From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please help me welcome today’s guest blogger, Lucinda Tooker. Lucinda is surprised at how much fun she has as the teacher-librarian at Kanaka Creek Elementary School in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. She found herself there after a meandering 32-year career that has taken her through northern and western Canada, starting as a secondary English teacher and later becoming a teacher-librarian. During school vacations, Lucinda sometimes works as a relief lighthouse keeper at Lennard Island, where her husband is the principal lighthouse keeper. She loves dogs and camping, and is always on the hunt for just the right book for every reader. 

Teachers who inspired me shared their personal passions. Canadian literature and musical theatre are two interests I developed because a teacher’s passion was infectious. I have tried to personalize my teaching, hoping it will spark an interest.

My students will tell you I am passionate about my dogs, and I love to read aloud books about dogs and pet ownership. Time and again I go back to my favourite picture books about choosing pets, responsible pet ownership, and pets whose stories simply must be shared! Each spring we read about, talk about, and write about pets. Even those whose families do not have pets can imagine their “dream pet.”

I start with choosing the perfect pet: What Pet to Get? by Emma Dodd and the classic No More Monsters for Me by Peggy Parish, help to frame “if only” discussions. For slightly older students, I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff and I Want a Dog! by Helga Bansch provide inspiration for persuasive writing activities. But sometimes, pets choose us, as in Hi! Fly Guy! by Tedd Arnold. 

Once families have decided to get a pet (or two, or …?) the hard work begins. Arthur’s Pet Business by Marc Brown inspires a brainstorming session about pets’ needs. There are also risks to pet ownership, including runaways, at which time John Grogan’s Bad Dog, Marley and Garrison Keillor’s Cat, You Better Come Home fit the bill. I lightly touch on the topic of spaying or neutering our pets and share the humourous story of Uncle Andy’s Cats by James Warhola (yes, the uncle is that Andy Warhol!). 

Book reviews and some teaching materials are available from my local branch of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA). There are so many reasons to adopt pets that have been “previously loved”, which leads to a discussion of compassion and caring, two aspects of character everyone can develop. Some of my favourite picture books about pet adoption have been reviewed by the BCSPCA: The Blue House Dog by Deborah Blumenthal, Two Bobbies by Mary Nethery and Kirby Larson, Before You Were Mine by Maribeth Boelts, A Home for Dakota by Jan Zita Grover and The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson. While each of these titles is tinged with sadness, the cathartic element leaves readers and listeners satisfied that each pet has found the right home.

Finally, I make time to laugh about the animals that share our homes and our lives. Chowder by Peter Brown reminds students of the dogs they know that are treated by their owners like “fur children.” 

Pet Show! by Ezra Jack Keats inspires sympathy about the unwillingness of cats to be managed. Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman and Dog in Charge by K.L. Going concern the problems that can arise when dogs and cats share a home.

Lucinda’s dog, Frodo
Thank you Lucinda for sharing so many great titles to connect us to the furry friends in our life, and for modeling how a teacher’s passion for something can be an inspiration to students.