2 Resources for Building Literacy Through Movement

2 Resources for Building Literacy Through Movement

This month, we are sharing 2 books that can help children continue building literacy through movement, whether at school or home. The school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic have put children in front of screens and placed new burdens on parents to support their children’s education.

Resources like the two books we are reviewing this month help to engage students in a multi-sensory way and have the benefit of being available as either e-books or traditional books. In addition to developing a love of reading, these books encourage students to move their bodies and teach concepts related to history, dance and music.

For past reviews about other dance books, check out this post.

Book #1

Feel the Beat:  Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

By Marilyn Singer and Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

Type of Book:  This is a children’s non-fiction literature and poetry book with 32 pages.  This is aimed towards 5- to 8-year-old audiences.  A CD also comes with the book, and eBook/audio-book formatting is available.     

Dance Elements: Each poem is about a dance.  Many of the dances introduced in the book are a form of partner dancing.  The poems naturally introduce dance-step lingo and show how a dancer might feel when dancing the various dances that inspire the poems.

Poetry Patterns:  The poems incorporate the use of rhyme, repetition, and alliteration. Plus, each poem follows the rhythm of the specific dance it is about. 

Cultural Context:  The illustrations provide vibrant and detailed visuals that aids the readers’ imaginations.  The images give context to where and why someone is dancing that particular dance, and it highlights cultural garb or a popular costume that goes with the dance.  For example, one poem is about Brazilian Samba (not to be confused with ballroom Samba).  The image shows young women on floats dancing in a parade, as they might in Brazil’s famous Carnival festival.  The float is decked out in giant fruit and the girls are wearing long, slick dresses with a fruit hat.  This scene honors the famous Brazilian, Carmen Miranda, who once donned a giant headpiece with fruit on top.  

When listening to the CD, background music is played along with the narrator.  The background music is often reflecting the type of dance:  swing music, or cha-cha music with outdoor sounds and light laughter in the background to match the image of a young girl attending a party outside.   

Personal Impressions: This book is technically aimed for 5- year-old children but it is interesting, fun, and has so many layers that it should say the book is for 5 years and up.  You can do so much with this book!  It teaches 3 major topics (poetry formatting, cultural diversity, and how to dance)!   

Extras The book comes with a CD so you can really listen to how the poems are written in the rhythm of each dance.  For students who are using a tablet for school, the audio book in Play Books is also a great way to access the book.  This book inspires so many extended activities that it is well suited for children older than 8 years old.   Here are some ideas of engaging a young reader more deeply in the text:

    • If the child is already familiar with different types of poetry devices and styles, have the child point them out throughout the book.   
    • Learn the dances or a few steps from each dance-inspired poem of course! 
    • What is their favorite dance genre?  Have them make a poem (incorporating some poetic devices) about their favorite dance.  

How kids can enjoy the book without adult support, regardless of reading level: 

    • Children who aren’t strong readers yet can download the book on Play Books and choose the audio-book version to follow along.   They can follow along with the highlighted words as it is being read aloud.
    • Children who are strong readers and don’t need additional attention can use the eBook version (not read aloud), rented library version, or their own copy when it is finally delivered (that last option may take awhile due to COVID-19 restrictions).   

Book #2 

The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany’s Gift of Hope

By Daryn Reicherter (Author), Christy Hale (Illustrator), Bophal Penh (Translator)   


the cambodian dancerType of Book:  This is a children’s non-fiction picture book that is 32 pages long.  It is aimed for 4- to 9-year-old audiences.  It comes in eBook format as well.  

Setting and Story: This book is based on a true story.  The setting is placed in the country of Cambodia, before the Khmer Rouge period.  The main character of the story learns the values and customs of her culture by practicing traditional Cambodian dances.  The girl eventually becomes a refugee and flees to the United States.  She stops dancing for a period of time but eventually returns to dancing when she is an adult.  She teaches the traditional dances of Cambodia to young Cambodian refugees.  Due to the history of this period, you may need to be prepared to discuss parts of this history if you have curious readers.  The story touches upon the history but doesn’t dive deeply into it.   

Main Themes/Important Messages: The story’s message is in the title: hope.  This story demonstrates resiliency despite tragedy.  

Dance Element:  Traditional dances of Cambodia  

Cultural/Historical Context:  The main character grows up learning about her cultural traditions through dance until the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979).  The story sheds light on the hardships of fleeing her country.  Many of the Cambodians who were taught these sacred dances either died or went into hiding during the regime.

Why You should Check It Out:  This story beautifully introduces the topic of what it is like to be a refugee in simple, easy-to-follow language.  The book is easily digestible for 4- to 9-year-old children but can also be used for older audiences by talking more about this culture and time period in Cambodia.  This topic is also fitting for our current times because this true story is all about hope and perseverance during a scary time.  This book is relatable for diverse populations, refugees, and immigrants.  The story’s use of courage, hope, and the creative human spirit is a good read during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This story can be used as a transition to talk to children about their confusions and worries during the pandemic.    


  • Children can create or practice their own dance moves only using their hands (it’s harder than it sounds).   
  • Research the folk dances of Cambodia, like the Apsara Dance.  


Check out the links below if you are interested in learning more about poetry, Cambodian history, or simply want these books.  As always, continue to stay safe and practice self-care.







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