Sunday, March 15, 2009

Community Helpers: Building Our Cityand Keeping It Clean

Last post, I introduced the idea of community helpers as a topic. It is, as I mentioned, a kindergarten curriculum element, and a good way to familiarize children with the world around them, allowing them to make text-to-life connections, and giving them both understanding and vocabulary for people in their neighbourhood.

Two of the loudest and most visible, and therefore fascinating from early on workers that a child will notice are construction workers and trash collectors, both of whom come with big, noisy trucks and eye-catching orange vests or coveralls. What child doesn't love these? Here are a few books that give them a bit of a closer look at what's going on with those people and machines that build our communities and help clean them up.


Machines at Work, by Byron Barton

Byron Barton turns his bold style to a construction site in this title, showing the major steps in knocking down an old building and creating a new building and road. This is not a bad really, really general overview, and the simplicity of the book and the images makes it a terrific pick for a younger kid, but for an older kid, I would recommend a book with more detail and realism. For one thing, this all seems to happen in one day, which anyone who has lived on or near a construction site can tell you is far from reality! It makes a great intro to machines and construction, though, which is why I love that it is available as a board book, the format I bought it in for my own kids.

Building With Dad, by Carol Nevius, ill. Bill Thomson

In this sweet yet cool rhyming book, a boy tags along with his dad on a construction site and even gets to help here and there throughout the summer as his dad and the crew build the new school (which is of course total fantasy - can you imagine a child allowed on a site?!). The rhyme and metre work without reaching much if at all, the premise is pure boyhood fantasy, but it's the illustrations that lift this book from good to great. Beautifully painted, they capture strong summer sunlight, facial expressions, a wonderful sense of perspective, and even the gloppiness of concrete being poured to perfection. This is sure to be a winner with any construction fan.


I Stink!, by Kate and Jim McMullan

A garbage truck introduces himself to you in this book, and tells you about what he does all night while we sleep - but be sure to read this with a growl and a sense of humour, because this garbage truck has some attitude to spare. Not to mention a loud belch right in the middle. Yes, it's not nice and tidy, but then, neither are garbage trucks. It's a crowd-pleaser, a great one to share aloud, and its star appeals to young kids on every level with his trash talkin'. Throw in an abc of the kind of stuff he eats, and it's even good for preliteracy skills, but your kid will never notice, I promise.

Trashy Town, by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, ill. Dan Yaccarino

The polar opposite of the above title, this book features the cheerful Mr. Gilly driving his pristine garbage truck around town cleaning it up before he returns home to clean himself. Instead of focusing on the dirt and noise, this truck celebrates the work that Mr. Gilly does. For each of his stops, there is a chorus made for chanting with kids:Dump it in, smash it down, drive around the trashy town! Is the trash truck full yet? NO! They will jump right in, making it an easy favourite, especially with younger kids. The drawings, again favouring design over revelling in the revolting, feature Yaccarino's signature sleek, geometric, almost cartoon-inspired style, making for a lovely book, too.

Originally posted at Better Than a Playdate.