Art Works Blog

Summer Activities for Kids: NEA Big Read Style

School is out for the summer and if you’re scrambling to figure out what to do with your kids for the next few months, our NEA Big Read grantees have you covered. The best part about the inventive activities and fun crafts that have been inspired by NEA Big Read books is you can pair them with a children’s book (and parents and caregivers can read the book from our NEA Big Read library that originally inspired the craft)! Here are some of the crafts we think can be easily replicated for kids at home.

Family Loom: The Evanston Public Library in Illinois programmed NEA Big Read events around Into the Beautiful North, a book by Luis Alberto Urrea about a young woman in Mexico’s journey to the United States. Children from Evanston read the companion reader Yes! We Are Latinos by Alma Flor Ada and, among other activities, helped weave strips of cloth into a loom. Here's how you can weave on a mini loom.

two young kids holding up papel picado panels they have made

Children at the Anaheim Public Library NEA Big Read Papel Picado craft event. Photo courtesy of the Anaheim Public Library

Papel Picado Banners: The folks in Anaheim, California also read Into the Beautiful North. Among many crafts organized by the Anaheim Public Library for children were papel picado banners, made by folding tissue paper and cutting out shapes.Learn how to make your own papel picado here.

people painting a mural

Children painting at a community mural event. Photo courtesy of the Anaheim Public Library

Community Mural: Also from the Anaheim Public Library’s programming of Into the Beautiful North, a mural that community members painted. This craft is a great way for members of a family or community to create something together.   

Paper Cup Dragons: In Massillon, Ohio, the Massillon Museum hosted a dragon-making event inspired by A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin’s award-winning fantasy novel. Children in Massillon read The Woodland Elves by Shary Williamson as a companion reader. Learn to make your own paper cup dragon here

various items on a set of shelves

One of the Museum of Civilization exhibits. Photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Public Library

Make Your Own Museum: Patrons of the Santa Barbara Public Library made their own “Museum of Civilization” inspired by Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven. The children in Santa Barbara read John Rocco’s Caldecott-winning book Blackout. What items would you include in your museum?

people writing poems on the sidewalk

Children creating sidewalk poems during the Lighthouse Writhers Workshop’s event. Photo courtesy of Lighthouse Writers Workshop

Sidewalk Poems: In Denver, Colorado, community members read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, an award-winning book of poetry and also the first collection of poems to become a New York Times bestseller for multiple weeks on the paperback nonfiction list. Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s NEA Big Read programming of Citizen included sidewalk poetry. For this activity, they created word tiles that community members could arrange into poems.

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