Thursday, July 22, 2010

Toddler Stories About Autonomy

I just wrote about Smiley's love for the David and Goliath story.  Now I have a question.

Can anyone can recommend toddler books about autonomy?

I'll clarify what I am asking with some stories.

First, why does Smiley like David and Goliath?  He is currently dealing with issues of autonomy and independence.  Today had two new examples.
Before his nap today he had picked out a book to read: his current favorite library book, A Child's Book of Prayers by Juli Kangas.  But he left it somewhere on the way to the nursery, so after I brought his cup of milk to the nursery we had to find it again.  When I did, and picked it up to hand it to him, he asked me to put it back down.  Then he told me to go sit in the nursery and wait for him while he "found" it and brought it to me.
Later, I was carrying him after undressing him for his evening bath.  But he asked to be put down, and then went back in his nursery to walk from the middle of that room to the bath by himself.
Those were just the brand new examples of his desire for autonomy.  Older examples that happened today include helping push the shopping cart, using my keys to unlock the car doors, from his car seat locking and unlocking his car door with his toes, and taking off his own pants.

So it makes sense that he enjoys a story about someone smaller being able to succeed against something big.  The fact that Goliath is a bully or a threat isn't important, although it adds excitement when I use a deep and gruff voice.  Unlocking the car door is as exciting an accomplishment as making a giant fall down.

Another of his other favorite books we found at a used book store: One, by Kathryn Otoshi.  I change the story a bit to make it age-appropriate for Smiley, focusing less on bullying and the protagonist's emotions and more on playing together nicely.  To summarize:
A bunch of friendly colors play together nice.  Red is mean instead of friendly.  The nice colors, led by a new friend, decide to play a new game of being numbers.  Red gets jealous and loudly demands that they stop.  They gather their courage and say that they are having fun, and if red wants to be mean he should go away.  As red is leaving, blue suggests that red does not have to be mean and go away: he could be friendly and play too.  Red decides to be friendly instead of mean.
I know that many children's picture book series include a story about "the class bully" or "controlling your anger" (Little Critter, the Berenstain Bears, probably Arthur, etc.).  But Smiley is not dealing with those issues yet.

What he really would enjoy are stories about all the things a toddler is learning to do by himself or herself.  But my years teaching elementary school and preschool didn't educate me about those, since all of the kids I taught were at least three years old.

Any suggestions?

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