Adding Literature to your daily lessons is super easy to do. A good story can be such a marvelous addition to anything you’re teaching your littles about. It doesn’t matter if you have primary, middle, or high school level littles, studies have shown that the brain doesn’t make too much differentiation between reading about an experience and Actually Experiencing it. Which means that an interesting tale can help subject matter stick with your littles for the long haul. Yet another excellent reason to encourage reading in your homeschool.
I’m starting out this series with donkeys for a variety of reasons, none of them having anything to do with how important donkeys are. 🙂 Mostly just because one of my all-time favorite picture books features a donkey, but also because in the freebies section of this site there’s a free Animal Study worksheet that will go well with these book suggestions. So without further ado, here are some great books for your littles to read while they’re studying donkeys.
I’ve mentioned William Steig before–he wrote one of my favorite chapter books for littles, Abel’s Island. Sylvester’s story is very sweet and a good lesson about being careful what you wish for. The drawings are simple and colorful and the writing is exemplary. I have many fond memories of pulling this book off the shelf as a child and getting lost in its pages. Perhaps it doesn’t really teach anything about donkeys. Who cares? It is a beautiful tale your littles will thoroughly enjoy, and it will remind them to be grateful for what they have.
This is a great read-aloud for littles, with lots of wordplay and hilarity. The watercolor pictures are soft and lovely, but the depictions of the donkey and the various things that make him wonky are hilarious. The book comes with a free downloadable song of the story, so that’s something great to get stuck in your head. 🙂 It also provides a lesson on diversity and how being different is a quality we all have and that is not a bad thing.
This is the story of a donkey who is embarrassed by his ears. All the other farm animals have beautiful ears; why do his have to be so long? He sets about following the advice of his animal friends in order to solve his problem (reminiscent of Leo the Lop by Stephen Cosgrove, another all-time fave of mine. In fact, I have a lop-eared rabbit named Leo). But when a little girl comes to the farm and admires the donkey’s long ears, he is given a new-found confidence. The simple pen-and-ink drawings are entertaining and the lesson about loving yourself for who you are is priceless.
No way can we talk about donkeys here without mentioning Eeyore, the all-time best donkey ever. Any of Milne’s collections will have him in them, but my favorite Eeyore story is in this one. If you have littles that love the Disney version, go ahead and find a Disney picture book about Eeyore. But if you really want to them to know this loveable guy, go for the original. Lots of lessons here about learning to recognize when people love you and dropping the soul-sucking pessimism. Plus, he’s just plain Funny!
Teeny Tiny Ernest by Laura T. Barnes
Here’s another tale about loving yourself for who you are (why are donkeys so good for that?!). In this one, Ernest gets up to all kinds of hijinks while trying to impress his friends with his height. Of course, he is not tall, so he doesn’t fool anybody. Soon he realizes that he’s the only one who notices his size–all his friends like him for who he is, not what he looks like. Another wonderful lesson, told in a fun, engaging way. Ernest has a whole series of books, too, if your little falls in love with him like we have.
The Last Battle (Book 7 of The Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis
This final chapter in the Narnia books stars Puzzle the donkey as one of the antagonists. Puzzle is a bit dense but has a good heart. He is the faithful sidekick of Shift, an ape who has it out for the Narnians. Shift manipulates Puzzle into carrying out his orders, including risking his life to steal the skin of a lion from the Caldron Pool, then wearing it to imitate Aslan. In the end, Puzzle does what is right and, after a short conversation with Aslan, is admitted into Aslan’s country. As in all the Narnia books, there are lots of lessons here about how to be a good person, but particularly in Puzzle’s case, how to think for oneself and not allow peer pressure to influence decisions.
This is one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays and Bottom, whose head gets transformed into that of a donkey’s by Puck, is the funniest character. He is silly and foolish, and nothing about his antics ever really redeems him. It makes this a great play with which to introduce your littles to Shakespeare. Plus, I’m pretty sure you can get it for free on Kindle or you can read it online for free here.
You can’t have a group of political farm animals without including a stubborn donkey. In fact, Benjamin the Donkey is so stubborn he absolutely refuses to get excited about the rebellion. He is the oldest animal on the farm and kind of an Eeyore with a brain. Very cynical. Because he is longer-lived than the other animals, he sees the rebellion and the new regime as passing fads. He’s pretty sure he’s going to live to see what comes next, so he just can’t drum up any enthusiasm for all the plots and machinations. He’s one of my favorite characters simply for his detached amusement about all the goings-on.
Pick one or more of these books to add to a class about donkeys and you’re sure to perk up your littles’ interest. Even just reading excerpts from the chapter books or the play can give your child a little insight into what we humans think of the donkey’s character. Silly, foolish, stubborn, fiercely loyal… Yeah, that describes our donkey, too. 🙂