If you need a few more activities to get through July before school starts back (in some form or fashion), here is a free summer reading camp for you to do at home with the book, Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover. Read below, and download the PDF with a full list of conversation questions and activities for this four-day mini summer book camp.
Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover is a wonderful early chapter book for elementary school students. It is simple, relatable, funny, and has strong character development. It’s a fun book for bedtime, but it’s also a great book to take a deep dive into because there is a lot to talk about, and it lends itself well to fun creative activities.
Summer Reading and Empathy
Reading is, of course, an essential part of our children’s academic education. However, it is also an essential part of their emotional development and maturity. Reading stories with our children gives them a vital opportunity to practice empathy. Children can really put themselves in someone else’s shoes and try on another perspective. Not only do children get to practice this emotional empathy, but if we read with our children in the right way, they can also develop cognitive empathy.
While emotional empathy has to do with feeling someone else’s emotions—your child feels sad or happy alongside a character—cognitive empathy is having an intellectual understanding of how another person feels and how those feelings drive action. Cognitive empathy can serve our children throughout their lives as they deal with friends, colleagues, and family members. With cognitive empathy, they can think about how a specific person might react to something they say or do.
Practicing Cognitive Empathy with Rabbit and Robot
On the surface, Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover is pretty silly. We might chuckle at the characters and their reactions and overreactions. However, there is a strong opportunity to practice cognitive empathy throughout this book.
When trying to elicit empathy, we might start by asking our children how they would feel in a certain situation. How would you feel if you were Rabbit right now?
It’s a good place to start, but the more important question for developing cognitive empathy is, “How is Rabbit feeling right now? What might Rabbit do next?”
The thing is, your child might have a very different personality than Rabbit. When something goes wrong, your child might say, “Oh, I wouldn’t mind,” or, “I would play a different game because Go Fish isn’t my favorite anyway.”
However, what we know about Rabbit right from the start is that he has a plan, and he does not want to stray from it. He is very excited about his sleepover. He has a list of what he wants to do, and he is not interested in compromising or making any changes to that list. When we ask, what will Rabbit do next, we are asking our children to consider not how they would feel, but what they know about Rabbit and with that knowledge, what will Rabbit choose to do next. In real life, this will give your child a good framework from which to move forward in many situations.
Bonding Through Rabbit and Robot
Another important aspect of storytime with our children is that it provides an amazing opportunity for bonding. We sit close together, maybe curled up on the couch or even in bed. We share a story together. We can laugh together. It gives us something to talk about.
Many a parent knows how it feels to ask our children, “How was your day? How was school?” and receive a curt, uninformative response. When we read we can discuss the story as well as how we might relate to it. We can share our own stories of something similar that has happened to us. Our children may open up about something they wouldn’t have bothered to tell us otherwise.
Rabbit and Robot Book Camp
Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover has four short chapters, so for this mini summer book camp, I’ve laid out creative activities and discussion questions for each chapter. The creative activities are partly just for fun and to provide an opportunity for your child to create. Some also allow your child to dive deeper into the story and the characters.
The discussion questions are meant for you to start a conversation with your child. What I would strongly advise against is handing them to your child to write down answers. Try to use them as a frame of reference to start a natural conversation with your child. Some of the questions are aimed at developing that valuable cognitive empathy I mentioned. Others are aimed at opening up a conversation between you and your child about his or her own experiences.
Don’t feel like you need to go through every question and check them off (like Robot does with his sleepover list). If one question sparks a 20-minute conversation, you can skip the next question if you need to. The idea is to have meaningful conversations, bond, and practice cognitive empathy.
Enjoy, and let me know how it goes!