Reading to Children

I love to read to my kids. Some of the books are really amazing and very illustrative. I could not believe the details that many of these books had. My favorite ones are Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Dr.Seuss Series Clifford’s Christmas and all of Eric Carl’s creations. Most of these books are driven by the pictures and illustrations. Every time, we read these books we discover something new.  

It took us a few reads before we noticed the red balloon flying high in the Good Night Gorilla book. The balloon is flying towards the sky and is seen in almost all the pages. The mouse trying to drag the banana is a super hit with my daughter. She laughs hard when the Giraffe steps on the thread tied to the banana and the mouse is trying to get him off of the thread and pull the banana. When Mrs.Zookeeper says Good Night, she is expecting only one in return from her husband but she gets quite a few of them. My daughter loves to match the ‘good nights’ to the source. “…..this one is the Elephant because it is big! This is the mouse – see…..it’s small”. She also loves the surprised eyes of the lady in the dark and imitates that expression every time we read it. 

I love the Cat in the Hat book. The words rhyme, repeat…my daughter easily falls asleep reading that one. She has seen the movie too and enjoyed it – but I thought she had a different level of enjoyment than the reading of the book. She is not happy with everything the books offer her though – I started getting insights into her mind when one day she asked me – what is the name of the boy in the Cat in the Hat book – I said “He is Sally’s brother.” – That was not acceptable to her. Sally and her brother were sitting there when they heard a thump and they saw the Cat stepping on the mat – “Mommy………..Why do they say that? – Are we not allowed to step on the mat? “ I did not understand why she was confused about that – I thought maybe it is my tone while reading – I changed my tones when we get there, but the question did not go away. Why we are not allowed to step on the mat?? I am yet to figure out what she is thinking on this one. What would she tell her Mommy – she would tell that she made a mess and cleaned it up – very truthful! 

One day we reading Clifford’s Christmas right after Cat in the Hat. She found something very strange – in Cat in the Hat, the Cat pats Thing one and Thing two and it is illustrated in the picture. Santa came to Clifford’s house and fell down from the roof. Clifford helped Santa out and before leaving Santa pats Clifford. The patting of Clifford is in the text and not illustrated. So, my daughter swears that Santa did not pat Clifford – “Mommy, he doesn’t. See….He doesn’t.” That is when I realized how difficult it is to write for children, because their imagination and their world is many a time incomprehensible.  

Eric Carle is a great “Picture Writer” and we own most of his books. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is my favorite. I believe it is a multi dimensional book through which kids experience the life of a caterpillar, turning into a beautiful butterfly. The way the seven days of the caterpillar’s hungry life is illustrated is awesome. I was thrilled to see the ending to this story. The firefly book is another great one. Then there are the Polar Bear, Brown Bear books…..The one common thing about all his books that we own is that they are board books. They last forever. I read the Polar bear and brown bear books to her casually for a long time. Then one day as I was exploring the books I realized that all the animals pictured were endangered animals. What a neat way to get a message across!

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We did it…..We did it….Hooray!

As parents we all do it one time or another – we do not like to do it, but we still do it. I am talking about letting the television babysit our kids when we need that extra time to get a few things done. I let my daughter watch her favorite cartoons while I finish cooking the dinner and do the dishes. The little one cuddles up on the sofa with her snowman blanket and sometimes goes to sleep watching the television. I do feel guilty – I would really like to read to her and tell her a story before she goes to sleep, but sometimes it just is not possible to see through the pile of dishes and laundry.

Last week, I happened to stay at home for a couple of days since my little one got sick and was sent home from the daycare. Miraculously, the kids start feeling good and healthy the next day – that is another story for another time. Anyway, we are staying home on this snowy day to recuperate.  She wakes up pretty early, goes about doing her morning chores, waves good bye to her sister and father, sits down at the dining table and finishes off her breakfast promptly.

What do we do next? Can I watch Dora, mommy? Well, I need to check my mails at work to see if they dont need me for anything urgent today. Sure, go ahead – she puts the CD in and gets settled into the sofa. tu tu tu tu Dora………her face brightens up. I login to my work email and make sure that I am not leaving any important work (updating my facebook status, checking blog stats in wordpress) undone and not missing any deadlines. Fifteen minutes into it and then I am done.

Mommy….can I have a snack? Can you sit with me in the sofa? Too cute – I put the laptop away and sit down with snacks for both of us.

 Dora and Boots are going on an adventure today – helping the little blue bird get to its mommy who lives in the little blue tree. But they dont know how to get there – so they Consult the Map on how to get to the Little Blue Tree.  Map gives them a few landmarks for them to follow to get to their final destination. Then they begin their journey, sing and dance along, and have fun. Swiper the fox sneaks in and tries to spoil the fun and stop them from completing their adventure – but they deal with him – either by negotiating, or chanting “swiper no swiping, swiper no swiping, swiper no swiping” or by overcoming the hurdle thrown at them by swiper the sneaky fox. Nothing stops them – they continue their journey with the little blue bird. They sing and dance for it when the little bird is scared and crying to cheer him up.

Did I tell you that the little blue bird only speaks Spanish? Yes, so Dora and Boots communicate with the bird in Spanish. They go past the Bananas – they count the number of people, get bananas for all of them, promptly dispose the peels in the garbage cans and move forward. Well, in the episode you will barely notice them disposing the peels off into the garbage cans, but that is something the kids will easily pick up. Then they stop again to see where they should be going next and ascertain that they are in the right path towards their final destination. Dora will help the children jog their memory and figure out that corn field is the next landmark – all along making sure that their assignment is to get the blue bird to its mommy in the little blue tree.

They play with the scare crow as they enter the corn field, let the blue bird lead them through the corn field – they help the blue bird identify the blue path and cross the corn field. Next is the little blue tree. They find the blue bird’s mommy and every one is so happy. Mommy blue bird thanks Dora and Boots after giving the little blue a bird a hug and a special squeeze. Well, their adventure for the day is over and they have achieved their goals for the day. It is time for celebration – We did it, We did it…………

Wow – did you see that? I mean how Dora and Boots teach your kids the principle of life management, team building, mentoring, sharing and having fun at the same time? Dora and Boots never lose sight of their final destination, but always work on the immediate destination. We should work on the near future goals but never lose sight of the long term goal to achieve success. Dora has very good leadership skills – she always let Boots or other companions lead the way or try out things. Dora and Boots never hesitate to ask for help when they need it. Taking advice is not a bad thing at all – bring in the experts when you need that valuable information. Dora and Boots along with their friends work together toward their goal. The team building message in Dora is very strong – undeniable.

The characters always are engaged in adventures and have fun. Fun should always be included in your everyday life even when you are doing important things. For younger kids, there is a lot more to pick up from Dora. For example – associating things together – when Dora is going to the beach, boardwalk is one of the landmarks. Now, kids know what to expect when they are getting closer to the beach. Boots is Dora’s monkey friend – treating your friends for what they are even if they dont look like you. This cartoon teaches kids a lot of Spanish too which stresses the importance of Globalisation and the need for understanding of different cultures.

I am sure the makers of this cartoon are very smart and design the episodes with all these principles in their mind. The kids may not realise it, but they will grasp these principles and apply them in their lives – starting at the kinder garten. I was recently asked for directions to my workplace by a friend and I said follow the food court, go through the car rental, through the sliding doors and you will reach the bank of elevators. Say it with me – Food court, car rental, sliding doors and elevator bank. She later told me that she had no difficulty finding the place.

You now know you dont have to feel guilty about letting the television baby sitting your kids. Just know that they are learning very valuable and important lessons for their life.