18 November 2008
Another book up for consideration in the Cybils Easy Reader category is this pre-level 1 offering by Joan Holub. According to the level chart on the back of the book, a Pre-Level 1 reader (as defined by publisher Simon and Schuster) is as easy reading as one can get, focusing on word repetition, familiar words and phrases, and simple sentences. With only 21 pages and 97 words, author Joan Holub and illustrator Will Terry attempt to explain the life-cycle of seeds, as experienced through the eyes and hands of a group of ants.
Well, they succeed magnificently! Rhyming text and playful language supported by energetic illustrations makes this a fun read while still conveying the principles of gardening. The book uses sound repetition much more than word repetition, which adds to the exuberance and reduces the stilted effect sometimes associated with the easy reader level (I think of all those earnest phonics books out there. So educational! So boring.) The arrival of spring, hailed in the book's title, is the final result of the ants' hard work. But before that there is the planting, the nurturing, and the waiting, all cheerfully explained and anticipated by the ants. In fact, the planting and growing of seeds is a great metaphor for what books at this level are trying to achieve--getting children to the point where reading is fun while steering them through the ins and outs of language development, accumulated vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it is not a stand-alone title, but part of the "Ant Hill" series. Readers who enjoy Spring is Here! can move on to Picnic! for more ant and reading fun. The use of series fiction with older readers has proven to be highly successful at maintaining reader interest. Little surprise then that the same principal is successfully applied to emerging readers as they look for consistently well-written books with which to practice their new skills. Three cheers then for the ants, and their steady march towards spring and all its rich rewards!