Home, family the best type of classroom
Early Thursday afternoon, I settled in between rows of books at a local book emporium. I had a really great spot. There was an electrical socket for my laptop computer, a chair and it was relatively quiet.
My café au lait was just a few degrees below sizzling, so I was set for an hour of accomplishments.
I had just started attacking my emails — I actually open every one, eventually — when I heard a familiar noise. Dangit! This is all I need.
The source of the noise was a little dude I would come to know as Eli. He was with his grandmother, who had taken the nearby chair. This did not look promising for me.
She started reading to him. Occasionally, Eli would chime in and describe a dog or duck and add his sound effects.
I was still able to concentrate on my work until he went “Old McDonald” on me. “With an oink, oink here … oooh oh.”
Dangit! Dangit! Dangit!
Then Eli started putting together interesting sentences and asking questions while his grandmother continued to read to him.
I was beginning to get over my minor irritation and started to concentrate on them. The grandmother, Lisa Russell, of Alexandria, leaned over to apologize after Eli got louder.
“No problem,” I told her. I was now fascinated by their interaction.
What was happening near me was what education is all about. Eli is 21/2 years old. (Pressed for his age, Eli said he was 3 but was easily convinced by his grandmother that he was not that old.)
He likes to read books and have them read to him. He likes dinosaurs and the brachiosaurus is his favorite. He points to the picture to let you know. (No, he can’t pronounce it and neither can you.)
In fact, he pushed “My Big Dinosaur Book” in front of me to say it was his favorite book, until he brought another one over.
Ms. Russell said she and Eli’s parents read to him often. “It is such an advantage (for Eli) to be able to have this,” she said. “Their little brains soak up everything. They remember everything” she said.
I thought how wonderful it is that she can do this for her grandchild and that the parents also do that same thing. This is education. How much further along will Eli be than his schoolmates when he starts kindergarten?
“You know it starts at home,” Russell said. “If you can sit down and read to them it can make a difference. I feel it is a privilege that I can do this.”
She is right. Sadly, there are so many parents unable because of circumstances or unwilling to do something so simple, yet so important.
I know that all of the pre-K programs are supposed to fill the gap. And, they may do a great job. But, I don’t think it compares to the one-on-one attention that Eli gets.
Before we ended our conversation, Eli brought over a Mickey Mouse book.
“You like Mickey Mouse?” I asked. “Yes,” Eli said. After a quick admonishment from his grandmother, he said, “Yes, sir!” That’s something else you get at home.
Edward Pratt is a former editor with The Advocate. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. He may be contacted at his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.