Debbie Beeks and Toni Mc Elhatton from Seven Stories share with you the qualities they appreciate in "We're Going on a Bear Hunt".
WE’RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT by Michael Rosen & illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Text © 1989 Michael Rosen
Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd, London SE11 5HJ
Debbie Beeks and Toni Mc Elhatton from Seven Stories introduce you to the story "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" and ways to read a story to children.
Question: Can you tell us a bit about “We're Going on a Bear Hunt" and how to tell it as a story to children?
Toni: This book is called "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" and it’s by Michael Rosen and it’s illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. And this book really lends itself mostly to early years children, so nought to five?
Debbie: About nought to five or nought to seven, depends on the interest and preference of the child and generally you know the children you’re working with well so you can decide they might like it. And I would say this book is a real cornerstone of British cultural heritage, thousands and thousands and thousands of children would have read this story.
Toni: And we use it a lot at Seven Stories. We’ve really championed this book for its qualities and with young children.
Debbie: It reads really easily and like all good picture books, it will suggest to you and show you through the relationship between the words and the pictures, it will show you how to read the story, enable you to bring it to life and to enjoy it in a way that’s very playful for young children.
Toni: So we have a look of the book – we can see that the pictures really tell the story without even having to read the words but the words are very rhythmic and that’s really important for early years’ works so if you think “We’re going on a bear hunt. / We’re going to catch a big one. / What a beautiful day! / We’re not scared". That rhythm really allows the children to be involved with the story.
Debbie: And you could really play around with that rhythm and enjoy it and make your own. Every family who loves this book has their own way of playing around with that rhythm and their own way of going “uh-uh!”, “oh no, we’re not scared” and lots of different ways you can play that. And also these illustrations are very identifiable and children really like a book that they can identify with – it’s a family out having fun, playing together, and that’s really important for an early years' child.
Toni: And then if we look on this page, the colours really stand out and because the words “swishy swashy, swishy swashy”, they relate to the picture and children can really lose themselves in this picture and the words and nearly step into the picture and grow
Debbie: So someone’s reading this story to young children or to one child. The signal from this picture is to really enjoy and embrace the sensation and the senses of walking through grass but really enjoy saying, the pleasure of saying the words “swishy swashy, swishy swashy” and that’s really an important part of language development for children. It's repetition but also enjoying saying new words, the sensation of saying new words you maybe haven’t said before but then when you have said them, enjoying and celebrating, saying them over and over and over again.
Toni: And every child will relate to this book differently as they get that little bit older so they find something new as they get older. And this book really shows a range of emotions as well, explore emotions from running through grass, to splashing through water to going through a forest and tripping up and stumbling. Children are that little more advanced, or as they get older will be able to identify with those emotions.
Debbie: And it really, it suggests an open question about what to be scared of, on what is feared and that every small child faces a new experience every single day and is that something to be afraid of, or is it something to be embraced, is it something to lose yourself in and won’t you be afraid of it when you face it, then was it something to be scared of in the first place. So that’s, yet another depth, another layer to this book that children can develop with and grow with and enjoy, continue to enjoy.
Toni: And I think that’s something with all picture books, that something that most picture books have that, they will allow a child to experience an emotion that might be new, might be challenging but it allows them to share it with an adult or with other children in a safe environment, so that safe environment allows them to explore these things without them being
Debbie: And to experience things, to experience wilderness in a safe and enjoyable place is a really nuturing place for learning, for growth and for confidence. I think another thing to talk about this book is imagination and inspiration. This book allows you to play and join in and get carried away in the story but it also suggests your own story-making. And at Seven Stories, we would always encourage every story time to have an open area or an open-end to make your own story-making. So our bear, once they do find it, they find the bear, it’s wonderful and exciting to be afraid of the bear but once everyone safely took in their bed at the end, what happens to the bear? And you can see this beautiful illustration that’s full of atmosphere and emotion and the bear walked in a way, suggests another story and another experience and another place for a child to begin their own story-making; to imagine how this bear feels, is this bear scared? Was this bear scary? Where did this bear go now? Is it lonely? Does it have friends? Does it want to go home alone? There are so many questions and stories to then move on to from this. And this is a perfect example of how inspiring for the imagination for story-making a picture book can be for children.
Can you name some stories or picture books that work well with your class? What are the qualities that you like in these books?
How important is rhythm in story-telling with children?
In what ways do stories play a role in the overall language development of young learners?