Given the pretty awful weather on this first week of the holiday, I decided to use our time inside productively and to tackle the play room. I think my enthusiasm may have been greater than the children’s but as old toys were unearthed and rediscovered they did become more helpful and involved. I’m pleased with the job we’ve done, I’ve rearranged the furniture and toys and we have a quiet area for drawing and writing, a creative corner with lots of Lego, an imagination zone with dressing up and a castle and a book corner. The teacher in me really wants to design and laminate pretty labels for each area but I do have to remind myself its a playroom not a classroom.
Whilst we are pretty good at recycling toys, our book shelves were bulging and needed a good sort. I love books and still have some of my favourite children’s books from my own childhood, so sorting books for donation to our local charity shop is difficult. To me the book is a memory, the times reading out loud stories to the children, their reactions, the beautiful illustrations, rhyming language, even the touch of a book is special to me. However I tried to be ruthless, the first to go were television and film tie ins, unless they had a strong story, as too often these books are designed as merchandise for the character and little thought is given to the story. I also donated the very basic stories we had for babies and some given as prizes and presents which were a little dull. To be honest, I haven’t made that much room on the shelves but I can squeeze a few new books in now!
There were some books which I just couldn’t take from the bookshelf, they mean so much to me and eventually when the children no longer let me keep them on their book shelves I’ll transfer them to mine so I always have them to read to little visitors.
1. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson
This is a well illustrated book with the dark colours of night making the little owls’ worries seem more scary, it has a simple message that even if Mummy Owl has to leave her little ones she will always come back. We used to read this a lot when the children were young and it was useful to teach the children that even if I left them at pre school I would always be back for them. At the start of the placement, we were always giving the message that we would be their forever family and always there for them so this story reinforced that theme. Little Miss had the Owl Babies story sack from school one week in Year 1 and we had lots of fun acting out the story with the owls and sticks. Like so many of the stories on this list, its one I know the words off by heart.
2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
I had never heard of this book before a very good friend sent it through as a present. A recommendation from her is always a winner. At first I wasn’t sure of the garish illustrations and repetitive phrases but they really grew on me, it is the perfect last book at bed time and is dreamily soporific and relaxing. The illustrations are wonderful for getting the children to find things and comment, those garish colours have become part of the book’s appeal now. I love this book so much now that when I took it out of the book case, I actually gave it a hug!
3. We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
Is there a parent who doesn’t know the words of this book by heart? Long walks with weary legs normally include a few verses of this to keep everyone jolly and as a SEN teacher this is just the perfect book for some sensory fun. I think I have acted out this story more times than I have read it from the book, what a marvellous way to know a story.
4. The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler
These are not the only books by this dream team on my list, their books are just magic. I discovered the Gruffalo as a teacher, as it was first published in 1999, well past my own childhood! I have read these stories at work and done the most amazing activities with them, the children love them. I was so proud when I was able to take my class to the theatre to see the Gruffalo. We put so much work into the trip and I’m sure it was only so successful because the children loved the story and wanted to see it come alive. Whilst I’ve not taken my little ones to see it at the theatre they adore the animated stories. The Gruffalo is another character we often use on our walks in the forest, I may spot a purple prickle or an orange eye hiding in the trees and create a story of what he’s doing.
5. Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffer
I do love to read aloud and add a few actions, silly voices and this book is perfect for my dramatics. Its also the book that both Little Miss and Little Man have chosen to take into school to share with their friends on book events at school. Of all the books I have kept its the most battered, which shows how much its been read and loved.
6. How to Catch a Star and the Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers
Another brilliant recommendation from a friend, simple stories, beautiful pictures but so much extra weaved into the words and pictures that its hard to describe. There’s a tinge of sadness and hope to each story that makes you wonder about it a little bit longer after you have finished the story.
7. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
This book is a classic and I loved rediscovering it with the children, such a unique idea delightfully played out. I saw a documentary about Judith Kerr and she was just amazing, still writing and drawing at 90 and with a real joie de vivre.
8. One Night in the Zoo by Judith Kerr
I chose this simply for its pencil drawings which are so beautiful. Its lovely for counting and identifying animals with lovely rhymes but its the colours and detail which make this book a favourite.
9. Duck and Goose : How are you Feeling? by Tad Hills
There are ten words in this book, but the illustrations tell a story so much more detailed and personal. This book really helped the children learn about feelings and duck and goose are endearing characters.
So these are my favourite early years books, there are so many others I love too, which have now retired to the book shelf. Our books are getting longer now and its time to revisit old favourites such as the Mr Men, Mrs Pepperpot and discover new characters like Judy Moody and Katie Morag.