The Usborne First Experiences series is designed to prepare children not only for their “first time” to visit the dentist or doctor or to travel on a plane or to go to a party, but also for their earliest attempts at reading upper-level books. While the text itself isn’t designed to enthrall the kids or electrify their imaginations, the words are simple to read, and they pass on a great deal of useful information that children should know about a new place or activity. As they anticipate trying something new, their already-active imaginations kick into high gear, oftentimes scaring them away from trying before they even get the chance. This series help alleviate some of those fears by sharing the facts, simply and without much sugar-coating.
In Going to the Dentist, Jake and Jessie Judd must go for their six-month dental checkup, where Jessie earns a clean-bill of health, while Jake must suffer through a cavity-filling. The cleaning and filling procedures are all described for the children, giving them a bit of confidence about anticipating such a trip themselves.
Stephen Cartwright’s illustrating style mixes true-to-life proportions and anatomies with everyday objects, adding just a touch of cutesy to keep things semi-lively. His artwork is inviting and comfortable at first glance, but after a while it also tends to feel a bit boring, simply because it’s so natural. I don’t imagine too many readers will sit and study his pictures for long, which in this case is probably a good thing. Usborne’s goal in this series is to advance a child from fixating on a book’s illustration in favor of that same book’s text. Short of spending time looking for the Usborne duck on every page, I don’t imagine many kids will pore over these pictures for very long.
If you’re looking to teach kindergartners the skills of reading and to build their confidence as you read through a book together, the Usborne First Experiences series is a good place to start.