How exciting! Karen Robbins, a Romper Room teacher in the 1960s, has realized a new career as a children’s book author. I loved her THINK board book series (2017) for its fun take on concept board books. Her latest book, I Think I Can, is great for emerging readers to practice together. Aardvark is convinced he can sing; his friend, Mouse, encourages him to sing a song, and acts as a supportive audience. Written in short, color-blocked sentences largely composed of sight words, kids can take turns being Aardvark (in blue font) and Mouse (in black font). A note in the beginning of the book explains how the book works, and the sentences model question-and-answer behavior, with Mouse repeating Aardvark’s statements as questions until it’s established that Aardvark will sing.
The artwork is spare and keeps the emphasis on the characters, each on their own page, set against a plain white background. Aardvark has large, expressive eyes and body language; Mouse relies more on body language and his big smile to communicate. The story itself reminds me of how a teacher would work with young children, explaining behavior as the story progresses. For instance, when Mouse is seated, waiting for Aardvark to sing, he says, “OK. I’m sitting in the chair. I’m looking at you. Let me hear you sing your song. Let me see the surprise.”
This works just as well as a storytime for preschoolers and pre-readers; there are actions that make the story interactive: Mouse hides his eyes in anticipation of a surprise; Aardvark’s song is sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, allowing kids to clap along to the beat of the song, and Mouse applauds at the end, letting readers know they can jump in and clap, too.
This is a sweet story, great for pairing up your readers to practice. I hope Miss Karen has more stories like this to tell!