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Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative

The learning skills part of the report card is divided into areas such as Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative—habits that affect all areas of academic achievement. It’s sometimes difficult to find fun ways of explicitly teaching these skills. Here are some great picture books to help

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


Book Cover hte Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten

The learning skills part of the report card is divided into areas such as Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative—habits that affect all areas of academic achievement. It’s sometimes difficult to find fun ways of explicitly teaching these skills. Here are some great picture books to help.



The inverse idea of kids teaching their parents how to follow the rules is realized in The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten, by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery. A little girl’s mom spends the day butting in line, calling out of turn, slamming her scissors in frustration, and traipsing across the classroom in her outdoor shoes. When given a chance to change her behaviour, the mom rises to the challenge.


Book Cover The Day my Dad Joined the Soccer Team

Similarly, a boy’s father must learn to pay attention and show good sportsmanship in The Day Dad Joined My Soccer Team, also by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery.


Book Cover The Name of the Tree

Listening requires strategies, as seen in The Name of the Tree, by Celia Barker Lottridge, illustrated by Ian Wallace. The animals of the savannah are hungry due to a drought. They find a tree with the most delicious fruit, but it’s too high to pick. The tortoise remembers an old story about how the fruit can only be picked by those who know the name of the tree. The gazelle and the elephant visit the lion king to retrieve the name, but each forgets it on the journey back. The tortoise, however, repeats it over and over until he reaches his friends. “The name of the tree is Ungalli!” he proclaims, and they all satisfy their hunger.


Book Cover the Quiet Book

What does quiet look like? Sound like? In The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Canadian Renata Liwska, each page shows a different kind of quiet—including some kinds related to school: “Before the concert starts quiet/ Story time quiet/ Thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet/ Hide-and-seek quiet,” as well as non-school silence: “Lollipop quiet/ Best friends don’t need to talk quiet.”


Along a Long Road

Staying focused, even when you hit a snag, is the underlying message in A Long a Long Road, by Frank Viva. It illustrates a cyclist on a road that leads up, down, through a tunnel, a bridge. The boy hits a bump (an apple) in the road, then gets back on his bike, gaining speed, rounding the bend, only to begin again.



Book Cover THe Liszts

The Liszts, by Kyo MacLear, illustrated by Julia Sarda, shows a family who loves to make lists. Mama indexes illnesses. Papa records unwanted chores. Frederick catalogues fun things. Edward, the middle child, has lists that go on for 31 pages. This book lends itself to a lesson in list-making as a way of setting goals.


Book Cover Jillian Jiggs

Keeping classroom desks and cubbies clean is a constant source of upkeep. Jillian has trouble organizing her stuff in Jillian Jiggs, by Phoebe Gilman (“Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs/ It looks like your room has been lived in by pigs!”)


Christopher Please Clean Up Your Room

Similarly, in Itah Sadu’s, Christopher, Please Clean Up Your Room! illustrated by Roy Condy, Christopher consistently refuses to clean his room. His socks under the bed begin to smell cheesy, the sandwich behind the door grows fungi, and the goldfish enlist the cockroaches for a dramatic intervention.


Book Cover Jillian Jiggs Big Snow

Looking after belongings is part of student life, and the theme of Jillian Jiggs and the Great Big Snow, by Phoebe Gilman. “Jillian, Jillian, say it’s not true. How do you lose all the things that you do?” cries Jillian’s mother. When Jillian replaces her lost hat with martian-like headwear, snow play turns creative, complete with snow monsters which somehow devour her scarf and mitts.


Book Cover STella Princess of the Sky

Asking questions is part of taking initiative. There are no such things as silly questions—as seen by Stella’s little brother Sam’s endless stream of uninhibited questions and Stella’s ever-thoughtful answers, in Marie Louise Gay’s Stella books (Stella Princess of the Sky, Stella Queen of the Snow, Stella Star of the Sea, Stella Fairy of the Forest.) In Stella Fairy of the Forest, for example, Sam asks, “Do butterflies eat butter?” “Yellow butterflies do,” says Stella. Of course!


Book Cover ANy Questions

Also, by Marie Louise Gay, Any Questions? explores the createive inquiries Gay receives as an author and how questions lead to positive and imaginative solutions.


Book Cover I Help

Willingness to help is illustrated in a simple way in the dual language Cree/ English Niwechihaw/ I Help, by Caitlin Dale Nicholson, illustrated by Leone Morin-Neilson. Each page beautifully illustrates each step a boy takes in helping his grandmother pick berries: “Kohkum picks./ I pick.”


Book Cover Bagels from Benny

Benny takes initiative in Bagels from Benny, by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dusan Petricic, when his baker-uncle tells him to thank God for the bagels. When God doesn’t respond, Benny takes the matter into his own hands and leaves Him fresh hot bagels at the synagogue. Is God eating the bagels? Or has Benny’s initiative lead him to learn something unexpected?


On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.

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