There are no page numbers in “Move,” the new children’s book by Larissa Hopwood and Yvonne Kusters, who play kids music together as Lolly and YoYo. But there are handles on the side of the book and a hole in the middle. It’s designed to be sat on, held by the handles and played with. “Move” is full of other suggestions, too: Pretend you’re in a canoe and the book is a paddle, or pretend it’s a horse and you’re riding along.
“Even if you’re telling a story – any story – you can get up and move,” Kusters says.
Does a book have a dinosaur in it? Get kids to stomp and roar, she says, and soon story time becomes full-body exercise. Children aren’t getting enough of it, she says, which is one of the main reasons she and Hopwood wrote “Move” – to get kids out of their seats and to broaden parents and educators’ ideas of how to engage with books.
Thursday and Friday, Lolly and YoYo bring “Move” – and their equally energetic children’s songs – to Chapel Hill and Durham. Their message is clear: Kids need exercise.
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“It’s a huge problem that our kids are not moving enough and they’re not playing enough,” says Kusters. “Everything needs to be structured and organized. Recess is dwindling and getting cut out – 20 minutes of recess a day is not enough.”
Since 2006, Kusters has run Let’s Play Today, an educational organization that spreads youth fitness awareness internationally. Children need at least an hour’s worth of physical activity daily, which is essential to their physical health as well as mental, she says, citing Harvard Medical School professor John Ratey’s studies correlating exercise with mental focus.
Hopwood and Kusters started playing as Lolly and YoYo six years ago: Kusters had her fitness mission, while Hopwood had been running story time at a Doylestown, Pa., independent bookshop. Hopwood was already a songwriter, and the musical duo was a natural combination of their skills. Fitness was a strong thread in their active performances and in the booklet for second album “An Adventurous Day,” which encouraged kids to find other things to do with the CD: Can you balance it on your finger? Can you balance it on your head?
“That was the start of blending the fitness and the music together,” Kusters says. Soon, they had the idea to expand one of their songs into a book. When they play their song “Honeybee,” for instance, they get kids to fly around the room looking for the color purple, looking for the color blue. It was important for them that kids leave the book and get moving.
Workman Publishing got the idea and liked it, and soon Kusters and Hopwood had blank books (with holes in them, as requested) that they filled with post-it notes and scribbled ideas. In the end, Kusters and Hopwood had a nonlinear book that wasn’t based on a song, but that collected play suggestions. The idea was to enable imagination rather than limit it.
“We have this one page in the book that’s a butterfly,” Hopwood says. “It says ‘can you flip this book like butterfly wings?’” She thought kids could hold the book in front of them and flap the pages, but her daughter instead put it on her back as if it was her set of wings. “I never would have thought of that,” Hopwood says.
And while the book and music are typically geared toward pre-K and early elementary school ages, bigger kids – that is, kids of reading age – enjoy picking up “Move” and finding their own ideas. With its wealth of open-ended play ideas, Hopwood says, “Move” is like a Swiss Army Knife.
“We don’t say knife,” Kusters quickly interjects. “Multi-purpose tool.”
“Maybe you say that, YoYo,” Hopwood says and laughs.
Whatever you call it, Hopwood and Kusters’ message is clear: reading can be as physical as recess, and any book can inspire this level of activity in kids. They hope the idea spreads.
“Even if you sit down and read a book and it takes you five minutes, you can turn it into a full-hour experience,” Kusters says.
Lolly and YoYo will perform and present their interactive children’s book “Move” in Chapel Hill and Durham this week.
▪ 11 a.m. Thursday at Chapel Hill Public Library, 100 Library Drive, Chapel Hill. chapelhillpubliclibrary.org.
▪ 4 p.m. Thursday at Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth St., Durham. regulatorbookshop.com.
▪ 11 a.m. Friday at Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill. flyleafbooks.com.
Cost: All events are free. “Move” costs $12.95.
Win the book
If you’d like to win a copy of “Move,” send an email to email@example.com by midnight Tuesday (June 7) and include your mailing address. If you’re attending a Lolly & YoYo performance this week, you can pick up the book Wednesday at The News & Observer office, if you wish. Please put “Move” in the subject line of your email to be included in the random drawing. Only the winner will be notified.