OXFORD, Miss. – A children’s tale about lazy cows, dancing chickens and cranky canines is the winner of the 2014 Read Aloud Book Award given annually by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction.
The annual award from CELI, which offers professional development and curriculum support in literacy for Mississippi teachers, was given to Australian writer Mary Ellen Jordan and illustrator Andrew Weldon, who co-created “Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie” (Albert Whitman & Co., 2013), a rhyme-saturated book about farm animals.
“Each of our committee members said their children kept asking to read ‘Lazy, Daisy, Cranky Frankie’ over and over again,” said CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell. “We’ve had teachers from pre-school to third grade read this book to their students and all found it to be a great resource for their classrooms.”
This year’s winner was selected from 45 submitted titles. Since January, a group of nine north Mississippi literacy teachers have read submitted books to young children and recorded their reactions using a rubric designed by CELI.
The plot of the “Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie” outlines the day-to-day life of farm animals whose personalities break away from social norms – such as a pig named Nancy, who dislikes mud because she’s just too fancy.
“This book is great to teach lessons about farming or about diversity,” said Kim Homan, first-grade teacher at Pontotoc Elementary School in Pontotoc. “The rhyming makes it fun to read aloud, and the different animals provide a way to discuss with children how we all have different personalities and it’s OK to be different.”
Established in 2010, the award is designed to recognize the author and illustrator of books for children ages 3 through 10. The program is partially supported from a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. The goal is to promote reading aloud to young children as a way to teach literacy, reinforce a love of reading and help children understand the deeper meaning behind books. Winning books receive the right to be published with CELI’s Read Aloud award seal on the cover.
Participating teachers were asked to evaluate how well the texts stretch children’s imaginations, capture interest and utilize a rich vocabulary. Upon turning in results, a committee of UM faculty, staff and literacy teachers selected the winner. All books are later donated to teachers at critical-needs elementary schools in north Mississippi.
“My students loved this book!” said Katie Murphy, a first-grade teacher at Green Hill Elementary School in Sardis. “They enjoy the rhyming patterns, and they enjoy predicting what silly thing might be on the next page. The illustrations also fit the story so well and made reading something to look forward to.”