The third blog in the National Share-a-Story Month series has been written by Karen Goulding, the Director of the Learning Hub at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education. For those who remember, this is also the home of the exhibition of publishers’ resources designed to support the teaching of reading, formerly known as The Reading Centre and more recently referred to as the National Centre for Language and Literacy. This now sits alongside the loan collection of books and other resources (including puppets) – resulting in a rich resource for trainee teachers and member schools to plunder!
Hello, I’m Karen Goulding, a keen reader and an even keener storyteller. I am also the Learning Hub Director at the Institute of Education, University of Reading.
The Institute of Education at the University (IoE) is one of the leading teacher training institutions in the country and The Learning Hub aims to ensure that our environment reflects this status.
In November 2012 the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) received a Heritage Lottery development grant. As a result MERL partially closed, needing a temporary home for its monthly Toddler Time. Consequently, since 2014 MERL staff and volunteers have been using the Hub as a venue for singing, stories and craft. I read a story as part of this and decided to base my blog on the story chosen specifically for toddlers aged 2 to 5 years.
Finding an appropriate dragon book, for this age group, was challenging, even taking into account The Learning Hub’s rich resource base; finding a selection of books with a dragon theme was not difficult, but selecting a story that would capture such a young audience’s attention was.
Although there are a wide range of books with a dragon as the main character, many of them are not suitable, being too dense, scary, complex or too linguistically challenging. Eventually, I found Don’t you dare, Dragon! written by Annie Kubler and published by Child’s Play; the front cover convinced me this was the perfect book for Toddler Time.
Don’t you dare, Dragon! Seemed to be ideal, mainly as it had an integral finger puppet on its front cover; it certainly caught my attention and I felt it would engage the children as well. Ensuring that the story captures the toddlers’ attention is an important aspect for me; reading to a group of very young children is no easy task, given the listeners’ understandably short attention span; also I am a stranger, reading aloud in an unfamiliar environment.
Another reason I selected the story was that the key character creates havoc wherever he goes and is constantly being chastised; for instance, he is fiery, melting the ice cream and boiling the swimming pool. However, his actions are understandable within the context of his character; he can’t help being a dragon. Parents will perhaps make the link between the dragon’s behaviour and that of young toddlers; the chaos the dragon creates could be seen in terms of toddler behaviour, recognisably so, as like the dragon, toddlers’ can’t escape being toddlers.
Finding books that bond the reader to the audience is an integral part of my monthly role as a storyteller. In the case of Don’t you dare, Dragon!, both parents and toddlers will relate to the developing story although perhaps in different ways. The dragon’s constant need for support for his behaviour will be familiar to the parents and the colourful and interactive finger puppet will appeal to the toddlers.
The FCBG’s core aim is the bringing of children and stories together. This is the reason why I chose Don’t you dare, Dragon! The narrative created a shared experience that spanned the ages of all the listeners and captured their collective imagination at a variety of levels. This is illustrated by parents’ feedback following the session:
From the parents’ point of view:
“Fun story, enjoyed it”
“It was good to have the puppets telling the story and interacting with the children”
“Puppets and their different sounds are very engaging”
“The way the story was told in an engaging way and the puppet really helped with this”
“The illustrations were lovely and colourful”
From the children’s point of view, as transcribed by the parents:
“Great session, the story is interactive and caught his attention”
“Puppet, story and storyteller changing her voice”
“My daughter thought the ice melting was funny”
“He liked the props and the finger puppet in the book”
My experience of reading Don’t you dare Dragon! distils the essence of why I adore reading a book at Toddler Time; it is a real privilege to be involved in the early development of such young children’s growing understanding of story. To be instrumental in the dawning of the understanding of the complexities of narrative and finding stories that spark the developing imagination of toddlers is something I dare to do!
This guest post was provided by Karen Goulding. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.