Known for her vibrant illustrations and charming characters, Rosemary Wells is one of today's most well-known children's book authors. Her distinct writing style and use of animal characters allows Wells to address controversial topics in a way that children understand, and that parents can feel comfortable with. Her story Emily's First 100 Days of School, was recently adapted to the small screen and is now available on DVD. Here, Wells offers tips for parents preparing to send their little ones off to school and advice for raising children who are enthusiastic about learning.
Scholastic's Parent & Child: This story is filled with 100 great ways to integrate numbers into everyday life. Where did you get all these wonderful ideas?
Rosemary Wells: I divided the book into tens. I thought of every common association with every number. Some were easy like 64 (64 thousand dollar questions). Others were multiples and could fit a baking theme. Still others had no association. I invented Emily and her family and school and community out of my memories growing up in the 40s in a small town in New Jersey where the parents were all "the greatest generation."
P&C: The book includes social studies, science, reading, art, and music. Why did you include so many cross-curricular connections in a story about mathematical concepts?
Wells: Because the underlying counting theme is not interesting without a story, and in this story there are many other subjects going on. The book is about how numbers are part of everyday life, so I incorporated everyday life.
P&C: Cultural awareness and diversity play a large role in the story of Emily's first 100 days of school. Why do you think it's important for multicultural issues to be incorporated into all school subjects?
Wells: Because that's our world now, and it is important not to allow any child to feel left out or superior to another child of different ethnic background.
P&C: In this story, Emily's family plays a large role in helping her to create her number book. Why do you think it's important for the whole family to get involved in a child's education?
Wells: Unless parents participate in their children's education and prepare them to learn at school, their children will absolutely and inevitably fail. Children bring to school what they learn at home.
P&C: What advice can you offer busy parents who want to take a more active role in their child's education?
Wells: Jackie Kennedy once said, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much." Find the time! Nothing is more important. Busy is no excuse.
P&C: If parents are finding it difficult to make time to read to their children, what do you suggest they use as alternatives to help build literacy skills?
Wells: There are no alternatives. And reading to your child is not meant to build literacy skills. It is meant to develop a love of reading, books and imagination.
P&C: Do you have any tips for parents who are preparing to send their children off to school for the first time?
Wells: You are your child's first teacher, and that goes back to birth. The most important years are the five that precede school. No child should enter school without trusting and respecting others, having a lively curiosity about the world, and being familiar with books and the idea of the printed word — even if they can't read.