By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE.
One of the greatest joys of my life has been sharing my favourite children’s books with my grandchildren. Inspired many years ago, by the amazing duo of Margie Carter and Deb Curtis, I have been using children’s literature as prompts for reflection with early childhood education students and teachers. In my last blog post, I wrote about Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems. This story about Trixie and her floppy stuffed rabbit, has been a cherished part of my collection for a long time. I was delighted to discover two more Knuffle Bunny books that I was not aware even existed! When I sat down to read the two new titles, it dawned on me that the stories were sparking reflection on so many topics including identity, language, child development, and friendships. I have been researching, thinking, and reflecting on professional friendships for my new book which will be published by Redleaf Press. I am now revisiting children’s books as prompts for professional learning. What books do you use with children, that can spark your interest? What topics are featured in these stories that can provoke deep thinking about theory, application, and practice in early learning? I would love to hear more about your relationship to these books! Which books do you love and why? Which books do you feel connected to? On my list, for sure, would be Stick and Stone, written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. This book has been an important part of so many of my workshops. I feel a great deal of love for this book. It has brought me joy, laughter, and inspiration. I have traveled all over with hundreds of sticks, stones, and pinecones. They provided hands on play and learning related to loose parts, STEAM, and more!
The result of my multiple experiences with this book, is that I now have a relationship to it. I connect to it on so many levels. I have shared it so many times, I can now recite passages by heart. Solidifying my love for this book, has been watching both my grandchildren fall in love with it too. The story is sad when it begins. Stick and Stone are lonely and alone. When Stick sticks up for Stone when bullied by Pinecone, a friendship is born. No longer alone, they wander and explore until a loud hurricane threatens, but once again, these friends are there for each other.
It has been a few years since I delivered a workshop face to face. I don’t know whether I will ever again pack my car full of sticks, stones, and pinecones. Pivoting to webinars has been a COVID gift as I am getting too old to schlep all these sticks, stones and pinecones! I will continue though, to share my love of children’s books as prompts for professional learning whenever I can. Recently, I was developing a 2.5 hour web-based workshop on loose parts and reflective practice. Looking to take a screenshot of Stick and Stone, I was delighted to discover that there was a newly published, Stick and Stone book!
Stick and Stone: Best Friends Forever! Once again authored by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, this book, touched my heart in so many ways. I love how Stone supports Stick on his search for his family tree! They wander, explore through forests galore! Will Stick ever find where he lived before his branch broke? After getting lost during their quest, it was so good to see a rehabilitated Pinecone come to their rescue! “Stick, Stone, no longer alone. Stick, Stone, saved by Pinecone!” In the end, Stick recognizes that he will never find his family tree but realizes with Stone’s help, that friends are family.
This takes me back to my reflections on the role professional friends have played in my life. I am still carrying in my heart the incredible experience of a recent meeting with my Circle of Support (CoS), 16 early childhood educators from all over Ontario, coming together to demonstrate the value and importance of professional friendships. I will be writing more about this pilot project in the future. In the meantime, I invite you to find yourself a critical or professional friend! When you are in a critical friendship, you depend on each other to challenge, support, and comfort. You want your friend to reach their fullest potential and your friend wants the same for you. Introduced by Costa and Kallick in 1993, critical friendship has become a model for professional learning. However, the research is primarily not focused on the early childhood education sector. This is something, I would like to change! We promote friendship development in children … why not in each other? I will be doing a number of webinars and writing more blogs about professional friendships while doing the research for my book. I look forward to finding more children’s books on friendship to inspire my journey. I am looking forward to continuing to be, and to have, professional friends, and hope that on your journey you can find yourself a Stick, a Stone, or even a Pinecone!