Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Storytime Bag

I've found that trying to haul two kids, an already full and heavy diaper bag, and a stack of books out of the library is not a pleasant experience. Our library is thoughtful enough to have little bins of grocery bags for people to use. It took me a few visits to realize this though. They keep them by the main checkout kiosks, but if you use the side kiosk (which I usually do) you wouldn't know the helpful bags were there.

Either way, I figured having a cute library bag is always more fun than having a crinkled up Wal Mart bag. For sometime I have been working on these cute little squares which I hope to eventually manage to crochet together in a bag-like shape (we'll see how well that goes when the time comes).


 In the meantime, I've designated this Noodles & Co bag as my official library bag.

As you can see, right now it is very full. Today was like one of those golden days at the library, where just the right books seem to jump off the shelf. Of course the bag is mostly full of children's books. The kids love picking out their own books.

This week in the bag:

Baby Animals in the Wild

Biscuit's Walk in the Woods, a touch-and-feel type book in the popular Biscuit series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli.

Ten Tiny Tickles by Karen Katz

Do Princesses have Best Friends Forever? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, an artistic looking book. At first glance it reminds me a lot of an Eric Carle book.

Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo, recommended by the library as a cute book to teach kids about finding animals in the wild. This is the story of Melvin the turtle and the boy who tries to keep him as a pet.

Fox and Hen Together by Beatrice Rodriguez, a wordless book. I look forward to making up the story with Simeon.

One of our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde, the 6th (and most recent) book in the Thursday Next series. I am a huge Jasper Fforde fanatic and particularly love the Thursday Next books.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones. The Diana Wynne Jones section of the library was a random find for me. This is apparently the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle (yes Miyazaki's movie was based on Jones' book).
EDIT: House of Many Ways is the third book in the Howl's Moving Castle Series. I guess I'll have to return it and get the second book : /

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nurtured by Love

Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki, is not what I expected at all.

I was pretty dubious once Suzuki started talking about the wolf children. At this point I was already finding myself on the fence about the theory behind Suzuki's world renowned teaching method. On the one hand, I believe that a person can acquire just about any new skill with diligence, practice, and focus. On the other hand, I believe each of us has certain strengths and weaknesses. Some people are more prone to learning quickly. Some people have a greater inclination for music than others. Some people are better with words and some with pictures. Is this merely a result of our earliest exposures to these things. Is it all a part of our upbringing, but we lack the ability to identify it since were were too young to remember these early experiences?

I found it thought provoking to read these early chapters and reflect on my own beliefs about the nature of personality and the origin of "talent."

Still, when I started reading about the wolf children, I almost gave up and moved on to the next book. At this point, I found myself and my expectations to be disappointed by Suzuki's book. I had expected much more of the details surrounding his Talent Education teaching method -- more of the process, and philosophy and less nonsense about wolf children and repetitions of the same idea over and over. I expected more talk of nurturing and love and less talk about the origin of talent, nightingales, and wolf children.

But I plodded on. I read through the worst of the nonsense. I read through Suzuki's stories of little Koji Toyoda and his growth to adulthood as an exceptional musician. Finally, around page 41, I saw the book begin to change. Suzuki begins to talk much less about his ideas and his pupils, and much more about himself. He tells stories of his life after WW1 and WW2. He tells us about his childhood and the lessons he learned from his father. He talks about his influences: literary, musical, and social. We get to see the development of the man who would develop the Talent Education program, and it is in his development that we see the nurturing principles and the love that makes his education program possible and beneficial.

Shinichi Suzuki was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life. It's true that I probably only agree with about half of what he writes in his book, but it is undeniable that Suzuki had a deep love for mankind and a deep desire to improve the world he saw around him. Professor Clifford Cook, responsible for bringing the Talent Education Method to America, said of Suzuki, "What Suzuki has done for young children earns him a place among the benefactors of mankind." Suzuki saw and lived through some terrible times in his life (both World Wars) but it is the extraordinary things that he chose to let define him. It is the wonderful aspects of life that he sought to pass on to the children he taught.

"If nations cooperate in raising good children," he said, "perhaps there won't be any war."

"I sincerely hope that readers of this book will realize from all I have said that there is no need for any of us to despair. We were all born with a high potential, and if we try hard we can all become superior human beings and acquire talent and ability.

"If you have really understood my message, you will not put it off until tomorrow, but will put it into action right now, today. And your life will become happier as a result. That this may become true for everyone is my heartfelt dream."

I recommend this book to anyone seeking to use the Talent Education method either in teaching or learning. I feel like my understanding of the principles behind the method helps me better understand the method itself and how to better utilize it in my practices. I would also recommend this book to anyone in a position to educate children: parents, caregivers, teachers. Suzuki hoped to one day see his method adopted as a method for educating children in all subjects, not just music. There are definitely clear advantages to using some of Suzuki's philosophies and methods in teaching children. I was particularly attracted to his method of helping children to think of their education as fun and interesting. I was also touched by Suzuki's great love and patience for children. If we all sought for that kind of love and patience, how much better educators would be be?

 "People today are like gardeners," Suzuki says. Shinichi Suzuki was, above all else, a nurturer. A teacher once told me: If you want to develop a particular attribute, chose someone from history with that attribute, and then read everything you can about that person. Read about their lives, their experiences, their successes and failures, and see how they applied that attribute to their lives. As we study the lives of men like Suzuki, we can learn from their stories and examples and strive to develop greater love and patience within ourselves.

Suzuki, Shinichi. Nurtured by Love. New York: Exposition Press, 1969. Print.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Musical Improvisation for Children

I found this great book after several hours of online scavenging for a good piano introduction program for preschool age children.

Musical Improvisation for Children is an amazing book that is really suitable for any age. This book is part of the Creative Ability Development (CAD) series. The philosophy behind CAD is that each person is an artist. We all have creative potential, and the purpose of this series isn't to teach technique or learn theory, but is to help children learn to express their creativity in music. The accompanying CD is filled with beautiful and fun music capable of making anyone feel just a little bit more free to express themselves.

I chose this book because I have a son who is significantly delayed in speech and language. Communication, we believe, is the real root of the majority of his frustrations, and therefore, his misbehavior. He also seems to have a real attachment to music. He is always humming or singing to himself. He has a surprising ability to learn the words to songs for someone who has so much trouble with words in general.

CAD and the Musical Improvisation for Children, focus on music and creativity as a form of communication. The book emphasizes three basic rules.
  1. There are no mistakes
  2. You must listen (with full attention) while your child plays and then applaud when they are done.
  3. No criticism.
As I read through the few pages of instruction for parents I was excited to provide my son with a means of expression and communication outside the bounds of his innate limits. I hope the program will help him gain confidence in himself and in his ability to communicate. Most of all I look forward to the opportunities it will give me as a parent to encourage my child and spend time with him doing something we both enjoy.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to add a little creativity or artistry to their own life or their child's. The book actually recommends that parents complete the program with their child. I think this is a great tool for young children but could also be beneficial for any age. If anything else, the music is beautiful and enjoyable just to listen to. Perfect music to play to, write to, paint to, or dance to.