Novel Lessons Regardless of Crisis

“The virus” has disrupted our lives in many ways, but it has also provided fresh opportunities for creativity and service to others.

Take Eliana, for example. With her pre-kindergarten class on hold, she is still very near the beginning of her literacy journey. But she loves cooking, and she loves helping Grandma. Hence, some gorgeous muffins and a hand “printed” recipe.

1 Recipe

Her copy of the recipe consists of an M for Muffins at the top of the page, and then the first letter of each ingredient. With help, she writes the E for eggs, then finds the E on the egg carton. The other ingredients are duly noted as I assemble them on the counter and Ellie writes their first letter in her notebook. She’s not at the stage yet where the fact that carrots and cinnamon both start with c confuses her. She is, however, pleased to note that pineapple has a plethora of p’s.

Sweet Muffins

As we add each ingredient to the bowl, I consult my recipe and she consults hers. Ellie again checks for the first letter of the ingredient on the package before adding it. (By the way, I find it helpful to put the mixing bowl in one sink and measure the ingredients over the other. Ellie can reach them when she’s on her stool, and both floor and bowl are safer! And please don’t tell my high school cooking teacher, but we mix everything for muffins in ONE BOWL.)

With the muffins in the oven, Ellie partakes of the time-honoured baker’s reward: cleaning out the bowl with spoon, spatula and fingers.

I take pictures of the process and the finished product for discussion.

Not long ago, we took advantage of Ellie’s love of animals, Grandpa, and the outdoors to write and illustrate a picture book. Our neighbours had left on a cruise, and Grandpa was charged with feeding their horses.

2 Horses

What fun! Armed with a commitment to photojournalism and a cell phone, I meet the intrepid pair at the neighbours’ big red barn. Grandpa carries several square bales out of the barn while Ellie and I pull others apart and take them out bit by bit.

Then Ellie *saves Grandpa time* by grasping a bundle of hay in her hands while he lifts her up. She throws it over the fence to the eager equines.

What could possibly be more efficient?

Back home, we create our literary masterpiece. Step aside, Dr. Seuss!

With wisdom beyond her years, Ellie chooses a photo of the World’s Handsomest Grandpa for the cover.

She types the captions as I say the letter name and indicate it on the keyboard (great practice in learning to recognize letters). As in many other fine picture books, the text is sparse (Ellie, 1 Horse, 2 Horses, Helping, In the car).

We print off the pages and staple them together, and Ellie “reads” the story to Grandpa.

I have the privilege of babysitting Ellie regardless of the virus, as her mom is a nurse. If you’re at home with a little one, I urge you to find ways in which your time with him or her can be a blessing.

You’ll find excellent pre-literacy, literacy and math materials here. You can purchase a membership, but there’s a wealth of free materials available for simply subscribing.


Margaret Welwood writes and edits picture books for children, babysits her tirelessly charming granddaughter, and tutors English as a Second Language and literacy. She and her husband live on an acreage in Northern Alberta, Canada, where she slogged through snow over her knees this month (April 2020).

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