When I moved back to my home state of Michigan about fifteen years ago, I jumped at the chance to teach kindergarten at a Pre-K/K early learning center. That public school was in the Upper Peninsula and part of the state’s most northern K-12 school district. My recent teaching experiences were with upper elementary students, and it had been years since I worked in a preschool or completed a short stint in kindergarten during my student teaching. To say that I was nervous is an understatement!
Imagine my excitement when I discovered a dark cupboard full of colorful ‘big books’ the first day I visited my new classroom. Many of the titles were written by the prolific New Zealand author, Joy Cowley, whose books I hadn’t previously encountered. During that school year, I learned to love her books just as much as my students adored them!
All of Ms. Cowley’s books are great, but Mrs. Wishy-Washy was the most popular character, hands down. Here’s some background about her:
- Who is Mrs. Wishy-Washy? One of Joy Cowley’s most-loved characters
- What is very important to her? Cleanliness!
- Where do she and Mr. Wishy-Washy live? In a rural area in the state of Washington
- When does she get grouchy? When something gets in the way of her washing
- Why do her animals sometimes look sad? They are tired of being washed!
Besides tales of keeping other characters and her surroundings clean, other antics involve a farm fair, birthdays, gardening, baking, and appearing on TV. The students loved chiming in during ‘shared reading’ time and then reading on their own with the small-book versions of the matching titles.
Ms. Cowley’s books are very conducive to a wide variety of literacy lessons: beginning and ending sounds, blending, rhyming, story elements, sequencing, building words, spelling patterns, sight words…the list goes on and on! Beyond that, many of them also lend themselves easily to tie-ins with other areas of the curriculum, such as science, math and social studies.
It’s no wonder that I again sought out Mrs. Wishy-Washy and friends some years later, when I found myself teaching young learners in another U.P. location. In relief, I found the school library housed many of her big books for the teachers to share, and that the smaller versions were already on the shelf in my classroom.
For those of you who write for kids, this author has a wonderful book titled Writing from the Heart that I’ve found to be a great resource for my own writing. If you’re teaching or have young children and haven’t met Mrs. Wishy-Washy and Joy Cowley’s other books, you may want to check them out. I’d love to hear about your favorite picture book characters OR about your ‘go-to’ resource books for writers!