Monday, February 23, 2009

Community Helpers: An Overview

One of the big curriculum elements in kindergarten is the theme of community workers. The idea is to introduce children to the neighbourhood and the city and the many people who help make it work. Who are they? Where do they work? What do they do to help us? It's a great idea, teaching them about these important cornerstones of the community, these everyday heroes, as it were. Not only so that they can appreciate them and their contributions, but also so that they gain a greater understanding of the world around them.

It's something that we as parents are so accustomed to living with daily that we sometimes forget to really stop and explain it. If it's an idea you'd like to bring home with you, this post is a starting point, a source for some general overview books. I'll follow up in the next little while with some posts about specific professions as well, as many of them are of interest to children. I mean, fire fighters? Seems to me those are of interest to lots of people...

Stella Louella's Runaway Book, by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Stella's library book is due by 5:00, and it has disappeared. She follows the trail of people who have passed it from one to the next, and as she does, the group of people helping her look grows behind her. Along the way, she meets and gathers in lots of people in her communityand the sense of true community is on full display, as each is concerned with helping her on her mission. By the end, she has what seems like a good portion of the town's population running around with her. This book features Ernst's trademark illustration style, and is a serious delight to read aloud as it plays with fun language, works the storyteller-style repetition as the group grows, and even provides clues to a riddle at the end. This is just a terrific title for sharing.

What Do People Do All Day?, by Richard Scarry

This fantastic book is a classic for good reason. It introduces the concept of work and workers and why people work, then goes on to introduce a solid set of different workers and their work in short stories of four to eight pages each. The stories contain a stunning level of detail in the text and illustrations both, making them wonderful to explore together again and again. I had forgotten how good this was - I may go buy it for Pumpkinpie now!

This Is Me and Where I Am, by Joanne Fitzgerald

This book is great for putting the idea of neighbourhood into context. It begins looking at the worlds, and then begins to focus in closer and closer, down to one country, then one city, one neighbourhood, one street, one yard, one house, one room, one bed, containing one child. it then pulls back out again to show the child within his/her room (its ambiguous), house, yard, street, neighbourhood, city, country, and world. It's an interesting book, and helps a child understand the way those terms are related in a nice clear, simple presentation.

Career Day, by Anne Rockwell, ill. Lizzy Rockwell

On Career Day in Ms. Madoff's class, the children bring their parents, who work a wide variety of jobs - mostly in the community, though some further afield. Each has an illustration of the person in the class and in their work environment, paired with a couple of lines briefly touching on what the job title means. This is a good way to introduce a host of different vocations in one fell swoop, but does not go into detail on any one of them - you could follow up with books with a narrower focus where your child shows interest.

When We Grow Up, by Anne Rockwell

Like Career Day, this book covers a swath of differnt careers without telling much about any one of them. In this case, we are shown a great number of children and what they want to be, with one line about each paired with an illustration showing them both as a child and as an adult doing their future dream job. This being a much older book has a different feel - the illustrations are drawings, and simple ones at that, the colour palette very limited, and the overall impression pretty retro. Still, if you're looking for a book about professions for a young child, it has the right level of complexity, as Anne Rockwell does picture books about the world around very well.

In the Middle of the Night, by Kathy Henderson, ill. Jennifer Eachus

This soft book speaks of the night workers, the bakers and mail sorters, officer cleaners and hospital staff, stargazers and delivery drivers who help make the world ready for us in the morning. Framing the story is a baby's bedtime, a birth, and a mother looking at the early morning sky as she walks her wee one. The book has a soft, foggy quality to its illustrations and a lyrical text that give the book on the whole a dreamlike feeling. Quite lovely, and different from other books about occupations. It would make a wonderful bedtime tale.

Coming Soon: Building a City and Keeping It Clean.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Beast Within

A child's anger is unlike an adults. It's less of a quick snap or slow burn, and more of a wild rage. Anger can bring a child to a place where they can't hear or reason, can't stop themselves, can scarcely even catch a breath to howl anew. It's hard for adults to really understand the force of those emotions, but some authors get it and have portrayed it admirably in their work.

I'll bet your child can relate - which also makes these books a great way to talk to them about this powerful emotion at a calmer time. Your child might feel more understood, and you might even just be able to work out some strategies for communicating when your child feels this way and for how you can help him or her return to earth. And who doesn't want that?

When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry, by Molly Bang

This critically acclaimed book was one of the early entries in this category of books that look unblinkingly at how out of control a child's anger can really get. In it, bold, swirling colours illustrate Sophie's wild emotions perfectly as she works through her anger and lets it out. Bang has a real feel for how a strong emotion can carry a child to a different place, and she has chosen a powerful way to express it in this book.

That Makes Me Mad!, by Stephen Kroll, ill. Christine Davenier

Nina explains in this book the things - the many things, some of them seemingly inconsequential to a grown-up, and some familiar, frustrating things - that make her mad.Each instance is illustrated in a little vignette that owes something to comic book sequencing and perfectly capture the expressions and postures of an irritated child. A lot of the circumstances will look familiar, as they happen within the family setting, which makes this all the more approachable. And in the end? Being able to tell her mom about how angry she is, in the end, turns out to be a big help. I like this book a lot - it reminds us of our children's feelings and how even in a warm, loving home, they are bound to get trodden on, and gives a nice, reassuring way to come back together as the storm passes over.

Angry Dragon, by Thierry Robberecht, ill Philippe Goossens

This book may be of particular interest to parents of boys, as the two above both feature girls. In this book, a boy turns into a dragon, taking on an angry red colour, fiercely hurling angry words and stomping about until he can return to being a boy and reconcile with his parents. In terms of illustrating how a child often has to feel their anger all burned away and spent before they can accept a parent's comfort, this is spot on. It also shows the kind of imagination that some children have, which I always appreciate.

If You're Angry and You Know It, by Cecily Kaiser, ill. Cary Pillo

This early reader turns the familiar song If You're Happy and You Know It into a song about dealing with your anger. Illustrations set up common school situations that might make a child feel angry, while the song suggests a technique for showing your anger, ie. "you're angry and you know it, stomp your feet." The suggestions are designed to let off steam, for the most part, and while we might not be thrilled with kids going around stomping, it certainly beats some of the other responses that young children lean towards in moments of rage, so for that, I quite like it. The book wraps up with a verse that assures children that they will then be happy once again. A nice tool for showing more appropriate ways to demonstrate anger, especially for those who are frequently frustrated.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.