The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

The Berenstain Bears thoughtfully retell a potentially challenging Christmas tale.

This is a review of The Berenstain Bears: The Very First Christmas by Jan and Mike Berenstain.

My wife is pregnant with our first child. My wife and I were both raised in the Church, and intend on doing the same with our child. In the Christian faith- and much of U.S. culture- Christmas is an important holiday. And for even many not raised in Church, the Nativity story still holds a special place in Christmas tradition. But how does one share the Nativity story in a way that will not confuse a young child or inadvertently create an opportunity for the birds-and-the-bees talk much sooner than expected? For decades, the Berenstains have been using their bear characters to try and teach children some rather intricate moral and ethical issues, so one would like to believe that if anyone could give the Nativity story a proper telling that little children could follow, it would be Jan and Mike Berenstain. And they stand up well to the challenge.

The book begins with Papa Bear offering to read Brother and Sister Bear a story; they choose the story of the very first Christmas. Papa Bear is used to tell the story of the first Christmas, and they story is told in a way to be accurate while cleverly avoiding moments which would require a parent to explain to an inquisitive child what a virgin is, and why an angry king named Herod would want to kill all little boys. So as to not spoil the story, I will not tell how the writers accomplish this. I will state that instead, the end of the book has some open-ended questions to engage children in the story after reading it.

One tiny flaw I found in the book is that the story does not tie back to the Bear family after Papa finishes reading. It would have been a fitting way to tie everything up in a neat bow; but, overall the book is effective at its task of retelling the story of the first Christmas. This book would definitely be a good choice for a young child’s first Christmas book.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for publishing a review on the book. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

#DoOver My First Year of Teaching Part 7; or, Turning Students Into Zombies Is NOT a Bad Thing

You’ve seen it.

Dawn of the Dead. Zombieland. The Walking Dead.

Or some other horror media involving the zombie- a creature created by being bitten by another zombie (or dying because you are already infected, TWD). And in education, students often are described as zombies, BECAUSE OF EDUCATION. As if teachers are nothing more than burned out, jaded, cynical virus carriers intent on bringing down as many others with them as they can.

I am here to propose another application of the term “zombie” to students.

In George Romero’s Land of the Dead, we are faced with a fascinating twist on the typical zombie film in that the zombies have the capacity to learn and problem solve. As the zombie hordes work together, though their movements are rocky and sporadic, they slowly but surely figure out how to learn and work together as they try to find their own place in the world.

Just like students.

Sure, students cluster together. Yes, they oftentimes are not working at the level we would hope they would work at. But by pushing them, allowing them to feed on a (teacher) brain from time to time as needed, they start to figure things out and solve their own problems.

Looking back on my first year of teaching, I cringed at the idea of terms like “zombie” being applied to my students because I couldn’t look past the surface level of the metaphor. I know differently now.