Positive messages from Negative Cat
World Read Aloud Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in February, every year. It is a day that draws attention to the importance of sharing stories, by encouraging everyone to grab a book, find an audience, and read-aloud!
Pre-pandemic, one of the things that happened spontaneously in the school library, was children reading aloud to one another.
It had all started with an argument over a book that a few of the children wanted to read. Who will get it first? Who next?
When sought out to settle the argument, I wondered aloud if maybe, one of them could read it aloud to the others. This suggestion was greeted with great enthusiasm and off they went into a little corner to enjoy the book.
This soon became a tradition of sort...little groups forming to share a book, in some little nook in the library...ever conscious not to disturb those reading quietly.
Then the magic unfolded as the older children in our mixed-age group classes, began to read to the younger ones who could not yet read with fluency, some who would read to our scholarship children (RTE), explaining more complicated ideas in Tamil.
Reading aloud to each other started with sharing to settle and argument, moving on to caring about fellow classmates and wanting them to experience the joy of books too.
With online classes, I wanted to help children to remember the joy of reading aloud, not just listening to stories being read aloud.
I found the perfect read in the picture book Negative Cat by Sophie Blackall.
Besides the fact that the cat in the story reminded me of my own little ‘matlabi’ cat, the story also addresses the insecurity felt by children not so fluent in reading aloud, adopting rescues as pets, and finding the joy in sharing books with someone else.
Imagine asking your parents for a cat for 427 days and then they finally give in!! But not without conditions, one of them being reading for 20 minutes every day. Ugh!!! The little boy didn’t mind cleaning his room, writing to grandma and other diktats but not reading!!! He could only read out loud and slowly, making every one in school laugh at him. Desperate for a cat, he agrees to all the conditions laid out, and heads to the shelter to choose one. He knows exactly which cat he wants, but the cat is not quite what he expects. He seems a bit negative, unlike other lovable pet cats that his classmates have.However, he loves his cat despite all his flaws.
When things get to a head and there is a threat of the cat being returned to the shelter, he must find a way to do all he promised and keep his cat.
Based on her own pet cat and drawing from a story of children reading to cats at a shelter, author/illustrator Sophie Blackall has created a stunning picture book with a powerful message.
This one is one of the most precious books that I've read of late and was a wonderful way to encourage my students to read aloud at school, at home, to anyone…pets even.
The illustrations and colour palette are uniquely stunning and the cats so endearing. Take time to read the names on the cages.
This year, I've shared a series of posts on tips for reading aloud and books about 'books and readers', on my Instagram account @mythaunty. If you've missed these posts, go to Instagram or look for them here on the blog, later next week.