Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reading 'Rooster and the Sun' in Cambridge

If you are a parent, we encourage you to take Tulika books you love to your children's schools. Try a read-aloud or a story-telling session. And don't forget to write to us and tell us about it. Here's Mohua's story of one such reading in Cambridge.

We live in a little village at the edge of Cambridge called Cambourne. It is home to people from all over the world who come to work mostly in the high-tech world of the Silicon Fen or in the University of Cambridge (and some odd-ones-out like me work in the Civil Service!). The village also has three primary schools and my 6-year-old son, Ishaan, goes to one called Monkfield Park Primary.

Monkfield Park decided to celebrate International Day last Friday (2nd July) and asked parents who could speak languages other than English to come and tell the children stories in those languages. I thought I'd go along and read a story in Bangla (my mother tongue) - for two reasons really - (a) I wanted the children to discover for themselves the lilting beauty of Bangla (yes, I too suffer from that quintessential Bengali affliction!) and (b) to redeem myself from some of the guilt I feel for not helping out in the school like the stay-at-home mums/dads!

The school got an overwhelming response from the parents and soon there was a long list of the languages from different parts that the stories were going to be told in - in that list of Polish, Afrikaans, Dutch, German, French, Japanese, Bahasa Indonesia, was also Hindi and Bangla (that was me)! I was asked whether I could read first to Year 1 (Ishaan's class) and then to Year 2 and I agreed.

So Ishaan and I got down to the really important task of choosing which book I was going to read. Of course it had to one of Tulika’s bilingual books – perfect for the occasion. Ishaan instantly chose his favourite Jalebi Curls, but I decided that The Rooster and the Sun might be a better choice as it had a 'proper' story with a lovely happy ending that both 6 and 7 year olds might enjoy.

Off I went on Friday morning armed with Ishaan's copy of Rooster (and under Ishaan's strict instructions, also Jalebi Curls, Cricket and Lai-Lai the Baby Elephant). Amidst whispers of "oh look Ishaan's mum's here", "why is Ishaan's mum here", "why is she wearing funny trousers", "is she going to also tell us the story in English", I sat down to tell them the story of how the farmer got angry with the sun and told him off, how the sun was hurt and decided never to come back and how the rooster used his brains to get the sun back and how everybody was happy again! I read first in Bangla, pointing to the pictures as I read, and then in English.
The children in both the groups loved the story and the illustrations! There were countless questions about was it as hot then as it was today (we are having a heat-wave), what buffaloes were, why the sun didn't come when the buffalo and pig went to call him, why didn't the roosters in India say cock-a-doodle-doo, were there jungles in India, did Royal Bengal tigers speak Bangla (they'd just been on a school trip to the zoo), how many languages did I speak, could Ishaan read and write Bangla (at which point Ishaan went red and stared at the carpet), how big was India and oh by the way (and this was from the bigger class) did I know that the world didn't actually have an edge!

One of the teachers asked me for Tulika's website, so I'm guessing the story went down well with both the children and their teachers. Ishaan later told me that after I'd left (having been thanked in Bangla and bid 'ta ta' to by the children), his class had been asked to draw what they remembered from the story and he had drawn 'Shurji mama' (the sun) and the three animals as had most of the other children! While I don't have those pictures to share with you, I thought you might like to see a photo of the children and I discussing the story...

Mohua Bhattacharya

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