Friday, August 27, 2010

Childhood Challenge: I AM LEAPER

For this month, I chose to re-read I Am Leaper by Annabel Johnson.

From Memory
I honestly couldn't remember much about this book besides the fact that one of its main characters is a kangaroo rat that could speak through a computer and that I had enjoyed it as a young reader (I first read it when I was eight or nine years old). About the same time that I read this book for the first time, my mom brought home a computer from her classroom (she was a fourth grade teacher)--an Apple computer with a glowing green screen and a blinking box as its cursor.

I was infatuated with the computer--if for no other reason than I could play the Lemonade Stand game on the computer. Having a computer factor into the I Am Leaper book in such an integral way got me excited about the possibilities of what computers could do. The front of the book ties in its computer connection, using the old school computer font for its title, and all the numbers for the chapters are typed in the same font.

As you may have noticed, I remembered much more about the connections I made with the book than the book itself. I think most avid readers find themselves, at some point or another, remembering feelings or memories associated with books that really have nothing to do with what happens in the book.

After Re-reading
At least my memories didn't steer me wrong on this one--a kangaroo rat does indeed talk into a computer. What I had forgotten, though, was that the kangaroo rat (named Leaper) communicated through the computer to scientists, trying to warn them about a monster that was destroying her desert home. When the scientists realize she can speak, they turn from paying attention to her messages to wondering how they could best make money off their discovery of a talking animal. Leaper then turns to a young boy who works as a janitor for the building, who is able to communicate directly with animals. The book is an illustration of how the greed of humans can often get in the way of true understanding and that there is a purity in the youth that allows children to be better helpers (or at the very least understanders) than adults. It also strives to teach children the importance of being mindful of nature and knowing that what we as humans do can have disastrous effects on animals and their habitats.

There are some very deep messages embedded into a quick read, making it a good book for parents to read with their young readers. I'm not sure I got the deeper messages when I was a kid (or if I did, I didn't overtly associate them with the book). The book would be good for readers who are just starting out with chapter books that follow a single storyline because its chapters are short with text broken up by engaging illustrations.

Happy re-reading your favorite books!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thank You, Pinky Dinky Doo!

First, I'm going to preface this post by saying I've got a four-year-old son. Second, his favorite channel to watch during breakfast is Nick, Jr. With those two things in mind, please read on.

This morning as I watched Pinky Dinky Doo with my son, I realized how incredible the show is for developing early literacy skills. If you've never seen the show before, it's about a girl, Pinky Dinky Doo, who uses stories to explain concepts or meanings of big words to her little brother, Tyler Dinky Doo. For example, in today's episode, she explained to Tyler the meaning of the word impetuous with a silly story. Introducing kids to new words would be enough to make me thankful for the show, but its benefits don't stop there.

At the end of each story, Pinky Dinky Doo does a review of the story for her younger brother (or, in reality, for the young viewers). She'll ask retention questions like "Which of these three events happened first?" or "Who said this line?" But she'll also ask broader questions like "What title would best go with the story I just told?" When she asks her questions, my son yells out the answers and laughs when Pinky shows something silly (like when she said, "Should this story be called 'The Underwater Underwear'?" he got a case of the giggles).

If you don't have a young child in your life, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that you run out and watch the show. But if you do have a young child in your life, I highly recommend that you watch this show with him or her. I have to say that this is my favorite story-focused show since Reading Rainbow.

Happy reading and sharing the joys of reading with a young reader!