Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen
It is a shame to see bright children missing out on knowledge because their classmates can read and write quicker and so move along faster and achieve higher grades. They can learn a lot from looking at the elements of a fairy tale.
Reading and writing skill is not always the best indicator of brightness, depending as it does on physical and visual acuity. Boys in particular can be slower developers in this area.
We need to make up for this bigtime, and stimulate their brains with rich and rewarding information through othr media such as Stories. They will be progressing all the while, and in the meantime their reading and writing skills will be catching up.
Reading Stories to slower readers, and importantly, discussing and arguing over them, stretches their minds. They may not be doing the reading, but they are absorbing vocabulary and knowledge, such as History, that may have drained them and bored them before, due to the effort involved in trying to decipher it themselves.
Here is an example of a story I wrote for my son to listen to when his class were learning about the Egyptians. He wouldn't look at his Library book, but he was quite happy to be read to!
A Day In The Life Of A Sun God
Rested and refreshed from his overnight camp, the merchant traveller emerged from his temporary tent in the desert. His feet sank into dark sand that was mercifully cool between his toes and there was even a covering of blessed dew on the hide of his tent. Relieved not to have missed the sacred hour of dawn, he knelt to study the horizon and the silver line of light that was beginning to brighten the lifting darkness. He bent to kiss the ground and to spend only a few minutes praying and greeting the Sun God. He knew he must cover as much ground as he could before Annu Kephera rose high in the sky, baked the sand until it was too hot to walk on and burned every live thing that had not managed to find water and shade, under his merciless glare. For the moment, the merchant exulted in the rarity of the moist air. The earth was refreshed and rehydrated like a tender green sycamore sapling, new every morning.
Soon Kephera would show himself after his daily re-birth and the traveller would mark his progress through the heavens and the day. The sky was changing from deep indigo to violet and the silver line became a band of gold. Kephera, the morning scarab, the self-created bornless one and creator of all, was coming. A lizard flicked its tongue to capture an evaporating dewdrop, and scuttled onto a flat rock ready to absorb the life-giving properties of the sun. Other creatures rapidly disappeared into the protective hollows of darkness in the rocks. A single sunbeam lit the waters of the lake in the distance and they shimmered like liquid gold. Violet was banished and sapphire sky took its place. The fiery orb blazed over the horizon. A giant orange disc, it pulsated over the land, heating the sand, the palms, the oases, the Nile, the Delta, Luxor, the first pyramids, and the world beyond. King of all, the Sun God cleared the horizon asserting royal domination.
The traveller made haste to cover some ground, as the Sun God rose to approach his mode of transport for the daytime. Until noon he would travel in his morning boat “Matek” as he grew in strength. At Noon, the height of his power and his zenith, no living creature would dare to step into his light. Until then he would travel in this boat, a long thin vessel with two oars at the stern and a heavy-beaked Egyptian bird at the prow. Decorating the stern however, there would be a fearsome snake-like creature, serving to remind him that from Noon onwards he wouldl sink lower in the heavens, grow weaker and after sunset, fight battles with the creature in order to uphold his domination of the sky.
Just after noon, as the drained traveller lies sweating in the shade of his tent, only a snake dares to venture out for a few seconds and only because he has the ability to whip and writhe his long body across the scorching dunes like a lash so that each part of his body touches the searing sand for but a few seconds. At last Kephera drops a few degrees on the skyline. He is on his way downwards. The afternoon air is glazed with a transparent curtain of wave after wave of shimmering heat, weaving patterns of mirage in the distance. He must change boats now, to his “diminishing” boat called Semktet. As he loses his strength gradually, it will take him towards evening and sunset.
At last the yellowing western light of late afternoon allows travellers and creatures to move again, announcing the lowering of the Sun God in the sky as he ages and tires - mirroring the seven ages of man himself. The traveller risks, once again, another few miles before dark. Sadly, he beholds the last triumph of the aged Sun God’s day – the flashes of colour, violet, maroon, rose, coral and scarlet that announce his descent into the dark region below. Here he must battle the Forces Of Evil all night and prevail against the perils of the Underworld. Only then can he re-emerge the triumphant winner the next day, maintaining his top position on the leader board and vanquishing his arch-enemy Apep.
The score he has to settle with Apep goes back a long way, for Apep once held the coveted position of Sun God himself. Then the evil being was hurled down to the Underworld in the form of a dragon-like sea-serpent. Every night his task is to prowl the underworld, seeking out Kephera in his “Boat Of The Sun,” assailing him with new horrors and trials to put a stop to his journey of morning rebirth. The only moment when Apep comes close to achieving this dream results in an eclipse or other unnerving portent on earth such as a thunderstorm, for he is the King of Chaos. The eclipse would always pass however, leaving him to bitterly gnash his teeth, and leaving Kephera to lord it again in the golden skies.
In the blessed coolness of the lotus-scented night air the traveller reaches the edge of the desert. As he pitches his tent for the last time on this trip, he reaches into his saddlebag. Out comes a crudely-fashioned wax serpent statuette. He spits on it and stabs it with sharp pins for it is a representation of Apep, the enemy of Kephera and he wills the Sun God to prevail against him, and to re-appear glorious and triumphant in the morning.
Of course, parents can think of many more examples,particularly in History, Geography and Science where stories can be invaluable in imparting education.
How about A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Victorian Living) or Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling?)
Or give the brain a break, and learn through a fun sharing parent/child time with an entrancing and educational DVD?