CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 10 . . . . January 21, 2005
As very young children move from board books to regular picture books, one of the first they should encounter is Read Me A Book, which was originally created for the government of Ontario’s Early Literacy program. Each pair of facing pages contains one line of the three four-line verses which make up the book and a full-page Reid trademark plasticine illustration.
Though the book’s title does suggest that the contents will focus on connecting books with children, Reid takes a wider view of linking children with language and its acquisition. Consequently, the opening illustration shows a mother lying on the floor with her infant on her stomach. Next to them is an open book about pigs, and the mother is playing with the smiling baby’s toes. Undoubtedly, she’s reciting the “This little piggy went to market....” nursery rhyme. Later, another mother walking in the rain with a baby in a front carrier is “Bounc[ing] me a poem.” On another page, a father has placed his daughter in a shopping cart at a grocery store, and they are “reading” the cereal boxes in response to “Let’s take a look.” The book’s closing illustration carries the subtle message that parents should be reading role models and read for themselves because a stack of adult-sized books is on the floor next to the seated mother.
Underlining that reading is not just a home-bound activity, in addition to the two previous park and supermarket sites, children are seen being read to on a swing, on a bus, and in the library. To counteract the misperception that only mothers are to read to their children, half of Reid’s illustrations show males, fathers and a grandfather, as the readers. One illustration even shows an older sibling as the reader, and the reading is occurring at breakfast. Four of the dozen illustrations show parents and children who are either Asian or African-Canadian.
Beyond the message of sharing reading and language, much of the book’s charm and value resides in the complex simplicity of Reid’s illustrations which demand many revisitations in order to soak up their full contents. The text page always contains an object which is repeated somewhere in the framed full page illustration, though not always in exactly the same perspective. Small details abound so that, for example, the little child who is bringing her grandfather a book for “Tell it one more time,” gives him that well-loved volume whose cover is torn and whose pages are dog-eared. The loving comfort of the child parent/adult connection resonates throughout the illustrations in this slim volume.
Read Me a Book closes with a two page note of parent-directed practical advice from Barbara Reid who reminds them that “You are your baby’s first and best teacher” and encourages them:
Because early years teachers know how important children’s preschool experiences with books are in terms of their later success in learning how to read, teachers and teacher-librarians should take the lead in promoting this book in their local communities.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children’s and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.