Children’s Book Week Review – Take Ted Instead
If you’re a regular reader of our blog you will know that each year we (your Cockburn Libraries’ Children’s Services team) read some of the Notable or Shortlisted books as part of our lead up, and celebration of; Children’s Book Week, the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and the AMAZING books that are written by Australians each year.
To kick off the reviews this year I’ve read:
Take Ted Instead by Cassandra Webb, with illustrations by Amanda Francey
And this book is lovely.
The book, which was Notable in the Book of the Year – Early Childhood category is all about a child (I think the child is supposed to be a boy but could just as easily be a little girl with short blonde hair) who is not ready for bed. They tell mum to take someone else instead: the dog, their baby brother, a toy, or their pet fish. In the end, the child does go to bed but the journey is full of two of my favourite things in picture books – repetition and rhyming.
I would like to launch into a parody of My Favourite Things here with an early literacy spin but I’m going to refrain.
You might ask why I love rhyming and repetition so much and let me tell you.
Rhyming, which in this book is all about the ‘ed’ sound is a really powerful tool for children who are learning to talk, developing their literacy skills, learning to read, learning to write, and learning to spell. So…rhyming is important from birth all the way up until about the age of eleven when a vast majority of children have mastered all of their phonemes (units of sounds), blends (sounds blended together like th, sh, etc.), chunks (larger sound groups like ight, ought) and everything else in the world of sounds.
For toddlers and children (18months and older in this case) rhyming gives them an opportunity to play with sounds. And we all know how important play is. Just like play gives children the opportunity to practise and learn the social and cultural skills they need for current and later life, play also gives children the opportunity to practise and learn about language. Rhyming for children will often start with a repetition of that sound they know taking ‘ed’ for example and then added the other sounds they know: red, bed, sed, fed, ded, med, led, etc. You will notice that I misspelled some words as right up until the stage that spelling starts to be a focus the fact that we make the ‘ed’ sound with different spellings is not important. Children at this stage will also create words that are not real: ked, ged, qed and this is also an important phase for them. As they get older they will begin to understand that some words we can make don’t have an associated meaning and therefore they are no ‘real’ words.
For older children, rhyming gives them a basis for spelling. Spelling boils down to knowing the different rules, the different ways of spelling sounds, and then putting it all together slowly until it becomes something subconscious and you start spelling without thinking about it. We hear rhyming like red, bed, fed, dead, med, lead and we look at the ways we make the ‘ed’ sound – ed and ead, and then we learn the rules around when we use each spelling and practise, practise, practise until we know how to do it without thinking about it.
But all of that starts with rhyming texts and rhyming words.
You have all heard amazing things about repetition and here is another fact: as an adult, you need to hear a word between 1-5 times in context to be able to use it appropriately (assuming you want to), at 3-5 year old upwards of 300-500 times, but as a 0-3 year old you are learning all of the words and you’re building context, understanding of sentence structure and grammar, as well as learning how to make all of these words and sounds you’re hearing. This is why repetition is so important. We need repetition to learn, babies, toddlers, and small children need it more than at anyone else because they are learning more than a human being does at any other time of their lives.
The more children hear a word the more likely they are to then use it, because their brain is building synapses in the language area of the brain around those words, phrases, etc and the more repetition is involved the stronger those synapses will be.
But, repetition in books is more that just about reinforcing grammar, sentence structure, words and meaning, it also gives a child the opportunity to participate in reading the book. By a few pages in children will quickly realise the pattern: the left-hand page says “It’s time for bed, sleepy head” and then on the second page the main character tells us to take someone else instead. And children can get involved in that pattern (noticing patterns is a maths and science skill as well). Then they can start reading with you in a safe environment that ensures they succeed at reading. A positive reinforcement for later independent reading.
All Of That In A Book
So, I’m sure you’re wondering why I spent so much time talking about something other than the book and that’s because I wanted to make it easier to explain this…this book is a simple book. On each consecutive page one word changes, right up until the last page where the story is resolved and our little child goes to bed. But, given everything we’ve talked about we know that there is actually lots of amazingly powerful things happening underneath and that’s without talking about the beautiful illustrations of Amanda Francey that allow our main character to hide through the first few pages. Or the fact that the book deals with a topic that parents and children alike will be oh so familiar with. Or the way they use the text font to highlight the words that will be different as a bit of a warning to children as well as giving them the opportunity to develop their print awareness.
For all of these reasons, and because I just like this book, I’m giving it 5/5 stars. Reserve it and read it for yourself.