I overheard a question from a recent visitor to Bookworm, asking a new Bookworm team member if we read -aloud non-fiction texts and she said ” no”! I did not behead her or bring out my proverbial whip, but I chose to reflect ( the joys of middle aged, slow approaching wisdom) on how this is not picked up within the Bookworm team.
Is it because we choose to not explicitly label our sessions in terms of Fiction/ Non Fiction ? Or do we transport our readers into a literary space where the lines are all blurred ? Let it be the latter, I plead because that is the intent.
Content in good books can be fiction or non- fiction but what it deserves to be is good in literary quality. Perhaps in the blurring of distinction lies the quality of a good text.
I chose ‘Look, the Moon‘ by Sandhya Rao and Art by Trotsky Marudu, for a Standard 3 class in a Government school, today. I did not choose it because it was a non-fiction text ( which it is !), but because I liked the poetic quality of the text, the length and strength of language as a good match for where the children are presently in their own language learning and experience.
We had a good day with this book because of a number of small events that sometimes make a good class.
We moved the group to sit outdoors in Goa’s infinitely blessed green blanket of warmth. We browsed through books finding images of the night and then conjuring up our own on black slates using white chalk. The experience was both familiar and new because the children worked quietly and represented the night in their own way. I happily mistook airplanes in the night for large looking flying fire flies and that prompted fireflies to appear on shadowy bushes. A ghost was imagined and that brought out dogs on slates who are barking at lurking figures and sounds, and on almost every slate was a moon in different forms of wholeness.
I felt our story was waxing along well. We moved to working in small groups with a series of images that showed the phases of the moon. I had one of those rare and precious dispensable moments in the class, where the children were correcting each other and sharing ideas about what goes where and developing their own sequence of images to construct the phases of the moon. All I had to do was watch.
As most of us know, there is a wonderful tradition amongst story tellers in many indigenous communities of passing on a story. Once a story is passed on, it is no longer told by the giver. This tradition is what made stories rich and individual for each story teller and has enriched us over the years. With print, we do not have this tradition as the words are often frozen in the text, but that does not mean we refrain from passing on and passing back and forth our rich language experiences. As I was looking for a poem on the moon, I took my seeking to Kavita who works with me. She remembered a poem from her childhood and I recorded it for the children. Listen here..
When I took this to the children, it was remembered by them with such joy and they sang back for me to return the gift to Kavita. Listen here..
When I began to read the book, we were so ready, in mind, spirit and soul for the imagery of Trotsky Marudu and the words of Sandhya Rao. I loved the last bit, where the children completely agreed that sadness was not necessary because the moon will be back. I say, how do we know that the moon will come and one boy, looked at me and said ‘ ammi zhanno“, ” we know”.
As I packed up to leave the school and as I write this tonight, knowing the moon is there somewhere and that the Libraries in School program takes both fiction and non fiction texts to children, I think ‘I know’, we know !