Tips when sharing picture books for elders

There are few things as rewarding as making a meaningful connection with
someone you love.  Picture books for elders are a bridge for that connection.

A story is more than just words or pictures on the page.  In fact, the words and pictures are sometimes simply a catalyst to the deeper stories that are shared once this door is opened. Allow this book to be a tool for the connection, not the means to an end.

Here are some things to keep in mind when sharing this story:

  • Release any expectation. Sometimes you will have a captive audience when reading the story, other times it may spark an alternate conversation and still other times it may appear that nothing is happening.  Let whatever happens be OK.  The point is you are together, present with one another.
  • Let this be an interactive process. Some ways to do this are:

1. Expand on the story. If an element of the story reminds you of a personal experience, consider weaving that in with the book.
2. Ask simple questions.  What does your listener think about a certain sentence or verse of the book? Does it remind them of anything they have ever done before?  How do they feel about a particular aspect of the story?
3. Create an activity around the story. Drawing, coloring, doodling, writing, rhyming, alliterations, singing, these are all simple activities to incorporate into the story telling.

  •  Enjoy yourself.  The best gift you can bestow on someone is the joy you feel because you are with them.  Don’t force this, as it will be frustrating to all involved.  If you’re not “in the mood”, honor that and return to it another time when the conditions are right.  This is a very important aspect of sharing, so please allow yourself to really absorb what the above statements imply.
  • Recognize the distinction between reading to kids vs. reading to adults.  Often we equate the elder years as a second childhood, or parenting our parents. Reframe this idea, as it really is a unique developmental time of life.  Kids are ready to explore the world and learn about what they value and how the world works.  Elders tend to be reflective and look at things like life purpose and the bigger picture.  Keeping this in mind will guide your interactions in a way that is respectful and dignified.
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