Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Silly & Serious Quotient

Our library curriculum for kindergarteners is no more and no less than reading series of books about well-loved characters, mostly animals as it turns out. I begin the year with Amy Hest's Baby Duck stories, wherein Baby Duck suffers anxieties and receives reassurances well understood by kindergarten audiences who are experiencing many "firsts." Students' excitement is palpable as they enter the library to hear a new story; their recall of last week's story is crystalline; and their memory of Grandpa Duck's unfailing affection and support of Baby Duck lasts well into their grade school years. Next comes Rosemary Wells' rambunctious Westie McDuff in about six episodes spanning the seasons. Again, there is a bit of tension in each story as MacDuff gets lost or must adjust to the new baby in the family, but always the story ends on a resolved and restful note. The several books about Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion, are everlasting favorites, with Harry off on adventures just beyond the daring of our own kindergarteners (usually).

Each of these books allows for great silliness on my part -- singing Baby Duck's songs in a notably off-key manner, interpreting McDuff's "Woof" according to his mood and circumstance, becoming wide-eyed as Harry scoots off on rough-and-ready adventures -- but each is also a very serious experience for listeners because they live every moment of the story with the beloved character. Listeners become remarkably invested in the welfare of their book friends because the authors of these fine books know their audience and know that these mini-quests involving anxiety, adventure and assurance are just exactly what a kindergartener needs.