Giraffe and Bird: Grade One students across Canada take home a laugh out loud classic

For Grade One teachers like Jennifer Bilyk, sometimes the toughest challenge is simply teaching a group of six-year-olds how to get along.

This year, Bilyk – who teaches at Holy Family School in Grimshaw, Alberta – had a little help teaching her students about friendship from a bird with poor eating habits and a giraffe with bad breath.

That's because every student in Bilyk's class received a copy of Giraffe and Bird, the official selection for this year's TD Grade One Book Giveaway.

"Friendship and getting along with others is a big lesson in Grade One," Bilyksaid. "It is a theme we revisit frequently. Through reading this book and discussing it in class, I would hope that this would be their take-away from this story."

READ: TD and The Canadian Children's Book Centre Recognize the Best Book in Children's Literature

Written by Burlington, Ontario author Rebecca Bender, Giraffe and Bird tells a simple story about getting along. The two characters – a giraffe and a bird – love pestering one another. The bird annoys the giraffe with his face-making, feather-pruning, and disgusting eating habits. The giraffe annoys the bird with his bad breath, ear-swatting, and lack of respect for personal space.

They are always fighting, and they each think they would be better off without the other. That is, until they learn a valuable lesson about friendship. 

A child's drawing of a Giraffe

"We like to read stories that are funny and have great lessons in them," Bilyk said. "Grade One is a very fun age to teach. Six-year-olds love stories and are naturally excited about storytime. They like when I use silly voices when reading and when I pause during the book to get ideas from them about what might happen."

Bilyk said programs like the TD Grade One Book Giveaway are important because they democratize access to books, helping build personal libraries for families that are unable to afford them.

"As we know, reading is a very important life skill, leading to brighter futures," she said. "When the books arrive, the kids are always excited to get their very own book to take home."

When asked how the students reacted to receiving their personal copy of Giraffe and Bird, Bilyk shares that the students were overjoyed.

"There were even some cheers," she said.

READ: TD Travel Guide: Calgary's new Central Library

With lots of words enlarged for emphasis to make reading aloud dramatic, Bilyk and her class had fun sounding out the animal noises – “hhhhwaa” as the giraffe breathes on the bird, or “slllrrp” as the bird eats his worm – a great tool to invite children to be a part of the story.

Inspired by the ways that she could incorporate the book into the classroom, Bilyk had her students illustrate and describe their favourite parts of the story.

"My favourite responses were the ones about the bird pooping on the giraffe's head," she said. "The kids giggled at that part of the story."

For nearly 20 years, TD has been committed to early learning and helping provide reading resources so young people can fully participate in the future. Since the launch of The Ready Commitment, children's literacy has remained an important focus of TD's citizenship strategy. Improving access to books helps promote positive reading behavior and helps contribute to higher student confidence and lower dropout rates while bridging the graduation gap.

This March Break (Mar 11-15), as part of the TVO Kids Book Tour, Daniel, Lucas and Laura, hosts of The Space, will be travelling to Ottawa, Toronto, Brampton and Aurora for a fun-filled day of reading. The hosts will be reading Giraffe and Bird and every child who attends will receive a copy of the book. To catch up with the tour, visit tvokids.com/bookclubtour for more information. 

Giraffe and Bird was selected for this year's TD Grade One Book Give Away, a program funded by TD Bank Group and coordinated by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Since the program began in 2000, over 9.5 million books have been given away to Grade One students across the country. The TD Grade One Book Giveaway is part of The Ready Commitment, a multi-year corporate citizenship program launched in 2018 to help open doors for a more inclusive future.