I love words. When I read, I am driven by the words on the page. As fast as I can absorb the words determines how quickly I turn the pages. This is fine for reading grown up books with few or no illustrations, but I tend to carry this over into my reading with the girls. I’ve really had to work at slowing down and looking at the pictures with them and answering the random questions that arise, entirely unrelated to the storyline, because of the illustrations. Even when I am trying consciously to allow time for studying the pictures, I still get caught up in the words. For this reason I now LOVE Chicken and Cat Clean Up.
Chicken and Cat Clean Up came to us from Scholastic for review. When Sammi first pulled it from the pile and wanted me to read it, I expected your typical picture book. But I was surprised when I opened the book and there were no words to read. I turned to the next page to see if there were words. None. I turned the page again. Hmmm. I was at a lost. So I went back to the beginning to figure out how to “read” this book to Sammi. But, Sammi’s observations and imagination came through to make this book a big hit.
We poured over the pictures on each page and looked for all the details that would help us understand the story. There is a little bit of print throughout the book, but almost all of it can be figured out through the illustrations. After we went through the book a couple of times, Sammi went off to her baby dolls to tell them the story over and over again. Then it occurred to me that this book was perfect for developing the early literacy narrative skill.
Storytelling is a part of developing literacy. When little ones understand the structure of stories, that they have a beginning, a middle and an end, they are better able to process the meaning of the words in the story. Retelling stories, or even making up their own, is great practice in developing literacy skills. I love to watch Sammi, and now Elli too, sit with a book and turn the pages as they retell the story to each other and their dolls. Sammi even has mastered holding the book facing away from her and “reading” it from the side. Elli is great at holding up the book and showing off the page to the whole room before turning the page and looking at the book herself again.
So, back to Chicken and Cat Clean Up. The illustrations are engaging, simple, but full of detail. The story is a bit of a page turner because you just wonder if it really could get any worse for poor Cat and then the ending is charming. I like this book not only for its strength in helping kids develop narrative skills necessary for literacy, but also because it created the opportunity for me to forget the words and lose myself in the illustrations. It really helped me experience literature from my little ones’ perspective; to remember what books are like when you can’t read; and how much joy there can be in that experience.