Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.
Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.
Here is a bedtime story elaborating on a theme in “The Adventures of Milo and Otis.”
Once upon a time, two kittens, brother and sister, lived on a farm. Jersey was about two minutes older than Jake. She had white fur and orange paws that were lightning fast. Jake was brown with patches of white. While not as quick with his paws, Jake was stronger than his sister.
Jersey and Jake were best friends and loved growing up on the farm. They soon learned that every animal had a job. The dogs herded sheep; the hens laid eggs; the sheep gave wool; and the cats caught mice. Every morning, the old rooster flew to the top of the barn and made sure that everyone knew it was time to get up. The young kittens loved to hear the rooster’s call from their warm, sleepy beds; it meant the start of a new day, for playing and making discoveries.
When they were about a month old and still very small, Jersey and Jake sat near the chicken coop and watched an egg that was behaving strangely. It would move and shake every once in a while and then a crack would show on the shell. Each time the egg moved, Jersey and Jake jumped backwards. They were young cats and didn’t know that a little chick was trying to get out of its egg.
After the shell developed a crack from one end to the other they saw something trying to poke out of the shell from the inside. At first, they didn’t know what it was. Jersey said, “Could it be a lizard?”
“Or maybe a mouse?” wondered Jake.
“Or maybe even a human!” exclaimed Jersey.
The kittens watched and waited, and then a small beak poked through the very top of the egg. “Well, it’s not a lizard, cow, or human,” said Jersey, with disappointment.
“Wait a minute,” said Jake, “I know! It’s going to be a chicken!”
Jersey looked at Jake as if he were crazy. “Think about it!” Jake said. “We’re kittens and we came from cats. The baby horses come from horses. And what do you think will come from a hen?”
Jersey jumped and did a somersault in the air. “A baby chick!” she said. Then Jersey went up to the quivering egg and sniffed it.
All of a sudden out of nowhere, the rooster, which was ten times larger than the month-old kittens, charged at Jersey. “Leave the egg alone, feline!” the rooster crowed in a loud harsh voice. Jersey and Jake scampered away and observed the egg from a distance under the watchful eye of the suspicious rooster. They couldn’t understand why the rooster was so angry. They didn’t yet know that full-grown cats sometimes ate chick eggs and even little chicks.
Finally, a little chick climbed all the way out of his egg. He was kind of wet looking. He poked the ground and then snuggled up against his mother.
When the rooster had gone to the other end of the farmyard, Jersey and Jake tried to approach the chick, which by now was dried out and fluffy. However, the mother hen clucked at them, telling them to come back in a few days. Reluctantly, the kittens walked away, talking about all the fun games they wanted to teach their new friend.
The kittens wondered if the chick would become a hen or a rooster. They couldn’t imagine how a soft little chick could grow into a fearsome beast like the rooster. Not only was the rooster a giant, compared to the kittens, but it had a sharp beak and big spikes on the end of its feet.
Jersey and Jake waited a few days and then approached the chicken coop again. Peeking around the open door, they saw the baby chick walking around. The rooster was nowhere in sight and the mother hen nodded that it was okay for Jersey and Jake to come inside. The kittens walked slowly up to the chick. Jersey nudged it with her nose. “Where’s the fur?” she wondered.
Jake ran back out into the yard of the farm, and returned moments later dragging a small bowl of milk that the farmer had left out for the cats. He brought it to the chick, which pecked at it and then jumped into the bowl.
“No, no, no!” yelled Jake, scaring the bewildered chick. “You’re supposed to DRINK it, not splash in it!”
“Maybe the chick is still nursing,” said Jersey. They looked at the chick, which was eating little bits of grain that it found on the ground.
“I don’t nurse from a mother like you cats do,” said the chick and continued eating grain scattered on the ground.
“You’re eating that? Bleeecchhh!” said Jake with disgust.
“Speaking of eating, my tummy is rumbling,” said Jersey. So the kittens said goodbye and went back to their mother.
Jake and Jersey learned that the young chick’s name was Banty and that it would become a rooster one day. They tried to play with Banty several times, but the chick didn’t like to play in the grass, or bat balls of string back and forth. All Banty liked to do, it seemed, was to stand by its mother and poke the ground with its beak. Jake and Jersey tried this but after a few minutes they got bored and wound up chasing flies. Jersey tried to teach Banty how to keep clean, by licking and scratching, but the chick wouldn’t lick itself. Instead, Banty pecked at dirt in his feathers.
As the kittens and Banty grew older, the kittens realized that there was almost nothing they had in common with the young rooster. Sometimes they laughed at Banty because he couldn’t play the games that they played or eat food that tasted good to them. One day they even saw Banty swallowing tiny little stones. When they asked him why he would do such a thing, Banty looked at them like they were crazy.
“It’s used to grind up your food, you silly cats,” Banty said. “How else can your stomach break up the seeds and grains that you eat?”
“We don’t eat seeds and grains,” said Jake, thinking that this chicken was very strange. Jersey and Jake turned around without a word and walked away from the young rooster. The kittens wondered how a bird that strange could ever get a job on the farm.
For his part, Banty shook his head at their silliness and said to himself, “Good riddance — who needs friends like that!”
In a few months, Jake and Jersey were grown cats. They were assigned different areas of the barnyard to patrol for mice and rats. And there were new enemies. A warren of rabbits had established itself in the nearby woods and at night they would raid the farmer’s garden. Jake and Jersey shared rabbit patrol with the other cats. When the brother and sister had time to talk, and when their conversation turned to the young rooster, Jake and Jersey continued to wonder whether Banty could ever be useful on the farm.
Then one day, the old rooster suddenly got sick, his voice weakened and he could no longer fly to the top of the barn. All he could do was sit and enjoy the warmth of the sun. “My friends,” said the rooster, “I’ve worked hard all my life. Now, it’s time for me to rest.”
As far back as any animal on the farm could remember the old rooster had awakened the farm every morning. None of the animals knew what to do. They all said that no one could make a morning call like the old rooster. The animals worried and talked late into the night about how they would know when to wake up. Finally, exhausted, they fell asleep.
Early the next morning, as the rosy fingered dawn crept into the sky, young Banty flew to the top of the barn. Once there, he sang the coming of the new day with a clear voice and a hearty cock-a-doodle-do. All the animals woke-up and ran outside to meet the farm’s new rooster. They gave Banty a stirring round of applause and congratulations. Jake and Jersey joined in. They might not be able to play with Banty, but he certainly was a first rate rooster.
(If your child is still awake (or on the day after you read the story), ask whether Jersey and Jake will ever be friends with Banty. The answer is probably not. They have different interests and like to play different games. Then ask whether or not the cats will ever respect the rooster for doing his job well. The answer to this question is “yes.” The cats didn’t need to be friends with every animal which did his or her job on the farm.)