Around Halloween, my school holds a “Story Book Character Day,” which I found kind of offensive my first year. I was shocked that many kindergarten and first-grade students came to school in costume, especially when I found out all those Star Wars Storm Troopers were supposed to be book characters. There are many students at my school who do not participate in Halloween for religious or cultural reasons, so I thought this excuse to wear costumes to school that conveniently coincided with the holiday was a little insensitive.
That being said, I dressed up as Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug and my students absolutely loved it. I was also very pleased to find that almost all of the other kindergarten and first-grade kids did dress up as actual book characters, as I guess most families either felt that it didn’t glorify Halloween or maybe didn’t want their students to be excluded.
Last year, some of my students dressed up, too. We had a King Tut, a Cinderella, and Buzz Lightyear—apparently you can find a kid’s book on just about anything. I was the polar bear from Eric Carle’s Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? I actually had an IEP that day so I had regular clothes on underneath my big fuzzy white robe and brought an extra pair of shoes to change out of my big monster feet slippers. The general education teacher at the meeting was dressed up as Minnie Mouse and had forgotten that we had the IEP that day—the parents found the make-up and costume very amusing.
The costumes were actually a great way to get into the books, especially for my students, as a lot of their interaction with print is through pictures and stories read aloud to them. My class joined the kindergarten for their parade through the first grades and my students got to see other kids dressed up as characters from books that were familiar to them. It was great for my students to be included and to have other kids complimenting their costumes and excitedly recognizing which characters my students had dressed as.
This year, I’m very excited for Story Book Character Day. I don’t know what my kids have p lanned, but I have a costume that I am super proud of. I am going to be the hot dog from the book The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems.
For those of you not familiar with this book, it’s not exactly a classic, but my students and I really enjoy it and it makes us laugh. The plot is pretty simple: A pigeon finds a hot dog. He is extremely excited about it. He spends most of the book telling a little yellow bird who has somehow appeared exactly how excited he is. Then the little yellow bird asks the pigeon what a hot dog tastes like. Well, then we get treated to a nice extended monologue as the pigeon experiences an emotional dilemma—he doesn’t want to share this found hot dog.
I don’t want to give away the ending or anything, but it turns out to be a good lesson in sharing and everyone goes home satisfied—to wherever pigeons and random yellow birds go home when they are satisfied.
Last year, a kindergartener had an adorable pigeon costume from this book that I was unable to recreate with my particular time, resources, and general sewing skills. This resulted in much disappointment; I was pretty set on being that pigeon. But the hot dog is a very important, if silent, “character” in the story, even if he is an inanimate object and does get eaten in the end. I couldn’t ask for a more active way to learn about story elements on the level most of my students are at right now: the main characters. It’s fun for each of them to get a chance to be the “main character” when we read their book as a class and such an enjoyable shared moment for all of us.
The most important thing about tomorrow, though, is how wonderful it will be for my students to participate in Story Book Character Day with the other kids. It’s so awesome how proud they feel of themselves as we walk around with our costumes and our books and other kids and teachers notice who they are. Sometimes it takes everyone having an atypical day for my kids to fit in . . . and in this case, that’s just fine with me.