By Hazel Edwards
Q. My child is starting school soon. How can reading a book help a child prepare for first day at school?
Reading-sharing is a great way to prepare a child for school. First timers are always a bit worried about going to a new place like school or kindergarten. So are parents.
That's why I wrote this when my children were small and 'playground'
was used in the title to cover school and kindergarten.
Not having a friend is the BIG worry. Not knowing what to do is another.
The cake-eating hippo is a big friend who has all the answers.
That's reassuring. Many children have imaginary friends as ways of coping with new situations.
School routines like uniforms, when are the breaks, what do you eat and MAKING FRIENDS are important. It helps to know what might happen.
At a time when parents are worried about their children learning to read and write, children's authors receive wonderful fan letters from very young readers as evidence that specific books have really mattered in a child's life.
Q. How should I read it?
Snuggle up and make the experience pleasurable. Re-read and use the pictures as prompts to talk about what happens in a school day. Getting dressed. Packing school lunch. Having a peg for your belongings. Going out to play. Using the play equipment. Listening to the teacher tell a story. Which is a favourite page? Why? Do funny voices.
The mischievous hippo openly disregards a few rules, but it always knows what to do.
My favourite is playing hide-and-seek where he is a bit too big to fit behind the tree.
Bibliotherapy is the fancy name for reading books that help you deal with problems. Starting school can be fun, not a problem. You just need a sense of humour and a character like the rooftop-cake eating hippo.
In the Year of the Potato, the hippo took potato cake as his special cake to school.
How to Read With Your Kids Checklist
Literacy & Numeracy Activity Ideas
Hazel Edwards is an author-educator who is passionate about encouraging children to read as a way of increasing their confidence and skills. She is an ambassador for literacy and for literature.
But an author's perspective is a little different from a parent, teacher or grandparent, because the picture book needs to be crafted in a way which appeals to a beginning reader or a child just starting school.
You just need a sense of humour and a character like the rooftop-cake eating hippo.
There's a Hippopotamus in the Playground Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards Illustrated by Deborah Niland is available from Penguin Books.
2009 ASA Medal
2012 National Year of Reading Ambassador