Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (June 23, 2016)
Summer is soon approaching and it’s a wonderful time for children to delve into some reading. Researchers from the University of Missouri performed a meta-analysis of 39 existing research studies that measured summer learning and school achievement. The study found that most students lost an average of one month of school learning over summer vacation. Some students, particularly those from disadvantaged households, lost up to three months of learning. Summer learning loss was greatest in math computation, reading, and spelling. So reading is a wonderful way to engage a child in continual learning over the long holiday break.
Reading is also a wonderful way to nurture parent-child bonding. With parents alongside their children, it can promote communication, spark conversations and give each other an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the other.
In the next 6 instalments of my column, I will share some of my favourite children’s books that can be read by children independently or with adults. They all bring out different life lessons and character values that are valuable for children at any age.
One of my favourite children’s books is Spoon by Amy Krouse-Rosenthal. This book personifies the spoon (and all other cutlery) and is beautifully illustrated.
Spoon is the child of the ‘Spoon Family’ and lives amidst his parents and relatives who are all kinds of spoons – soup spoons, ladles, tea spoons, table spoons, and the like. Spoon grows up being proud of the family he is in.
But as he meets his friends Knife, Fork and Chopsticks, he starts to feel inferior. He can’t cut like Knife and spread butter on toast like him. He can’t twirl spaghetti like Fork and doesn’t always have a companion like Chopsticks who always comes as a pair. He tries to be like his friends and tries doing the things they can do but to no avail.
What Spoon doesn’t know is that all the while, his friends are admiring him for the things that he can do, like scoop up soup, be able to measure things and dive into a bowl of ice cream.
What Spoon learns is that everyone is good at different things and has a different purpose. He learns to appreciate himself and his whole ‘spoon family’ as well as his friends and what they can do. He wasn’t made to be like Knife, Fork or Chopsticks – he was made to be Spoon.
I love this story because it teaches us all that we are unique individuals that are made with purpose. In the same way that Spoon cannot be like Fork, we should not try to be someone we’re not. Sometimes it’s easy for children, parents and teachers to expect children to be one way, especially in certain educational systems where it’s easier to ‘cookie cut’ students into a certain mould. But I think it’s so important to remember that everyone was made to be a unique individual with unique gifts, talents, abilities, strengths and weaknesses and those things should be celebrated, not compared with to others or suppressed.
This book also teaches us the lesson that although seemingly the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ and that things that others have may seem better than what we have, we should learn to be content with the things that we do have. Spoon wanted to be and have things that his friends did but he overlooked the fact that he had many strengths that he had too. If we’re always looking at what we don’t have or can’t do, we end up being complainers and being unhappy. But if we can see what we do have and learn to be content with that, we can be much happier people in the process.
So what unique qualities do you have and how can you be content today? Share those with your children and this story will come alive for them!