Learning with Brat Three.

When she first joined us, around ten months ago, Brat Three did not speak Hindi or English, so I wasn’t sure if any schools would be willing to admit her and if they did they might pressurize her to catch up with other kids her age. It had seemed like a good idea to home-school Brat Three for first one or two years.

So, I called two friends to ask if they knew someone who could help with classes at home, and instead found two schools ‘glad to walk this amazing journey’ with us.  When the schools met her, she could barely count till twenty but had some idea about adding with her fingers. Alphabet too, she mixed some letters, missed some other letters. The schools said it would take her two years to come to the level of the other kids in her class.

I had read about children developing 80% of their intelligence by two years of age and accepted that so long as she was learning and enjoying the process we would only facilitate and not pressurize.

At first, Brat Three did not understand the difference between English and Hindi, both were new to her, maybe she didn’t understand the concept of more than one language. To ensure she picks both the languages, we used both and constantly translated, like in “Come let’s brush our teeth, chalo brush karte hain.” But she picked up the phrases we used with each other equally fast.

For the first month in school her class teacher helped her get used to the routine and to copy what she could from the board leaving ‘one finger space’ between words. The home work too  she did not completely understand what she was writing – the first time, I wrote the words down and she copied them, but that was learning too.  Soon she started taking classes for her dolls or asking them to ‘form a line’ 🙂 I too was invited to join the class 🙂

But what she enjoyed the most was being read out stories.

The first book I read to her was Goldilocks and the second was a book we both adored ‘There’s a Mouse in the House’, many more followed, like ‘My dog buddy’,  all level one and level two – simple words, lots of repetition. Soon she was reading them back to me, slowly but with pleasure.

Did she find the beginning reader stories too simple? She was around eight and a half. I think the newness of the experience added to the pleasure of listening to stories. We also narrated made-up stories that were more age appropriate. She seemed to enjoy both equally.

Android apps/games which could be played repetitively, (like join the numbered dots correctly to be rewarded with bringing to life an animal or a fairy), soon had her counting without skipping sixteen, recognizing all the letters in the alphabet, understanding phonics, recognizing sight words, colours, shapes, animals, fruit, vegetables, opposites, bigger than and smaller than, one and many….  all in a new and unfamiliar language.

123 Counting Fun.jpg.44 AM

After a while I was able to uninstall these and install the series of these musical video apps that taught more sight words. This was followed with ‘Multiplication Rap’.

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 2.01.38 PM

Then this January someone on a News channel said, “A six year old girl found….” and Brat Three asked, “Isliye aap bolte ho ki park se time par waapas aana chahiye.”  (Translated to – “That is why you ask me to come back in time from the park.”)

Another time, soon afterwards, she understood something that wasn’t meant for her, nothing serious, just me complaining about something…  but her joining in to whole heartedly agree came as a timely warning. Anita Rao who witnessed this pointed out that we no longer had ‘language impunity’ – Brat Three now understood everything we said 🙂 🙂

Story reading became more fun with improving comprehension – one could read to her without having to explain or translate. Brat Three loves interactive stories like this one.

Screen Shot Alice in Wonderland This one is not as big a favorite though she has seen and laughed hysterically while watching the movie,  and although “…individual words are highlighted as the story is read and words zoom up when pictures are touched.”

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 2.06.27 PMSince some of the stories above were meant for younger children, I feared she might find them boring and might lose interest in books, so after narrating edited versions of fairy tales, I also bought the entire collection of Beginning Reader’s fairy tales. I am still not sure if it was a good idea, but she needs more of easy to read, simple sentences, but age appropriate stories where she has to wonder what happens next. For instance, I found a copy of ‘The Naughtiest Girl is a monitor’ by Enid Blyton, she loves it, but I can’t read it to her without having to pause to explain sentences like, “Arabella and the other new children waited with much interest for the first Meeting.”  Effortless reading for her would have been, “Arabella and the other new children waited excitedly”.

Brat Three readingNow although she says in joyous astonishment (in Hindi), “How did I learn to read? Nobody even taught me how to read?!!” I need to find material that is fun but that helps her read better, improves her vocabulary and understanding. Any recommendations?

Related Posts:

Introducing a new family member.

A brat by any other name 🙂

Who likes mangoes?

Some action shots direct from a recent battle field!!

Guess which one of these Rangoli Portraits is me?

This afternoon.


81 thoughts on “Learning with Brat Three.

  1. IHM, Amar Chitra Katha series may interest her as also the Magic Tree House ones. Secret Seven could be another one, the language is quite simple as compared to the other Enid Blyton series.


  2. It is such a joy for me to read about how Brat 3 is doing. You are doing such a wonderful job with her IHM and she is such a vivacious child ! I wish i could help you with a few book names .. but I really don’t know !


    • I wish that too… as it is brat three is an intelligent kid and is catching up fast. She already has that capability to grow like a soaked seed, you keep providing her the light and air. Your post is great for my future use 🙂


  3. It really sounds like an amazing journey. I’m pleasantly surprised that there were schools willing to work with her. Can’t help with the books, but would be interested in what others suggest.


  4. Would Tinkle comics find approval with you?
    My kids used to devour them, over two decades ago.
    My son (now 26, and an Oxford Scholar) and who has been away from home for the past 7 years, was not too happy to learn that I had given his entire collection away to the neighbourhood kids!

    Amar Chitra Katha too can be considered.

    I remember reading Grimm’s fairy tales, and Aesops fables that fascinated me during my childhood. Tinkle did not exist then (early and mid nineteen fifties when I was the same age as brat 3)

    I also loved tales from the Panchanatra and devoured Chanda Mama

    Your experience in raising brat 3 is fascinating to read. Do keep us updated with her progress.


  5. If you don’t mind me giving you a few recommendations, I think maybe Brat Three could read some of the Ramona Quimby books? Or anything by Beverly Cleary, I think, would be something she’d be able to handle. The books aren’t boring for someone her age group either.


  6. That was so heartening to read, IHM! Its so wonderful to see the bond between you and Brat Three blooming and growing with each post you share! God bless you 🙂

    You know one of the best bonding moments that I have enjoyed with Namnam is the time when I have read to her. Even now, though she has started reading herself, she has made me enter into pact with her wherein I am to read to her one story or book every alternate night before going to sleep :). The other alternate nights, however, she has smartly arranged a pact with her father where he is to make up a story and narrate it to her :). Either which way, its a ritual we are thoroughly enjoying.

    As for reading recos for children, I would always vouch for Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Namnam loves reading and re-reading EB’s short stories.She also enjoyed reading The Enormous Crocodile. She is now reading Danny the Champion of the World, which she is taking forever to finish..guess she is not enjoying it much. I read it and I really liked the pace and information it imaprted, like how cricket had their ears in their legs or grasshoppers had theirs in their tummies I didnt know that! :D. So you might want to read it to her. Then there is the Geronimo Stilton series which Brat Three might enjoy. Namnam has read just one book and she liked it. I plan to buy more of the series for her.

    Smitha had suggested some great books for Namnam.Let me just send the link to your blog post to her. I’m sure she will oodles of books to recommend! 🙂



  7. WOW… You’re simply great. Its amazing that you found the best school for her, that too in a metro. Its been nearly a month since I touched a book (work & tiredness being the excuses; but we all know that they’re just excuses) This post just reminded &rekindled my love for books.
    I think when it comes to beginner, old school of MAGIC POT & TINKLE are the best.
    Has she tried NODDY series, Brer Rabbit stories, Mr. Twiddle series? Im sure she’ll love it. The Retired Kid s one of my all-time fav. Then thr ws this book about a pencil that cn make its drawings comes alive (Old star plus shakalaka boom is inspired by tht)… Then I’d recommend almost all of Roald Dahl books.
    William’s adventures still makes me laugh hysterically.
    You live in delhi na? Im sure you’re familiar with sunday book market at dariya ganj? rare favourites hide amidst trashy romance books…
    only if you’re patient enough to hunt hunt and hunt 😀


  8. Hi IHM, Delurking after a long time to comment. You could try “Song birds phonics books by Julia Donaldson”. Its a whole series which starts with three letter words and progresses to short stories. Books by Julia Donaldson, Nick Sharratt, David McKee, all use rhyming words but also have wonderful stories. So, its fun reading them. They are not chapter books but would be good enough to complete in one sitting and not boring at all. Angelina ballerina series and Winnie the witch series are also quite interesting. You can also try the “Bob books” which are available as an app for Ipad etc. Same goes for Stuart Murphy books for mathematics. Makes numbers and other fundamentals quite fun to learn. Quite a few of these recommendations are courtesy “Choxbox” when she used to blog.
    Hope this helps.
    Good luck


  9. I think you should try tinkle comics. They are fun for little kids and for chapter books type My daughter loves Junie. B. Jones series but they could be for an US based audience and may not interest her.
    My daughter also loves secrect7 and she loves tin tin … rolls around with laughter abd keeps spouting all those random phrases…
    Amar citra katha is an all time favorite. and Noddy cannot be beat 🙂


  10. This was so heartening to read 🙂 I have grown up reading Tinkle, amar chitra katha, pinki chacha chaudhary comics, champak, gokulam, enid Blyton, disney junior, mickey mouse comics


  11. My 6 year old loves the following series/books:
    -Majic Treehouse
    – Famous Five and Secret Seven
    – The Twits by Roald Dahl
    – Captain Underpants Series
    – June B Jones Series
    Happy Reading!


  12. Also – see if you have access to tumblebooks.com We have access through our local library.
    My kids love the audio books and associated games – anything by robert munsch is devoured over here.


  13. Your daughter is amazing! In less than a year, she has picked up so much: multiple languages, reading age-appropriate books (when she didn’t fully know the alphabet initially), math, etc. You are amazing parents too for guiding and helping her come this far. Many times, we adults think we are too old to learn a new skill or that we don’t have the right background for a particular job. Your daughter is a real inspiration.

    Here are some chapter books that daughter has enjoyed: 1. Nancy Drew Notebooks or Nancy Drew & the Clue Crew (this is aimed at younger readers and features an 8-year old ND). 2. Rainbow Fairy series by Daisy Meadows (highly repetitive plots, but many girls seem to like them here: 2 girls + a fairy thwart some goblin’s evil plans). 3. Junie B. Jones (bratty kid:-)) 4. Flat Stanley 5. Magic Treehouse (more facts-oriented), 6. Arnold Lobel’s books (Frog & Toad series and others): easy to read and stories are cute. In picture books: books by Kevin Henkes, Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny series), Miss Nelson is missing (& other Miss Nelson books). I don’t know about their availability in India though.


  14. Please check Eric Carle books- the illustrations are wonderful , the books are geared for grade 1 children , have short sentences. Also, all Dr. Suess books – my children loved the repetitiveness. Check these websites for other general learning resources:


    We went to a seminar where the speaker talked about encouraging kids to read more – he mentioned something which made a great impact on me – do not consider book reading as the only medium – newspapers, traffic signals, restaurant menus, maps etc. all provide avenues for reading. which we should not ignore.


  15. You are doing great, Brat 3!!!
    IHM, I remember when my daughter was in 5th and 6th she used to spend a lot of time doing Kindergarten exercises on computer to earn more stars!


  16. If I let him, my seven year old will spend his whole day on this website http://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/
    Lots of books there http://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/Library/Index/?AgeGroup=1
    The cbeebies website was something he loved earlier while learning his phonics. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/alphablocks/games/alphablocks-games/
    We also ordered a lot of books through his school from the scholastic catalog http://la.scholastic.com/en/global-websites


  17. All of Julia Donaldson’s books are fantastic to read, right from the Gruffalo, the witch and the broom,the snail and the whale, sharing a shell, the smartest giant in town etc make a fantastic read…they aren’t complex, but tries to repeat some of the words and they are rhyming too!
    I’m sure brat three will like them, if you are like me, you’ll enjoy them too:)


  18. This is such a joy to read too! The links are helpful, for me too, when I shall need to recommend reading techniques and promote interest. However, for all that I am supposed to be, when it comes to Children’s books, I’m rather lost too!


  19. So glad to hear she is doing so well, thanks to your wonderfully supportive attitude 🙂

    Beginning readers – Dr. Suess books – my kids and I loved Green Eggs and Ham!
    iPad has LOTS of apps and story books for beginning readers, and kids love the touch screen.

    Stories she might enjoy with characters her age (either read by you or she can read parts of) –
    – The Magic Tree House series
    – A to Z mysteries
    – June B Jones
    – The Magic School Bus


  20. Glad to read about Brat Three’s progress! 🙂 I tutored a little girl about her age who also spoke neither Hindi nor English. Hindi wasn’t as important, because we’re in Canada, but she had to learn English pretty much from scratch. She started school a couple of weeks after moving here, and had a little bit of a hard time, because she couldn’t even make friends since no one spoke her language. I believe she started out in ESL (English as Second Language) though I didn’t start tutoring her until a few months after, and now she’s in regular classes with peers her age. Its been almost 2 years now, and she’s picked up the language very well. She has no trouble conversing or reading/writing. I don’t have any books to recommend, because she did her reading at school and with parents, but we used to do Math and Social Sciences together, and while it took her some time to understand some of the longer, unknown words, like ‘Turkey’ (important as Thanksgiving was just around the corner!), she picked it up quite quickly. I found exercise books with pictures very useful, because she’s a visual learner, and she picked up the words more easily if there was a corresponding picture.

    Good luck with Brat Three! I’m sure with your patience and her eagerness to learn, she’ll be at peer-level soon enough.


  21. No kids related experience yet 😉 but some of the books I enjoyed reading as a child:
    tinkle, champak, akbar-birbal, secret seven, famous five, harry potter (Oh, do get her hooked to HP, IHM!!). You can also try audio books which she can keep listening to. When I was trying to learn french, I used audio books to get the pronunciations and the accent etc.. (dont think they helped coz I failed miserably learning french!)


  22. Here are books that Brat 3 may enjoy:

    Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard book (high adventure), Coraline (fantasy bordering on horror, and yes, a children’s book hee.).
    Very well-written, gripping books that stay with you. Highly recommended for both children and adults.
    Kenneth Grahame: Wind in the Willows (one of my all-time favs, along with the Hobbit)
    Rudyard Kipling: The Jungle book (Riki tiki tavi, and the one with the white seal are both brilliant)
    Mary Norton: The Borrowers. (recently made into a beautiful animated movie – recommend the movie as well)
    Terry Pratchett: Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, The Wee Free Men. (The second one is especially awesome. Love Tiffany Aching)
    Eoin Colfer: Artemis Fowl series (adventure, protagonist with grey shades, lots of fairies and dwarves, very badass)
    WE Johns: Biggles
    Diane Duane: So You Want To Be a Wizard series
    Jane Leslie Conly – Rats Of NIMH series
    Edith Nesbit: Railway Children, Five Children and It.
    Mary Poppins.
    Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland
    Frank Baum: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Also recommend the movie with Judy Garland)
    CS Lewis: Chronicles of Narnia (entertaining books, in spite of the Christian allegory)
    Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden
    LM Alcott: Little Women

    These are general recos, will be able to suggest more based on what Brat 3 enjoys. Magic, Adventure, fantasy, princessy stuff (anything by Meg Cabot)?

    Also, Lego and Jigsaw puzzles will be great fun!


  23. in addition to tinkle and amar chitra katha, try books by the publisher ‘tulika’ – they have wonderful children’s books with indian stories. of course dr.seuss is a must read, and try the junie b. jones series by barbara park. they are about the adventures of a 5 yr old, from her perspective. my daughter giggled over them long after she herself was 5.


  24. That sounds like a wonderful journey together. 🙂
    If you haven’t yet checked this out, do so: saffrontree.org – a site filled with some awesome book reviews and ideas for kids. Good luck!


  25. Harry Potter!!! And I used to love Enid Blyton’s stories of the Magic Faraway Tree. 😀
    ooh! Chronicles of Narnia! And The Secret Garden, and if she’s okay with being a little sad, The Little Princess. Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows… she’s probably too young for Pride and Prejudice right?


  26. I recommend Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Tin Tin comics, Dr Suess’s series, Gingerbread Man, Little Red Ridinghood, and Appu Series books. Brat Three is doing a great job of learning. All the best to her.


  27. She could look at pictures in Calvinand Hobbes. Learn about friendship between human child and a toy.About kid’s outlook on life in general, school, parents, friendship, the seasonal chanves, holidays, etc etc.Probably you could prod her a bit to come up with the right questions at first, and then I am sure she will follow, seeing as how bright she seems.Does she have a toy piano?


  28. OMG, I should learn to read all this without weeping. 😀

    My suggestions would go something like this (If she continues to be a voracious reader)

    1. Tinkle and Champak
    2. Amar Chitra Katha (Akbar Birbal, Tenali Raman, Arabian Night)
    3. Tulika
    4. Naughtiest Girl, Amelia Jane
    5. Thomas and Friends
    6. Secret Seven, Famous Five, Adventure Series
    7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    8. Chronicles of Narnia
    9. Wimpy Kid
    10. TinTin
    11. Harry Potter

    What was the language she was originally speaking?


  29. What the youngest enjoys:

    Amar Chitra Kathas ( though the vocab is hard but the illustrations help)
    Geronimo Stilton – when he was 6, he turned into a voracious reader because of these books
    Wimpy Kid

    You may also want to check out illustrated harbound series on Panchtantra and Indian myths. As far as I recall, the language is simple and the illustrations are fun and help in deciphering the story. Om Bookshop has a lot of them at very reasonable prices.

    Will also suggest Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven, Magic Faraway Tree series, Wishing Chair, plus short stories collected by age – maybe the ones for 5 yr olds? Once she is more proficient, she ought to enjoy the Malory Towers and St. Claire series.

    Just back in India and exhausted but if you can give me a few days, I can compile a huge list at varying levels of proficiency. Some are must reads for all girls – fairy tales from a feminist perspective (princesses saving princes sorts), others are adventure stories with girls as protagonists rather than just decorative items…

    Please mail or leave a comment here if you’d like me to do that.

    And good job, IHM. 🙂


  30. How did I miss this post?

    Think she needs to be introduced slowly, from her level so that she doesn’t get frustrated. Would suggest books that are 70 – 100 pages, chapter books but shorter chapters. Mr. Majeika and his adventures as a teacher might interest her. Small Roald Dahl’s like The Enormous Crocodile, Fantastic Mr. Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine might be of interest.

    There are lovely fact based books – just bought the Kingfisher first encyclopedia for a little kid who now picks it up to just browse. Pictures, right level text, not too much text, et al. Love Tulika’s books – there’s a series on Boondi, Beeji, Gitti et al (http://www.tulikabooks.com/book_details.php?mid=2&c_id=1&s_id=24&b_id=321)

    A good library membership to expose her to books, for her to pick up as she’d like would be a good idea. Animal Ark books by Lucy Daniels are good – she might like the animal connection. Scholastic has nice small books on planets, solar system, et al that would be great starting points. There are also these lovely books by Marcia Williams – she writes graphic novels that are almost works of art on greek myths, indian folk tales, even Shakespeare – check them out, I guarantee you’ll like them too!

    What I found useful with my son was to find him books that addressed his interests. Karadi tales’ book Crickematics was a big hit, we played it in the car again and AGAIN! We’re lucky to have a lot of good quality Indian authors now who write stuff that might be much more relevant to a little Indian girl. The western world of literature is wonderful too and always there. To have stories and rhymes about mangos and saris is pretty magical! 😀

    Good luck – this is a fun adventure for you as much as for her!


  31. You could try Ruskin Bond too. I can’t remember the exact titles but some of his stories are for younger kids. You could also try reading the “Young World” supplement of The Hindu for stories that are written by younger children. Maybe she could try creating her own stories? Sort of the reverse of what you’re doing. It would give her a chance to express herself in a different way. And you can have lots of fun starting with basic ideas and expressing them in English or HIndi or both and building more as you go along.

    Also, how about Children’s encyclopedias or other such books? Not as a substitute to stories, of course, but as an add on. She might enjoy reading some articles in science books for younger kids. They’re typically targeted for a broad range of ages so the language is usually not too complex.

    If what you’re looking for is simple sentences and a limited vocabulary in stories not written for young children, why not try Chetan Bhagat? Heh Heh! Couldn’t resist. Sorry 🙂


  32. You mentioned she dint know both English and Hindi. I was just wondering, what was she speaking then??

    I loved the you are engaged with her and her learning process. 🙂

    Keep Smiling!


  33. Pingback: Brat Three learns to argue, insist and convince. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  34. This is the most beautiful post in your blog… It is so very happy to see how your little brat is learning so many things so quickly… I have heard a few elderly people say that children’s intellect is like cotton.. once it starts absorbing, it can understand and absorb everything.. only sky is the limit!
    I am so very happy for her, and for you. God bless the little one and the sweet family that she is now a part of. Kudos to the school that she is going to… I am pretty sure they have their share too in keeping her curiosity and interest anew.


  35. Pingback: Why this? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  36. Pingback: Brat Three loves Sher Khan and Sher Khan loves Brat Three. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

    • I agree but the stories for her reading level are sometimes too simple for her 😦 She enjoys stories with some suspense, and some unsolved problems, slow building up of the plot and she laughs aloud when there is a surprising and unexpected good – happy ending 🙂 I end up narrating such stories more than reading them together, but then the problem is she depends on me to hear them again – and sometime I have forgotten that the heroine had grown red poppies and not blue corn flowers to invite butterflies to her garden 😦 That spoils the fun, because the stories are then no more real 😦
      What I would love are stories at her comprehension level but simpler vocabulary and shorter sentences.


  37. Pingback: Brat Three – Questions about death. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  38. Pingback: This is what makes Brat Three happy :) | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  39. Hi IHM loved this blog, bring her various books from tulika publication, specially why why girl, Kabir, and so many other nice topics they have come up with. Here are some of my experience about learning with kid s, http://blog-e-zine.blogspot.in/2011/03/push-start-to-readwritespeak-in-new.html

    Also bring her pippi long stockings read… You all will love reading about her…


  40. Pingback: Brat Three loves to Paint. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  41. Step I Scholastic book , Bernstein bears etctec then go to step 2 Scholastic
    and then step 3

    ..AND then ..go to chapter books now …junie B jones faires series etctec

    Even before this board books ..she needs to first start loving books 🙂
    My kid who is spl needs is now an advanced reader 2 years ahead and this is what I did …hope it works for you too ..


  42. Pingback: Brat Three has a mind of her own :) | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  43. Pingback: What makes Brat Three happy – II | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s