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Have you ever considered the impact that your thumb can make in a child’s progression to literacy?  That might seem like a bizarre idea, but we are going to explore that.

The Visual Element of Literacy

Perhaps you remember as a child when a teacher would use a visual to help make a point.  Do you still encounter visuals during a meeting at work?  The visual gives you something to focus on and helps to cement an idea in your head.  A visual could be a picture, a gadget, a prototype of a product, a hat, or a puppet.  When you see a visual during a presentation, it draws your attention and now you are thinking about not only the words but the picture too. 

In the Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia’s article on Audiovisual Education or Educational Technology, it states, Researchers have found that, other conditions being equal, more learning occurs when information is received simultaneously in two modalities (vision and hearing, for example) rather than in a single modality.” (Funk & Wagnall, 2018)

We see that vision and sound, when combined together in the educational setting, create better learning than either do alone.

The Storytelling Element of Literacy

Think back to your history classes at school.  How many of those dates and names do you actually remember.  If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t remember a lot of that.  What do you remember?  The stories.  It was the stories that brought history to life.  When information is described to you in the form of a story, it stays with you.

A Thumby Conversation

So, let’s take these ideas and go back to my earlier proposal that your thumb can make a difference in a child’s literacy progression.  Your thumb is a visual.  It can be a puppet and this puppet can help introduce concepts, through storytelling, that are needed for early literacy.  Hold up one thumb right now.

Mr. Thumb says, “I think I will visit my friend today who lives on the other side of the hill.”  The thumb can then go up the hill and down the hill.  Mr. Thumb now wants to sit on the swing and goes back and forth, back and forth.  Mr. Thumb can meet up with another thumb (your other thumb or your child’s thumb).

Mr. Thumb:  Hello friend.  How are you today?

Other Thumb:  Good thank you, how are you?

(Okay, we’re done with our thumbs for the moment.  Good job.)

What happens to that child when they are watching and interacting with the puppet thumb?  They are engaged with that character.  They forget you are talking to them and instead, they focus on the thumb.  And while talking together and having your thumbs play together, you’ve introduced the concepts of up and down, back and forth, and polite conversation starters.  These concepts are important for early literacy and they have just been introduced in the funnest and funniest way possible – your talking thumb.

A puppet fosters social interaction, creates communication, and sharpens listening skills. (Huff, 2020) All of these things help a child in their own personal journey to better literacy.  So, get out those single socks whose mate got lost in the dryer, glue on some googly eyes, and have a silly conversation with your child.  You will both have fun and not only develop literacy skills, but you will also create fun memories that will stay with your child their entire life.

HCPL books puppets


Get started making puppets by checking these books out from HCPL:

Making Puppets by Sally Henry -

10-minute Puppets by Noel MacNeal -

Fantastic Finger Puppets to make Yourself by Thomasina Smith -

I can make Puppets by Mary Wallace -


“Audiovisual Education, or Educational Technology” (2018) Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. World Book, Inc. Chicago.

“Puppets and Storytelling” (2020) Huff, Mary Jo. Webinar.

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