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September Book of the Month

The Little Engine that Could

Watty Piper

The Little Engine that Could shares the story of a train filled with toys and gifts for little boys and girls that breaks down before reaching the children. After asking several passing trains for help over the hill, a little blue train agrees to help the stranded toys. Even though she is small, the blue train tries her best to bring the toys to the children on the other side of the hill.

A Note from the First Lady:

Dear Read20 Families,

This month we are featuring Watty Piper’s The Little Engine that Could, which is the very first book children receive when they enroll in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Did you know that this is the 10th anniversary of the program in Tennessee? Your family might have enjoyed participating in the Imagination Library when your children were younger—the program promotes early literacy by mailing one free age-appropriate book per month to children from birth to age five, regardless of their family’s income. Studies show that 80% of a child's brain is developed by age 3, and reading can be the most important activity to promote healthy brain development. One of the barriers to reading is the absence of books in a child’s home. It’s a terrific accomplishment that the Imagination Library has mailed more than 20 million free books since it began, encouraging hundreds of thousands of Tennessee children to grow love for reading early in life.

The Little Engine that Could might be an easier book to read—but it’s a classic story to help teach children to believe in themselves and persevere in the face of difficulty. It can be fun to reread books you read as a child to enjoy the familiarity, grow confidence in literacy skills, and look for new lessons in the story. This could also be a terrific book for an older brother or sister to read with a younger sibling. I hope you enjoy the book of the month, and remember you can do anything you set your mind to if you take action, persevere and face your fears!

Keep up the great reading!

Crissy
First Lady of Tennessee

Family Friendly Activities for the Book of the Month

  1. What lessons can be learned from the The Little Engine that Could, and the Little Blue Engine’s chant, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”? Why do you think Dolly Parton selected this book as the first book for children to receive through the Imagination Library?

  2. Trains serve as the main characters in The Little Engine that Could. What do you already know about trains? Have you ever seen or ridden on a train? Did you know that trains carry many things besides people? Start to notice the many different types of transportation around you, including trains, buses, cars and bikes. Take a minute to think about their different uses and how they work.

  3. The Little Blue Engine perseveres through many challenges to deliver toys to boys and girls on the other side of the mountain. The clown and other toys also face challenges in their quest to get over the mountain. Talk to your family about challenges that might be hard for you to face and why these things are difficult. How can you apply the Little Blue Engine’s attitude to your life to help overcome challenges?

  4. This book was first published in the United States in 1930 during a time called The Great Depression, a severe worldwide economic depression that lasted for more than a decade. Think about what life might have been like for families living during this time. Why do you think the values highlighted in the book, including hard work and optimism, might have been very important for readers at the time it was published?

  5. If you enjoyed reading The Little Engine that Could, visit your local public library or look through your book selection at home to reread books you enjoyed as a beginning reader. When you reread books, you can discover a new lessons, new words, or deeper meanings behind a story.

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