Thursday, November 23, 2006

Realism In December

I met J's kindergarten teacher for a fifteen minute conference a few weeks ago. Mrs. H is in her late forties, has two teenagers and is a recent British immigrant to the US. Other than J, she is the only trace of diversity in J's lily-white all American class room. Mrs. H is everything a parent could ask of a kindergarten teacher and much more. She exudes a maternal warmth along with oodles of confidence.

She clearly loves her job and the kids, is interested in them, in understanding their personalities, strengths and weaknesses and will push them very subtly in the right direction. J's buddy Bryce from daycare days epitomized the problem child that experts pontificate about - or at least his caregivers at daycare depicted him as such. Under Mrs. H's able supervision, the kid is thriving.

Her assessment of J at the time of our meeting was based on her knowing my child for a little over a month. I was amazed at how well she had her figured out and knew exactly where she needed a little help. "There is a gap between J's independent reading level and her ability to understand. You need to read more to her and at levels of complexity she is capable of absorbing". I would realize later, that my enthusiasm about Mrs. H would be a case of too much too soon.

While it was not her intent, it reflected on my mothering. From as early on as I could, I've tried to get J to read on her own, so I would have time freed up for myself. I left the conference feeling vaguely guilty and resolved to remedy the problem.

Mrs. H has been sending home books that she thinks I should read aloud to J. I have been supplementing that with books from the public library. In all, I have a busy read aloud schedule. J craves for more and more. Had I not got the wake-up call, she would have missed out on much. I am learning about children's books and popular themes. Recently we read one called December Secrets

I usually enjoy the books I read to J but this one had me feeling bored, distracted and even irritated. Aimed at the kids of grades 1-4, and being realistic it is perhaps ok for the protagonist to obsess about a green stain on her sweat suit and feel like her chubby classmate would benefit from going on a diet. I would like to believe that children at that age have a vivid imagination. Their world is not all about stark reality - there is a touch of magical realism perhaps. There is not one character in the book that is able to view the world around them with a child's dreaminess and innocence. If this really is a testament of the state of childhood in the modern world, I feel sorry for J and the zeitgeist of her times.

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