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Early Childhood Learning Hub: Learn to count and read effortlessly

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Teachers and early childhood educators who have recently bought our Willow the Wonderer picture books are telling us they love using it in class! Encouraged by their feedback we are developing a series of teaching guides to accompany the books. These will cover the basics like developing literacy and numeracy skills to more advanced subjects such as creative writing, art, folk literature, poetic rhythm and meter, and of course explore the philosophy and wisdom of happiness. This first guide focuses on using the book to develop literacy and numeracy skills. Hope these make our teachers and educators lives easier and is a resource that parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles find useful as well!

Using Willow the Wonderer picture books to develop literacy and numeracy skills


We wrote Willow the Wonderer with three- to eight-year-olds in minds i.e. children who are learning to read and count.

It is an engaging story, written in verse, to a consistent rhythm, with repeating stanzas.

These elements help to engage young children in listening to the story, helping them (with repetition) to memorise and recognise new words – thereby building on their ability to read.

The narrative also incorporates counting from one to fifteen.

The count is a reference to the creatures Willow encounters on his quest, all of which are hidden away in their landscape.

Children (and adults) cannot resist the challenge of seeking all the hidden creatures out, which naturally engages them in the counting.

Be forewarned, in our experience, young children outperform adults in the task – adults generally struggle to spot all the “sneaky ones”...

How to approach teaching:

Given the above mentioned features of the book, there is no 'teaching' required per se. Simply involving the little ones in story time is sufficient to start developing literacy and numeracy skills - effortlessly.

Our suggested approach is as follows:

  • The best way to use the book to develop basic literacy and numeracy skills is to read the story with children, ideally in a relaxed setting when the child is open and receptive and wanting to indulge in a story.

  • You don’t really need to teach them anything … just read the book with them and trust that the story, the melodious rhymes and the beautiful illustrations will do everything else.

  • Be sure to involve the child in finding all the creatures – that is the fun bit.

  • Seeing how they feel, throw in some questions at the end.

Discussion questions:

  1. Did Willow find happiness?

  2. Where did he find it?

  3. What makes you happy?

  4. Where do you feel happiness?

  5. Where do you think most grown-ups look for happiness – outside or inside?

Additional resources:

  • n/a


Used this teaching guide? Let us know what you thoughts.

Check out our Early Childhood Learning Hub for more teaching guides and resources to use with our Willow the Wonderer picture books and make early childhood learning effortless.

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