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Friday, February 22, 2008

SU Faculty Weigh in on National Children's Literature Contest

Hey, Little AntSALISBURY, MD---To squish, or not to squish?

After ten years without a proper ending, the popular children’s picture book Hey, Little Ant is finally about to get one, or rather, thousands.  And two Salisbury University faculty members are going to help choose. 

Beginning February 1, children from across the nation in kindergarten to third grade are invited to draw or write endings to the book, which features a plucky Ant and a careless kid about to step on him.  Drs. Patricia Dean and Ernie Bond of SU’s Teacher Education Department will help select the winning responses, along with 12 other national judges.

“I've always loved Hey, Little Ant and I am really excited about this contest,” Dean said.  “There’s nothing better than to give children an authentic reason to read and write. This contest will engage them in purposeful thinking about social justice and provide an avenue to write and draw to convey their thoughts.”
Hey, Little Ant was first written as a song in 1992 by Phillip Hoose and his then nine-year-old daughter, Hannah, after they caught her younger sister smashing bugs outside.  A rhyming dialogue staged beneath an upraised shoe, it was published by Tricycle Press six years later.

In the story, tension builds as the ant makes a compelling case for its survival while the kid’s friends taunt him for hesitating.  The final line of the book leaves the decision squarely in the hands of the reader by asking:  “What do you think that kid should do?”

By asking children to decide the outcome, the story has been widely used by parents and teachers to discuss with children everything from bullying to the use of force to the ethical treatment of animals.  It is a valuable character education tool, Dean said.  Featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow program, the book has sold more than 100,000 hardcover copies and tens of thousands of paperbacks through Scholastic Book Clubs.

Over the years, Phillip and Hannah Hoose have received mail from both children and educators.  Some share their endings, while others demand to know what the ending is.

“Some kids must think we are holding out on them,” Hoose said. “They think Hannah and I have the right answer and just won’t give it up.  But from the start, we both thought the question was way too important and personal for us to answer.  We want readers to think it over and decide for themselves. It is the act of considering that is the book’s real goal.”

Organized through Curious City, a children’s literature publicity company, the contest is designed to honor all of the meaningful conversations that have taken place among parents, teachers and children during the book’s 10 years of publication.  It is co-sponsored by Salisbury University’s Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies, along with the Friends’ Council on Education, Woodland Park Zoo, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Tricycle Press and TeachingBooks.net.

Phillip Hoose will be on campus April 2 for SU’s Children’s Literature Festival.  He presents 2 p.m. in Caruthers Hall Auditorium.  That evening, he also is the keynote speaker for the Green Earth Book Award Ceremony, held 7 p.m. in the Wicomico Room of the Guerrieri University Center.

For more information about the contest, call Patricia Dean at 410-548-5756 or visit the Hey Little Ant Web site at http://www.heylittleant.com/essay_info.html.



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