I recently read a post in www.themommiesreviews.com about the value of puzzles for children who are struggling, including with trauma. Puzzles are amazing: they can be a shared activity (with or without conversation), they can enable concentration (remember looking for that double flat edged corner?), they produce a deliverable — an image, they develop fine motor skills, they enhance visual acuity, and they enable a sense of accomplishment with each linking piece found. And one can select puzzles with images that have meaning — places visited, favorite animals, fantasy scenes with dragons or unicorns.
I have written many children’s books. I have actually had amazing puzzles made of the image of college where I was President — gorgeous wooden puzzles with some pieces in symbolic shapes. A treasured gift.
Recently, I put those ideas together and I had a puzzle made of the cover of my newest children’s book (which is trauma sensitive). See above. Since puzzles can be made with pieces of all sizes, I picked medium to match the age group reading the story.
Then it dawned on me: why aren’t we regularly making puzzles of the covers of children’s favorite books? For starters, it gives the book a different kind of permanence. Then, it enables children to think about the story as they puzzle through putting the puzzle together. Then the completed puzzle is a visual reminder of the book.
Books could be sold with puzzles!
Now here’s an added idea. For young children’s books, the puzzles could be made of large pieces so the puzzle is doable. But then, there could be a second puzzle with smaller pieces and a greater challenge. In other words, the task grows as the children reach success and a harder puzzle, when it is done, produces another sense of accomplishment. Read and reread the book; do and redo the puzzle.
And each piece matching into another is a success too — lots of successes along the way.
Now puzzle making can be done through online services at a relatively low price point. And that price point could be lowered if there were a sizable number created.
Imagine gifting a child a puzzle of the cover of their favorite children’s story. What a wonderful gift. Instead of a random puzzle picture, here’s a personally selected image with puzzle pieces that are right sized for the reader.
Picture schools doing this for kids of all ages and stages.
As we get older, we often do a puzzle that is hard and leave it on a table or preserve it with special glue or break it apart and put it in a box that sits on a shelf. We don’t do those tough puzzles again and again like easy children’s wooden or big piece puzzles. As an aside: There are huge puzzles too, done on floors and sometimes in shapes. Image big child sized puzzles of favorite book covers. And if the book is about a truck or train it tree or character, the puzzle could have a shape.
But if the puzzle was of a child’s favorite story (in the case of my adult son, it was a book called Chef’s Hat), maybe the puzzle would be done again and again, especially if it had symbolic shaped pieces!
By the by, Chef’s Hat would have made a wonderful hard puzzle because there was lots of bright light background on the cover and line drawings.
So, here’s an idea to further learning and engagement and accomplishment: make puzzles of favorite children’s book covers and expand the connection children feel to their beloved books. And for kids for whom there is no beloved book yet, perhaps a puzzle would be a pathway to finding that one special book that can be read and reread and reread.
One more thing: there is now indestructible paper. Imagine puzzle pieces that could be wiped down!!! Little sticky fingers would not damage the puzzle. It could be washed (so to speak).
It’s early 2020; a new decade is a good time to launch a new initiative. Let’s call it the book-puzzle partnership! Partnering is in generally … so nice added theme!
Thoughts and examples welcomed.
P.S. Look at the I’m a Puzzle website online. This is an opportunity to take a favorite book cover and turn it into an online puzzle — different levels of difficulty and different shapes. Fun to do in addition to the above, although it lacks permanence. That said, good added activity.
Karen is an educator and an author. Prior to becoming a college president, she was a tenured law professor for two plus decades. Her academic areas of expertise include trauma, toxic stress, consumer finance, overindebtedness and asset building in low income communities. She currently serves as Senior Counsel at Finn Partners Company. From 2011 to 2013, She served (part and full time) as Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Education in Washington, DC. She was the Department's representative on the interagency task force charged with redesigning the transition assistance program for returning service members and their families. From 2006 to 2014, she was President of Southern Vermont College, a small, private, affordable, four-year college located in Bennington, VT. In Spring 2016, she was a visiting faculty member at Bennington College in VT. She also teaches part-time st Molly Stark Elementary School, also in Vt. She is also an Affiliate of the Penn Center for MSIs. She is the author of adult and children’s books, the most recent of which are titled Breakaway Learners (adult) and Lucy’s Dragon Quest. Karen holds a bachelor degree in English and Spanish from Smith College and Juris Doctor degree (JD) in Law from Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law.