From the time we're little, we make wishes on stars... "Star light, star bright/First star I see tonight/I wish I may, I wish I might/Have the wish
I wish tonight."
As the last page of the award-winning book Dream reminds us, "Look up, up, up into those billion billion sparkling stars. What dreams do you find?"
Dream is a rich, multilayered book gorgeously illustrated by 15 top world illustrators. It's a great read-aloud with children, teens, and adults. For older children, you can do a straightforward reading, discussing the themes and illustrations as you go. Involve the group by having different people read the quotations at the bottom of each page.
Children 7 years and younger will enjoy the story at its simplest level. The ultimate educational goal is both visual and text literacy. Many children may be able to take away surprisingly sophisticated concepts from what they see in the pictures, but may not yet be able to read about or express these concepts fully.
Here are some tips for an interactive, engaging reading for young children.
Introduce the Concept
Start by asking children what they would like to be or do when they grow up. You may want to talk about what you wanted to be when you were their age, and some of your dreams/goals now. You're never too young or too old to dream! Children are learning who they are; this kind of discussion is a valuable first step in their journey of self-discovery.
Introduce the Story
"Dream is about hopes and dreams. It's about the special and important wishes you make on the stars in the sky, wishes for yourself and for others."
Introduce the Wise Old Star
Particularly in a group setting, children may not be able to see the subtle star hidden in the yellow background on page 5. So, introduce them to the narrator: "Dream is a story told by a wise old star. Here's the star saying hello (open the book to show page 28). Wave hello to the star!"
Explain that "the wise old star is going to take us on a whirlwind journey of a lifetime. Whoosh and we start with a baby. Then whoosh and we're suddenly a teenager. Then whoosh again and we're all grown up. The star needs our help to whoosh from page to page. When it's time to turn a page and I move my arm like this (make a wide sweeping motion), I want everyone to make a BIG WHOOSH sound with me. Let's practice." Practice the sweeping motion with your arm and have the whole group try the whoosh together a couple of times. As part of developing visual literacy in addition to text literacy, the whoosh takes a visual element on the page (the swoosh of stars that moves from page to page in the background) and makes it an oral element for a read-aloud.
Start the Story
Open the book to the title page: "The first part of the story is told in this picture, without words. You can see that Dream begins at the end of the rainbow with the magical Dream Chest. A person finds the Dream Chest and opens it. The wise old star is inside the chest and asks, 'What's your dream?' Now the star takes us on a magical journey through life to help us think about our dreams."
Before you turn the page, mention that each page in the book has a different color. Talk about how colors can make you feel different things. Some colors are high energy (e.g. red, yellow) and others are low energy (e.g. gray). As you turn to the first page, ask "What color do you see? Is it high energy or low energy?" Each time you turn to a new page, ask the group to name the color (i.e. yellow, red, "purple" or violet, blue, black and white, gray, green, and finally back to yellow) and the mood it evokes.
Hunt for the Stars
Read the text on page 5, ending with the soft refrain, "Dream a dream with me." For young children, omit the quotations. After reading the story text, tell children there's a star hidden in each illustration (all the stars are identified on the last pages of Dream). Children can hunt for the star when you finish reading a page (i.e. either in your book at the front or in books they're holding). When the group finds a star, have everyone close their eyes and make a wish. Note that children should make a different wish with each star they find on each page. Ask questions to prompt thoughtful wishes: If you could make a wish to meet anyone in the world, who would it be? What would you like to learn how to do (e.g. how to swim, play baseball, ride a skateboard)? What wish can you make for your family that would make them happy? How would you like the world to be a better place?
Help children better understand the story's meanings by engaging them with each page. For young children, read abbreviated text on certain pages (shown below; write the text on a sticky note).
Pages 4-5: "I started out just like you," says the wise old star. "Once..." (read the rest of the first page). "Put up your hand if you started out as a baby." As the hands go up say, "We all start out the same!" Ask how they know they were a baby; children will probably mention baby photos.
Pages 6-7: "When my legs..." (read the rest of the page). "Can you stand and touch your toes like the girl in the picture?" Repeat the story text, "Smelling every single flower in the garden." Ask children to count the number of different types of flowers in the picture. There are seven, including dandelions in grass and tulips on clothing.
Pages 8-9: "As I got bigger..." (read the rest of the page). Ask children what the boy is doing. Talk about reading and using your imagination. "All dreams begin in your imagination, as an idea in your head." How many fairy tale characters can children identify?
Pages 10-11: "When I became a teenager, I liked blue. Everyone likes blue. There's a whole world to figure out, and you think about finally growing up. Dream a dream with me." Ask children how many are looking forward to being a teenager. Then ask them to list things a teenager can do that they can't do.
Pages 12-13: "Then I was a grownup, young and strong. My favorite colors were simple black and white. It was easy to tell yes from no. There's a whole world to conquer." Have children stand and climb in place -- lifting their legs up high -- to pretend they're climbing up a mountain. Then say, "Dream a dream with me, and everything that came before. Let's go back in history!"
Pages 14-15: "Great men and..." (read the rest of the page). Explain that these are famous people who have done important things and made the world a better place. What do children see people doing in the picture?
Pages 16-17: "Great ideas..." (read the rest of the page). Explain that every one of the inventions started as an idea. How many of the inventions can children identify?
Pages 18-19: "Great hopes and joys. There are more happy than sad things in the world." When children find the star on this page, ask them to make a wish for something to make the world a better place.
Pages 20-21: "But as the days became years that spun by, my simple black-and-white world turned gray, the color of a dismal day. There are things that are scary, or sad, or really hard. Sometimes, all you want to do is hide your head under the covers of your bed." Ask children how many have had a bad day when they didn't want to get out of bed. Put up your hand, too. "Let's pretend we're hiding in bed. Pull the covers over your head. But we can't spend every day in bed..." (turn the page).
Pages 22-23: "Let's throw back the covers! Then something happened. It will always happen if you're looking. It might be a big hug from someone who loves you. And then you aren't sad or scared anymore."
Pages 24-25: "I was older and strong..." (read the rest of the page). Then say, "Let's pretend we're seeds growing. Cross your arms over your chest. Slowly unfold and stretch both arms like a tree reaching its branches toward the sun."
Pages 26-27: "I understood that to grow a dream, you need to Believe, Do, Think. And everyone has to work together. Dream a dream with me."
Pages 28-31: Have everyone wave hello to the star again. "Now I am very, very, very old. My favorite color? Yellow -- the color of the billion billion stars that sparkle in the night sky. Dream a dream with me, and all that comes after. Look up, up, up..." (read the rest of the last page).
When you finish reading the last line, do a group Star Stretch. Ask children to close their eyes and imagine a night sky full of beautiful sparkling stars. Tell them to slowly raise one arm over their head to reach and stretch for the stars. Lower that arm and raise the other arm to reach for the stars. Lower the second arm, and then raise both arms to reach for those "billion billion sparkling stars. Dream a dream, your very own dream." As children open their eyes, have them bring their hands together and bend their arms in an arch over their head. Flip back to the title page and say, "That brings us back to where we started, with the Dream Chest at the end of the rainbow."
When you're reading Dream with young children, introduce the concept, story, and narrator. Then involve children in active, meaningful ways – have them identify the theme color for each page; do the group whoosh; hunt for hidden stars; explore each page.
If you have a computer and large monitor, you may want to use the Dream CD. It includes all the illustrations in a PowerPoint slide show that you can use as you read the story.
After reading Dream, everyone can make Dream Stars together!