Last week I was talking with another teacher about the difficulties some students in her class were having with writing. She was feeling frustrated because even though they are reading and writing, and even though their families are speaking English at home, the classroom writing is still missing many elements she hopes to see from developing writers.
I started to worry. As a teacher I have seen this too, and only as we discussed the problem did I start to realize the depth of the difficulty. These families are working to give their children a great future but the language they have mass access to is television based American English with limited style, vocabulary, personality and possibility. Where can they get the enriched language needed to build writing style and confidence? What am I doing differently with my own children? What did my mother do differently with me?
One thing I had in abundance was access to great books. Some of my earliest memories involve hanging out in the children’s section of the local library (Collingwood Branch!) or scavenging at flea markets for some to bring home. We always had books in my house, new ones arriving regularly, and reading was not only an accepted but a valued way to spend time. (If you know my mother, you know she is still a main book supplier in our lives. Fuelling the addiction!)
One of my first book loves (still lingering, hence the large collection…): Little Golden Books…
I loved these books as a little girl. (I was allowed to choose one new one every week when we made the trip to the Woodward’s Food Floor for our groceries.) The illustrations are incredible, the stories are complex, the language is rich and colourful…
These are the stories that children need to read over and over again. My own children love them and ask for them regularly – when I pulled out the book box to choose books for this post my littlest one was running interference in order to pull out the books he wanted to read.
You already know how much I love my alphabet books…
Golden Books were first published in the 1940s and yet their content and design make them timeless enough to be requested regularly by children today… seventy years later!
What is it that makes them so appealing? The same thing that makes them perfect for developing language in emergent writers… These books tell complex (sometimes long) stories that don’t “talk down” to children, using interesting vocabulary that inspires curiosity and questions as they unfold. What could be better?
Written and illustrated by some incredible individuals (Margaret Wise Brown, Richard Scarry, Tibor Gergely, the Provensens…) these little books made great quality art and literature available to a mass audience. In many cases they are great example of mid-century culture and design:
This is the springboard for language development that so many children need. These are the modern “classics” that need to be shared!
My favourite stories:
Old Mother Hubbard (because I love a sharply dressed pet, especially one with a pipe…)
But most of all I Can Fly…
It’s a personal doctrine. “I can play I’m anything that’s anything…” So can you. And together we can model that “anything” for children who have nothing – that’s a real legacy. Where do we start?