Flat Stanley

by Lynée Ward and others

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown is a timeless children’s book. Young Stanley becomes a half inch thick after a bulletin board accidentally falls on him. He is a creative boy who finds all kinds of advantages to being flat: sliding under doors, traveling by envelope instead of plane, being a kite. He and his family accept it all matter-of-factly and make the best of it.

This book provides ideas for several projects. Some are listed below.

I’ll be home for Christmas…If only through the mail

The holiday season, as perhaps no other time of year, finds our thoughts wandering to “home” and family. The distance between us and those we love in our home country can seem farther than ever. We may even feel a twinge of guilt that our foreign assignment denies our children the privilege of building special holiday memories with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Flat Stanley recently triggered an idea that might help bridge the gap between your children and their extended family and allow them to “experience” some of the customs and traditions of your home country.

To prepare for their adventure, help your child/children make a life-size drawing of themselves by tracing around them on large white paper. They can color and “dress” the drawing to resemble themselves and then write a friendly letter to the friend or family member they would like to “visit” for the holidays, asking that they please be included in all the activities of this special season. Then your “flat child” can be folded, put into an envelope, and sent “home” for Christmas. Ask the “host” to return the “child” after the holiday season with a description and pictures (if possible) of the special events that he/she “experienced.” [Note: With the technology we have today, you could have your child make the life-size drawing of themselves and then take a picture of it and email it to be printed out at the other end, though preferably on a smaller piece of paper. :-) They would need to write the email.]

Besides encouraging communication between children and their home-country relatives, it can also help them learn how to write a friendly letter, use map skills (find where “he/she” traveled), gain an appreciation for holiday traditions, and provide opportunity to read aloud to the rest of the family. I suspect there may be benefits for the “hosts” too as they have the opportunity to “share” their holiday with someone they would love to have with them in person. You could even suggest that the “hosts” send you a “Flat Stanley” and let your child be the host. —Dora Pauls

Flat Stanley Tours

Stanley can also help students learn about places around the world in geography. After hearing or reading the story Flat Stanley, students can make and decorate a stick figure or paper “Stanley” (or “Stephanie”) that will fit into an envelope. As in the above idea, have the students compose a letter asking friends and/or relatives to let Stanley “visit” for the next month (or whatever length of time you choose) and to return him at the end of that time with descriptions and pictures (preferably including him) of the places he visited and experiences he had. A brief questionnaire could be included to help the “hosts” provide information of interest to your students. Be sure to include information about how and when to return Stanley. Then help students address and send Stanley with all the necessary enclosures on his adventurous trip.

Another alternative would be to send several questionnaires (decide how many) with Stanley and ask the first person to forward Stanley on to someone/someplace new within a suggested time limit. The next person can forward Stanley, and the next—until Stanley has been several places. The last person would send him “home.”

When Stanley returns, students can share his adventures with their family and friends. Help them find the places on a map or globe that Stanley visited, and discuss what they found out about those towns, cities, and countries. —Karen Latimer, 3rd grade teacher

Real or Make-believe?

Flat Stanley includes many opportunites to discuss with pre-schoolers what is real and what has to be make-believe. Could a child really become flat? Would others accept him if he was different? Can a child, or anything alive, go through the regular mail and live? —Lynée Ward

Permission to copy, but not for commercial use.