Willow (appropriate for ages 5 and up), by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan is a beautiful story of self expression. This book was recommended by my friend Amy, creator of Happy Day Westchester.
Mrs. Hawthorn is Willow’s art teacher and is neat, tidy and doesn’t allow her students to express themselves. Willow is a free spirited girl with a beautiful imagination. Mrs. Hawthorn doesn’t like children to use their imagination, she just wants them to follow the rules and stay within the lines. Willow is constantly getting in trouble for breaking crayons, drawing something a different color than it should be, and just being plain different. She even gets teased by her peers for being different and thinking “outside the box”. For the holidays, Willow gives her mean spirited teacher, Mrs. Hawthorn her beloved art book. Mrs. Hawthorn is so touched by Willow’s generosity that she decides to turn over a new leaf for the new year.
I love this story because it can encourage a child to be themselves, be creative and never lose hope in others. I think it’s important to celebrate our children’s difference and encourage them to express themselves in all ways, especially art.
Carryover Activity: Draw a picture without giving any directions. Let your child draw what they want and how they want. After the picture is done, discuss it and have your child explain to you what the picture is all about. Have fun and draw a picture yourself. Encourage your child to tell a story about their drawing and write it down together.
For more information on why doodling is important for literacy, read this article from Imagination Tree.