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.
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’.
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.
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.”
Since 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”.
Now 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?