Certain preschooler questions are so fundamental as to be repeated almost every single day. As in:
Preschooler: “Where’s Mommy (or Daddy)?”
Answer: “She (or he) went to work.”
Preschooler: “What is Mommy (or Daddy) doing?”
It’s not hard to see why this exchange may recur over and over and over at your house: the answer is so clearly unsatisfying. And yet, the idea of explaining many a parent’s job in the modern world to a three-year-old can leave us scratching our heads.
Now is the time to make room on your bookshelf for Richard Scarry’s masterwork What Do People Do All Day? When it comes to explaining the workings of the everyday world to young children, Scarry is unrivaled. We adore, for example, his amazing Best Word Book Ever, and his take on A Day At the Airport is a Savvy travel favorite.
But of all Scarry’s many brilliant and beloved books, we consider What Do People Do All Day? his most necessary work. For as much as young children revel in their imaginary worlds, they also have a deep-seated desire to understand how the real world functions, and especially their parents’ and other adults’ part in it. With his portrait of Busytown and all its delightful animal inhabitants, Scarry does exactly what children need: he shows them how it all works. This book is a primer on economics (how people earn money and what they do with it); on construction and even plumbing; on classic preschool interests like the mail, firefighting and train travel; and on interests they will share after reading this book like agriculture, forestry, and road building.
So the next time your child asks “What does Mommy (or Daddy) do all day?” pull out this gem and show him. Granted, its 1968 vintage means that a few essentials of today’s world are left out (no computers or cell phones in sight), but you can always point to the “businessman” (a fox, of course) as an stand-in for many inscrutable professions. We’re especially glad that the book does not neglect the “story writer” and the “artist painting a picture” up in the garret -- for it does take an artist and storyteller such as Richard Scarry to make sense for the little ones of this busy world of ours.
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