Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reading Our Little House in the Prairie from Our Large House in the Bush

Recently I've started reading to the kids in the afternoon, during their post-lunch siesta. For my whole life growing up, and for the whole time my kids were little, afternoon rest time has been a requirement. Most cultures in warmer climates have this built into their lifestyles, and it just makes sense. It gives the kids a chance to regroup after a busy morning, and helps to fight off any illness that may be threatening. It gives the nannies a breathing space. They have their lunch hour and a chance to sleep or at least rest too.

But, that isn't what I came to talk about today. So, back to storytime.

I chose to read the Little House on the Prairie books because we live in a similar rural setting to the Ingalls' family--farm animals, candles at night (occasionally), Pa having to go to a far away town for supplies, etc. 

The Little House on the Prairie series were some of only a few books we brought with us when we moved to Africa 10 years ago. I read them to my kids every night--many times by candlelight during a power outage. We did many of the things that were described in the books.

But, even more than the similarities, I chose to read these books to my African children hoping they would learn from the differences.

The first book in the series is Little House in the Big Woods. It starts out with Pa, Ma, Laura and Mary preparing for winter. They have to hunt, butcher and store food for the long days ahead. Soon the snow falls. The word snow means absolutely nothing to the kids. It is rarely even cold enough for jackets here. I will be doing an ice activity with them one day so they can hold cold ice shavings in their hands and get a better idea.

The other day I overheard the kids playing in the playground and they were pretending to 'prepare for winter because soon the animals will be all gone'.

My heart sang a happy song upon hearing that because it means that their imaginations are alive and well. I'm gonna keep doing my part to feed them. One day perhaps they'll see snow in person, and even if it's nothing like they imagined, their lives will have been richer for the dreams. And I'll have done my part in parenting them.

L-R: Johnny, Jennifer, Little ol' me, and Elias
Note: Jennifer was actually happy--I think she may have been concentrating.
 Another parenting part I play when I read is weaving little sermonettes into the story. When the book talks about Laura having only one little rag doll named Charlotte, but how carefully she takes care of her, I talk about stewardship and caring and responsibility.
When Pa mentions seeing a baby deer and how there will be no more fresh meat because the baby animals need their mommys and daddys to look after them, I talk about the importance of taking care of the animals around us and not harming them through over-hunting, or greediness. 

I'll admit to reading just a little louder at these times, hoping that my voice carries to the end of the room where the children's nanny is resting on her bed. Because I'm parenting the caregivers also, and there are lessons they can learn too.

Reading out loud to children is so important for vocabulary building, imagination building and life building. It's a tradition I'm proud to carry on as a parent. 

I've linked up with a Parenting blog party called The Parent 'Hood over at Fried Okra

Exactly One Year Ago: Birthdays and Reunions    Check out an update to Kanono's story here.
Exactly Two Years Ago: High Praise--our visit from a Cabinet member.


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