Not so much a teacher since retiring, but I am quite aware of the power of shared observations as lessons. And this I know: A woman does not need a higher education degree (or even a high school diploma) to become somebody’s mother. No secret, ignorance has actually produced some pregnancies. In a doctor’s waiting area recently, I observed a four- or five-year-old boy alternately paw live potted greenery and crawl around under a row of occupied and empty rows of chairs. It became painfully obvious his mother had not brought along anything to keep him occupied and out of trouble. I eventually invited his attention.
“If you had brought a book today,” I said as much for his parent’s benefit as his, “we could be reading our stories together.” I flash my brightly illustrated paperback cover and the child reaches under the chair beside mine. He hauls out an abandoned popular women’s magazine. His mother grins vapidly. I reach over and flip to a Bradford Exchange ad which features an entire page of doggie charms for attaching to the featured bracelet. “Do you have a dog at home?” I ask. “Show me,” I say seconds before his mother lands a pointer finger on one and speaks before he can get the words out. “A black lab,” she says. I comment on that and the few various dog breeds I happen to know, soon exhausting that attraction. Then luck lands our page flip on a whole page of baked goodies. More questions.
“Do you like the cookies with yellow icing? Or red? Point to which one you like. All piled on top of each other, how many cookies are there? 1 . . .2 . . . 3 (pointing to the brightly colored photos). Ooooooooooh, this looks yummy. Do you like this one?”
“I love sprinkles,” he says just as a nurse with a folder tucked ‘neath one arm indicates it’s their turn. Mother and son follow her into the hallway. Step number two for today’s appointment.
Engulfed in quiet again, I feel for my bookmark to tell me where to resume reading my novel. Lesson over. Now with any luck or imagination, a clueless parent has filed for future visits (if only by osmosis) this lesson: Don’t expect a pre-schooler to behave in the same quiet manner as bored or half-sick adults. And NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT PAPER, CRAYONS, HAND SANITIZER, A SMALL HEALTHY SNACK, PATIENCE, AND AGE-APPROPRIATE READING. How hard is that?
An Early Reader: Pre-School to Grades 2-3