We often wonder why it is that children tend to listen to their preschool teachers so much better than to their parents. If teachers were in charge of meals, clean up and bedtime, not to mention everyday manners, what a saner place our homes would be! They are just so good at guiding children in these basic undertakings, while we parents fumble along, our exhortations so often falling on deaf (albeit very cute) ears….
Luckily, there is help to be found in delivering these crucial lessons in good behavior. Though our preschool teachers are far too sensible to come home with us and take charge of bedtime, they have pointed out a few book series that are pretty wonderful substitutes.
More than any other kind of series, a book series on behavior and related matters must meet a very high bar. The kiddos have a lot of books on their shelves, so for them to want to read about good table manners…well, the book needs to be fantastic. Above all, it needs to be funny and it needs to be real -- meaning true to children’s natural instincts and powerful feelings. Books about behavior must be books that get what kids are all about and manifest a love for kids, just as a great preschool teacher does.
The four series we’ve listed below all fit the bill and then some. They are wildly popular with preschoolers, and actually successful in imparting a few civilizing guidelines to our wild things. Need we say more? Don’t miss these gems. And for notes on each series, see below.
Jane Yolen and Mark Teague’s How Do Dinosaurs…? series is built on the brilliant conceit of dinosaurs in the role of children who need to clean their rooms or eat their food or say goodnight. Preschoolers (especially the dino-obsessed) can’t get enough of this, nor of the cleverly rhyming text and very funny pictures of T-Rexes being told to finish dinner and the like. Thanks goodness the authors cover so many crucial topics!
Russell and Lillian Hoban’s Frances is a classic that still wears well, and stands at the ready to help parents and children through some of the trying aspects of early childhood: picky eating, bedtime (of course), the birth of a new sibling, birthday jealousies and negotiating friendships. There is gentleness, sweet humor and quiet wisdom here that can only be a balm to those who pick up these stories.
Mo Willems's Pigeon series provides the comic relief all parents need after countless hours of holding the line on various behavior issues, from bedtime to sharing to basic safety. The pigeon (a thinly veiled preschooler) is the butt of the jokes here, but it turns out that the young kids like nothing better than laughing at themselves, so all can and do enjoy.
Munro Leaf’s classic and beloved Ferdinand, the peace-loving bull, is a model of beautiful behavior so why should we be surprised that Leaf also produced a wonderful series on manners for children? Only because it’s been out of print for decades. Now we are so thrilled that the series has been reissued, and Leaf’s wit, wisdom and hilarious stick-figure illustrations are at our disposal once more.
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