Kindergarteners are soaking in knowledge, just like little sponges. Reading is a great way to introduce new ideas and strengthen understanding that children already have. Prior to becoming a children’s librarian, I was a teacher. One of my favorite units that I did with my first graders and later with a class of kindergartners was to teach using The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This book has been on my mind recently as the author’s birthday is on March 11. The story is timeless: a little boy wakes up one morning to a world full of snow and immediately goes out to play. There is fun onomatopoeia (the “plop” of snow onto Peter’s hood when he smacks a tree with a branch comes to mind) and the illustrations are cheerful and exuberant. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t find this book charming.
How will I know my kindergartner has met this SC Standard?
My child can identify the parts of a book and of a story (title page or title, cover, author, illustrator)
With help from the teacher, my child can describe the story’s setting, the characters, the main idea, and important details.
With help from the teacher, my child can make a connection between some action in the story and the experiences of the reader.
With help from the teacher, my child can identify a problem in the story and explain it’s solution.
With help from the teacher, my child can identify the cause of an event and imagine a different outcome.
Let’s take a look at these points through the lens of studying The Snowy Day.
Just introducing the book checks off the first goal: we see the cover and we immediately see Peter. We can identify with children the title and the author/illustrator.
As we read the story with children, we point out the characters: Peter, the big boys who are having a snowball fight, and his mother, who takes off his wet socks, and his friend from across the hall. We identify with Peter’s adventure: the joy of smacking that tree, the fun of making snow angels, and the thrill of squirreling away a snowball for later. We can assist children as they describe the story from beginning to end, discussing those sweet details of being a child in a magical world of one’s own creation; his disappointment of the melted snowball and his dream that the snow has all melted, brushed away by the realization in the morning that more snow had fallen and he can adventure once more!
The third goal, “with help from the teacher, make a connection between some action in the story and the experiences of the reader” might feel a little daunting at first. After all, I think the last time we had snow in Columbia was at least ten years. ago! But don’t fret! Peter’s experiences are universal—the notion of exploration; the idea of finding a stick and dragging it across the ground—we can do that in a sandbox, in the dirt, right in our own backyards, no snow required. Discuss with your child the feeling that Peter has when he goes to bed and dreams that his winter wonderland has melted away—I bet they can relate in some way, even if they’ve not experienced that particular event.
This discussion leads us to point number four: “With help from the teacher, identify a problem in the story and explain its solution.” When I think about The Snowy Day, I recall several problems: the encounter with the tree and the stick, the hidden away snowball, the feeling in Peter’s heart during his dream of the snow melting away. We can also write, draw, and discuss with our kindergartners the final point: “With help from the teacher, identify the cause of an event and imagine a different outcome.” Again I think of Peter with that big stick, smacking the branch of the tree and having snow “plop” down onto his head. What if he had thrown a snowball at the tree? What if he hadn’t messed with it at all? There are lots of questions you can pose with your kindergartner in order to have a rich and meaningful discussion and guide them to new learning.
So there you go! Five key signifiers for understanding in kindergartners, all in one exciting, but also gentle, book.