn more about the country where this story came from?
10. Three Billy Goats Gruff (Storytime Issue 10) This is a great fairy tale to read on the lawn, on the playing field or in the park – anywhere grassy – as you can very easily read the story and ask your children or class to participate and act it out. You don’t need a bridge – the imagination can do that part – or make one very easily by setting down a flattened cardboard box on the grass, or by using a wooden step or low stool. A towel can double for the river.
As well as the stories in Storytime, there are hundreds of books that are great to read outdoors. Ever tried The Secret Garden in a secret garden? We recommend it! Pick a location or theme and spend a day in the fresh air mixing up fiction and activities. In fact, use summer as your opportunity to bring stories to life, rather than putting them to one side. You’ll see your child’s reading skills come on in leaps and bounds.
What stories do you like to read outdoors? Or what are your favourite outdoor locations for reading in? Share your favourite outdoor reading spots with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We’d love to hear your ideas and share them with our other readers. You could even use the hashtag #readoutdoors. The more inspiration for fresh-air fiction the better!
Let’s all read outdoors more this summer.