Guest Post: Mariesa Dulak
Author of There’s a Tiger on the Train
Parents, Children and Phubbing
In There’s a Tiger on the Train a little boy is on a trip to the seaside with his Dad. But this is no ordinary train and soon he is joined by a jumble of unusual animal passengers. Unfortunately, Dad is far too busy on his phone to notice.
Phubbing is snubbing or ignoring someone else because you are using your mobile phone. In today’s modern world, we do it without thinking, but research shows that phubbing undermines interpersonal relationships and mental health especially when parents do it to their children.
A staggering 70% of parents say they feel distracted by their mobile phones when they spend time with their children. And studies show that the more parents phub their children, the more socially disconnected that child feels towards them.
So, when I sat down to write a book that included phubbing, I tried to imagine what it might be like to feel ignored by the most important person in your world and being too small and powerless to do anything about it.
Conversations for the Classroom about Making Memories
The young readers I have shared this story with are rooting for the little boy, but I also have some sympathy for the Dad. He’s not a bad parent. Like many of us, he’s just struggling to juggle the pressures and distractions of modern life and it takes a lightbulb moment for him to get back on track – stop scrolling and start making some memories.
Here are some questions and discussion points for the classroom:
Do the children have a special memory of a time that they spent with a relative? Perhaps baking a cake together or jumping in puddles. What did they do and why did it mean so much? Can they draw a picture about the memory to gift to the relative or put on their wall as a reminder of how special it was?
The animal passengers in the story are going to the seaside to make some memories too. Their clothes and the things they have brought with them provide clues about what they plan to do when they get there. Can the children remember which accessory belongs to which animal? Do these items help is guess how they might be spending their day at the beach? What would the children take with them to make a trip to the seaside extra special?
Why does the tiger roar in the story? Is it the noisy animal rumpus or is it something else? Look at the pictures together and see if you can find some clues.
Does the Tiger in the Top Hat really eat Dad’s phone? What other explanation might there be? Are there any clues in the pictures to tell us what else might be happening on that trip down to the sea?
Reading and Connecting
You don’t have to go to the seaside to spend quality time with a grown-up. Sharing a book is also the perfect opportunity to put aside distractions and tune into another world together.
You can do this anywhere – at the dentist, at the kitchen table, in the park, under the duvet or even on a bus or train! What is the most unusual place that the children have ever read a book? Make a tick-list of different places where you could squeeze in time to share a book and set a homework challenge to tick off as many as they can!
There’s a Tiger on the Train is about taking the time to connect with those you love. I hope that children reading the book will join in with the rhymes and rhythms, have fun making some new animal friends and enjoy the ride! And I hope that their grown-ups will be reminded to look up from their phones to see what they might be missing in the wonderful world of their own child’s imagination.
Many thanks to Mariesa Dulak for visiting our blog this week.
Rebecca Cobb illustrates the book – here are a few more of our favourites from this illustrator…
- Find Hello, Friend on our list of books for class transitions
- The Day War Came can be spotted on our list of children’s books about refugees and immigration
- You’ll see The Paper Dolls nestled among our toys topic booklist.
- Get creative with Elisabeth and the Box of Colours among our list of children’s books about art and artists.
The book is featured on our Spring 2024 Ones to Watch booklist.