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Reviving the rhymes and reads!

I'm being revived by growing older! My hair isn't gray yet but I am a "Grammy" and it is renewing my adventure with children's books and helping my students and staff in my elementary school.

While lots of people are focusing on the newest and most graphic books, I am looking back to my childhood and the childhood of my children and the beautiful language of WORDS! I am focusing on the tried and true tales that every child could value and most children aren't hearing at home. I'm ignoring the wildly popular and garnering excitement over old standbys. I am developing cultural literacy of the basic kind, teaching idioms and expressions of many generations, and explaining meanings of historical proportions. I am teaching Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales!

It all began with my weeding of our large collection in our small library space last spring. I have a school library that is around half the size of the other schools in my district, about 2200 square feet and a collection of around 15,000 items. It's compact, organized, and flexible. At the end of the school year, we are overrun with items and our shelves are stuffed. Luckily, during the school year, circulation is high enough that we have breathing space and are able to function well. But in the spring as things start coming back, I always start looking for items to discard and eliminate. This past spring I focused on items that weren't circulating like they used to or not circulating at all. Surely, some things had been replaced with newer versions, more colorful, up-to-date titles, or more relevant topics. There had to be titles that were similar enough that I could remove some and still have what our teachers and students use. I would hunt down those dusty shelf-sitters and cast them aside to make room for the new! And then, I found the list of non-circulating items. On that list were several nursery rhyme books and many of what might be called the classics. I pulled them all and sat down to critique why they were on the shelf all the time and never used. Some of them were in really bad condition--ok, that made sense--there were newer versions and the teachers were taking those to the classrooms for their bookshelves. Then I found a collection that hadn't been used for a very long time. It looked a little dated but was in perfect shape. The illustrations were all by the old masters; each rhyme filled a page and had two illustrations--one in color and one in black and white by two different illustrators, many very well known in children's literature circles. This was a keeper for the collector in my mind. I took a second look and decided it was a perfect display book. One nursery rhyme per two-page spread, different illustrators interpreting the rhyme, and the book's binding was great for lying flat and wide on the easel. An idea blossomed.

Each week with my kindergarteners, I introduce a "Nursery Rhyme of the Week." We examine the pictures, repeat the rhyme, and do finger plays or play acting to go with the rhyme. Sometimes the rhyme ties in with our other stories and activities (the best planning) and sometimes it just stands alone. The rhyme stays on display all week in the LMC and the fifth grade announcers read it aloud on Thursday morning over the intercom so the entire school hears the rhyme, rhythm, and beauty of the language. Throughout the week, I see older students glancing at the display to see what's there. We are appreciating art as well as language. I have heard from kindergarten parents that they are hearing the rhyme with actions each week at home. I have had kindergarteners come in to report where they are hearing nursery rhymes on videos, the radio, and in other places in their world. We have even debated the best versions of some of the more familiar rhymes--literary analysis! That old collection has found new life!

I am motivated to bring back the best. I am using Wanda Gag, Virginia Burton, Chris Van Allsburg, James Marshall, Tomi Ungerer, Bernard Waber, and Robert McCloskey more. I am going to explain the antique objects and older expressions so that my students can understand the feelings within the stories. I am going for the human experience of all ages. I think this blending of the minds of young and old has always happened. I remember the closeness I always felt with my grandmothers and how I knew we agreed on more than my parents could ever understand. The novelist, V. S. Naipaul, has written, "As a child I knew almost nothing, nothing beyond what I had picked up in my grandmother's house. All children, I suppose, come into the world like that, not knowing who they are." I am on the other side of that equation now in my personal life and I am using it in my professional life as well. Remembering those feelings of childhood, of wanting to know how the world works and how people cope with difficulties, and what everything means, is bringing me closer to my students and helping me give them literature to help them learn about the world and about people so that they can grow to be the wisest and most confident individuals they can become. And it is the longer text, the fuller story, the older picture book that will give that to them. That and some grandmotherly attention!
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Title Annotation:PRIMARY VOICES
Author:Killeen, Erlene Bishop
Publication:Teacher Librarian
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
Previous Article:Picture book lives.
Next Article:Dr. Blanche Woolls: Professor Emeritus, Teacher Librarian extrarodinaire.

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