I need to recommend this book to parents of young children! "Chants, Fingerplays & Stories", By Bev Bos, compiled and illustrated by Michael Leeman. It holds within it the magic of oral tradition that transforms everyday objects like fingers, toes, and handkerchiefs.
Bev Bos has taught preschool for over 35 years in Roseville, CA. She and her co-teacher Michael Leeman have presented seminars and workshops for parents and early education teachers for over twenty years. The stories that she shares are tried and true! They preserve a beautiful tradition that is important to early childhood development.
Bev Bos tells a story about a simple moment, an exchange between an adult and a young child. An intimate moment, where the adult joins the child in their land of now and play. Within this moment, a memory is imprinted, A memory of the feeling of closeness between the child and the adult. This memory etches itself into the child for a lifetime. The vehicle for this is a simple fingerplay or word game or simple doll made from a handkerchief.
These simple acts of 'I see you and understand you at this moment' are the adult re-enacting a similar gift given to them. The passing down of an oral tradition, simple tricks to engage a child and reach out lovingly into their realm.
Bev Bos recalls, "And now, thinking back on such moments, you can easily provide vivid details about how old you were, the people who were with you, the smells, the sounds, the feelings of closeness and the particulars of the stories and games themselves."
These chants, finger plays and stories are magical. "How clever in their perfection are these little games at infusing moments between adult and child with intimacy that hooks itself to the mind and body and remains intact the whole life long."
This important cultural tradition is in danger. Bev Bos continues, "Our purpose for writing this book is our belief that finger plays, chants and the telling of stories during the early years of a child's home-life are in danger of becoming a lost art. Their value having been greatly diminished by visually compelling devices and electronic gizmos.
More and more, families are relying on machines when it comes to keeping company with children. The human voice, the parent's voice, many times is no longer the one a child comes to count on for consoling and cajoling, for reviving and inspiring, for introducing the child to family history, artifacts, and traditions. These things are best conveyed to the child through sound-words spoken and sung."
The parent's voice and warmth are the anchor of childhood. Also, the experiences of chants, finger plays, songs are the experiential background that feeds literacy. Hurrying through the oral tradition to decoding and reading makes the experience of reading more automated, yet less vivid. One runs the risk of losing the richness of the senses, of the experience. The words trigger the feelings of a pudgy warm hand holding your own, or the soft wetness of a child's tear on your cheek as you kiss it better. The bedrock of childhood is the growth of the physical, the nervous system, through the stimulation of the senses.
The age of reason cannot come any earlier until the child's instrument is formed. These simple oral traditions are the way the child's early intimate experiences with family are formed in the body and imbued with language. The best of writers are like poets who feed the senses with language.
In the oral presentations, her co-author Michael Leeman, advises embracing serendipity. Memorizing the chant is not as important as reaching the child where they are in their magical playful world and giving them a wink! Do your best improv and feel how it plays with the children. If you make a mistake, be easy on yourself. Model for the children the ways to make the mistake make sense! Or go with the giggles. Creativity and collaboration will create the wonderful moment that lasts in the hearts of humans to be gifted to the next generation. Let us preserve this precious part of childhood, the oral tradition and the primacy of the parent.
My classic favorite in "Chants and Finger play" is 'Round and round the garden, Like a Teddy Bear, One Step, Two Steps, Tickle you under there. This one is a perfect first introduction for a 6 month old.
Then there are surprising ones like 'Purple Stew Chant that engages the whole body. "Making a Purple Stew, (Whip, whip,--whip, whip), Making a purple stew (Scoobie doobie doo) Purple potatoes, purple tomatoes, Now you can do it, too."
In the "Towel and Hankie" folding chapter you will find surprisingly easy ways to turn a dinner napkin into a ballerina, a bar towel into a chicken, and a jacket into a baby doll. When I saw Bev Bos give a presentation at a conference, she chuckled as she made the chicken, thinking about how many 'chickens' the hotel employees were going to find when they came to gather the laundry.
In "Paper Stories and Things", you will find ways to turn a piece of paper into a paper cup, a jumping frog, and the perennial summer camp favorite "Sailor and a boat'.
There are also stories to memorize the general gist of and present orally. When presented orally, these stories have a wonderful way of meandering in and among the children and out further into the unknown of the story. A story, a story, told in the magical moment with a gleam in my eye, just from me to you.
Available from Bev Bos directly at www.turnthepage.com.