Figurative language is when words are used to mean something beyond the literal meaning of the actual words. Because the words are being used in an often unusual way, it can be tricky for children to understand the word picture being painted by the author. In the last post in this series, we discussed the use of alliteration in books.
Similes and Metaphors
Similes and Metaphors are closely related to each other. Both are ways to describe something using a comparison. The difference is in how the comparison is made. Similes use the words “like” or “as” to make a comparison. “Her love was like a red, red, rose” for example. Metaphors, on the other hand, compare by stating that one thing is another thing. As in, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Both of these famous quotes by Shakespeare compare things, but the first is a simile because is uses the word “like” while the second is a metaphor.
Similes and Metaphors in Books
While you can find similes and metaphors in almost any book, Crazy Like a Fox by Loreen Leedy uses similes to describe the actions of Rufus the fox. Try to find all the similes with your child and talk about why those comparisons are made. Why is something “as fast as lightning”? Is lightning fast? What else could you compare something fast with? Another great book for discussing similes and metaphors is Skin Like Milk, Hair of Silk: What are Similes and Metaphors? by Brian P. Cleary. This fun book teaches the definitions of similes and metaphors using cute examples and illustrations throughout it.
Stay as Busy as a Beaver Writing Similes and Metaphors
Most similes and metaphors are fairly common. It’s fun to mix it up a little by changing the simile or metaphor slightly. Choose a common simile like “he is as busy as a bee.” Have your child choose something else that is busy to complete the simile. “He is as busy as ____________.” Encourage them to pick something that fits in the simile, but be prepared to laugh along when they come up with some interesting and funny combinations. If your child is older, they may even be ready to start writing their own similes and metaphors to describe things around them.
Children like using similes and metaphors in new and creative ways. In our next post on figurative language, we will learn about personification and how to use it.
How do you explain the difference between similes and metaphors to your children?