Four ways to maximize a readers’ imagination

If you’ve been around kids recently, you’ve seen Twilight and Harry Potter fandom splattered on T-shirts, lockers, and notebooks. Reading teacher Cindi Rigsbee’s wrote about the delight it gave her to see kids so interested in literary characters in her blog, “Picture This: Helping Readers Flex Their Imaginations.” That was until she realized the kids weren’t advertising their connection to a character, but to the actors who play the characters.

When she asked students if they saw Edward, the main heartthrob of the Twilight series, or Robert Pattinson, the actor who played the character Edward, when they read Twilight they “enthusiastically” replied they imagine Robert Pattinson. While it’s great that kids are reading, even if it’s sparked by attractive celebrities, the trend of turning young adult books into movies is taking away a piece of the magic that comes with reading a book. Rigsbee believes teachers need to make an effort to design lessons that require students to use their imagination.

Below I’ve adapted Rigsbee’s four tips for teachers to include advice for parents on how to encourage creative thinking in their children this summer:

1. Ask what the world looks, sounds, and feels like. In class, students can share the unique way they saw the fictional world with their peers. It’s fun for the students to hear all the different way the same book was interpreted. In class, have students read the book before the film adaptation is released, and at home, don’t take your child to see the film until after they’ve read the book. For parents who like to discuss books with their kids, take your conversation a step further and ask them to describe what they see when they read, not just the plot.

2. Expose kids to fairy tales and fantasy. Encourage your kids to pick up Grimm’s fairy tales or Hans Christian Anderson’s version of The Little Mermaid. Rigsbee suggests teachers assign books like Tuck Everlasting, A Wrinkle in Time, and the Giver. Reading fantasy and fairy tales requires students to imagine an unfamiliar world and exercise their imagination.

3. Read out loud. Students have the tendency to speed-read through lengthy prose, and in the process, miss out on processing the thick description the author’s provided to understand their world. Teachers and parents should read aloud so students are forced to slow their minds and listen. At home, suggest older students read aloud if they have trouble focusing or that they read a book that’s appropriate across many ages, like the Harry Potter series, to a younger sibling.

4. Encourage them to write their own fantasy. Students can keep a reading journal in class or at home. Ask them to describe what they’ve been reading. Then, prompt them to write their own fantasy using the same conventions they admired in the author.

Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary activity, and it definitely doesn’t have to be a boring one. Help your kids pick out summer reads that you can discuss and that keep their imagination growing.


“Picture This: Helping Readers Flex Their Imaginations” -


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