We want to help create motivated and engaged young readers. This blog is about children's and YA literature (especially New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.
On a trip overseas recently, I came across the work of an Alaskan artist, Barbara Lavallee, whose ‘naïve’ art style really appealed. And then I found she has illustrated several children’s books, and now Mama, Do you love me? is my new favourite!
The book has a little Inuit girl seeking her mother’s reassurance that she will continue to love and care for her, no matter what naughty things she gets up to – running away to sing with the wolves; turning into a mean polar bear, etc. What child do you know who hasn’t required this guarantee of unconditional love from their parents – either in words or deed?
Yet when I showed the book to a friend, she expressed some doubt about all the difficult and foreign words and animals in the book, which she felt might make it strange for young New Zealand children. Words like ‘umiak’ and ‘ptarmigan’; phrases like ‘lemmings in your mukluks’ would have no meaning for children at the opposite end of the world, she said.
I believe this is exactly why we should read books with strange and wonderful words and illustrations to our youngest children. How will they ever find out about the world if we don’t introduce them to the unfamiliar, the strange, the difficult? The need for parental reassurance is something all children seek and while they’re recognizing this (in Mama, Do you love me?), let them also be exposed to the words and worlds of other peoples and places. If they’ve read even a hundred such books before they get to school, how much more accepting they will be of all the new words and concepts they will certainly come across. Doesn’t this build more confident learners, willing to try out new stuff?
Read the author’s wonderful essay on this topic: The Reader’s Hug (PDF).
review by Linda
image by BiblioArchives
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