This year, in an effort to encourage and support families enjoying the NHBA books together aloud, we’re sharing hints and tips to help with getting started.
MY NAME IS MINA is our focus book for April! This book is unique in contrast to the other nominees this year in two distinct ways:
- The story is told in the form of a young girl’s journal and uses a lot of visual devices in the book’s design to underscore this, mainly fonts and the way the words are laid out across the pages. Also, the voice has a train-of-thought feel that you would expect more from a diary of one’s private thoughts than from an edited piece of writing.
- It is more of what is called “character driven” rather than “plot driven” writing, meaning that the story is really about getting to know Mina. While there are things that happen in the book, the main focus is more on Mina and her thoughts instead of an overarching plot that pulls the story along.
How much time should we plan for reading MY NAME IS MINA?
This is a relatively short read requiring just over four hours, even at a fairly leisurely pace. But, you may want to plan in a little extra time to do a few activities along the way. What activities, you ask? Well, interspersed among the main text are what Mina affectionately calls “extraordinary activities.” These are suggestions of things to try that relate to what Mina has been writing about, and they encompass a wide variety of things to do! Some are interesting writing prompts that may involve a little more time, while others are quick suggestions for things to think or talk about.
One suggestion for incorporating some of these ideas is to look ahead a little in the book before reading to see what the next chapter’s “extraordinary activities” are. If you decide to do it, then this gives you a chance to be prepared with paper and pencils or whatever the idea requires so that you can jump right in and start the activity while the inspiration is still fresh. Taking a break from reading and working on the activities may also help kids connect more with the book and creates an opportunity to discuss some of the things Mina wonders about along the way (things that your kids may also wonder about!)
Writing Your Words for Joy
For example, one of the activities has to do with writing words that are synonomous with joy, which Mina herself fills two whole pages with! You could do what Mina did and make your own lists of words for joy, or simply stop and spend some time talking with one another about which words mean joy for you. Or, make it a group project and hang up a piece of paper on the fridge for your family to start collecting words for joy together throughout the week. You might be surprised to find what people add to a list over time and what that tells you about them.
Starting Your Own Journal
Finally, as Mina’s story is told in the form of a journal, this might be a great time to encourage your child to begin a journal, too. In fact, you could give it to them to sketch or doodle in while you read aloud.
Don’t worry that they won’t get as much out of the story if they are occupied with drawing instead of sitting still to listen–there has been some interesting research over the last few years that has shown that comprehension and detail retention actually increases when people are allowed to use their hands and even move around a little while listening. It seems that simple handwork stimulates the area of the brain that is responsible for daydreaming, keeping it too busy to wander, allowing the listening center to focus unhindered.
With the budding of spring, perhaps you could even follow Mina’s example and encourage your kids to take their journal outdoors and find a cozy spot to make their own for spending time in and recording their thoughts. (Even I wish I had a tree to climb up in and observe the world from!)
More to Come!
Remember to check back Monday mornings in April for our blogs about more to explore in MY NAME IS MINA. We’re working on some great stuff about birds, Paul Klee, fun snacks to try related to the book, and more!
NOTE: If your kids are curious about what happens with Mina after this story ends, this book is actually a prequel to another David Almond book titled SKELLIG. SKELLIG is told from the perspective of the boy who moves in across the street from Mina and explores how their lives intertwine and change them both. SKELLIG is listed for ages 10 and up.