Saturday, December 12, 2009
The making of a little bookworm.
By ABBY WONG
The making of a little bookworm.
MY mission, which I carried out with a relentless devotion that would have shamed even a nest of ants, was to turn my son into a bookworm.
I believe books allow children to spend time in imagined worlds, making them creative, calm and contented. Furthermore, children who read easily learn the skill of language and grasp quickly interpretative dexterity, which will later become the tricks of successful school learning.
I started reading to my son even before he was born, when he was just a five-month-old foetus. And he often seemed to “greet” my playful narration by moving in my womb. But though our reading sessions continued after he had been born, and he seemed to enjoy them, my son suddenly turned his back on books when he turned five. I was flabbergasted, hurt and despondent – he was no longer at all the type of son I wanted.
What had diverted his attention? Spongebob Square Pants, Ben 10 and Chowder, TV characters with whom he became fast friends. In a panic, I decisively pulled the plug – no more TV. I wanted my bright-eyed bookworm back!
What could I do now that he was angry and bored? Well, the anger was quickly smothered because he is, after all, mummy’s boy. To treat the boredom, I returned, obstinately, to books.
My first step on the path to his bookworm-hood was to take my son to the local library. If bookstores in Malaysian cities are wonderful, then the same can be said about libraries in our adopted home, Sydney, Australia. They are everywhere, and the nearest one is a mere five minutes’ walk from home. We began visiting every day.
The first couple of times, my son was only interested in the DVDs. Gradually, though, he began to rove through the picture books collection, and, just a few trips later, he was taking out 10 picture books every other day. Among his favourites is Oliver Jeffers’ The Incredible Book-Eating Boy; that’s the book that really recharged his enthusiasm.
My next step was for us to spend more time reading together. Despite my busy schedule, I set aside at least half an hour every day to read with him, or talk about the story that he was reading. The more interest I showed in what he was reading, the more he would take the time and make the effort to read.
We began having such a good time. I had become more sensitive to his preferences and abilities and did not limit him to books that I thought were more age appropriate for him.
After two months of reading three to four picture books a day, my just-turned-six son discovered The Big Big Big Book of Tashi, a compendium of the adventures of one of Australia’s beloved kids’ books characters, Tashi. (The Tashi series is by Anna and Barbara Fienberg, with illustrations by Kim Gamble.)
While he was instantly spellbound by the stories, I was dumfounded because from reading picture books just a day or two ago, he had suddenly turned to short stories that were usually read by children two years older than him.
Then again, who wouldn’t make the effort for Tashi, a magical little boy with a crazy hair do who gets into endless trouble and strife? Though a little fellow, he is able to outsmart warlords and wicked barons, and is unafraid of giants, ghosts, witches or demons.
His fantastic stories are short enough to read in one sitting, but still meaty enough for us to read together before bedtime; and they are easy enough to be read by my son alone, too.
Furthermore, the pencil illustrations on each page are beautifully drawn to evoke the scenarios in which Tashi triumphs over evil, while the themes of courage, curiosity, adventure, loyalty, and friendship are gently emphasised.
My son could not tear himself away from his first Tashi book and lugged it along wherever he went. Two weeks later, we are in a bookstore looking for the second volume.
Now here he comes, my six-year-old boy, big-eyed with excitement as he waves at me with one hand while clutching a new book. Zac Power, he says, is the coolest boy in the whole wide world because, even though he’s just 12 years old, he is already a spy going on top secret missions. (The Zac Power series is written by H.I. Larry.)
I smile. Toys wear and tear, TV shows become boring, but books, if cleverly introduced into our children’s worlds, are like an ever whirling kaleidoscope, discovered afresh in every stage of their lives.
Having been read to since he was a five-month-old foetus, Abby Wong’s six-year-old son is quite comfortable reading Anthony Browne’s ‘I Like Books’ to his two-year-old sister.
from: the Star Online