Written By: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
Take time to look over the front cover and illustrations throughout the story. Allow your child to make predictions about the story by asking:
What do you see on the cover?
What do you think will happen in this story?
[Flip to a certain page] What do you think is happening in this picture?
Do you think the snail and the whale are friends? Why?
The snail is so tiny! Can you find her in this picture?
Activate Prior Knowledge
This story is about a snail that wants to travel so ask your child about the last trip you took! Tell your child, “Remember when we went to _________? How did we get there? What did we do there? What did we see?” Then, dive (excuse the pun!) right into this heartwarming story with your little one.
As You Read
This story is written in a fun rhyme scheme. Have fun with it and emphasize the rhythm and pattern of the text! There is much to explore on each page of this book, with intricate, engaging illustrations. Follow your child, and let him/her interact with the pictures, make comments, and observations as you go.
Encourage your child to stop when you come across a word with which s/he is not familiar. For older children, ask them to guess about the word’s meaning, based on context clues before giving a definition. You can help with further vocabulary building by integrating new words from the story into your daily conversation. Some examples of new words in The Snail and the Whale include:
Help your child better appreciate the book by making connections between the events in the story and your child’s own experiences. For example, when the snail is out to sea with the whale and he says that he feels so small, ask your child, “Can you think of a time when you felt really small, when you were around someone or something bigger than you? Did you feel...sad, scared, happy, or something else altogether?”
Summarize and Interpret
Asking your child questions at the end of the book can help gauge his/her understanding and help reinforce the key message in the story. Ask questions like:
What was your favorite part of the story? Why?
What did the snail want to do in the beginning of the story?
How did the snail get the whale’s attention?
What were some of the things that the snail and the whale saw on their trip?
How did the snail help the whale when he was stuck on the beach? How do you think the snail felt about helping his friend the whale? How do you think the whale felt after he was saved?
If you were the snail, would you have tried to get the whale’s attention? Why or why not?
This story teaches children that even the smallest of creatures can make a positive impact. To get this message across, you can say something like, “When the snail and the whale were out in the ocean, the snail felt so small but when his friend was in trouble, he didn’t let his size stop him! Can you think of a time when you wanted to help someone but you thought you were too small or couldn’t do anything? What did you do? If it happens again, what do you think you can do to help?” You can help your child brainstorm different ways that they can help in that situation. You can also ask your child about how the whole community came to the aid of the whale by asking, “Who came to help the whale? How did they work together to get him back in the water?” For younger children, it might be helpful to think of a situation in which your child helped you or a friend, and bring that up as an example to explore together.
Activity: Build Your Own Beach!
Supplies: Plastic storage bin, small bucket, sand, water, blue food coloring, black rock, bathtub toy whale, toy snail, fire truck, beach shovel, students (plastic Barbies or Little People). Optional: volcano, bear, boats, birds and trees.
With these supplies, you can create a snail and whale sensory bin, which allows your child to act out the story while developing both their comprehension and language skills. Be sure to do this project in your kitchen or bathroom so you can control the mess. And, of course, if you don’t have every single supply, get creative! Kids love to play, and they will love reenacting this story, so if all you have is a fish toy...use a fish and call it a whale. But you already know that, you’re the parent!
Step One: Create Your Beach
First, fill one corner of your plastic storage container a third of the way with sand.
Step Two: Create Your Ocean
Use a small bucket to fill the remaining three quarters of the bin with water and tint it with blue food coloring to get that vibrant blue color.
Step Three: Add Your Characters and Props
Collect a rock from outside and place it in the water. (Optional: If you can’t find a black one, you can paint it black.) Then, begin placing your characters in the sand and let your child act out the story!
[Source: Growing Book By Book]