I remember when I first learned to read, in first grade in Sweden in the 1960’s. We had a thick book, several hundred pages long, that started with the following text on the first page: “Far ror, Mor är rar” (Father is rowing, Mother is sweet). This is the kind of nonsense that could make you wonder why you should bother learning to read. It seems obvious that books for early readers should contain information that is useful and interesting. One might puzzle over why so few book publishers seem to have figured that out.
Any caretaker of young children knows that children are interested in the world around them, especially when it comes to animals. I was reminded of this when I watched my youngest child's first soccer game when he was 4 years old. There were 5 boys on each team, all trying to get to the ball, until suddenly one of them spotted a bumble bee on a dandelion. Suddenly all thoughts about the ball were forgotten and everyone wanted to see what the bumble bee looked like and what it was doing. Needless to say, the game came to a halt.
So, why not take advantage of that curiosity when writing books for children of the age when they are learning to read. Then the whole act of trying to figure out what the scribbles on the page are saying makes sense, since it will provide you with fun information that you want to know.
This is why at the Kula Naiʻa Foundation, we are trying to write books for early readers about the natural world. The first book we created is called The Seabird Egg Book, which is a part of a series of Ocean books for children and is designed to be a shared read. This book features five different seabirds and gives a glimpse into the challenges they face and the solutions they have for laying their eggs.
We have reached a critical juncture and we need your help. We will be creating eight new books in the Ocean Book Series that will include exciting information for young children about five species of seabird chicks and about the prey species (fish and squid), the seabirds’ role in the natural world and how humans can help seabirds. Each will be written to a slightly different reading level to help support early reading skills. It is important to us that these books will be useful to classroom teachers and parents of children just learning to read.
All the work and resources for this project have been donated by the people involved. This funding is needed to cover expenses such as travel for collaboration with wildlife photographers, illustrators, school administrators and teachers, as well as funding to cover printing and shipping costs to provide classroom sets of books and materials to teachers for piloting in Grade 1 and Grade 2 classrooms. This book series is a model for an integrated science and literacy curriculum for elementary students that also links students to vital conservation work by organizations such as the Hawaii Wildlife Center and the Kula Nai’a Foundation.
If you can make a contribution to this worthy cause, click on this link to support us.