Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Fun Book

Sometimes it's hard to get kids, especially boys,  interested in reading. Here's a book reluctant readers are likely to enjoy: Running With The Reservoir Pups, by Colin Bateman. It's not at all like the Series of Unfortunate Events books (though it does take place in England,)  but kids who enjoyed that series will probably like this book. And there will be others about the same characters to enjoy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The ABC System

Someone made a comment asking why I mentioned a performance I'd seen years ago in my last post. I hate to admit it, but the reason is I just found something about the play at the bottom of The Box.  Often when I clean my office and file the papers on my desk there are some that don't fit into any of the usual categories so I just drop them into The Box, but this time it was so full I had to deal with everything in it. 
That reminded me of a method I used as a preschool teacher to get the kids to clean up the room after playtime. I'd sing the Alphabet Song v-e-r-y- s-l-o-w-l-y and if all the toys were put away by the time I got to the end, the kids won, but if I finished the song before they were done cleaning, I'd win. Of course I'd help clean while singing and would win once in a while, but usually the kids would beat me. They didn't get a prize, just the opportunity to feel successful. The same method worked to get my daughter to clean her room - at least sometimes. Maybe if I tried singing that song after filing the papers on my desk I wouldn't be so tempted to finish the job by stuffing whatever was left into The Box. 

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Great Show!

The best live performance I ever saw in my life (IMHO) was "Big River." It's a musical version of "Huckleberry Finn" and the 2004 performance I attended in San Francisco was done in both English and American Sign Language. There were a lot of deaf people in the audience and a lot of hearing people, but only a few of us were fluent in both languages. For us it was an incredible opportunity to experience the show - which was great in either language - on both levels. And I couldn't help noticing the parallels between the racial prejudice experienced by Jim and the prejudice deaf people and those with disabilities often experience today. I wish I could see Big River performed like that again.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Humans tend to be afraid of people who are different. As an asthmatic kid who got teased, and as a teacher working with kids, I've seen that happen many times. And it still happens with adults. Grown-ups usually don't tease people who make them uncomfortable, but they may avoid them and show by their body language that they consider people with disabilities or from another culture a little bit  - well, scary. But we can treat people who are different just like we treat everyone else. 
Being different isn't contagious, but being friendly is.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Picture Books Kids Love

In my years as  preschool and Kindergarten teacher, parent, and grandparent I've read over a thousand books to hundreds of kids. The one book most of them have loved is Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." Except for two little girls who were frightened by the monsters, all the other children have wanted to hear it over and over again. 
But what makes this book so popular? I guess it's partly because all kids can identify with misbehaving and getting in trouble but having their parents love them anyway, and with using their imaginations. Another factor is the great illustrations. 
In my experience, the majority of the picture books kids love are either written and illustrated by the same person or by an author/illustrator team that often works together. Of course there are exceptions, but this is the case at least half the time.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Silent Words

Long ago I started to learn American Sign Language from an interpreter who is now my husband. Besides working at the California School for the Deaf for many years, I served as a church Sign Language interpreter, raised three Deaf foster sons, and have taught American Sign Language to lots of people. Our daughter started learning it when she was born.
My husband and I even taught sign language to our first dogs, who were deaf dalmatians. One of them, Brenda, became able to understand about 350 signs (mostly names of individuals and foods) and taught us to understand about 30 animal signs. Brenda was a brilliant dog and able to understand human language about as well as some two year old people do.

Reading and Kids

A few years ago I read a scientific study somewhere  (sorry, but I've forgotten the details) that was supposed to determine which method of teaching reading worked best. After interviewing many college students the scientists doing the study determined that it made no difference at all what method had been used in their schools. But the high achieving students did have one thing in common; when they were little kids their parents had read to them for at least 20 minutes nearly every day. 
So if you have any kids, please, please, please, read to them until they're old enough to enjoy reading comfortably on their own. And set a good example by letting them see you read to yourself.