You can’t judge a book by its cover – right? Well, maybe, but kids often do just that. I did a little research this week and spread out six shiny new library books on the speech room table before a group of Kindergarten students came in. I asked them which story they’d like to hear and they all chose the same book. (That’s a dangerous way to operate but I did it in the name of science.) I tried the same experiment with two more groups and all but one child chose alike. Hailey picked a book with puppies on the cover – she absolutely loves dogs – but her second choice matched the others. The book the kids (almost) unanimously chose was, Oh, No! by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann. The fierce looking tiger on the cover captured their attention as soon as they saw his bright orange and black stripes.
The story was fun to read aloud with the rhythmic repetitions.
“Frog fell into a deep, deep hole.
Frog fell into a deep, deep hole.
Frog fell into such a deep, deep hole,
he couldn’t get out to save his soul.”
You would have enjoyed hearing all those frogs around my table. But the students were more excited about the tiger and that reminded me of a student who is no longer at our school. I related this story on my blog a little over a year ago but I think it is worth repeating.
Late one afternoon I gathered paper and fabric scraps for a collage project I’d planned for the following day. Slivers of paper fell to the floor and I scrambled to clean up my mess. The next morning, one of my speech students found two long scraps I’d missed – one sliver of orange felt and a slip of black construction paper. His eyes went wide. He held them close to my face and whispered, “Did you have a tiger in your room?” The other children looked confused for a moment then their faces lit up as they saw the tiger in their imagination, the one that had lost his stripes. Their thoughts took off faster than the animal they’d imagined tearing around the room leaving two stripes behind. They all spoke at once and started scouring the room for the jaguar’s spots, after-all something must have been chasing the tiger. Their story grew with their excitement and so did the opportunity for learning.
Many of the content standards for education can be taught through stories, both those read to children and those they create themselves. When they learn to write or dictate their tales, they’re learning correct sentence structures and grammatical forms. It was easy to remind the students that the tiger hadn’t “runned” through the room but he “ran”. And when students begin to create their own stories, they listen more closely to the structure of others and they begin to understand central ideas.
I didn’t throw out my lesson plans the day we found the tiger’s stripes but I was certainly able to expand on them. And the next time I find a couple slivers of paper on the floor, I doubt I’ll sweep them away without a thought. I hope I’ll think of the tiger that lost them.
I still have those two scraps of paper taped to the side of my file cabinet so I won’t forget the tiger or the child who brought him to life.
You really can’t judge a book by its cover any more than can you judge a child by his outward appearance – even when he appears unfocused and distracted. Who knows what treasures lay within? And that brings me back to Oh, No! by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann. Open that beautiful cover and you’ll find a treasure of words and pictures that can ignite the imagination of a roomful of children.