The tail of two books…

As promised here are some more summer reads that just came out that are all about our critter companions.  Both books were released mid June 2014, and although they are quite different from one another, both would be a valuable asset for your in-house library.

The first book is a reference book titled, “The Cat Encyclopedia: The Definitive Visual Guide” by DK publishing. It is 320 pages with around 180 pages on cat breeds. The book is visually stunning with each breed of cat photographed in front of a white background, which highlights the individual cat’s expression. This type of photography also makes it very easy to distinguish between the almost 200 breeds of short and long haired cats. Each breed’s origin, weight range, colors and patterns, grooming requirements and the organizations the breeds are registered under is included.

cat enc

If you want to be reminded of the diversity of cat breeds, check out these cleverly named breeds including Singapura, Toyger, Serengeti, Lambkin Dwarf and Bambino.

In addition to providing succinct histories on each of the breeds and pointing out specific breed characteristics and standards, the breeds of cats roughly covers only half of this overstuffed coffee table book.  The rest of the book includes what is a feline including wildcats, domestic and feral animals, as well as cats in different cultures, and basic feline biology. The last segment of the book includes a well detailed account of caring for your cat pre and posts their arrival.

If you buy this encyclopedia for any cat lover they will surely start purring.

The next book is quite different then the first in that it contains only a limited amount of pictures and although fun, had a different educational tone. “Connecting Animals and Children: In Early Childhood” by Patty Born Selly is an indispensable resource for not just those in the education or early childhood field but for those who interact or care for animals.

I read the entire 180 page book on two of my three flights going back and forth between Tampa and Buffalo. While reading it I felt an urgency of needing to educate children on various subjects, including history, math and technology, by relating them to animals.

In this book I also learned the value of a KWL chart. If you teach with animals or not, using a KWL chart seems like a weekly custom that the students will happily participate in. KWL charts stand for what the children know, what they want to know and what they learned. This helps establish a baseline of what the children understand and focuses the teacher on what interests them the most. The book gives an example of visiting a bird sanctuary using a KWL pre and post visit. Filling out the chart with what they know about the species they will be visiting and why their habitat is important will get them ready for the field trip. Asking them what they want to learn, will help build investment on their part.

In the same chapter, Creating Authentic Experiences with Animals, the author gives the reader many ideas on how to channel children’s authentic animal related experiences into lifelong commitments to animal and environmental welfare.

The book explains that animals break down social barriers making nervous children and overstimulated children calm. Animals allow children and adults to open up and share their feelings.

The book covers how animal interactions support children’s development, the reason why children are interested in animals, how animals are in their everyday lives and my favorite topic animals in classrooms.

Understandably children, and adults for that matter, can’t go to zoos, nature centers and aquariums daily. Having a critter companion in the classroom or at home can be incredibly stimulating and encouraging for children, especially if they are the ones providing immediate daily care.


The book ends with discussing how to choose the right classroom or house pet, offering places to research and find support, learning the basic needs and costs, planning for the long term and knowing the health and safety concerns.

This book reconfirmed that with careful planning, a strong commitment, and clear outcomes and objects, anyone can enhance children’s learning, their relationships and their experiences by including animals in their lives. I will reference this book often as it has made me rethink how to approach linking the not so different animal kingdom to the human one and what it means to be a teacher.

For more info check out Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan

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