Articles and Other Resources That Will Inform Your Teaching
A new publishing company based in rural Vermont is coming out with whimsical picture books for schools to use both for the sheer pleasure of reading and also for character-building education.
The company, Radiant Hen, chooses agricultural and ecological themes for the most part, often with a touch of fantasy. “Radiant Hen feels that young children learn lessons best through fantasy and play, so the books are not straight life examples,” author Tanya Sousa explained. “There are behavioral lessons in the text, but there are also many messages shown with the illustrations that are never written out. Because of this, my hope as an author is that children who have trouble understanding things verbally will be able to glean a lot from the visual cues.”
Teachers don’t have to read the books and create their own activities. Radiant Hen has Teacher Resources available with discussion topics, educational games, and activities that fit with literacy, writing, wellness and other school standard requirements.
Sousa has authored three of the company’s first 6 titles. One, Life is a Bowl of Cherry Pits (illustrated by Katie Flindall) won a Moonbeam children’s book award and is being used already in a number of Vermont elementary schools. Sometimes lessons are delivered by school counselors; sometimes they are used during after school programs, and sometimes classroom teachers are using Cherry Pits and some of the others themselves.
Life is a Bowl of Cherry Pits deals with a young boy named Grundel who feels he is having a terrible day. His reaction is to let his grumbles grow into fits, refusing to enjoy anything else because things have not turned out the way he wanted them to. His parents decide to have him spend the day with Nana Loop, an eccentric, fun-loving and farming grandmother who shows him how to find the good parts of his day and his life. Of course life is a bowl of cherry pits, Grundel! That means you enjoyed all of those wonderful, delicious cherries.” Nana tells him. They then find ways to have fun with the pits from the cherries they eat, culminating with planting a dried pit so that a new cherry tree can grow from it.
In the Teacher Resources booklet, adults will find lessons that introduce and practice deep breathing, the value of distraction and creating “happy places” to think about in times of anger or other strong feelings. Students also brainstorm other issues kids their age face, discuss the author’s choice of names (ie: Grundel sounds like “grumpy” or “grumble”) and are guided to create their own whimsical stories that offer a problem and a solution.
The book is intended for grades K-2 as a teaching tool, but Sousa talked about one of the exciting ways she heard her story is used in one K-8 school. “The guidance counselor works with Jr. High classrooms as well. She reads the book to the older students, has them find their own lessons within it, and makes it an assignment for them to develop activities to do with the K-2 students in their building. When they are ready, the Jr. High students visit the young children, read the story, presenting their choice of activities or lessons, and then give each child a book to take home,” Sousa said. “What excites me most about that is the number of people the book’s messages reach with that method. The grades 6-8 students have to think about them, then the K-2 students explore them, then the books go home to families where on some level it may make a difference there.”
Life is a Bowl of Cherry Pits and all other Radiant Hen titles can be found at www.RadiantHen.com. Schools interested in buying classroom copies and in the teacher resources should email or call so they receive their school discount.