In my second blog I wanted to go into a little more detail about books native kids read and books that work well in an EFL classroom. One of my favorite books is “Ox-Cart Man” by Donald Hall and
the beautiful pictures are by Barbara Cooney. Putting these two artists together was genius! For those of you who don’t know it, this book is about a family living on and working a farm in the
early 1900s. When I first started teaching (more than 10 years ago) and taught farm animals to my students I thought
“I have to use this book! The kids are going to love it!”. Well, let me tell you I was so wrong! Here is why:
1. The story was too long. Normally this book takes about 5-10 minutes to read. My target audience were 4,5,6 year olds. For this age group sitting and listening for 5-10 minutes is like asking us adults to sit through a 5hour opera. Some can do it but for the most of us it is near impossible.
2. The pictures don’t match perfectly with the text. While it does match for the most part, in some places it uses words that EFL students wouldn’t know and there is no picture for them to get a hint from. In some books like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” you can have 2 to 3 pages of text and then just one picture. For native English speakers they can absorb the English and make a picture in their head but for EFL students they need a visual to stimulate their imagination because they will not be familiar for words or maybe the story. Even though they have both won Caldecott Honor Awards doesn’t mean they are a good match for an EFL classroom. Most libraries in foreign countries will have many award winning books on their shelves but that doesn’t mean they are easy to use in an EFL classroom.
3. My expectations were too high. I love this book so much that I wanted the students to feel the same way. But they were just not into it. Some people think because it is a “good” book everyone will like it. That is not the case. Children are people too and they all have their likes and dislikes. This is a really big thing to remember when choosing books for classes and for your home. For your classroom think about the age group, likes and dislikes and what the students can relate to when choosing books. When choosing books for your home do the same but also try to pick out books with your child. There is no worry of them not liking a book if they choose it themselves. Also don’t be critical of your child’s book choice. You are the reader, not the critic. Let them feel they can choose any book without you telling them it’s a bad book to choose.