Last year, I commented here that although I am a great admirer of Dr. Seuss, I’m a little tired of Dr. Seuss’s birthday being a big event every year. I suggested that maybe we could celebrate the birthday of another ground-breaking writer and artist in the early reading field. So this year, my library did exactly that!
May 22nd is the great Arnold Lobel’s birthday, so we decided to make it an all-day celebration of Frog & Toad Day. We kept it pretty simple–nobody needs a complicated event coming two weeks before the beginning of Summer Reading! So we read Frog & Toad stories read every hour on the hour, along with a simple but fun craft created by the talented Ms. Sarah. And we had a table of snacks where children were invited to eat like a frog or a toad, with goldfish fish, pretzel stick worms, and raisin flies, which I found on the always helpful Pinterest.
It was low-key and age-appropriate, and it also included a few staff members who came as guest readers. The Business Coordinator and Adult Services librarians don’t get to read to children very often, and they seemed to enjoy it! We also had a Reader’s Theatre version of a couple of the stories created by our own Ms. Shelley. But you know what was really great about it? The stories, of course!
I’ve never been a fan of using easy readers as read-alouds. To me, the whole point of easy readers is for children who are learning to read to have some books they can read. If we read the best of them out loud before they learn to read, they’ve lost the opportunity to have the big laugh or the fun surprise that is the reward for the challenges in learning to read. But while I don’t read Elephant and Piggie books out loud for that reason, I find Frog and Toad stories irresistible, because they’re such solidly crafted, jewel-like little works. I’ve told the story of Toad’s bathing suit (“What a day for a swim!”) probably a hundred times, and it is still always comical.
I was still a little worried that after a day of hearing the same stories read out loud by multiple readers, they might not be so funny afterward. But instead the opposite was true. Hearing them read by different people, often people without a lot of experience, brought them to life in a new way, because they would bring out some aspect of the story that might be different from what I would present. And spending a day reading them myself and pointing things out in the ingenious and lovely small paintings made me appreciate them even more.
Arnold Lobel is another of my heroes. All those easy readers you find today about friends have their roots in the wonderful stories of the sometimes gloomy Toad and his ebullient and kind friend Frog. The stories are about the way when you lose a button, you find lots more, or the difficulties of self-control around cookies, or even the need to sometimes be alone for awhile. They are about being in relationship, and how you can be yourself and still have someone love you for who you are. They are stories that every child should get a chance to hear. I think next year, we just may celebrate Frog & Toad Day again!