From Life to Books and Back

April 15, 2015

Yesterday, Robert and I read A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting.  Although I looked for inspiration in The Magic of Stories I quickly realized, that my approach to reading this book with Robert has to be different than it was the case with The Great Kapok Tree.

While reading and discussing the last book I could rely on what Robert was already exposed to (Well, I am not really sure what he learned, only what I tried to teach him.) and on three additional books with many pictures and not too many words. Moreover, I could remind Robert our visits few years before to Rain Forest section of the Cleveland Zoo and the last year visit to see orchids exhibition in the rain forest section of Bronx Biological Garden.  To set the stage for reading I had to just bring these elements together, so we could bring Robert’s life experiences to the text.

From the book however we came out ( I believe) with better understanding of creatures living in a jungle, their complexity of their needs and the richness of resources that the rain forest provides to its inhabitants.

This was not the case with A Day’s Work. I didn’t have any information of Robert’s knowledge of issues related to immigrants coming to United States in need of work.  Maybe somehow he heard his teachers talking about immigrants coming for work, gathering at corners of busy street hoping to be hired for a day work.  Maybe, he learned even more.  However, I never became aware of such a lesson Robert might have taken in the past.

Since I didn’t know what Robert knew, I couldn’t set the stage by bringing Robert’s prior knowledge, and prior experiences to the book.  The only thing I could do was to tell him in as few words as possible (too many words confuse) that many people come to America from other countries to look for work. That they often don’t speak English, so nobody can understand them and they don’t understand others.  (I had a feeling that the part of not being understood hit the nail in Robert’s mind, as too often he is the one who is not understood.) The only way I could relate to other languages was out October? November trip to France and Poland.  Robert heard people speaking in languages he didn’t know.  Without touching on legal/illegal issues I said that often immigrants try to find just the work for one day and hope that someone would need them.  They wait in places where there are many cars passing and many contractors or farmers come.  For instance near hardware stores. I kept repeating the same things as we first looked at the pictures, before we began reading.

I don’t know what Robert understood from this first encounter with the problem.  He understood that they pulled plants instead of weeds.  Did he understand that the boy’s lie caused the problem and the grandfather honesty fixed it.  I am not sure.  But there will be another book someday, and the future would provide more opportunity to learn and to relate to  a book and the life itself.

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