Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Learning | Use Your Imagination

Do you like to color? I don't find time to color very often these days, but I like it. I remember how excited I was to get a pack of crayons with 64 colors when I was small. It had colors like "Sky Blue" and "Burnt Sienna!" So much better than my little 8-pack.

I have to share a story my sister-in-law told me a long time ago. Her son (let's call him Larry, instead of his real name) was in kindergarten, along with his twin sister (we don't really need to use a name, but if I had to make one up, I think I would like to call her Esmeralda.) The kindergarten teacher called my sister-in-law to tell her she wanted to talk to her about Larry.  She was really worried about him. My sister-in-law-- (Wow. I'm getting tired of typing that phrase over and over. Let's make up a name for her, too. Let's call her "Claire.") Claire asked why she was worried.  

The teacher showed her examples of Larry's art work. They were all done using only the black crayon. All the other children, including Esmeralda, were using other colors. The teacher thought Larry needed a psychiatric evaluation; she implied that Larry must be very disturbed. Claire did not agree.

Later, when Larry and Claire were at home, Claire said,"Hey, Larry! I see you like to color with the black crayon." Larry grinned and said,"YEAH! See how it slides across the paper faster than the other crayons?" Well, needless to say, Larry was not a troubled child. He has grown up to be a fine young man, and his creativity shows in his cooking. I wonder if he still likes the black crayon best.

Here's a list of children's picture books that encourage us to use our imagination.  It's hard to imagine reading one of these, without feeling inspired to do something creative:

The Day the Crayons Quit 

Did you ever think about how your crayons feel? This book shows what you might see, if your crayons could write you letters. They thank you. They talk about each other. They complain (can you guess which color is tired of working on holidays?) They quit, and leave their letters in the crayon box. How do you think Duncan (the boy in this story) will make his crayons happy enough to come back to the crayon box?

Press Here 

This must be the best interactive book since Pat the Bunny! 

I was tempted to try to explain how this book helps the very young reader learn concepts like color, size, counting, sorting, gravity, and, above all, button pressing...but the publisher has such a nice book trailer on YouTube, that I had to share it instead.

Little Red Writing

You probably noticed the resemblance of this title to a fairy tale called "Little Red Riding Hood." Yes, there are some parallels; the little red pencil wants to write a story about bravery. Her teacher gives her a basket of red words to use in case she runs into trouble. Her scariest encounter is with the Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener, which is sitting behind Principal Granny's desk.  But there's so much more to this story; all of the pencils are writing stories, and there are dozens of puns and jokes to entertain you.

Cover image courtesy of
The Plot Chickens 

There are plenty of jokes to be found in this book, too.  Henrietta is a hen who follows people to the library, because she wants to read. After a while, it occurs to her that writing might be even more fun than reading. (She actually used the word "eggshilarating.")

Between the puns, readers can learn a bit about the craft of writing: words like main character, or plot. Henrietta sets a fine example for learning something new: she found books at the library to teach her how to write a story.  She shares the rules of writing from one of the books, as she makes progress with her own story. Those rules sound pretty useful to me; readers of the book might do well to see what kind of story they can write, if they follow the rules.

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