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FAMILY | FOR THE KIDS

Child's Work

Storyteller's tales to help youths learn pride of accomplishment.

September 03, 1998|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The exact meaning of the Labor Day holiday may be unclear to children as well as some adults. But even a 3-year-old understands the satisfaction gained from a job well done. Saturday at Tarzana's Pages Books for Children, storyteller Helen Muller will use the holiday to spin tales about the world of work and personal accomplishment.

Having been a children's librarian for two decades and wise in the ways of youngsters, Muller says that "I want to do it myself" is one of the first self-aware statements preschoolers utter.

"Mastering a task, especially a difficult one they've set their mind to solving, gives a great deal of pleasure and pride in actually doing something," Muller says.

She'll read from and discuss several children's books on this theme, including "The Little Red Hen," "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel," "Farmer Duck" and "Rachel Fister's Blister."

Many kids will recognize the relevance of the hen story to their own lives, Muller thinks. The moral of this traditional story--that only those willing to help should share in the rewards of the hen's work--is something tots sometimes learn in nursery school.

When asked at the end of the day to help put away the toys and clean up the paint mess, some have heard caregivers say, "If you're going to enjoy the toys, you have to take care of them. I'm not going to be the little red hen and do everything for you!"

When Muller reads from Martin Waddell's duck story about a lazy farmer who makes the animals do all the work--until they drive him off the farm--kids will get an insight that may resonate later in school when they hear about the fates of historical figures such as Marie Antoinette and the last Russian czar. Muller's spin on the Virginia Lee Burton story of Mike Mulligan and his old steam shovel, named Mary Ann, who join in a contest with a diesel-powered scooper is touching. "It's about pride in doing something well with the means at hand," Muller says.

"And kids need to have an appreciation that you don't have to just throw out everything that's old--what came before can still be useful, [such as] a comfy old chair or pair of shoes."

"Rachel Fister's Blister," by Amy MacDonald, is a rhyming story that introduces kids to the helping roles filled by a variety of workers. Offering ideas on how to make the blister stop bothering Rachel are a postal worker, police officer, firefighter, farmer, vicar, priest and rabbi.

Muller, who retired in 1993 from the North Hollywood branch library, says she may use the "Rachel" book as a starting point Saturday. She says it is a good way to point out helpful jobs even kids can do.

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Special Note: Auditions for Angeles Chorale's Children's Chorus 1998-99 season will be held Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 22700 Sherman Way, Canoga Park. Membership, open to youths in grades 3-12, involves tuition and a wardrobe fee. Scholarships are available. (818) 888-6293.

BE THERE

"What a Good Job!" Story time for kids 3-8, Saturday, 11 a.m.-noon, Pages Books for Children, 18399 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. Free. Followed by an optional crafts project. $3 for materials. Fee may be applied to purchase. (818) 342-6787.

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