A comment

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Yesterday night my seven-year-old daughter was reading us a book before going to sleep. In the book a boy, Anton, gets angry because other kids do not want to play with him.

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Anton says he will leave and never come back, because he will be dead. And then he pretends that he is dead.

At this point my four-year-old son asked, “Is he really dead?”

To which my daughter replied, “Or course not. Can’t you see? He is just a small boy. Children never die. To die you have to live long and grow old. To die you have to become an old man with a beard. Haven’t you seen how old people look? He does not look old. Look! You can’t die when you are that young.”

“Aga,” said my son. “Then he is not dead.”

“Of course not. He is just pretending, because this is the way he plays.”

I just listened and my daughter kept on reading. I thought that the way children see the world is very different from how we see it. May be we know more, but their view is truer to what is should be. I keep thinking about her words and wondering what future in her head looks like. I get to know it little by little through her comments and games. Interesting & inspiring!

DSC_3069DSC_3070DSC_3071DSC_3072DSC_3073and at the end…DSC_3076

 

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“What’s your favorite book?” I asked my kids (Part 2)

My son will turn four in February 2014, thus he is almost four now. To the amazement of our  frequent guests he loves to spend time with books. If the guest is willing to read to him, this will be a never ending story. He will accommodate himself on the guest’s knees and bring book after book to be read to him.

He also tells stories to us and our guests. Yesterday he told our friends who came for dinner “You know, I just ate a mouse!” And he went on enjoying the details of his imagination.

I asked him to give me some of his favorite books, and these are the ones he brought me.

(note:  because our family has moved three countries since he was born, he speaks good Russian, Spanish, Catalan, French and some English)

Favorite books of my almost four year old son:

1. Ecoute les bruits de la foret (Listen to the sounds of the forest)

Ecoute les bruits de la foret

 

2. Усатый-Полосатый Маршак (Children poems by Marshak)

Усатый полосатый

 

3. Chuggington magazine

Chuggington

 

4. La historia de El Cid Campeador adaptacion por Carmen Gil-Bonachera (The Story of the Cid adapted by Carmen Gil-Bonachera)

Cid el Campeador

 

5. Elmer by David McKee

Elmer

 

6. Let’s Go for a Drive by Mo Willems

Let's go for a drive

 

7. 10 Petit Penguins por Jean-Luc Fromental (10 Little Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental)

10 petits penguins

 

8. The Empty Pot by Demi

The empty pot

 

9. Tante Bruns Fodselsdag by Billedbok and Elsa Beskow (Aunt Brown’s Birthday by Billedbok and Elsa Beskow)

Tante Bruns

 

10. Bonne nuit, Petit Ours! by Didier Zanon (Good Night, Little Bear! by Didier Zanon)

Bonne nuit, Petit Ours!

 

11. Como mola tu escoba por Julia Donaldson (Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson)

Como mola tu escoba!

 

12. Palmier de Noel pour Audrey Poussier

Palmier de Noel

 

13. Le Plus Malin pour Mario Ramos

Le Plus Malin

 

14. Renato aide le Pere Noel pour Maud Legrand et Virginie Hanna

Renato aide le Pere Noel

 

15. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo

 

16. Лучшая книга для чтения от 1 до 3 (The best book for kids 1 to 3 in Russian)

Лучшая книга для чтения

 

17. 1001 cosas que buscar en el pasado (1001 things to spot long ago)

1001 cosas que buscar en el pasado

 

18. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

The Tiger who came to tea

 

19. Приключения Незнайки и его друзей Николай Носов

Приключения Незнайки

 

20. Sant Jordi i el drac por Anna Canyelles i Roser Calafell (Sant Jordi and the dragon by Anna Canyelles and Roser Calafell)

Sant Jordi i el drac

“What’s your favorite book?” I asked my kids (Part 1)

Every year I ask my kids what are their favorite books. I want to document their likes, because a lot of times I am curious to know what were my favorite books when I was their age. And I wish somebody would have done the list of what books I read the most when I was three, four, five, etc.

Last time I asked my daughter about her favorite books when she was five. Right now she is six and a half and the 2013 is almost over. I asked her and my son this morning to select about a dozen of their most favorite books. I will publish both lists.

Part 1Favorite books of my six and a half year old daughter
(note: she was born in California, USA, currently living in Barcelona, Spain and going to a French school. Her main languages are Russian, Spanish, Catalan and French, and some English)

1. El Mago de Oz por L. Frank Baum (The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum)

El Mago de Oz

2. Jean de la Lune pour Tomi Ungerer (Moon Man by Tomi Ungerer)

Jean de la Lune

3. Les Trois Brigands pour Tomi Ungerer (The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer)

Les Trois Brigands

4. Georges le Dragon pour Geoffroy de Pennart (Georges the Dragon by Geoffroy de Pennart)

Georges le dragon

5. La historia de los Reyes Magos (The story of the three wise men)

Los Reyes Magos

6. Чудо Чудное Русские Сказки (Russian Fairy Tales)

Чудо Чудное Русские Сказки

7. Planeta Tierra (Planet Earth)

Planeta Tierra

8. Маленький Принц Антуан де Сент-Экзюпери (The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

Маленький Принц

9. El Sistema Solar por Rosalind Mist (The Solar System by Rosalind Mist)

El sistema solar

10. Busca los Caballos (Find the Horses)

Busca los caballos

11. No Es Una Caja por Antoinette Portis (Not a Box by Antoinette Portis)

No es una caja

12. The Wonderful World of Knowledge, Transport

The wonderful world of knowledge. Transport.

13. Ponis por Laura Marsh (Ponies by Laura Marsh)

Ponis

14. Les plus beaux chevaux (The most beautiful horses)

Les plus beaux chevaux

15. L’imagerie du poney et du cheval (The visual dictionary of ponies and horses)

L'imagerie du poney et du cheval

16. Diccionario por imágenes del bosque (The visual dictionary of forest images)

Diccionario por imágenes del bosque

Sant Jordi, Barcelona

Plaza Bonanova on Sant Jordi

Yesterday was a very beautiful holiday here in Barcelona: Sant Jordi. It goes back to the legend of the cavalier Jordi that slaughtered a dragon to save a princess. From the dragon’s blood red roses grew and Jordi gave one to the princess. Since then on the April 23rd all men give roses to women. And women give men a book, to never forget the history and the legend.

Since I was a teen I found this holiday wonderful. The city is full of flowers and bookstands, everybody is cheerful, you give and receive roses. Somehow people are very happy. It is spring and there is no better way to feel it than seeing so many smiles and flowers around.

Downtown Barcelona is decorated and beautiful on that day. We did not have a chance to go to the downtown this year. We were busy with the kids, taking them to their Sant Jordi activities. However, we were glad to see that our part of Barcelona was beautiful and full of flowers too. Kids were dressed as princesses and cavaliers on that day, there were theater plays in their respective schools. My son’s daycare held hot chocolate and coca (Catalonia cake with sugar and pine nuts) for the kids and their families. And at our daughter’s art school they had an open-door day, inviting all the families to participate in making roses and decorating the walls with paintings. Here are some pictures from yesterday. It is Sarria / Sant Gervasi area of Barcelona.

Corner of Muntaner and Reus on Sant JordiCorner of Muntaner and Reus streets in Barcelona on the April 23rd

carrer MuntanerMuntaner street close to the plaza Bonanova

Traditional roses sold on Sant JordiSant Jordi red roses

the church on Plaza BonanovaThe church on plaza Bonanova

Pan de la diada, Sant JordiPan de la diada. Catalonian bread for Sant Jordi Holiday. It is made of cheddar and morcilla (blood sausage).

book stands on plaza BonanovaBook stands on the plaza Bonanova

plaza Bonanova and Muntaner streetPlaza Bonanova and Muntaner Street on Sant Jordi

Red roses done by the kids of the Sienna art schoolRed roses from paper and cloth done by the kids at the Siena Art School on Sant Jordi day

Sant Jordi mural in Sienna Art schoolSant Jordi mural done by the kids at the Siena Art School on Sant Jordi

Red roses painted on the wall at Sienna art schoolThe last roses of the day were the ones painted by the kids on the walls of the Siena Art School.

This was one beautiful day of spring! And the festivities are going on for the rest of the week. It feels like every day is a holiday in Barcelona.

Hospital Waiting-Room Thoughts

Terre des hommes Exupery

This is one of my favorite books and its last pages had always impacted me greatly. Below I will post the English version of it. I know these lines by heart, however every time I read them, they are painful, as if I have stumbled upon them for the first time in my life. I am not suffering over them. I fall silent. If you read the last line with your heart you will feel that silence too.

This morning I was sitting at the hospital waiting-room. There were lots of kids with their parents. Nicely dressed and healthy looking kids. I was observing them, as they cuddled with their parents, as they watched cartoons, as they colored hospital coloring books. And I have faith that those kids will be taken care of. Maybe not all of them, but at least some, will read great books, will play creative games, will walk outside and observe people and life, will challenge themselves in the world outside of their house. They will think their own thoughts, speak their own words, create their own paths, they will help and inspire others. And there, in the hospital waiting-room, I thought that this was a pretty good progress that we as a society made in the past 50 years.

The thing that still worries me is the prevalence of the computer games over the on-the-street games, as well as the virtual world increasing dominance. I have nothing against the internet world. I think that the connectivity it offers us is amazing. It opens our generation the possibility to be in touch with others, to learn, to grow, to be independent and create our own value. It is great, as long as it remains the channel, not the final destination.
By that time it was my turn and I left the waiting-room and walked through the white door labeled as “Access A”.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Here is the English version of the yellow boxed text from the image:

“I sat down face to face with one couple. Between the man and the woman a child had hollowed himself out a place and fallen asleep. He turned in his slumber, and in the dim lamplight I saw his face. What an adorable face! A golden fruit had been born of these two peasants. Forth from this sluggish scum had sprung this miracle of delight and grace. I bent over the smooth brow, over those mildly pouting lips, and I said to myself: This is a musician’s face. This is the child Mozart. This is a life full of beautiful promise. Little princes in legends are not different from this. Protected, sheltered, cultivated, what could not this child become? When by mutation a new rose is born in a garden, all the gardeners rejoice. They isolate the rose, tend it, foster it. But there is no gardener for men. This little Mozart will be shaped like the rest by the common stamping machine. This little Mozart will love shoddy music in the stench of night dives. This little Mozart is condemned.
I went back to my sleeping car. I said to myself: Their fate causes these people no suffering. It is not an impulse to charity that has upset me like this. I am not weeping over an eternally open wound. Those who carry the wound do not feel it. It is the human race and not the individual that is wounded here, is outraged here. I do not believe in pity. What torments me tonight is the gardener’s point of view. What torments me is not this poverty to which after all a man can accustom himself as easily as to sloth. Generations of Orientals live in filth and love it. What torments me is not the humps nor hollows nor the ugliness. It is the sight, a little bit in all these men, of Mozart murdered.

Only the Spirit, if it breathe upon the clay, can create Man.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Wind, Sand and Stars

I Didn’t Teach My Daughter To Read

First sentences Lorena read

At 4:30pm my son and me picked up Lorena from school. Well, it is a kindergarten actually, she is only five. All three of us went to a cafe for coffee and sandwiches. We usually do this twice a week when Lorena has her ballet classes in the evenings. We are sitting at the cafe and talking about her day, when she looks at my jacket laying on the chair next to her and clearly reads “Zara”. “How do you know it is from Zara?” I asked her. “I read it,” she replied. She continued, it says here, “Zara Basic”.

Being half shocked, half incredulous that she can read, I took the notebook where she was drawing and wrote her a word in Russian Миша. “Can you read it?” I asked her. She read it fine. Then I wrote a word in Spanish Bolso (bag). She read it too. I did not select different languages on purpose. I was completely under shock. The reason I was under shock, is because I never taught her how to read. Nobody did. I had a lot of pressure from my side of the family on that issue. According to my parents I was taught how to read by the age of four. And by the time I was five I was reading one hour per day by myself. Thus, everybody believed that I should dedicate time to show my five-and-a-half-year-old daughter how to read. I resisted it mainly for two reasons, first, because I tried, and both of us found it extremely boring. Lorena and I prefer to read story books, adventure books and classical poetry and literature, rather then A B C books, textbooks or reading-initiation books. The second reason was, because I did not want to push her into reading before she actively asks me for it. I was waiting for the day when she would come to me and say, “Mom, show me how to read.” However, even with those two good reasons I always felt guilty. I felt guilty that I did not teach my daughter how to read. Sometimes I would view my reasons as excuses, and then I would do some attempts to show her that skill. Failed. Failed. Failed.

So, there we were sitting at the cafe today. I decided to try it with the sentences. I still could not believe she actually can read. I wrote the first sentence that came to my mind Yo tengo un perro (I have a dog). And she read it. Good. The next sentence I wrote in English I have a cat. She read it too. With a perfect US pronunciation. Then, I wrote in Russian Я люблю балет (I love ballet). By now I was curious. Well, she read it too. I wrote another sentence in Spanish Yo tengo un hermano (I have a brother). With the same result. In my last attempt to show myself that I am dreaming, I wrote a sentence in French. Among the languages she speaks French is the one she is less fluent in. She only started speaking it last year. And I wrote, Je alle a l’ecole. Well… I guess I should say Voila, she read it too, with the correct French pronunciation.

While Lorena was in her ballet class I could not stop thinking about her reading. How did she learn? How come she can read in four languages when nobody showed her how? I asked her at the cafe if at the kindergarten they were taught how to read or if her grandma showed her how. She replied negatively. She told me they learnt all the letters at her school, but that they do not read words there. They do write simple words though, from what I know.

At the dinner I asked her how she learnt to read. “I thought,” she said. Her reply really caught my interest. “Though about what?” I asked. “Well, I thought that my name Lorena is not just a one letter, it has six letters L, O, R, E, N, and A. Then I looked at the Miro’s name, see, it has four letters M, I, R and O. It is not just one letter. So, each word has different letters, if you break the word down you get separate letters, if you sum up letters you get words. It is simple.” Now she totally got me. I would have never thought of such an explanation, sounds too simplistic. But sometimes child’s mind works differently from ours. I think that all the textbooks were written by the grownups, this is why it is so difficult for kids to learn how to read using those books, apart from the fact that those books at not exciting to read. Mine is just a one person’s opinion, but I think that in order to teach the child to read we need to read them exciting books. Read them often. Every day. Books that have love, passion, fear, emotions, laughs, tears, heros and villains, cavaliers and gentle ladies, princesses and dragoons. If the kids are interested in the magical world that the books can open for them, they will figure out their own ways to learn how to read. It sounds really simple, but I think this is all there is.

At night Lorena read a full ten-page book by herself. It was one long sentence on each page. And she did not finish the book. She left it on the page nine. I did not mind it at all. It was not about finishing the book. It was about the fact that she greatly enjoyed reading the first nine pages. Then she got tired and went to sleep. The book she selected was in Spanish. She told me it was the easiest language to read.

Barcelona, March 12th 2013