Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
December 10, 2001
Teachers share Christmas books
Favourite books for children focus of teachers' discussion
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — "A long time ago in a faraway land, a cat lived in a barn. He had to share it with the other animals: cows and goats, chickens and . . . mice," read Charolette Player from Cat in the Manger.
"But that was all right; he was a good mouser," continued Player, who was one of the presenters during Edmonton Catholic Schools's (ECS) 2001 Christmas Book Share, Nov. 26.
"Then one wintry night the door flew open and in came a man and a woman to take shelter from the snow. Soon the cat heard the cry of a new baby. Visitors came to kneel before the family. In the crowded barn, every face was turned to the tiny infant."
Through the eyes of a small cat, award-winning author/illustrator Michael Foreman retells the story of the first Christmas.
Player recommends this book because of its stunning artwork, powerful message and creative way of re-telling the birth of Jesus Christ.
"Illustrations have to be vivid and fun and I think the message has to be strong," Player told the WCR.
Any good book, be it for children or for adults, should present a slant that sparks readers' own experiences, said Player.
Re-telling the nativity story from the perspective of a cat and showing how the cat's relationship with the mice changed are interesting angles, because most children love cats, said Player, assistant to the director of learning supports services.
Karen Doyle, religious education consultant, agreed that artwork and content are important qualities of Christmas literature for children.
It is a lot easier to invite the children to use their imagination when you have great artwork in a story, Doyle said.
To engage the children . . . invite them into finding some space in the story on how they can connect it with their lives is important, said Doyle.
"What meaning can they get from the story?" is a perennial question Doyle uses to select a book for children.
Doyle said stories told from different perspectives are always interesting.
"We don't hear too often the perspective of St. Joseph and any story written with Joseph as the narrator is interesting," Doyle said.
The child's point of view is a very important consideration for Pat Hauck.
"The real meaning of Christmas is Christ's birth. But part of what we try to do is to get (children) to love books," said Hauck, who is early childhood education consultant for ECS.
"Books have to be simple. There should be something that children can chime into."
Repetitive and predictable books are the kinds that Hauck would recommend for children aged 6 to 8.
In Hauck's presentation, she used some props to portray Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.
It makes the book come alive, especially when you're reading it for children, who simply love visuals, said Hauck.
Charles Tazewell's The Littlest Angel is a classic for Cecile St. Pierre of ECS learning support services. This book was originally written in French in 1957.
The book tells a story of angels worried about what gifts to give to Jesus when he was born. One of the angels gave an ordinary box which later turned into something lustrous and became known as the shining star of Bethlehem.
"It is so simple but beautifully written and the children can definitely relate to the story," St. Pierre said.
Books that reflect Catholic beliefs and traditions are on top of the teachers' lists. Presenters recommended books written by Ute Blach, Jan Brett, Eve Bunting, Tomie De Paola, Brian Wildsmith and Charlotte Zolotow.
Some 60 teachers and staff attended the Christmas literature share held at St. Teresa School.
Principal Reny Clericuzio was pleased with the turnout at the literature share in spite of heavy snow.
The objective of this project is to kick off the Advent season in preparation for Christmas while focusing on good Christmas literature useful for classrooms.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for teachers, librarians and other staff from across the district to come together and focus on our love of learning, love of literature and love of children," Clericuzio told the WCR.
Earlier in the day, an art workshop was held with ECS art consultant Pat Milan.
Attendance at the literature share suffered last year, but this year's attendance saw a renewed interest.
"Stories always make the season extra special . . . and when you read a good book you simply want to talk about it and share," organizer Helen Hohmann, ECS language and art consultant said.
Children always love to hear good stories and so there's always a need for educators to find good literature to share, Hohmann said.
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