The popularity of Karma Wilson’s “Bear” series of picture books is richly deserved. Charming characters, rhythmic text, and easy-to-follow, often repetitive storylines make these books perfect for reading aloud to young children.
As a music teacher, I’m always on the lookout for stories which are easily “musicalized” – either with sound effects like stomping or buzzing, or with sung or chanted refrains. In this story, Bear eats and eats after his long winter hibernation. After each snack the text repeats, “but the bear wants more!”
When this phrase comes along, the children and I sing a short song (to the tune of the last two lines of the “Dinah won’t you blow” section of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”):
The bear wants more,/ The bear wants more,
The bear wants more, more, more!
To add another layer of fun and engagement, I use signing during the song. The sign for “bear” is crossing your arms in front of your chest and scratching near your shoulders. The sign for “more” is cupping your hands and tapping the fingers together. (To see these and hundreds of other signs, check out the ASL Browser – a fantastic resource.) For the second line we tap the “more” sign three times on the beat for “more, more, more!”
I love using signs when I can, rather than arbitrary motions, since it’s a natural way to introduce ASL to young children. After we read “Bear Wants More,” the children remember the signs for “bear” and “more” for a long time! It brings even more learning to this story of animals in nature, sharing, and kindness.