Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pattern Language

We in library service to children are talking a lot these days about preliteracy skills, and I will start to post about them once in a while here, too, to share the information and some supporting titles with you online. Today I am talking about one of the types of books that can help support one of the six narrative skills. (For a quick and dirty rundown on them, see here. For a more formal version, see here or visit a local public library.)

I am talking about pattern stories. One of the things a child needs in order to get ready to learn to read is what we call narrative skills. This essentially means that a child understands how a story works. That a story has a certain structure, that events happen in a sequences, that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. One of the types of stories we recommend for really highlighting a specific story structure is the patterned story. These have repetitions that create an obvious internal organization, an old storyteller's device. Encourage your child to chime in. Once the child is anticipating what comes next, you are seeing the growth of narrative skills, and it makes for a more fun and interactive storytime for you both, too.

Instead of a few titles with annotations, I will give you a few types of patterned stories, each with a few titles I like.

Folk and Fairy Tales

As repetition is an old trick used by storytellers to recall stories, to draw in an audience, and to emphasize important parts of the tale, it is found in many old stories. These also have a beginning, middle, and end, and the pattern helps draw the story along that path. A few examples are:

The Three Billy Goats Gruff (I like Janet Stevens' version, as well as the older version by Paul Galdone) ; The Little Red Hen (I also like Philemon Sturges' updated The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza) ; The Gingerbread Man/Boy/Baby/Girl (My favourite is Egielski's boy, who romps through the city and does get eaten in the end, though some may prefer Jan Brett's baby, who does not) ; Too Much Noise (a great old tale that lends itself to silliness, by Ann McGovern) ; The Mitten, by Jan Brett ; and The Great Big Enormous Turnip (there are also versions with potatoes and carrots, but my favourite is a Hallowe'en adaptation, The Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman).

Eric Carle

Yes, this classic picture book master gets his own section for the simple reason that he has time and time again created beloved stories with strong patterns, while also having a flow from beginning to end, as with fairy tales. He also manages to imbed concepts like time, days, counting, and more without ever being obvious about it. Genius. Favourites include:

The Very Busy Caterpillar ; The Very Busy Spider ; The Very Lonely Firefly ; Pancakes, Pancakes ; The Grouchy Ladybug ; Rooster's Off To See The World.

Simple Rhyming Books

These are books that carry strong patterns, but less of a story. They may, in fact, be entirely about the pattern in some cases, but children do love that. In a bedtime book, it is soothing, while in other storytime favourites, it makes it easy for them to join in. A few treasures are among those must-have titles:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (and the accompanying Polar Bear and Panda Bear titles) ; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (and many other Bill Martin titles, but most notably the Chicka Chicka's) ; Time for Bed (my favourite bedtime book, one that every new mom I know gets) ; Goodnight Moon ; Goodnight, Goodnight, Sleepyhead (a new treat by Ruth Kraus and Jane Dyer) ; Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart, ill. Barbara Reid ; The Deep Blue Sea, by Audrey Wood.

Song Books

Songs lend themselves naturally to patterns as well, with choruses and repetitious verses. More and more songs are being illustrated in book format, making it easier to find these for storytime sharing. I love to use these because they help me remember the words to less familiar songs, give visual cues to the child to help them join in, and ties words to pages more strongly. Look for Raffi's many books (Down By The Bay, etc.), a few by Nadine Bernard Westcott (Skip To My Lou, I love), and some old favourites that include:

Old MacDonald ; Three Little Kittens ; BINGO ; Little White Duck (I love the Joan Paley-illustrated version); The Wheels On The Bus (Zelinsky's is fun) ; Over in the Meadow (and luscious new versions for the ocean and rainforest by Marianne Collins Berkes) ; and so on.

Look for these and other patterned pages at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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