Apricot Picture Books
Apparently, most of the teachers in my company teach Kindergarten EFL classes without using storybooks. How they make the kids sit down and learn something for 5 minutes otherwise, I will never know. Personally, I am always looking for new stories that provide a bit of variety for me, lots of stimulation for the kids, and tie in nicely with my syllabus (or sometimes provide a structure for the whole class when there isn't any other). These storybooks provide for all of these, and are very affordable to boot, so I rushed at the chance to use them.
"A Teddy Bear" tells the story of an abandoned teddy bear who is lovingly put back together and washed, and who finishes the story in a happy Saturday Night Fever pose. The book is great practice for body parts (one of which is put back on the bear per page) and the positive, caring story leaves a warm glow all round. There are 5 or so words per page. Humour is provided by checking if your students also have a tail, and stealing parts of their own bodies to go onto the bear. The CD includes the story and a very long version of the song "1 little finger" that practices your whole body (although I prefer to integrate the washing idea with Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush).
"A Beautiful Butterfly" has another overwhelmingly positive theme, this time the caterpillar that turns into a multicoloured butterfly (by eating the correct coloured fruit). The vocab is quite standard and low level (with the exception of "chestnut"). There is a picture of a butterfly for children to colour at the end of the book.
"Who Stole the Cookies?" turns away from those sweet stories to the lurid world of biscuit thieves. Sherlock Holmes examines the feet of the elephant, duck, rooster and cat, and finds that none of them took the cookies. That leaves the students in your class as the chief suspects, and putting their feet on the looking glass on the last page and counting their toes will confirm your worst suspicions. The idea took a bit of explaining the first time I tried it (without resorting to L1), but even that group of children asked for the book again the next week. I haven't tried the chant (based on a kid's game I remember from my own childhood) and the maze at the back of the book, but they both look fun. The book is suitable for teaching animals and possessives. There are 7 or 8 words per page.
Back to the positive vibes for "Our Sweet Home", where children are shown what little bugs are hiding around the garden etc, and are exhorted (with suitably cute expressions by the frog, spider, cricket, ladybird, mole and snail) not to step on their homes. Again, the moral of the story took some practice to explain properly in English, but I'm getting quite adept now. The book practices possessives and prepositions.
As you might have noticed, my favourite thing about these books is their positive message and their attempt to teach kids about life as they learn English. The children seem to appreciate this as well. While the stories and illustrations are not quite as gripping as the real classics of children's picture books (The Hungry Caterpillar, Where's Spot?, Where the Wild Things Are etc.), this is more than made up for by how well they fit in with a typical pre-school English syllabus. All in all, I love these books and will certainly be buying all the rest of the books in the range soon (along with replacements for my worn out copies of the classics above).Alex Case has worked as an EFL Teacher, Teacher Trainer, Director of Studies and EFL Editor in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, the UK and Japan. Alex Case is Reviews Editor of TEFL.net.