Needle and ThREAD

The Power of Story (and Three Little Pigs)

3pigs-2.jpgI am a member of a number of library and children’s literature listservs. CCBC-Net is a listserv encouraging awareness and discussion of ideas and issues critical to literature for children and young adults. CCBC-Net members explore a wide range of topics in contemporary literature for youth, including multicultural literature, translated books, outstanding, and award-winning books, equity themes and topics, the book arts and book publishing, and more.

I’m probably preaching to the choir when I stress the importance and value of reading, but maybe this will serve as motivation for someone to stitch another bookmark, to encourage another kid to read.

This is a glimpse into the power of story. It was posted to the listserv, and Megan gave me permission to re-print it here. Thanks, Megan. I’m adding links to the post, and I did a little formatting, but this was written by:

Megan Lambert
Instructor of Children’s Literature Programs
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art


I am an adoptive mother, and my oldest daughter is also my newest. N came home to our family with her 22-month old brother S when she was just shy of her 8th birthday. Although I had three other children, two of whom were also placed with us through the foster system, I’d never adopted a child who wasn’t first with me as an infant. Before N and S came home I was admittedly nervous about what it would be like to bond with children who had a life history outside of me and my partner and our other kids. But just as reading aloud to my first three babies helped set the stage for attachment, reading aloud with N and S provided a first movement toward bonding with them.

This was especially true with N. It didn’t much matter what we read. The simple act of curling up with books was enough, as this child who was understandably leery of hugs and kisses and other moments of physical closeness clamored to sit close enough to see pictures well and to
read along silently as I read aloud. ‘Twas the season, and so we read every Christmas book in our house, and we also began to steadily make our way through fairy tales (she didn’t know many), nursery rhymes (ditto), and countless, countless picture books.

One story in particular grabbed N’s attention: The Three Little Pigs. We read every version in our house and then looked for more in the library. David Wiesner’s Three Pigs was a particular favorite, but she also loved Margot Zemach’s more classic fare, and Barry Moser’s darker version. Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s humor in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs tickled her funny bone, and she loved the shifted perspective offered by Trivizas and Oxenbury’s Three Little Wolves.

3pigs-3.jpgN didn’t simply enjoy this story through our times of reading together and through her private reading experiences; she also drew pictures of the characters and the houses, acted it out with dolls, blocks and other toys, and staged mini performances with her brothers and sisters. One day, during a routine therapy appointment that was part of her transition into our family, N began building three houses out of blocks from a basket in the doctor’s office.

“They’re the three pigs’ houses,” she announced.

“She loves that story,” I told the therapist.

“Well that makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s all about making a safe home.”

I sat there, dumbstruck. Here, made plain before my eyes was the power of story. I sometimes fret about finding good books that explicitly address foster care, adoption, and how love makes a family, and I guess I will always be on the lookout and grateful for books that do this well. But here was an example of a child finding a story that spoke to her powerfully and subtly.
Rest assured, we didn’t make anything more of N’s play, didn’t ask her to talk about the connections between her life of being sent out into the world by her first mother, of moving from one home to the next, of worrying about her brother’s safety, and of facing too many wolves at
too many doors. We just watched her play, and I got to know her a little better that day. Maybe she hasn’t drawn the connections between her life and this story that her therapist and I saw plain as day, and I don’t want to huff and puff them down her throat. I just want to keep
giving her stories because I’m convinced that they’re a crucial part of the stuff that will help her as she builds her own.

Categories: Needle and ThREAD