Title: What Pet Should I Get?
Author: Dr. Seuss
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Love him or hate him, you can’t dispute the fact that Dr. Seuss has been entertaining and engaging children for generations. Yet while as a child I loved reading A Fly Went By over and over again to myself, as a teacher I have tended to shy away from the books, deeming them too twee. Reading What Pet Should I Get? for the first time before sharing it with the class, I struggled to justify why I had been so reticent.
There are clear PHSE topics and inspirational Circle Time links that the book could promote and, on a superficial level, the opening page asking “What kind of pet should we get?” is a fantastic conversation starter. Later in the book, there are opportunities for debate and persuasive speech when it demands, “Make up your mind!”
Social history runs through the book, too: where do we buy pets from and how do we care for them? The open-ended questioning is endless – “Could?” “Should?” “Would?” – leaving open many learning opportunities. There is also a lot of scope to explore the rhyming strings, spelling patterns and range of punctuation.
This book even lends itself to supporting preparation for the Year One phonics screening check; create your own imaginary pet and make up nonsense names and words for them.
But what did my students think?
I read the book with a Year 2 class and the initial response was positive. Before I had started reading, it generated discussion.
“I’m super excited to hear the story,” said Mylo, while Christopher said that he was “very surprised” that a new Dr. Seuss story had been found.
After reading the first page, the children were already thinking about pets they would like and why.
“A Scottie dog because they’re fluffy,” declared Jayden; “A parrot to sit on my shoulder,” suggested Yahia.
As we progressed through the story, the children started to notice something: “It rhymes!” said Mason excitedly, quickly followed by Michael, who went further to proclaim that the book “has lots of really good rhymes”.
It also has lots of good questions. They prompted a battle between Tillie-May and Adam, the gender divide in their answers becoming apparent.
Towards the end, the children rose to the challenge of conflict resolution between the brother and sister characters over which pet to choose.
“They could take turns and have one each time,” proposed Eli. “Instead of those two pets, pick a different one,” advised Mason.
Finally, the characters decide, although the reader is not privy to the decision. We had great fun deciding ourselves, with Kelsey thinking an “owl” and Amy reckoning a “mouse”.
From a teaching perspective, it could not have gone better. But did the students like it? While a couple of the students were less enthusiastic, awarding scores as low as 3/10, the majority of the class gave it a whopping 10/10. Cameron loved it “because the animals were funny” and Jaden “liked the bit where they argued”. Niamh just “loved the way it is all about pets”.
And what about me? What Pet Should I Get? reminded me to think like a child once again. That’s not only useful when a primary teacher – it is also great fun.
Alice Edgington is deputy headteacher at St Stephen’s Infant School, Canterbury, and she tweets @aliceedgington