Reading To Gar At Night

I had been the lazy mum when it came to Gar, so starting from July, I decided to make a more conscious effort to read to him. Now that he is able to say a few more words, I feel that he is more interested in books now.

We borrow a lot of books from the nearby library, and he enjoys reading them. Sometimes he chooses the books himself.

reading at the library

I had read Pipi Gou (Dog) to Gar recently. I love these books as the dog is 2 years old too, and is facing similar issues, such as toilet training, riding a bike, fear of strangers, eating and so on. They were useful to El when he was younger. I managed to buy them at $1 per book at the bus interchange from a vendor from China. Unfortunately, I have not seen him in years.

Other new books that I had bought are bilingual books with cartoon characters, such as Plane and Monster Inc. I read the Mandarin version to him, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

A book I had just read to him today was a non-fiction book on Sabre-Tooth Tigers, although the title was Sabre-Tooth Cat. He enjoyed it very much and asked me to read it twice. He even pointed to his tiger costume in the cupboard.

gar tiger

He enjoys reading Eric Carle. I had met a book vendor when I was pregnant with El, and he introduced many good children’s books to me.

reading with gar

Sometimes, after reading the books, I will play with foam letters. Gar is able to recognise most of the letters, and he knows the phonic sounds too as I use zoophonics to teach him. The foam letters are more tactile, so I do word blend with him. He will try to match the sounds to the zoophonics alphabet chart when I pass him the letters. I have been trying to spell his name, and hope he can recognise his own name.

Now that he is slightly more verbal, I am getting him to repeat the words after me as I read the book to him. He is doing a good job so far.

I must also thank my helper who reads to him frequently.

Educational Toys and Books from Flea Market

A flea market was held recently at my estate. The residents set up stalls and sold their old stuff. Some had spent too much on online clothing sites, and are clearing their never-been-worn dresses at ridiculous prices, while others sold their children’s old stuff. I picked up quite a number of children’s educational items.

flea market educational toys and books

flea market educational toys and books

I picked up What Comes Next?, a series of pictures showing actions. This is good for young children to learn about sequence, and cause and effect. El opened it up and started arranging them in sequence. Then, I asked him to tell me verbally what took place. In a sequence example, it is about mailing a letter. First, the girl writes a letter. Then she puts it into an envelope. Finally, she mails the letter. If you want, you can also use it to teach imperatives. Write a letter. Put it into an envelope. Put it into the mailbox. It was funny because I had recently asked my Secondary One (seventh grade) students to write out these steps using imperatives. Of course, they had to be more detailed than what you would expect from a young child, although if you could demonstrate how to do so, your child should not have any problem. Other picture sets on cause and effect included planting a seed, watering it, and seeing it grow and bloom. I also got him to describe the other items seen in the picture. The good thing about these cards is that you can practise in any language. Apart from English, I used Mandarin too.

The other educational cards that I had were Fun with Opposites with Baby Looney Tunes pictures. They were jigsaw like in appearance, with two cards interlocking each other. Some of them included ‘Near/Far’, and ‘Hot/Cold’. For those who are able to read, it should be quite easy. For those who are not reading well yet, the pictures could help them to understand the different concepts. They could also use colours to match the pictures.

My next-door-neighbours set up a stall too. Their daughter is in her teens and she was selling a lot of her old stuff. I got a jumble jigsaw puzzle on numbers. El likes jigsaw puzzles at the moment, and this one is simple as the numbers are in progression. I hope this will teach him to arrange jigsaw puzzles according to the straight lines first.

My neighbours are French-speaking, but they have a German picture book on colours, Hanni Hase entdeckt Farben by Patrick Yee. Long time ago, a child psychologist told me to let El learn more things so that he is more meaningfully engaged in activities. One suggestion was to get him to learn a third language. The good thing about German is that its phonics is quite similar to English, except they are even more regular! You do not get a huge range of different sounds for the same vowels. There is a short sentence on an activity, and the colour is written at the side. I was totally amazed when he read ‘blau’, ‘rot’, ‘gelb’ and ‘rosa’ correctly, and required slight prompting with ‘grün’, ‘orange’ and ‘schwarz’. He had trouble with the umlaut. I tested him a few times and he got them correct on different occasions. I gave him a prompt on pink by saying the word look like a type of beautiful flower. I wish I had more German materials though. I think I have more French-speaking neighbours in my estate than German-speaking ones. Now that he is finally speaking more Mandarin, and singing Mandarin songs, I think I can expand on this. Perhaps I should start singing German nursery rhymes to Gar again. I need to do much more than just baby talk.

It was really funny, because after that German session, El came up with his own bilingual dictionary of ABC animals and other words from A to Z. Most of them are nonsense words, but it was very funny. Unfortunately, that piece of paper is missing. I wish I could have captured the words.

I bought a lot of other Chinese story books, and they were dirt cheap. I haven’t got to reading any of them with El. The only thing I got for Gar was pickup wooden pieces, but I realised that there were no matching pictures below, so the only hint was the shape. I have a few of such toys, but I have no idea where they are at the moment.


Mao, Meow and Cat

Despite being an English teacher, I speak Mandarin to my children. I want them to grow up in a bilingual environment, and if possible, multilingual. Even though I am clearly more at ease speaking English, I am better at Mandarin than my husband, so I am the one who speaks that to my children.

El is more fluent in English, but I still soldier on. Thank goodness my colleague who sits beside me is from China, so we speak to each other in Mandarin, and I slowly become more comfortable. Anyway, more people think I am a Chinese language teacher instead of an English teacher. Yes, and that includes my husband when he saw me for the first time.

El is quite advanced in reading English. His pediatrician said that he has asynchronous development, as he started spelling words instead of saying them. He was saying ‘b-u-s’ and ‘c-a-t’ before he could say the actual words. So I guess I can forget about spelling words to my husband if we want to speak secretly.

One day, my mother-in-law told me he was reading his Chinese notes on the rhymes for Term 3. I was very shocked as he had showed no interest in the Chinese flash cards I had shown him. How did he manage to learn the Chinese characters? Perhaps he might have memorised the poems.

However, I discovered that he was actually reading the hanyu pinyin. I was flipping through a book in Chinese language about animals. He was reading the names of these animals in Mandarin aloud. I thought he had learnt all the animals, but I finally realised that he was reading the hanyu pinyin aloud when he mispronounced ‘goose’ as ‘e’. The ‘e’ sound in Chinese was closer to ‘er’ sound.

I got him a book on hanyu pinyin, and went through bopomofo with him. It was the Chinese hanyu pinyin alphabet. One day later, he read the whole list to me with almost accurate sounds.

Just recently, he came home with an Elmo book he got in a goodie bag from one of his classmates celebrating his birthday. I saw he had written some random letters beside some animals, and asked him what he was writing. Earlier he had written the word ‘banana’ beside a drawing of a banana.

What on earth was he writing, I thought.

“‘Mao’,” he said in a matter of fact tone.

Mao for Cat in hanyu pinyin

Mao for Cat in hanyu pinyin

I suddenly realised that he had written down the hanyu pinyin of the animals. Some appeared weird because he had spelt them wrongly, such as ‘na’ instead of ‘niao’ for bird.

I corrected him and he made the changes swiftly.

I have no idea why he decided to write the hanyu pinyin. It just seemed so natural.

Once we were done with that page, he asked me to draw a bird on the corresponding page.

It was only just recently that he had been calling the cat ‘Xiao Hua Meow’ instead of ‘Mao’.

This boy never ceases to amaze me.

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