“Little Owl Lost” by Chris Haugton is a charmingly simple book about a baby owl who gets separated from its mama and with the help of an energetic squirrel, searches for her in the forest, meeting a variety of interesting woodland creatures along the way.
Although at first glance, this book appears to be just a funny and simple read, with whimsical illustrations and an atypical and calming colour scheme, this book also offers a great opportunity for developing literacy and cognitive skills in the early childhood classroom associated with imagery and communication.
Teaching children about imagery
Imagery in this context can be understood as the use of particular descriptive words that aid in creating a mental representation, or image, in our minds. In “Little Owl Lost” when describing mama to the helpful squirrel, Little Owl uses describing words that cause the squirrel to lead him to animals that also share these features but are clearly not an owl. For example, Little Owl tells the squirrel that mama is “Very Big”, which causes the squirrel to take Little Owl to a bear, thinking that this may be owl’s mama.
The story proceeds in this fashion and is really an enjoyable read. Consider borrowing it at your local library to get the full experience! Also, for added fun, look for the mama owl searching for her baby owl in the background on every page!
For the classroom, read it aloud with the group and then discuss the imagery details as mentioned above. See what the children think about the mismatches between Little Owl’s picture in his head of mama, and the squirrel’s picture in his head of these descriptions. Then, discuss what imagery is and what it means.
Have children do an exercise to practice imagery. Kids sit back to back in pairs. One child gets an image of something. You can collect images online. Consider a theme, such as forest animals, to match the book. Have one child describe the animal to the other child without saying what the animal is using descriptive language. Then, have children compare the actual image to the image they made in their head to see if the two pictures match. Children can then switch roles and compare again.
Note that a certain percentage of people do have difficulty creating images in their head based on verbal description and this can be discouraging for developing a love of reading. For an introduction to this condition, called aphantasia, and how it impacts learning, please visit https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jun/04/aphantasia-no-visual-imagination-impact-learning . Keep an eye out for struggles with imagery in the group if you do this activity in a classroom setting and support children as needed.
Source: https://www.designmom.com/book-of-the-week-little-owl-lost/ , also visit: https://36pages.com/little-owl/ for a fun short interview with the author!