20 September 2010

To read or not to read

We're now reading. To be precise, I get my daughter to read aloud to me at bedtime. This is not about her putting me to sleep, but one way to get two birds with one stone. Reading practice and bedtime stories.

A few years ago, I picked up the whole set of Ladybird readers for her. At that time they looked wonderful. Big bold easy-read prints, colourful layouts, and new, bigger words introduced in easy phases.

So far so good, right? We stuck to Tom and Kate and their routines (I wouldn't quite call them adventures) and I would get very easily distracted. And that might have been just me, if the other half hadn't pointed out with all subtlety that "Tom and Kate is so boring. Puts me to sleep."

Did that sound harsh??

May I direct your attention towards your typical reader??

and then to some more of the same?

It's.... dry! To put it very very kindly. Halfway through one reading, we are rendered unsuccessful at concealing any yawns and other signs of utter boredom. But encourage the little one to continue we do. May the force be with her! And in all honesty, I did have to use the force to get her to read her quota for the day.

I asked a few educators and they lauded my choice of reading material. So, well, I let it be.

The other day, I got so fed up, I asked my daughter to pick something she wanted to read aloud. Without hesitation, she picked up a Dr Seuss. And read it out way faster than she would normally. I wondered whether it was because she knew some of the pages off by heart. It wouldn't be too far off the mark as I might have read it aloud to her only about a gazillion times.

Just to put things to test, I got her to pick up another Dr. Seuss book. And she did read much better, with way more interest. Here's an excerpt.

Or from another book..

I asked around, and got some opinions.

It's not serious.
There's no educational value to it.
It's just rhyming nonsense.

It does confuse the heck out of a parent, doesn't it?

But then I'm an avid reader. So is the other half. Does reading HAVE to be serious? Is there any reason reading can't be fun? Can't a school related exercise be made more interesting?

When I feel like reading, do I pick Bertrand Russel? Or do I pick whatever catches my fancy? Do I pick a Drucker and Toffler, or do I pick an Eddings and L'amour?

I ordered a few more Dr. Seuss books online. And got the kid to read it aloud. She read it with so much enthusiasm that I had a tough time getting her to stop in the middle of the book, as it was nearly bedtime. Well, if I was in the middle of a good book, I'd want to finish it before I slept too.

The supposedly 'frivolous reading' wins the battle of the books. I'd rather reading was happy and fun. There's always 'serious', 'value-added' reading to be done at school, so let reading at home be thoroughly frivolous.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Ellen Goodman from the Detroit Free Press, (all the way back in November 1966) said:
"Dr. Seuss took 220 words, rhymed them and turned out 'The Cat in the Hat', a little volume of absurdity that worked like a karate chop on the weary little world of Dick, Jane and Spot. "

With those profound words in mind, would you like to recommend some reading for kids that doesn't bore the parents to tears?

19 September 2010

Teaching science vs the science of teaching

The other half proposes, "No more lame bedtime stories for kid#1. I shall tell her stories about science."

Doesn't sound too bad does it?? Indoctrinating fertile young minds towards science and technology?

So we start with the one of the greatest men of science, Sir Isaac Newton.

OH: Once upon a time there was this dude called Sir Isaac Newton. So Newton sits under this apple tree, and an apple falls on his head. What would we do if that had happened to us?
Kid #1: We would wash the apples first and then eat it.
OH: See, Newton was a scientist.
Kid #1: Like you??
OH: Just like me, but way way smarter. So he started thinking WHY the apple fell DOWN. Do you know why it fell down?
Kid #1: Yes!
OH: Good. Tell me why it fell down.

(At this point of time, the father is thrilled to bits that his 7 year old shows a lot of promise, and a future in science)

Kid #1: See, Appa, the apple hangs BELOW the branch. Because there is a branch above the apple, the apple cannot travel that way, so it has to come down only.. simple!

(Here, as an unbiased observer, I would point out that the kid does know her concepts... about straight lines and all that jazz)

The OH wants to cut this line of thought, and stick with the science of all this.

OH: Baby, if you throw a ball up, does it keep going up?
Kid #1: No, it falls down.
OH: Why does it fall down? Why doesn't it keep going straight up?
Kid #1: Because it doesn't have wings.

There goes that lesson. And we're back to the tried and tested conventional bed time stories.

There are constant attempts to introduce the kids to basic science.

We took them to the Planetarium. There's this little "science park" in the gardens. There they have this colour wheel, painted with the 7 colours of the rainbow, and strips of black and white. The idea here is to touch them and see which colours absorb light, and which colours reflect light. The black strip, needless to say, is hottest to touch, and white is the least hot of the lot.

The OH explains it all in great detail to the little one.

OH: So, Aditi, what will you wear when you go out in the sun.
Kid #1: A hat!

We might be teaching science, but we haven't quite got the science of teaching down pat!

And we're not quite giving up! Tonight the OH plans to tell her the story about James Watt and the steam engine.

14 June 2010

Teething issues... reloaded

All through the day I noticed my elder daughter her run to her room every now and then, and lift up her pillow. Then she'd get back to whatever she was doing, with this slightly disappointed look on her face.

Finally, around bedtime, I asked her if something was wrong with her pillow. And she told me she was looking for a coin. Why on earth would you look for a coin under your pillow, I ask her. Did you drop a coin somewhere? Where did you get a coin to start with?

She then gave me this blank don't-you-know-anything look, lifted her pillow again and took out a tooth! My little one lost a tooth this morning and there it was under her pillow.

This was a bit of a dicey situation. When she lost her first tooth over a year ago, we sat her down and explained to her how her milk teeth would now start to drop off, and how a better, stronger tooth would grow back in it's stead. We talked to her about how this was all a part and parcel of growing up, and how her new teeth would be stronger than what she had before. And that a gap toothed smile was a badge of honour, and that she could flaunt it to her heart's content.

Now we hear that some kid in her class her told her not to throw away her tooth the next time it falls, but to place it under her pillow, and see how it would turn into a coin. (Jobless *&$% kid!)

Here's the problem. Do we introduce a tooth fairy into the equation? Do we simply place a coin under the pillow and ask her to put that into her piggy bank and leave it at that? Do I stick to the 'rational' and 'scientific' path that we've been following to date, and explain away the tooth fairy?

Decisions, decisions... and they have to be made in less than 8 hours from now.