CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 5 . . . . October 26, 2007
Many children will be familiar with the characters from the original series of books featuring Franklin the turtle and the subsequent television series the books produced. This familiarity may increase the excitement of children reading Franklin and the Duckling and Franklin and the Stopwatch for the first time; and their excitement may increase their potential for success in these reading experiences. Both stories open with two sentences found repeatedly at the beginning of Franklin texts:
Franklin can tie his shoes.
Jennings' inclusion of these phrases at the beginning of both stories allows the reader to feel a sense of confidence as he or she may be able to recite these lines from memories resulting from previous exposure to other Franklin texts.
The vocabulary used in these stories is straightforward and clear for young readers, sentence length ranging from two to twelve words. Various well-used words – such as good, mother, swam, and duck – are included, and newer terms are often repeated to solidify new learning and understanding. Both stories also integrate speech into the narrative text, introducing readers to this style of writing for perhaps the first time. This exposure allows readers to begin to prepare for reading the longer texts that accompany further reading development. Both books use the phrase, "This is a problem," to introduce the readers to a situation that needs resolution; this clear statement promotes reading for “meaning” for readers as they search within the text to find a solution to the problem. This search encourages them to develop reading strategies that will help them get the most out of their reading time.
The illustrations for these books are clear and cartoon-like. The indoor scenes depict household items with which many young readers would be familiar. The text and illustrations are matched very well on the page; placement of text blocks allows the reader's eye to follow both the word sequences and the pictorial sequences. This combination increases the reader’s potential for success in comprehension of the words and the story as a whole.
In Franklin and the Duckling, a “Kids Can Read” adaptation of an episode from the popular Franklin television series, Franklin wants a new pet, but his mother has disallowed this. While Franklin and friend Bear are playing, they come across a duckling that Franklin thinks would make the perfect new pet. Yet he remembers his mother's request and returns home without the animal. However, the duckling follows Franklin home, and so Franklin decides to hide it in his room as his new secret pet. Although he creates a duck habitat in his room and does everything he can think of to keep the small duck quiet, the duckling finds a way to messily and noisily reveal itself to Franklin's whole family. Franklin then realizes the importance of letting wild animals remain in the wild instead of keeping them as pets.
The plot of this story is fairly plain but is perhaps something to which a young reader could relate. It presents a simple moral dilemma: Franklin is concerned for the small animal but is initially respectful of his mother's wishes; however, when Franklin returns home with the duck accidentally, he lies to cover it up instead of telling the truth. The weakness of this story is then that this lie is not acknowledged as such or is simply ignored; there are no consequences other than Franklin's messy room. And because there are no consequences, it is possible for a young reader to think it okay to adopt these attitudes as well.
The story ends with a good lesson about the inappropriateness of keeping wild animals as pets. Within the story, Franklin exhibits a good understanding of duck habitats; this topic of wild animals and how they should live may open up possibilities for young readers to explore the lives of other animals in which they may have an interest.
In Franklin and the Stopwatch, a “Kids Can Read” adaptation of another episode from the popular Franklin television series, Franklin enjoys having fun with a newly found stopwatch, much to the dismay of his family and friends who become the subjects of Franklin's timing games. After friends Bear and Beaver grow tired of Franklin's use of the stopwatch to constantly time their activities, the two take the stopwatch away from Franklin in order to give him a taste of his own game. Franklin then realizes that playing games can sometimes be pushed too far so that those games are no longer fun.
The vocabulary used in this story introduces young readers to the idea of word play.
This kind of word usage is a simple way for young readers to become aware of the intricacies of the English language and the way in which changing word order can sometimes change word meaning. An example of the function of a stopwatch is given before the word is explained; using this example-first method is an excellent way to enable young readers to put the new word into context, allowing for deeper learning. Understanding the context, the readers may then come to the same conclusion that Franklin does:
This story shows Franklin as a very inquisitive character, wanting to have fun trying new things. Young readers may be able to relate to wanting to explore something new yet having others around them unwilling to participate in that exploration. Franklin attempts to involve his friends in his exploration of the functions of a stopwatch, but those friends become frustrated with his game. When the friends take the stopwatch away from Franklin and begin timing him, Franklin quickly realizes how his friends previously felt. This reversal of roles teaches readers to look at the same event from two different perspectives, perhaps prompting them to do the same in their own real-life situations.
As in the previous story, the topic – in this case, timing events such as talking on the phone or walking certain distances – has the potential for further exploration by the reader. If, after reading and understanding this story, the reader wishes to find a stopwatch to try out some of the same things that Franklin did, the reader has been successful at reading both for understanding and appreciation.
Although the stories are plain and the conflict within both stories is easily resolved, the clarity of the writing and the potential for further reader exploration make for a promising reading experience for young readers.
These Franklin texts are both Level 2 “Kids Can Read with Help” levelled books. This level is characterized as follows: Longer stories, varied sentences, increased vocabulary, some repetition and visual cues for kids who have some reading skills, but may need a little help.
Shari Klassen is an early-years Bachelor of Education student at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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