Room by Emma Donoghue

I have been looking forward to reading this book for some time and had kept it aside to read in one sitting.  I was not disappointed.

The story is told from the perspective of a 5 year old boy who has been locked in a room with his mother from birth and is unaware that there is an outside world.  Sounds depressing ?  Oddly it isn’t. The child’s voice makes the whole experience both fascinating and endearing.  Inanimate objects are his friends,  hence he refers to ‘rug’,’wardrobe’ and ‘bed’ and anything that he sees on the television is seen to live only in the t.v.  As the story unfolds his mother explains to him about the outside world and we live through his bewilderment and  attachment to both his mother and the place he knows as home.

The Middle section of the book is  gripping  and fast paced , real edge of your seat stuff.

The final 2 sections describe beautifully the child’s uncertainty in a big new world and his observations of the futility  of modern consumerism .   It made me consider what is really important to children..  They don’t need ‘things’ or to be taken to lots of places what ultimately matters is security , love , and routine.

It is a wonderful thought provoking read and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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‘Can I sing on the microphone?’ Recording children’s voices.

Since investing in a Samson C01U Studio Condenser USB microphone, this has been a regular request from my 2 year old.  It was originally intended as a means of recording music and voice for rehearsal purposes, for listing on audioboo or creating cd resources.  However, once my 2 year old had tried it out , she was addicted.  She sings into the microphone and then sits down to listen to it back.  This got me thinking about how it would be an extremelly useful resource for schools and nurseries for both music and literacy.  Older children could be encouraged to record and edit their performances (we use audacity for this) and would be especially useful in the teaching of dynamics.

I recently attended  a talk about Vivian Paley’s ideas for creating story circles.  In these young children tell their stories to a teacher  and then the group come together to act them out with the author taking the main part in the story.  There was some discussion as to how time consuming it was to record the stories in written form .  If the stories were recorded into a computer and converted to mp3 format this would enable the stories to be recorded quickly and easily and if my 2 year old is typical , I would also imagine that most children would be eager to have a turn.  It would also help to build reluctant writers storytelling skills without the anxiety of having to write it down.  Since children’s ability to tell a story verbally is a pre-requisite to story writing then this would be a wonderful tool for children in their first years of school.
http://audioboo.fm/rightfromthestart

Dear Mother Goose

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My 2-year-old has discovered a new favourite book – ‘Dear Mother Goose’ by Michael Rosen and Nick Sharratt.

This has a new and interesting way of introducing traditional nursery rhymes.  A variety of nursery rhyme characters write to mother goose to see if she can help with problems that happen to them every day.  Little Miss Muffet for example asks how she can stop a spider appearing when she eats her curds and whey.  Each letter has a flap with the appropriate nursery rhyme on the reverse and a picture flap page opposite  illustrated with the problem and solution.

Within a few weeks my 2-year-old has learned all the nursery rhymes and has even taken to singing and recording them into a microphone (but that’s another story).

The book is a decent size so would be good for group reading in a nursery or pre-school.

Sir Ken Robinson animation

 

I first came across Sir Ken Robinson when a colleague used his TED talk to illustrate the importance of creativity and critical thinking in the Early Years Foundation Stage.  This animation brilliantly outlines his arguments for a new type of schooling that moves away from academic achievement and looks towards those skills that will be most useful in the 21st century.

www.sirkenrobinson.com

Educational Toys and Books

I have fond memories of my young childhood, in particular of spending time playing and reading with my mum.    One of our favourite shared activities was spending hours with a set of ‘three four five basic learning books’.  These were song and rhyme books with accompanying records (we called them paper records because they were thin and floppy).  We used to play the records, read the books and sing along, play the games or learn the actions together.

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The books were designed to encourage learning through play at home and each book has a forward that outlines how to use the songs and rhymes and the benefits that doing so will bring.  The forwards discuss the importance of rhyme and song are in preparing children to learn to read .The text is uncluttered ,each book containing around 10 songs, 1 on each page and the illustrations are simple but eye-catching. The impression  created by the author Iris Grender, a mother and nursery teacher, is that the main focus of the books is to promote the foundations of literacy through play and not to make bold claims about promoting intelligence.

This is a far cry from so called educational toys today, most of which are electronic , expensive and limited in what they do.  The key difference however is that toys, books and cd’s today do not encourage interaction between parent and child but are perceived as a magic formula to make a child intelligent.  In my experience children quickly tire of such things once they have mastered what they can do and move on to the next thing.

My children (aged 6 and 2) now have the above set of books and love them.  I can still remember the tunes to the songs even without the records (as we no longer have anything to play them on).  As always it is the inexpensive simple things that stand the test of time. 

Play, Early Education and more…

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