I design the monthly boxes for Outside the Box Creation. Each box includes a book to read to spark kids’ imaginations and set the stage for the art project. I try to choose books that are unique, somewhat less mainstream or even a little bit older, so that parents and kids are less likely to have already read them. There are three very special books that we cannot use in our boxes because they are not available in paperback, and therefor too large, too heavy and cost prohibitive. But YOU can purchase them or get them from the library and read them with your child! Discovering new worlds and new ideas together is the perfect way to deepen your connection with your child and to help her create new neural pathways in her brain! I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse The first thing you’ll notice about this book is the absolutely beautiful watercolor illustrations and the fact that it is a super sweet story! A mother and her two sons go fishing. The boys keep trying to get her to say which one she loves best and which one is better at fishing. The mom not only refuses to choose a favorite, but uses color and vibrant adverbs and adjectives to bring their unique gifts and personalities alive. The author’s words conjure striking visual images and even incorporate some onomatopoeia (words that phonetically imitate or resemble the sound they describe). This book is a great way to launch kids’ imaginations in full color! “Why Max, I love you the reddest! I love you the color of a leopard’s eyes when it prowls through the jungle, the color of a campfire at the edge of the flame…” My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss This book was actually published after Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Seuss Geisel, died. Dr. Seuss said this book was his “first book ever to be based on beautiful illustrations and sensational color”. It isn’t exactly onomatopoeia, but the words really convey the feelings he is expressing about each color: On Purple Days, I’m sad, I groan, I drag my tail, I walk alone. When reading this book aloud, children really understand in a visceral way, how colors can convey different feelings. They also begin to understand that feelings aren’t forever, they will pass; and all of us have days when we feel down, slow, melancholy, as well as days we feel happy and bright. Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds Sky Color is about a little girl, Marisol, who fancies herself an artist. So she volunteers to paint the sky in a collaborative mural her class is planning. When she realizes there is no blue paint she is in a panic. However, she sees a beautiful multi-colored sunset on the way home from school, and realizes that skies are not just blue, but rather a myriad of colors. This book helps open children’s minds and encourages them to notice all the colors around them. It shows the children brainstorming and planning their mural and the process that Marisol goes through in her brain, to realize that skies are not just blue. Younger children are very concrete thinkers, but as they approach the tween years, around age eleven or so, they can begin to think more abstractly. Helping your child expand her thinking beyond “tree trunks are brown; sky is blue” and encouraging her to really see what colors appear in a tree trunk or sky, will help her powers of observation, and her focus and imagination no matter her age. For more about this, read my blog Drawing Brings Out the Best in Your Brain. Reading books with your child is a perfect way to integrate language, literature, history and other disciplines with art. Reading vivid text encourages children to use their imaginations and create images in their heads. According to a study published in Pediatrics, children who had been read to at home showed significantly greater activation of a brain area that is, “…all about multi-sensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,” according to Dr. John S. Hutton, the lead author and a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Reading to children not only builds neural pathways in their brains, but also creates an amazing long-term bond between adults and children. Reading and creating art together help you connect with your child in ways that will last a lifetime!