I love Dear Zoo and it is a classic that has been around since 1982. I had to make a story basket for it as children love it too. Here is the story basket I created and I am selling an e-pattern to make your own and teachers are loving it.
There has been some recent criticism of this interactive book with flaps and I wanted to take a closer look at them and ask does Dear Zoo need to be updated?
In 2019 there was a call to ban Dear Zoo as it is sexist. Have you ever noticed that all the animals are males? ‘he was too fierce’, ‘he was too tall’ etc. As a teacher I usually change it around and say she but one day Mr. 4 who could read pointed out that there were no ‘she’ animals in the book. And it did make me pause and wonder if the book needed updating. Books do influence how gender is seen or not seen and what is interesting is that even in 2000 females are often invisible or not children’s picture books. There have been some shifts but there certainly more to be done to have gender equality.
In 2015 there was a call to close zoo’s as they are artificial enclosures that confine animals and they are a fraction of the size of their natural habitats. Zoos argue that they are needed to teach and or inspire and they have worked hard to improve conditions for animals. There is also the argument that zoos in 2013 Costa Rica announced a plan to close all zoos but this did not spur other countries to do the same and look at other alternative to conservation and avoiding extinction of species.
And finally,… what is the monkey? Yes, he is naughty. And is it advisable in the teaching world to use the word naughty. I certainly do not use the word around children and yet the books does. Is the monkey still naughty when you read it? Do you think about the word or it is just part of the story?
What I do love is that this book was at the start of a revolution to create books that were more hands-on and interactive. Eric Hill was the first to publish flap books with spot books that are still going strong. My story basket is an extension on the hands-on and the ‘boxes’ can be used with animals the are wood, plastic or soft. I have created it with an alternate and am pleased with the results. You can make your own with an e-pattern that has all the instructions and a video.
I have also used boxes in the past as an invitation and the children loved this.
The storybasketeers group are making this story basket this month (as part of the group they got it for free). We are exploring the HEAD, HEART and HANDs of it. I love how other teachers are making it their own like Lynette Lock.
It is clear that Dear Zoo is still a firm favourite from others interest and comments on the page Thisiswhyiteach.ec. I think Dear Zoo will stand the test of time and maybe we will look back on it as a point in time when zoos and gender inequality will be a thing of the past.