As a mother and a Librarian, I used Mother’s Day as a focal point for my classes this week. Rather than read books explicitly about mothers for my youngest students, I chose to focus on books that portray moms in much the same way my students observe them. From my own experience as a mother, I adore the portrayal of Olivia’s mom in the series by Ian Falconer. Olivia’s mother can be seen sitting building a sand castle with her daughter or reading to Olivia before bed. She is busy attending to her children throughout the narrative and that is something very appealing for the children that read these books. Another book where I love the way the mother is drawn is in Jack Ezra Keat’s The Snowy Day. Peter spends the day alone exploring the snowy world outside his apartment but at the end the day when he comes home, his mother is there to peel off his wet clothing and hear all about his adventures! Finally, I really appreciate the Mama llama in Llama Llama, Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. In this witty book written in rhyme, Llama Llama starts to fret about being alone in the dark after Mama has tucked him in! I love the opportunity this narrative provides for me to explain what a phone looked like when it was attached to the wall with a spiral cord attached to the receiver!
Another theme that I explored in the picture books I selected this week were narratives in books without a mother figure in them. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke and The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart were enjoyed by all. Both stories portray very spunky protagonists and craft a storyline where there is a breakdown in understanding between father and daughter. In the end everything is rectified, but the books serve as a good reminder that not every child has both a mother and father.
Using the theme of “mother earth,” I also sought to include depictions of women in picture books who cared for our earth. The titles I selected were Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, and The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins. In each of these books the central figure is a woman that does something to make a lasting and significant difference on the environment. My students made connections about the way their own mothers care for them and how these women cared for the earth in much the same way through their nurturing, dedication, and patience.
In Our Mothers House by Patricia Polacco is a wonderful book to engage the class in a discussion about what is the essential component of a family. How does our own family compare to that of the one portrayed in this book where two mothers have adopted three children? Students are able to articulate the characteristics essential to be able to raise a family of strong, independent children. And the students never fail to comment to how much love is expressed in the images of this family!
Whenever possible, I seek to work poetry into any lesson that I can with students. Reading poetry aloud provides a platform to discuss the author’s economy of language and symbolism used when dissecting the text. How could mother’s day pass without a look at The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? For my students in third and fourth grade they are typically surprised by this book. It is such a sharp departure from the humorous poetry he made his signature, but it never fails to inspire the students to talk. And the conversation from our discussion is rich – does “the tree” symbolize a parent? How do we treat the people who love us unconditionally? What do we really need to be happy?
Finally, as the day came to a close in my own home, I had my daughters listen to The Lanyard by Billy Collins. If you have a poem or picture book that you love reading for Mother’s Day, please share it so we can all add it to our list or resources on this topic!