by Meredith Chilson I love to read. In fact, I have an advanced degree in “Reading” with a certificate here on my wall to prove it. I also love chickens, and I particularly like reading about chickens!
Now, it’s possible you may not know this, but one of my first experiences reading about chickens was way, long ago when I was a child reading Margaret Wise Brown ‘s Little Golden Book “The Seven Little Postmen”.In that story, a rural delivery postman delivered a big crate of chickens to a lady at the end of the lane. Last year, when I ordered chicks from the hatchery, I felt just like that lady waiting for the mailman to come bumping up my country road with a box of chicks.
There are many reasons to read, and to encourage children to read. I read for knowledge, for enjoyment, for entertainment, for the thrill of experiences that I know I will never have outside of a book—travels to exotic lands, visits with kings and queens, excursions up majestic rivers, personal knowledge of the famous and infamous. If I am engrossed in a book, I can picture the action surrounding historic events, chat with friends from other lands and era, pick up clues and try to solve mysteries. I have sighed over Rhett Butler and learned about racism and integrity from Atticus Finch. Stories teach lessons, inspire dreams, and even provide answers to troubled hearts.
There’s something wonderful about reading with children, too. I know I climbed into my father’s lap with a stack of books each evening, and my own children were first read to while being rocked to sleep as babies. My older grandchildren read from Kindles and electronic devices, but all of them, when visiting me, pick out books from our shelves before heading to bed. I have carried favorite books to hospital rooms and on family trips; read them aloud to kindergarten classes and homesick campers.
Whether your children are taught at home or in a private school setting, family members and teachers when reading to youngsters, can help further children’s understanding if interesting publications are offered. In addition, by knowing a bit about reading instruction and development, an adult can ask leading questions to a child about a book, that can stimulate interest as well as help make the text clearer. Stories can help a child deal with personal issues, too. Sometimes just reading about a character that has a similar problem can give a child the tools and knowledge to deal with their own troubles.
Back to reading about chickens—I spoke with an elementary school librarian, Denise, (yes, she is also my daughter) and garnered a list of book titles and authors. I do believe books are meant to be enjoyed and savored, and I’m certainly not suggesting that every page or sentence be interrupted with questions (like “The Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein). However, I will pass along some ideas that might make reading a book with a child even more meaningful.
|Henrietta looking over the cover of the book|
First, look at the cover of the book together, and talk about it a bit. What do you think the book will be about?
For an older child, ask them who the author (and maybe even the illustrator) is, and see if they can remember reading anything by that author before. You might try books by Leslie Helakoski (“Big Chickens” and “Big Chickens Fly the Coop”), or some of Mary Jane and Herm Auch’s offerings (“Bantam of the Opera”, “Chickerella”, “Hen Lake”, “Peeping Beauty”). These last books also offer an opportunity to compare and contrast other, classic books with somewhat similar titles and themes.
As you are reading, occasionally ask leading questions:
“How does that make you feel?”
“How do you think that character feels?”
“Did you ever feel like that?”
“What do you think will happen next?”
“How do you think the problem will be solved?”
When you’ve finished reading, talk a bit about the book:
“Who were the characters?”
“Where did the story take place (the setting)?”
“What was the problem?”
“Was the problem solved by the end?”
“Did the story end the way you thought it would?”
“If you had that problem, do you think you would solve it the same way?”
And, very importantly, listen to your child’s answers. You may hear some confidences or concerns that you hadn’t been aware of before.
Is your child confused? Try reading Paul Adshead’s “The Chicken that Could Swim”.
You might read some of these stories of tolerance and respect –some from other lands, too:
“Chicken Sunday”by Patricia Polacco; “Daisy Comes Home” by Jan Brett; “Love and Roast Chicken: a trickster tale from the Andes Mountains” by Barbara Knutson; “My painted house, my friendly chicken, and me” by Maya Angelou.
There are repetitive books like Ken Brown’s “The Scarecrow’s Hat” that are fun for beginning readers, as is “Super Cluck”by Jane O’Connor. And there are non-fiction choices like Ruth Heller’s “Chickens Aren’t The Only Ones”, and one, in particular, that points out the importance of reading—James Marshall’s “Wings: A Tale of Two Chickens”. You and your child can even learn (like our Henrietta did?) how a story is put together by reading Mary Jane and Herm Auch’s “The Plot Chickens”.
Check your local library or an Independent Bookstore like The Flying Pig Bookstore for these titles. Ask your librarian or a bookseller for suggestions, too. Time spent reading with children is never wasted time. A word, a gesture, (even a story about chickens having the same issues they are having) can make a world of difference….to the child as well as the reader! And, if I’m any example, the memory of a story involving chickens can last for a very long time.