by A. A. Milne, first published 1926
“Sing Ho! for the life of a Bear! Sing Ho! for the life of a Bear
I don’t much mind if it rains or snows, ‘Cos I’ve got a lot of honey on my nice new nose…”
Who among us doesn’t know the world of Winnie-the-Pooh? To call it a classic children’s book is almost redundant. To read it is to be a child again, seeing the world with utter innocence and simplicity. The challenge for parents is to decide which version of the Winnie-the-Pooh book to read. A search on Amazon, for example, with the term Winnie the Pooh turns up no less than 5,021 results!!
Here’s my recommendation: The World of Pooh, published by Dutton Children’s Books originally in 1957, with illustrations by E.H. Shepard. This collection contains two complete books in one: Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. With this one volume, you have all the stories right at hand, and can pick and choose any one of the magical (and for the most part, stand-alone) chapters to read to your younger child. If your children are already reading, then they have the fun of roaming to their hearts content in the magical Hundred Acre Wood.
An Easy Reader
You may already have your own reasons for loving the stories of Winnie the Pooh, including the wonderful way the moral messages are delivered with a light hand, much as the fables of old offer children. However, my reason for choosing this children’s book is particularly to aim at struggling readers.
For 2nd and 3rd grade students, who are just getting the hang of reading, this book is perfect. The majority of the words are simple enough for them to decode on their own, if they know the basic phonetic approach. Take a sentence like “I shall try to look like a small black cloud. That will deceive them.” The challenging words might be cloud and deceive. But with a little help, they can get the sense.
More importantly, most of the characters are also struggling with reading and writing. In fact, only Christopher Robin, and Rabbit, can really make sense of letters anyway. So the child who is struggling with spelling can finally relax… it’s not the end of the world, and you can always get some help! To prove the point, most of the Really Big words in the book are intentionally misspelled, leaving a space for a sense of mastery if in fact the reader really knows how to spell it.
The Characters as Temperaments
Another compelling reason to expose children to the World of Pooh is that each of the characters creates a living image of one of the temperaments. For those parents who are familiar with Waldorf Schools, you may know that the temperaments give a picture of one of the ways children interact with the world, up until about the teen years. As a reader, the child can identify with his or her temperament, and perhaps learn a thing or two about themselves. The wonderful melancholic Eeyore, or the choleric Tigger, give us pause to look at what happens when we are a tiny bit off-balance in one or the other of the four temperaments. Perhaps I’ll write a longer article about this at some point, but for now, know that whatever your child is like, there’s someone to identify with right in the Hundred Acre Wood.