IMWAYR

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the coming year.

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Here is the sign up page and the January-February linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly, courtesy of Pansing books. Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details. 

Widget courtesy of the talented Iphigene.
Widget courtesy of the talented Iphigene.

We have just launched our new reading theme from January-February 2015. As I was searching for titles that I have read as a child, I waxed nostalgic upon discovering that most of my early reader/beginner books are actually available in our public libraries here in Singapore. And so over the next few weeks, you would see beloved reads, and books that I am confident were instrumental in making me the reader that I am now.

IMG_8818Green Eggs And Ham

Written and Illustrated by: Dr. Seuss
Published by: Random House Children’s Books, 1960
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Last week I shared the newly-discovered stories of Dr. Seuss published in 2014 – packaged within Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories. I suppose that was a good transition to our current reading theme which primarily looks into our early reads as children – or books that we would have loved to read when we were kids. And naturally, I go back to my comfort reads as a young girl: Dr. Seuss’ books.

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Just seeing this page made me tear up a little bit – I recall days and days of just leafing through pages and pages of so many “I Can Read It All By Myself Beginner Books.” I think my father must have brought back an entire box of these books from one of his travels back when I was little.

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Rereading Green Eggs and Ham as an adult, educator, and a mother made me appreciate all the more the brilliance of Dr. Seuss’ word play; his dynamic and timeless illustrations that transcend race, gender, culture; and how he seemed to have an intuitive grasp of what would appeal to children.

The book follows the format of what is traditionally known as a rhyming cumulative tale – with Sam-I-am insisting that the tall-hatted-yellow-creature please please try some green eggs and ham – in a box with a fox, in a house with a mouse, on a boat with a goat. Talk about a real annoying salesman who will not stop until he gets his product tasted – and Sam-I-Am is more than willing to bend over backwards and prepare green eggs in ham in the rain on a train if need be!

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I believe part of the reason why rhyming text does not appeal to me now in contemporary picturebooks is because I grew up with Dr. Seuss’ exquisite wordsmithing that everything else pales in comparison. There is also that constant tension between the determinedly-cheerful Sam-I-Am and Mr. No.

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This particular scene also upped the ante as Mr. No finally realized that Sam-I-Am would continue to hound him to the ends of the earth if he does not try green eggs and ham. Teachers who would like to unpack other elements in the tale could also talk about risk-taking, persistence and motivation. Kids often say no to green-looking stuff on their plates, particularly stringy or leafy veggies, transforming them into a Little Mister/Miss No without even trying the food in question. Great text to motivate kids to try out new stuff as well. The question of whether or not Mr. No would actually like green eggs and ham is a mystery that kids would want to unravel until the very end of the story.

Hop On PopIMG_8811

Written and Illustrated by: Dr. Seuss
Published by: Random House, 1963
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I was amazed to note that these Dr. Seuss titles including Green Eggs and Ham were published in the 60s. Talk about longevity. Yet they remain the most popular books in our public libraries – I have to reserve The Cat in the Hat through interlibrary loan because practically all our copies are on loan! I am glad to hunt down Hop On Pop which I absolutely adored as a child.

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At the time of publication, endpapers may have been perceived as a novelty – not really part of the picturebook anatomy just yet. Yet as one turns the first two pages of the book, one could see this full-page-spread that must be the forerunner of what we now call endpapers in picturebooks. As you can see above – the words are fairly simple enough to build an early reader’s confidence – with a few playful quirks here and there (note upside down).

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As an educator and mother, I can now appreciate the full brilliance of this page spread: few simple words, a lot of white spaces for the reader’s eye to rest, words in ALL CAPS (uppercase letters) and the same words in lowercase letters to familiarize the child with small letters and big letters, intuitive grasp of prepositions through the use of in and on, fun illustrations! What more can you possibly ask for? If you have a checklist of things that are going right here, you’d have them all marked up, and you can even add a few more besides.

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I recalled cringing as a child when I read this page. If I am not mistaken this must be one of the first few books I read independently. There is repetition, rhyming, characters that kids can identify with. There is no discernible storyline though – just portraits of characters such as Thing who sings too long.

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Or the seemingly-macabre Mr. Brown and Mr. Black. I was wondering as a child why they weren’t wearing brighter, sunnier colours? Yet strangely, I also felt an affinity towards them and the seeming-mysterious quality they represent.

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Even the lack of narrative works for Dr. Seuss – as the reader is now left with their own nagging stories in their heads about who Brown and Black could be and why this Thing sings for sooo long? What could she possibly be singing? It’s like a sampler of interesting characters you would love to know more – even if they exist only in your heads, with imagined lives inspired by sparse images and words that the beginning reader can now read on his or her own.

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One of the greatest things though about Dr. Seuss is that he does not just build confidence by feeding you things that you already know; he also challenges you to read big words such as these (see above). As an educator, I discuss Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development and scaffolding with teachers. And while Dr. Seuss may not be cognizant of such educational theories, he has actually interwoven them quite successfully (doesn’t matter if it’s unwitting or deliberate) into his stories. And for that I am forever grateful.

Currently Reading…

I just finished reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson yesterday late afternoon. I will be featuring it for Poetry Friday this week, as it is one of the 2014 CYBILS Finalists for Poetryand we are determined to always give some #CYBILS love every January-February.

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Right now I am going back to David Almond’s A Song for Ella Grey, one of my #mustreadbooksin2015. My 13 year old daughter absolutely loved the story so I am looking forward to discussing this with her as well.

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Hop on Pop was named by the National Education Association as “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children” in 2007.

Green Eggs and Ham was named one of the “Top 100 Picture Books” of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library JournalScholastic Parent & Child magazine placed it #7 on its list of “100 Greatest Books for Kids” in 2012.

(Click for Wikipedia source)

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 1-2 of 35

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

13 comments on “[Monday Reading] Books That Made Me A Reader (Part 1 of Many)

  1. I loved reading Dr Suess to my children when they were young. I still have many of the books, some of which I read so many times I knew them by heart!

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  2. Happy New Year! Fun theme. CYBILS was a great experience.

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  3. I taught first grade a long time ago, & Hop on Pop was like a reward for these young readers. When they could read it, they were flying!! And wow, a new David Almond-will look for it, Myra. Thanks!

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  4. Dr Seuss! 😀 Spawn is seven, but when he was about three or four one of his favourite stories was Fox in Sox 😀 Happy reading!

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  5. When I was little, I was more of a Berenstain Bear fan (there were only a couple of books, not the slew there are now!) than Dr. Seuss. Or P.D. Eastman. Go, Dog, Go! Is one that I remember reading to my own children.

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  6. Like the new theme! 🙂

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  7. I love the Dr. Seus book! 🙂 The illustrations are so funny.

    Take a look at what I’m reading this week.

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  8. Hooray for Dr. Seuss! I have so many memories of reading these to my children, Myra – we did enjoy them, even if our thinking wasn’t quite as layered as yours. Looking forward to reading what you have to say about Brown Girl Dreaming.

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  9. Such a fun theme! Our second graders due a Dr. Seuss unit every year – this year they presented their own “If I Ran the Circus …” and each created their own unit act and poem. So cute!

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  10. kaymcgriff

    I loved Dr. Seuss! He’s still a favorite, too. I can remember debating the merits of Dr Seuss v. the Berenstein Bears with the children’s librarian in our public library. She favored the bears, and I loved the doctor! Brown Girl Dreaming is one of the books I must read in 2015.

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  11. Thanks for the Dr Seuss memories. I discovered Seuss long after I was a reader. I adored the poetry and rhythm and was always taking them out of the library. Then our librarian told me I was to old for them, and needed to start reading chapter books. She introduced me to Nancy Drew, whereupon I am still addicted to mysteries, but I still love all of Seuss’s work. Brown Girl Dreaming is waiting for me. I’ve added the new David Almond to my wish list.

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  12. Great theme! I love looking at photos of stacks of books and that photo above is a great one! I just want to sit in the middle of it and read all day. Happy New Year! Happy Reading!

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  13. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your new theme!!! I’ve been influenced by Suess since I was a kid, in such a big way. I still idolize the man’s work. Always will. This will be fun! 😀

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