Saturday, July 20, 2013



How do children learn languages? How do they become bilingual? Does a language make the brain absorb more at any age? 

A child learns a language by hearing words. It starts in the womb and by the time the child reaches twelve months, the ability to hear a language, and learn it starts to shut down. An interesting article, The Power of the Bilingual Brain, came in TIME, July 29, 2013. It says, "PEAKING AT 9 MONTHS-Up to age ONE we retain a sharp ear for languages, but the door has already begun to swing closed---partly as a result of synaptic pruning." 

We, the parents/teachers need to expose children to more words by reading to them as well as by talking with them. I was told by one of my four-year-old, students that she liked me because I used "hard" words like mauve and gave hard math problems such as 2+5=7.  

I consider all children to be bright, capable of learning more. I, forever stand in a child's corner, empowering him/her with words and numbers. On that basis, I sneak in a few "hard" words in my stories. 

The idea for this story came from a story I heard as a child. I am not sure if it is an Akbar-Birbal story, or it maybe from the Aesop's fables. Yes, in fact, it was about a thirsty crow. Then again, it may be a Birbal-Akbar story when Birbal gets a donkey out of a dry well with some people's help. 

Our story is about Sapna and Sagar. The brother uses a trick that he thinks counselor Birbal used.


PS I feel I published this in the blog before, but can't find the entry. Pl do let me know if you have read it before. Thanks. Meera


(For 5-7 year-old children)
squealed = screamed
antique = really old
lei = a necklace of flowers
went into action = started working (bouncing)
stood over her = stood by her
lean, leaned = bend, bent

“Wheeeeeee,” two-year-old, Sapna squealed.
Her six-year-old brother,Sagar looked up from a pile of long-stemmed yellow dandelions on his lap.
He followed his sister’s eyes. 
A little red ball hit the high ceiling, bounced back to the floor, and zip—dropped straight into a tall and colorful antique vase that stood in a corner of the den.
Earlier, Sagar had made the first dandelion lei for Sapna. She wore it around her neck. He was working on a second lei, when the bouncing ball went into action.
Mom was in the shower; across the hallway, dad was busy in his office. 
Sagar sprang up from the sofa, and the flowers from his lap spilled onto the floor. 
He rushed to the vase. “On, no, mom’s vase—oh, good, it didn't break.” 
He peered into the dark depths of the three-foot tall vase.
Sapna held onto his shirt-tails and tried to peer in too.
“Sapna, how did you do that? It was so cool; the way the ball bounced and zipped through the air!” Sagar put his hand into the vase.
Sapna looked at her brother and smiled, "Sunny wan' ball.” 
Sagar said, “Well, I can’t reach it. Sorry, no ball.” He took her little hand. “Come; help me clean up the flowers from the floor.”
Sapna let go of his hand, and plunked down on the floor with a loud wail.
Sagar stood over his sister. “Okay, okay. Stop being a baby. Let’s see how we can get the ball out the vase before mom gets here. 
Dad saw them from across the hall, he smiled and watched.
“Let’s get it out with a stick.” Sagar said. He looked around. “Hmm---no stick here. Maybe a rolling pin will work.”
Sagar brought a rolling pin from the kitchen. He put it in the vase. The mouth of the vase was too narrow for the thick rolling pin. “Nope, doesn't work.” Sagar looked around. He smiled. “Kiddo, I’m going to use a trick that Birbal used.
Sapna got up, and peered into the vase.
Sagar took the dandelion lei from around her neck and placed it on her head. “There! You are the great Emperor Akbar of India, wearing this precious floral crown. I am your counselor Birbal. Don’t walk away, dear Emperor, wait right here.”
Sapna nodded.
Sagar went to the kitchen.
Sapna followed.
“Your Majesty, you were supposed to wait.”
Sapna smiled, "Ball."
Sagar smiled back. He filled a measuring cup with water; and poured it into the vase.
Sapna followed.
“Okay, dear Emperor, please help me bring more water.”
Sapna smiled and followed.
He gave Sapna a plastic cup filled with water and filled his measuring cup again. They walked back to the den.
Half the water from Sapna’s cup went on her dress, some went on the floor and the remainder went into the vase. They made more trips and filled the vase with water. The ball floated out onto the floor.
Sapna dropped her plastic cup and dashed for the ball. She slipped on the spilled water, the floral crown sprawled on the floor.
Dad hurried from across the hall and picked her up even before she had a chance to realize what had happened. He picked up the wet bouncy ball and gave it to her. Dad held Sapna by her waist and helped Sagar mop up the wet floor with paper towels.
Mom came to the den with a towel wrapped around her damp hair.
Dad winked at Sagar, “A bath towel would have done a better job, huh, son?”
Sagar smiled and he skipped back to his flowers.
Sapna held on to the ball in a tight grip and looked at mom with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Why is Sapna all wet?" Mom asked, she added, "Oops, Sagar, Sapna dropped her lei on the floor.” Mom said as she picked up the lei and put it around Sapna's neck.
Sagar continued to work with the second lei as he murmured, "Thanks, mom."
Sapna smiled, "Ball."
Dad said, “Uh, why is Sapna wet, uh---"

The End

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

1 comment:

  1. Hi Meera
    So lovely to see your brand new blog! This is a very nice story.....The childhood stories I seem to remember the most, are those stories that provided a solution to a in this piece. Lovely concept!