Note: Shannon Pierce is the new Sales & Marketing Intern at Blair. She has an MA in Language and Communication and attended the Denver Publishing Institute in 2012. She enjoys baking, learning about her new home in North Carolina, and playing with her niece and nephew.
I started teaching preschool four years ago in a class of two- and three-year-olds. If we managed to get all 18 seated attentively, one of my go-to story time books was Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
But the book’s formatting drove me crazy. Each two-page spread features the illustration of an animal in the book’s series of animals. On the left side, the text addresses the illustrated animal with, for instance, “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” On the right side, the text identifies the next animal in the series, “I see a red bird looking at me.” However, that animal will only be visible when you turn the page.
I never read the premature, in my opinion, description of the upcoming animal, instead allowing the class to yell out their own descriptions as it appeared (“I see a . . .”—page turn— “RED BIRD”). It was a simple fix and nicely interactive, but the fact that the layout was not designed with this type of reading aloud in mind always bothered me. Obviously I was right, and Eric Carle was wrong.
Then Brown Bear and I met under different circumstances as I was helping older kids practice their reading. All of a sudden, the formatting was perfect. The kids were challenged by trying to read the unillustrated text, and the corresponding image on the next page was an immediate correction or reinforcement. Basically the layout is brilliantly suited to literacy development.
Though embarrassed by how fervently I had misjudged the book, had I not been quite so irked by Brown Bear I would not have had the now obvious realization that a lot of interesting decisions go into the production of a book. And maybe Eric Carle knows what he’s doing.
Look for another installment of The Book That Smacked Me Upside the Head next week!