Picture Book Activities - Teen Style

How to Capitalize on the Educational Value of Your Teen's Favorite Novel

Holiday Teens
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It's so much fun to couple a favorite children's book with related activities for some educational, memory-making time with preschoolers and young children. Why should teens miss out on all the fun just because they're reading novels?

With a little research and planning, you can capitalize on the educational value of your teen's favorite novel and give them credit in for it in their high school coursework


Why would you try to tie literature into your teen’s favorite book? I mean, he's already reading, right? Yes, but often you can use the interest in one book as a springboard for other interests. For example, Twilight fans might be enticed to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula to compare and contrast his version of vampires with that of Stephanie Meyers, or to read Shakespeare after encountering Shakespeare quotes in the Twilight series. The Percy Jackson series can easily spark an interest in Greek mythology.


High school English classes are often the catch-all for a variety of different skills such as grammar, vocabulary, and composition (which may also be paired with literature). You can help your teen practice these miscellany skills using the novel in which he or she is engrossed.

Vocabulary: Stopping to look up unfamiliar words can disrupt the flow of the story and suck the joy out of reading. I only endorse the practice if a word is so unfamiliar as to make the reader unable to understand what’s going on.

Instead, encourage your teen to underline, highlight, or jot down unfamiliar words as he reads. (Using an index card as a bookmark can be helpful for this practice.) Later, he can look up the words and use them as the basis for a vocabulary study.

Grammar: Copywork and dictation are proven methods for learning grammar concepts. Make dictation lessons more enjoyable for your teen by using passages from the novel that has captivated her.

Composition: If your student is having difficulty with a particular type of composition, look for examples in the novel they're reading. Favorite books can be used as models for skills like writing descriptive passages or correctly structuring dialog Your student might also enjoy the idea of fan fiction where they can continue the story by writing their own fiction featuring the characters from their favorite novel.

If your teen’s favorite book has been adapted into a movie, let them watch it after completing the book. Then, encourage them to write a movie review or a compare and contrast paper. They might also wish to write an opinion essay stating which was better (the book or the movie) why they felt certain elements were not included in (or were added to) the movie, or why a favorite scene from the book should have been included in the movie.  


Look for opportunities to tie history into the events of your teen’s favorite novel. The Twilight series, for example, is perfect fodder for chasing historical rabbit trails because each of the Cullens became a vampire at different points in history. You could use the book to discuss topics such as World War I, life in the 1920’s, and the rise of Protestant religions in the 1600’s.

Fans of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children can use the tale as a springboard for learning more about World War II. If your teen enjoys some of the popular dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games or Divergent, you might look for opportunities to discuss various types of government or societal classes throughout history and how they compare and contrast to those in the book series.


Many authors create elaborate maps of their fictional worlds to be published with the text. If your teen’s favorite novel doesn’t include a map, invite her to create one, being as detailed and including as many accurate geographical features as possible. She may even wish to create different types of maps, such as political, economic, or thematic.

Invite your Hunger Games fan to figure out where each region of Panem might be located on a map of the United States based on the description of the physical setting and/or industry or agriculture of each. You can also search online for Hunger Games Panem map to see what others have speculated and see if your teen agree or disagrees with those he finds. (That would make an engaging topic for a writing assignment, too.)

If the book is set in a specific, real-life location, encourage your teen to learn more about that place. Harry Potter fans may enjoy immersing themselves in a study of England, while those reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children can research Wales.


You may have to do a bit of digging to ferret out the science in popular young adult books, but it’s often there. Your teen might be enticed to learn more about genetics when they learn that Harry Potter’s ability to talk to snakes is an inherited trait or GMO’s after reading about the genetically modified jabberjays and tracker-jackers in Hunger Games.


Electives are a fairly easy extension activity for nearly any book your student might enjoy. 

Art: Let your student share their enthusiasm for a favorite book by creating artwork based on the novel – a drawing of the characters, painting of the setting, or cartoon depicting a favorite scene.

Music: You can do composer studies based on music mentioned in the book. If a composer study isn't feasible based on the book's time setting, perhaps your musically-inclined teen can compose a musical score for a scene in the tale.

Physical education:  Twilight fans might want to try their hand at volleyball. Hunger Games readers will likely be interested in archery lessons. Harry Potter fans might want to try sports such as soccer, rugby, or dodgeball (since they probably won’t be able to get their hands on a flying broomstick for a rousing game of Quidditch).

Cooking: Give your student some cooking practice by encouraging them to prepare their character’s favorite meal, a dish mentioned in the book, or a meal popular in the country in which the book is set. Perhaps they’ll whip up a batch of Harry Potter’s butterbeer or Narnia’s White Witch’s Turkish Delight. 

Don't let young children be the only ones who get to enjoy extension activities based on their favorite books. Your teens will appreciate the excitement of moving beyond the pages of their favorite novels as well.