Saturday, February 21, 2015

If You Give a Kid a Computer

"If you give a student a pancake . . . " is a front-page headline in yesterday's edition of my small hometown newspaper. It marks a photo feature in which a local kindergarten teacher serves her students pancakes following a reading activity featuring several well-loved children's stories written by Laura Numeroff.

Numeroff is the author of If You Give a Pig a Pancake and several other popular "circular" tales involving various animals, sweet things, and, usually, an alliterative title. These stories follow the "If . . . then" format throughout until they reach a conclusion that ends just as the story began, in this case with a pig and a pancake.

Besides the one about the pig published in 1998, Numeroff's successful series, which began in 1985 with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, includes If You Give a Moose a Muffin (1991), If You Give a Cat a Cupcake (2008), If You Give a Dog a Donut (2011), and, most recently, If You Give a Bear a Brownie (2014).

Yesterday's headline caught my attention partly because I am always interested in activities that promote children's literacy but mostly because it sounded familiar. Granddaughter Sooby, a second-grader, is obviously familiar with these stories, as she composed her own variation last time she came to Googie's. During that visit, she sat at my computer and composed her own mixed-and-matched spin-off of Numeroff's idea, titled If You Give a Cow a Cupcake. She worked on it off and on for several hours.

Sooby's story follows. I have corrected only spacing. All the spelling and punctuation are as she originally typed the piece, something I think is pretty remarkable for a seven-year-old--but I am prejudiced, of course. Here is Sooby's story:

If You Give a Cow a Cupcake

If you give a cow a cupcake, she'll want some icing. When you give her the icing, she'll turn a very, very, dark pink. That will remind her of the time that her cousin kissed her, [and after that, she blushed.] so she'll want a kiss from you. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh! She'll chase you all over the house! When she reaches your bedroom, she'll sneak under the bed.

When you [try to] lie down and take a rest, she'll jump out at you and get her target. Then you'll blush. You'll get out your sewing kit to calm yourself down. You've been sewing a fancy shirt for your older brother who is getting married next week. The shirt will have buttons, a lace collar, a pocket on the upper left, and glass buttons on the edge of each sleeve.

She'll see your needle running in and out, and that will remind her of her other jumping cousin, who she loved to copy. She'll copy your needle by bouncing up and down. You'll see her doing it and get bored, and finally you'll get so bored that you'll have to put your sewing kit away. When she sees that you've put it away, she'll stop in mid-air, and land in your ash basket.

Of course, she'll be all covered in soot, so she'll want to take a bath. When you turn on the hot water, she'll turn a very, very dark pink. Turning pink will remind her of your icing. And chances are, if she asks you for icing, she's going to want a cupcake to go with it. 

The End

We won't pause here to ponder the elaborate design of my brother's wedding shirt (love that lace collar) or my tendency to get out my sewing kit when both overly excited and bored. We won't discuss the logistics of having a pink cow in my bathtub, or, even worse, one chasing after me for a kiss or lying in wait for me under my bed.

Instead, we'll just commend Laura Numeroff for her ability to spark imagination and the love for reading in generations of children and the kindergarten teacher in my hometown for using Numeroff's stories as a springboard for her own creative literacy project. Ladies, we simply cannot have enough people like you around to make sure our kids grow to respect and love the written word.

And, of course, I'll offer a few special kudos to Sooby for this writing--which I plan to share with her boyfriend when she's in college--and for once again showing her Googie the miracles that can happen--if you give a kid a computer.

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