A few months ago a tradesman came to the door to fix something. Here in Singapore such people are often Muslim and therefore petrified of dogs. So my helper put the dog in a separate part of the house and closed the door, not knowing that it was one of those doors that lock themselves if the button is pressed in, which it was for some inexplicable reason. And although that part of the house has two doors leading to outside which are usually open all day every day, they'd been closed and locked due to a late afternoon rainstorm accompanied by a lot of wind. Before calling the landlord's agent for a spare key, I did what every other independent woman would do, I googled "how to pick a lock". The instructions, video and otherwise all boiled down to the same simple steps.
Since I could access the garage and all the tools and assorted things like paperclips and hairclips (grateful for once for stuff lying around the house instead of being tidied up) - I set to work. In the process I discovered that the lock was "the wrong way round" to my sensibilities - do you notice that - doors and locks having to be turned "the other way" to what you're used to in your home country?
Needless to say, there is a good reason why I'm not a burglar, nor a locksmith and the spare key had to be called into action. If you want to find out more about locks and security - here's a great episode of 99% invisible.
After that huge digression to come to my point. As I wrote earlier, I have a large population of ELL students who come through the library and I'm always trying to find "that" book that will unlock their desire to read in English (actually I'm trying that for everyone, just this population seems to have the highest and most immediate needs.
Sometimes things happen quite by accident.
My G4 classes have been doing a unit on poetry as part of "how we express ourselves" and besides some great activities with spine poetry (much to the horror of my library assistants who are not used to such free-wheeling attitudes to taking books off the shelf) one day I decided to promote verse novels.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert on any aspect of children's literature, but I'm a keen learner, so I looked for some lists of verse novels for elementary students and then tried to see how many I had on hand. I'd read "inside out and back again" which is a fabulous book, so I felt it may work.
For each of my next G4 classes I had a pile of verse novels and I picked out one page to read from each. Since my darling dog had just been put down the previous night, it was with a chocked voice I read from "Love that Dog" and luckily I had a whole pile of those to dish out since one of my predecessors had the foresight to order them in duplicate.
After the lesson a few of the books were borrowed and I didn't think that much of it. Then a week later one of my Chinese students sidled up to me during lunch time and asked me for a book "like that dog" book, and I gave him "Hate that cat", and yesterday he came to me and said he'd finished it and wanted more books like that. I said "more about animals, or more like poetry" and he affirmed more like poetry, and I passed on "Inside out and back again" and told him it was one of my personal favourite - he quickly scanned inside the book and happily said "yes".
And yes of course it would work. I've not studied this stuff and I'm feeling my way along, but sometimes our students just help us to discover what it is they want and need. Coming back to it rationally - verse is short and beautiful and evocative and free. And now it's just one more tool in my arsenal of lock-picking equipment.
Here are some resources:
- Australian verse novels from Sarah Tregay
- Goodreads novels in verse
- 14 chapter books written in verse