Literary Adventures for Kids has published several series of Online Book Club studies for preschool through high school. The series are grouped primarily by age ranges, with the exception of poetry which is for all ages. For the most part, each Online Book Club is a study of a single novel, storybook, or work of literature. Here, I review their Nature Adventures Book Clubs, a series geared toward children in preschool through about fourth grade that also ties to nature themes. (Click here to read my review of Online Book Clubs written for older students.) Nature Adventure Book Clubs are available for the following books:
- Backyard Fairies
- The House at Pooh Corner
- Those Darn Squirrels Fly South
- The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
- Raindrop, Plop!
- Turtle in the Sea
- Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms
- The Golden Egg Book
- The Giving Tree
Most of these books are very simple and easy enough for preschoolers to grasp. The selected books serve primarily as jumping off points to investigate topics from science and nature, which are the major part of each book club study.
As with the other Online Book Clubs, each of these studies is presented online but does not require students to meet up with others online or work with other students. These are studies of storybooks with plenty of activities for parents and children to use within their own families. Of course, families can also work together with other families studying the same book at the same time in a book club fashion.
Each study should take about a month to complete, but you might add an extra week to plan and execute the party at the end of each study. You are also free to skip activities if you wish, which might shorten the time it takes to complete a study.
Navigation for each study is laid out sequentially, generally having you read sections of a book, then doing activities before moving on to the next section. For example, the study of The House at Pooh Corner is divided into four sections with two or three chapters of the book to be read at the beginning of each section. However, the study of The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush has you read the entire book before starting any of the activities, and sections are arranged by topics rather than by groups of chapters.
The varying lengths of the books dictate a different approach for each study. For shorter books, there is a section in the lesson plan titled Reading and Vocabulary that students will complete before they start reading the storybook. For lengthier books, there are Reading and Vocabulary sections at the beginning of each section of the study for a group of chapters. Whatever the layout, the Reading and Vocabulary instructions say, “As you are reading, write down any sentences or paragraphs that you like or have special meaning to you in your journal.” They also tell students to write down unfamiliar words or phrases and look them up, copy a passage from the book into their journal, and watch for spelling, punctuation, and capitalization errors. These are the same instructions as those for Online Book Clubs for older students. These Reading and Vocabulary tasks are beyond preschoolers and apply more appropriately to those in first grade or above. Parents might assist young students with some of these tasks, but you might choose to skip them altogether.
Children can read the story on their own if they are able, or you can read it aloud together. After children have read or listened to the parts of the book indicated by the lesson plan, you will be ready to investigate the rabbit trails, magic dust, and outside adventures.
Rabbit trails are topics drawn from the content of the story. For example, in the study of The House at Pooh Corner, some topics explored are bears, animals in winter, owls, and trees. For The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, children learn about topics such as prairies, prairie wildflowers, legends about plants, and sunsets.
Magic dust is the name for hands-on activities. For The House at Pooh Corner, children make a hibernating animal den, play a game of “Pooh sticks,” draw a haycorn (Pooh's way of saying acorn), and make leaf animals. For The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, students paint with an Indian Paintbrush or other flowers; make paint with berries; create a wildflower bookmark; and learn how to create sunset effects with a flashlight, a container of water, and milk.
Outside adventures might not fit the calendar or the weather perfectly, but the suggestions for each adventure offer enough options that you should be able to choose at least one of them. For example, for The House at Pooh Corner, the first outside adventure is to go outside on a snowy day. Students are to look for animals in winter coats, a frozen pond, and animal homes or dens. If it’s the wrong time of year or it doesn’t snow in your area, other suggestions such as building Eeyore a home of sticks or doing a nature sketch might be more practical.
Similarly, one of the outside adventures for The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is to go outside on a spring day. Children are to observe different flowers, animals, and insects. The lesson plan then tells students to pick a flower to dry and put in their notebook. They are also told to look up and identify flowers they saw outside then note these in their journal. Parents can easily have a discussion about what children observe outside with preschoolers and kindergartners, but children will need a great deal of assistance to look up and identify flowers and record that information. Parents will need to adapt the outside adventures to fit both their situation and the ages of their children. Here and elsewhere, lesson plans occasionally seem to misidentify the age range of their audience. Still, there are plenty of activities suitable for the target audience.
All studies end with a party. Suggestions for food, decorations, and activities are at the end of each lesson plan. Party activities include arts and crafts along with the food. Some of these look like so much fun that you might want to borrow one or two to use earlier in the study since you can’t possibly do all of them at your party!