100+ Literature-Based Activities for Classic Kids Books

I've seen their eyes light up when we read a good book together. I've seen them make learning connections when we share a literature-based learning activity based on that book.

The joy of sharing great books and literature-based learning with my kids is a part of homeschooling I'll always treasure. And textbooks and workbooks just don't inspire that kind of feeling.

If you’ve been around As We Walk Along the Road or read any other posts here, you’ll probably know that I really, really love literature-based learning. Taking a great kids’ book and extending the learning with a fun activity or two is a great way to use a well-written, living book as a jumping off point for other learning.

Literature-based learning activities

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So, how does literature-based learning work?

1- Find a great living book. (I have a free catalog of over 200 living books for all ages here.) Read the book aloud with your kids. If you have young kids and are reading a picture book, you can read the book all in one sitting. If you have older kids and are reading chapter books, it will take longer to read the book aloud.

2- Read the book with your kids, stopping to discuss themes, characters, setting, and plot. If you’re reading a chapter book, stop after each chapter to discuss the book. Allow kids to narrate back portions of the book to you to check their comprehension.

3- Do an activity related to your book. This can be an activity that focuses on an academic subject area, like math, history, or science, or it can just be a fun activity. Make a craft. Cook. Create something.

It’s really that easy. If you want to create a whole literature unit study, grab my Comprehensive Unit Study Planner to get started. And make sure you pick up my free Mega Book of Literature Unit Studies. It has 45 literature unit studies already laid out for you, and it includes a free unit study planner and blank notebooking pages.
In this post, you’ll find some fun and learning ideas based on over 100 great kids’ books. I’ve divided the post into Preschool/Early Learning, Elementary Grades, and Middle Grade. These are just guidelines, because I know that homeschool moms aren’t always into grade levels. With each book, I’ve included an idea that you can use to extend the learning.

Grab a few great books, round up some of your favorite learning activities here, and get reading with the kids!

Literature-based learning activities for preschool

Literature-Based Learning Activities for Preschool/Early Learning

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell- This is the sweet story of three baby owls who are waiting for their mama.
     ~ Make a cute baby owl picture with this idea from I Heart Crafty Things.
     ~ This activity has kids make puppets so that they can retell the story.
     ~ Kids can practice counting with these free Owl-Babies-themed worksheets from Our Kiwi Homeschool.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn– When Chester Raccoon is afraid to leave and go to school, his mama gives him a special kiss to keep in his hand.
     ~ The Chaos and the Clutter has a cute handprint activity to go with this book.
     ~ This free activity has Chester and his woodland friends in a memory game.
     ~ Kids can make their own Chester Raccoon with this craft from Glued to My Crafts.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss– This is a true classic. It’s fun to read out loud, and it’s also great for helping young kids recognize some sight words and number words.
     ~ You can find instructions to make some yummy royal icing cookies to go along with the fish in the story here.
     ~ This is a cute fishbowl craft to go along with the book.
     ~ Totschooling has a cute free printable pack that you can use along with all kids’ favorite snacks- goldfish- to go with this book.

A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni– All other animals have a color that is their own. But the chameleon doesn’t. He wants to stay the same color always - until he meets a new friend.
     ~ Kitchen Floor Crafts has an awesome watercolor project for this book.
     ~ The Activity Mom has a fun matching activity with a free printable.
     ~ Kids can make their own chameleon with this pipe cleaner craft from Lines Across.

Secrets of the Rainforest: A Shine-a-Light-Book by Carron Brown- With this unique book, you can hold a flashlight to the pages to find the animals that live in the rainforest habitat.
     ~ Kids can learn even more about the rainforest with this great Handmade Rainforest Diorama Ornament tutorial from The Natural Homeschool.
     ~ Practice phonemic awareness with this fun rainforest-themed slide activity.
     ~ Itsy Bitsy Fun has free printables for a Rainforest File Folder game where kids can match animals with habitat.

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle– The little spider is diligent to continue building her web, even when the animals from the nearby farm try to distract her.
     ~ Kids can create a beautiful spider web with this activity from Crafting Chicks.
     ~ Speech is sweet has a super cute story map for this book that kids can use to retell the story.
     ~ Kids can practice counting with this Spider Web Fingerprint Counting activity from Messy Little Monster. There’s a free printable with it too!

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon- When Stellaluna the bat is knocked into a bird’s nest, she has to learn the strange new habits they have. There is also a nonfiction section at the back of the book all about bats.
     ~ Kids can practice sequencing with these cards. Have them put the cards in the order in which the events happened in the story.
     ~ I Can Teach My Child has a fun Venn Diagram activity comparing bats and birds.
     ~ In the same post there’s a great craft activity- a bat headband.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett – A young boy runs away to Wild Island to save a baby dragon.
     ~ Kids can learn geography terms as they create their own three-dimensional map of Wild Island with this activity.
     ~ HomeschoolShare has a free lapbook for My Father’s Dragon.
     ~ This post has some fun ideas for the book, including a cool dragon craft.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle– The hungry caterpillar eats his way through an enormous amount of food throughout the week.
     ~ Kids can make a butterfly with this cut and paste activity from Making Learning Fun.
     ~ Help kids practice fine motor skills with this activity from Books and Giggles.
     ~ Use toilet paper tubes to stamp your own caterpillar with this activity.

Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury by Arnold Lobel- Frog and Toad are sweet friends, and this storybook is a collection of four classic Lobel stories about the two of them.
     ~ Bright Hub Education has three fun crafts that go along with several of the Frog and Toad stories.
     ~ Glued to My Crafts has a fun paper plate frog craft.
     ~ This fun pom pom craft demonstrates the life cycle of a frog.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton– Mike Mulligan and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, can dig tunnels, hollow out cellars, and dig deep to make canals. However, as industry comes, new machines replace the old trusty steam shovel. Mike sets out to prove that Mary Anne can still work better.
     ~ HodgePodge has a cool chalk pastel art tutorial for this book.
     ~ Kids can see how a real steam shovel works in this video.
     ~ HomeschoolShare has a free printable unit study pack for this book.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema– In this retelling of a West African tell, a mosquito tells a story that causes a chain reaction and disaster in the jungle.
     ~ After reading the book, kids can watch this classic Weston Woods video version of the story.
     ~ This site has lots more folktales to read with kids.
     ~ This story has some fun onomatopoeia in it. This video has a cute song kids can watch to learn more about what onomatopoeia is.

Literature-based learning for middle school

Literature-Based Learning Activities for Elementary Grades

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin- Wilson Bentley loved the beauty and uniqueness of snowflakes and wanted to capture that for others with his photography.
     ~ Mama’s Learning Corner has a great free Life Cycle of a Snowflake booklet that you can use to help kids learn about snow. It includes vocabulary and writing pages.
     ~ Make some pipe cleaner snowflake stampers and create stamp art like this.
     ~ This science activity will have kids making salt crystal snowflakes.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner – A family of children are left alone and are living in a boxcar, determined to stay together, when they meet a grandfather.
     ~ Kids can learn what a boxcar actually is here.
     ~ One of the kids in the story earns money by cherry harvesting. Kids can watch this video to learn what cherry harvesting involves.
     ~ Dr. Moore in the story practiced medicine in the 1920s. This was different from our modern day medicine. Learn about medicine in the 1920s here.

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parrin D’Aulaires- This is an excellently written and illustrated collection of some of the most popular Greek myths.

     ~ Learn more about ancient Greece with this facts in one minute video.
     ~ This free printable sheet will help kids research and learn all the Greek gods and goddesses.

Dolphin Adventure by Wayne Grover- This book is based on a true story of the author’s rescue of a baby dolphin with a fish hook embedded into him.
     ~ This is a cool Jumping Dolphin Paper Plate Craft from the Sonlight blog.
     ~ Itsy Bitsy Fun has some fun dolphin facts for kids, as well as a free printable.
     ~ Kids can draw a dolphin with this freebie.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary – When a little mouse named Ralph steals a toy motorcycle, he finds himself having some awesome adventures.
     ~ HomeschoolShare has a free printable unit study for this book.
     ~ Kids can make their own mice and race them with this fun craftivity. (You can also build some STEM exploration with predictions, measurement, and more.)
     ~ Watch the movie for this book (free on Amazon prime) and have kids compare the movie and the book with this free printable.

Pyramid by David Macaulay– The clear text and beautiful black and white illustrations in this book teach about life and death in ancient Egypt.
     ~ Make your own simple pyramids with this craft.
     ~ This free printable has instructions for a more elaborate pyramid.
     ~ Kids can learn about ancient Egypt as they play these interactive online games.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater– Mr. Popper has a plain ordinary life, although he longs for adventure and exploration - especially of the South Pole. When he is sent a penguin by Admiral Drake, his life changes dramatically.
     ~ Kids can watch penguins live with this web cam from Monterey Bay Aquarium.
     ~ Kids design their own penguins with this activity from Deep Space Sparkle.
     ~ This page from Ducksters has fun penguin facts for kids.

The Light at Tern Rock by Julia L. Sauer – Ronnie and his aunt are visiting a lighthouse and taking care of it while the lighthouse keeper takes a much-needed break. But when the keeper doesn’t return, Ronnie fears they’ll be stuck in the lighthouse for Christmas.
     ~ Kids Artists has a great watercolor lighthouses art project here.
     ~ Encouraging Moms at Home has some fun ideas for teaching kids about lighthouses using Minecraft.
     ~ Kids can make a model lighthouse with these instructions.

Poppy by Avi– When Mr. Ocax, the evil owl, won’t allow Poppy’s mouse community to move to a place with more food, Poppy stands up to him, with the help of her “prickly” but lovable porcupine friend, and helps lead her community to a new living place.
     ~ Kids can draw a mouse like Poppy with these instructions.
     ~ This site has some great information, photos, and videos about porcupines.
     ~ Dissect a virtual owl pellet at the Kidwings site. (If you want to spend a little money, dissecting a real owl pellet is cool too!)

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh – Jonathan has always been told by the adults that there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain, but when he sets off over the mountain on his own one dark night, he learns the truth.
     ~ Kids can learn about hibernation with this video.
     ~ Here are books notes, vocabulary words, discussion questions, and more for the book.
     ~ A Little Pinch of Perfect has a cute hibernating bear craft and free printable here.

It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach– This story is a Yiddish folktale. When a man feels his house is too crowded, he goes to the Rabbi for help and learns that it could always be worse.
     ~ Learn some basic Yiddish for kids here.
     ~ Kids can learn about some of the farm animals that end up living in the house in this story here.
     ~ Make a cute 3D house with these instructions and free printable.

Literature-based learning activities

Literature-Based Learning Activities for Middle Grades

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray– Adam enjoys traveling through 13th century England with his father, who is a wandering minstrel, and his dog. But Nick, the dog, is stolen, and Adam’s father disappears, leaving him alone.
     ~ The Middle Ages in 3 1/2 minutes gives kids an overview of this time period.
     ~ Medievality is a website with tons of information about the Middle Ages. Kids can check it out to learn more.
     ~ The Notebooking Nook has a great collection of free mini books and vocabulary words all about the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt by G.A. Henty- A young prince and his loyal charioteer are captured by the Egyptians and become slaves in the household of a priest. The two uncover a plot to murder the priests, but have to flee when they accidentally kill the successor of the revered Cat of Bubastes.
     ~ Many animals in ancient Egypt were sacred. Kids can research this page to learn about them.
     ~ Use the instructions here to make an Egyptian collar or necklace.
     ~ Use one of the sets of instructions at Bright Hub Education to build a pyramid.

King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian by Marguerite Henry– Sham was a stallion born in the Moroccan deserts. He travels through France and finally to a home in England with his friend Agba, a stable boy. This is the true story of the famous Godolphin Arabian.
     ~ Kids can learn more about the country of Morocco here.
     ~ Animal World has more information kids can read about thoroughbred horses here.
     ~ Design Sponge has instructions for beautiful cardboard horses here.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry– When the Germans begin “relocating” Danish Jews, Annemarie’s family takes in Annemarie’s Jewish friend and hide her as their family. The book follows the Danish resistance, as many Jews were hidden and smuggled out of the country.
     ~ Glencoe Literature Library has a free discussion guide for this book.
     ~ Kids can research and learn more about the Star of David here.
     ~ Kids can learn more about the country of Denmark and its history here.

Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes – Johnny is a 14 year old silversmith when he injures his hand. Johnny finds a new job with the patriotic newspaper, The Boston Observer. Soon he begins delivering messages and becomes a central part of the events in the American Revolution.
     ~ Kids can see what silversmithing would have looked like in colonial times here.
     ~ Squarehead Teachers has a free printable game- Who’s Who in the American Revolutionary War?
     ~ This Crash Course video gives kids an overview of the Revolutionary War.

Holes by Louis Sachar – Stanley Yelnats is sent to a boys’ detention center where the residents are required to dig holes in a dried up lake. Stanley soon realizes that there is more to this than just punishment for the boys.
     ~ Kids can do the Dig Activity here to review the book.
     ~ Jump Into a Book has three fun activities to go along with the book here. (I especially love the yummy one!)
     ~ This site has a summary of the book as well as discussion questions and vocabulary.

Redwall by Brian Jacques – The peace-loving mice of Redwall Abbey are forced to defend themselves against the cruelty of the rat Cluny the Scourge. The unexpected hero is bumbling Matthias, who will have to save the abbey.
     ~ Create a Summer Salad like the one mentioned in several of the books here.
     ~ This lesson from Scholastic will help you guide kids in discussing the characters in the story.
     ~ The official Redwall website has information about all the Redwall books and the author Brian Jacques.

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski- Birdie and her family are trying to build a strawberry farm in Florida. But they are struggling, and their unkind neighbors, the Slaters, don’t help.
     ~ The dialect of backwoods Florida is sometimes tricky in this book. Kids can learn more about dialect and how authors use it here.
     ~ Ducksters has information kids can read about the history of the state of Florida.
     ~ Kids can learn about how strawberries are grown here.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare– Kit comes to colonial Connecticut in 1687 and is struggling and lonely. When her one friend Hannah Tupper is accused of being a witch, Kit has to make choices.
     ~ LitMama has an awesome list of over 125 activities you could use with this book.
     ~ You can find a free discussion guide for this novel at the Glencoe Literature Library.
     ~ Bright Hub Education has a collection of cross-curricular activities for this book as well.

Phoebe the Spy by Judith Griffin – Phoebe works in George Washington’s household, supposedly as a housekeeper, but to watch out for George Washington and keep him safe.
     ~ Kids can learn more about the Revolutionary War with the facts and free printable timeline foldable here.
     ~ The Spy Activities at There’s Just One Mommy can give kids a taste of what it was like to be a spy during the Revolutionary War.
     ~ Kids can watch this Liberty’s Kids video to learn about the start of the American Revolution.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare – Daniel is a young Jewish man bent on revenge on the Romans for killing his father. His plans for revenge slowly change when he begins to listen to Jesus of Nazareth.
     ~ Use these questions to discuss the book.
     ~ The interactive timeline here will help kids understand what happens to the people of Israel between the Old and New Testaments.
     ~ This video will teach kids about the ancient Romans and the Jews.

If you love using great literature and literature-based activities, check out my literature unit studies and notebooking sets. You can find out more about them here.

Want to read a great book with the kids? Pick one off of this list, read aloud, and use some activities I’ve listed to extend the learning of the book.

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