What Do You Say, Dear?

Well, I guess I start with hello. I am a newly minted (student) teacher on my way to a Masters in TESOL (for those of you who don’t know, that’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I have been volunteer teaching at a local elementary school for a total of… Eight weeks? No more. But due to the requirements of my MA program, I am (ideally) soon to be headed back into the classroom, taking on a larger role to earn valuable credit hours. This is a place for me to reflect on my own personal teaching habits to figure out how I can better help students (no specifics on them of course) and maybe get some advice from people who have been there before. It is also a place for me to talk about related topics or offer a couple of “lessons” for anyone who may be reading, like information on other cultures or languages (tongues) and why art and children’s books are so important. So that’s the low-down on this.

But speaking of children’s books, why are they important? You may think I’m just a silly elementary teacher (and one who doesn’t know a thing about teaching for that matter) but think back to the books you read as a kid, especially the ones you still love. My favorite was The Magic Pot by Patricia Coombs, now out of print. And it was all about not being greedy. Okay, it was basically a cleaned up kids’ Robin Hood (only with a demon starring as Robin), but the bad guy gets it in the end because he’s greedy. This is a lesson most of us learn as children, and most of us learn this and other lessons from books. The experiences we have in books as kids shape our lives. So it really throws me for a loop when folks in academia start trashing kids books just because they’re kids books.

Now that I’ve explained that, I am going to give you the first in what is sure to be several introductions to children’s books I think are wonderful (perhaps even for a classroom). This one is about What Do You Say, Dear? and What Do You Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin (but they get additional points for being illustrated by Sendak, who is one of the four “greats” from my childhood.) I feel they are appropriate for the beginning of this blog because they feel appropriate for the beginning of a class. Because at the beginning of a class, one usually talks about etiquette, and these are, in short, books on etiquette. The only thing is, they are the most ridiculous etiquette examples you are likely to hear of. Things like “you crash through your friend’s roof in your plane. What do you say, dear?” Most grown-ups are likely to find “I’m sorry” as a laughable answer, but children have no trouble understanding this. That’s because these books not only reinforce etiquette, like apologizing and washing your hands before you eat, but they remind us of the simplicity which underlies even very complex situations, a simplicity which grown-ups are more likely to miss in the muddle. Furthermore, they may be useful for identifying speech acts with English learners–greetings, requests, apologies, etc. Last, they have the added benefit, unlike The Magic Pot of still being in print. Read them to your kids and see who knows more of the answers.

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