Family Literacy

 Mass Center for the Book is developing a new family literacy initiative that will use books written and/or illustrated by Massachusetts writers on subjects that speak to the history and contemporary culture of our commonwealth.

Each book will be accompanied by suggestions for starting conversations with young people about the reading.  It will also come with suggestions for extension activities that link reading with social studies, arts projects, or math/science/technology experiments.

Here’s an example of the work we are developing:


In 2000, Hatfield resident and wonderful author of books for all ages, Jane Yolen began a collaboration with illustrator Mark Teague.  In How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? children are invited to laugh about all the ways we do (and do not!) get ready to go to sleep.


A Massachusetts Book Honor Book in 2001, this book offers wonderful opportunities for discussion of family night time rituals and for a comparison among young families of traditions across cultures in Massachusetts today.


Discussion Questions and Reading Extension Activities for How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?


Using reference books from the library, ask children and their parents/guardians to match the illustrations in the book to specific types of dinosaurs. From there, you can lead a discussion of favorite dinosaurs.

Extension:  Ask each child to draw his or her favorite dinosaur, either by copying one from a book or by creating one from his/her imagination. (Note:  if you photocopy the drawings before children color them in, you can bind and distribute the collection as a coloring book for the group.)

Saying Goodnight Around the World

How do people say good night in countries all over the world? Depending on the language backgrounds in your group, you can ask children and their parents/guardians to say goodnight in their native tongue or, if you are working with primarily English language speakers, ask the pairs to find out how to say goodnight in a country they choose. (Alternatively, you can provide them with this information, and then have the group practice the many ways to say good night.)

To extend this activity, post the good night words/phrases on a large world map. Ask the children to create their own book of good nights by copying these words onto individual pages of a book. To create interesting outlines for the pages, you might provide a stencil in the shape of a bed or blanket, or ask children to copy the shape of the country from the map.

How do you say good night in your family? Each adult/child pairing should first talk about their own rituals and then the group leader should engage all pairs in a discussion of family bedtime rituals.

To extend the discussion:  Ask each adult/child pair to draw a picture to illustrate their family’s practice to share with the group.

Bookmaking extensions:

For very young readers and their parents/guardians:  Create a group coloring book by asking them to draw pictures (but not color them in) in the above activity.  Bind pictures together into a book to distribute, and let children color pictures.

For advanced preschool age readers and their parents/guardians:  When the pictures are complete, ask the children to develop short captions for the drawings.  (Either the adult in the pair or the group leader can capture each description for the drawings.) Photocopy enough copies of the captioned pictures to give each child/adult pair a full set.  Ask them to put the pictures in an appealing order, and then to make a title page and cover for the book.  Ask each pair to list themselves as editors on the title page of their book.  Arrange a display of the books and talk about the difference a title, cover, and order of pages makes for meaning.