Monday, April 15, 2013

Reading Corner: The War of the Wooden Soldiers

I bought a 1933 edition of a book called The War of the Wooden Soldiers on eBay. It caught my eye because Baby is obsessed with soldiers and knights and pirates. It is difficult to interest him in books; the same books about animals that interested Son and Daughter don't really light the fire for Baby. Part of me felt guilty; perhaps it's because I don't get to read to him as often as I read to the others. Perhaps it's because when I do read, I read something at the level and interest of the older children. I realized it was just a matter of interest when, one night, I grabbed a book on ancient castles (for a much older audience of 8-11) and Baby sat riveted through the entire time I sat reading excerpts from the book. I hoped that Baby would enjoy this eBay find, and boy, was I right! I had to read the book twice in a row, then the kids took it upstairs and Manya read it one more time before bed. I love how the books of that time we written at two different levels. More wordy for the advanced reader on one side, and a short sentence with a nice illustration on the other for the beginning or non-reader.
Note: this was written back in April, and the book is just as popular now as it was then.

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Favorite Mispronunciations

There are always those favorite "baby words" our kids say, and although I try to model correct pronunciations of words as my kids are learning to talk, there are a few things that I don't correct because I just love them and I want to prolong the mistake as long as possible.

I *love* how Daughter says липчик instead of лифчик....I guess that would be something like "pra" instead of "bra."  Just the other day, I was driving Daughter and her friend, and somehow the conversation went to липчики (bras) and her friend asked her what that was. It was hilarious to listen to the random words floating up to me from the back row: ты знаеш....твои груди...майка.... (you know...your breasts...shirt) so funny. I also loved her Russian accent when she was starting to learn English.

I love how Baby says his name: АлЁса instead of Алёшa. It melts my heart every time. I love how he says Ипа instead of Кипа, and how his little tongue sticks out as he "ths" words.

World Down Syndrome Day (a few weeks late)

We celebrated World Down Syndrome Day at school on 3/21.The day was established in 2012 by the UN; last year we marked it with Kypa's photography being in a photo exhibit in New York City. This year, I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate this day at school with all of Kypa's friends. After talking to Kypa's teacher and asking if I could bring in a snack that day, the idea blew up into a grand event thanks to the typical behavior of Kypa's teacher going above and beyond expectations. He coordinated a $2 dress down day for the staff in order to raise funds for the Down Syndrome Advocacy Foundation, the whole school was encouraged to wear blue and yellow (the DS awareness colors), and the K-Kids (Kiwanis Club Kids) made posters to hang around the school to raise awareness.

I brought in awareness stickers for the whole school and my good friend (whose son has been in class with Kypa for two years) and I baked cupcakes decorated with yellow and blue frosting for the entire first grade to have as a snack during lunch as a way to make the day memorable for Kypa's classmates. I was also invited to participate in a "secret reader" type activity in the classroom to read a book and answer any questions the kids had. I was a bit nervous about the questions part, and I failed miserably at encouraging any questions because I was worried that I might get too choked up or something.

I picked a book called Common Threads: Celebrating Life with Down Syndrome. It's a compilation of pictures, stories and quotes about and by people with Down syndrome. Here's a picture of the cover and it can be purchased here:

I specifically chose stories that I felt would move the class. I chose the story about a "special tomato" (in a nutshell that tomatoes that look different still taste the same) that was contributed by a girl with Down syndrome and hilariously, when Ms. Miller (Kypa's regular ed teacher) said that we're all special tomatoes in our own way, one of the boys kept insisting that he was not a tomato. Five minutes later, as part of a different conversation, he broke in with - But I'm still not a special tomato.

I also chose pictures that portrayed friendship - specifically between typically developing children and a child with Down syndrome. What struck me the most was that Kypa's classmates were completely unimpressed! AS I showed thses pictures to his class, and as Ms. Miller asked the kids to share things they think are special about Kypa, they participated, but with an overwhelming vibe of - so what? One of Kypa's friends put it best - "You know, even if you have Down syndrome, you can still have a ton of friends." Another said - "You can still have fun if you have Down syndrome." For them, it was like, what's so special about Kypa and why do we have to give him all this attention? I got the feeling that all the kids were thinking - Kypa's Kypa, we love him, and there's nothing special about that.

They don't realize (and I wasn't about to break it to them) that their relationship is so special, and we adults apply our limitations and perceptions on our children, and are amazed when our children have flown way beyond them without us even knowing.  We were raised and formed by different stereotypes and beliefs, and we are amazed by the bonds we see being cultivated. They don't care though;  I left that classroom so uplifted, and I didn't tell the class that there are people who don't feel like them. There may come a day when they may need to make a choice; will they defend Kypa in middle school? Will they continue to see him as the friend he is now? I don't know, but I do know that we need to learn from them- our children - and strive for a time when the whole world feels like Kypa's classmates: that we all have our challenges, and Kypa is just another kid that happens to have challenges; until there's a time when we won't have to have an awareness day.