Sunday 14 October 2012
An Illustrated Year: So Much! by Trish Cooke
Most of my teaching career has been in culturally diverse, inner city schools. I started training as a teacher 20 years ago last month (where has the last 20 years gone?) and of course, one of the most important duties of a Primary school teacher is to ensure that the children in their care make progress with their reading. However, I found that we can make sure that children learn their letter sounds and apply that knowledge to words- this is a relatively easy job- but making children want to read is far more tricky. Over my teaching career I have become more and more convinced that young children must see themselves and their cultures presented to them in books, as well as the cultures of their peers.
So Much! by Trish Cooke was published nearly 20 years ago, in 1994. I remember picking up a copy to read to the children I was teaching as a Traveller Support/ English as an Additional Language support teacher in Beeston, Leeds. It's the story of Mum and Baby, sitting at home, when- DING DONG! the doorbell goes, and relatives arrive one by one to see the baby to show him how much they love him. They want to hug, squeeze, kiss the baby- and also eat and fight him! At the end of the book, we see that the family have gathered to celebrate the baby's Daddy's birthday.
It's told in the sing-song rhythms of Dominican English, and I absolutely love this book. I love the fact that the family is an ordinary family, gathering for a celebration the way that other families do, but the family is shown playing dominoes, dancing and singing, giving the book a distinctly Caribbean flavour. We don't see outside the house, only the front room and the baby's bedroom, but the tiled hall in front of the door in one picture (when Auntie Bibbi arrives) reminds me of the one in the terraced houses in Leeds where I lived as a student and young teacher. Trish Cooke grew up in Bradford with her Dominican parents and brothers and sisters, so Helen Oxenbury may have taken inspiration from this.
I recommend this book for children around the ages of 3-6. It's lovely!
I'm looking for picture books showing Asian children in urban settings for my students who are starting their teaching practice in London schools. Please do comment if you know of any! It's a shame that in 20 years we don't seem to be moving forward in representations of diversity in picture books.