Friday, July 13, 2012

Farmers Market, Appleton Way, Lawrence, MA

I saw the little girl as I was telling to a group of eight children sitting on my quilt, laughing and shouting out answers to my questions ("How big is he going to get?").  The girl's mother was chatting with a vendor at one of the stalls at the Farmer's Market.  While the girl had a firm grasp on her mother's hand, her attention was on what was happening on the quilt.   I tried to catch her eye and include her in my wider gestures, but she averted her eyes or turned into her mother's legs.  When my group left to rejoin their shopping mothers, I made my way over to her, jingling a tambourine and singing Old MacDonald.   She stood rooted to the ground, her eyes oh so serious, still clutching at her mother.   Her mother was encouraging her to go and sit on the story quilt, but the little girl wouldn't budge.   I took a couple of steps back and the girl started to cry; she did want to hear stories.  Accompanied by her mother she became my sole listener.   We continued Old MacDonald. I asked her to pick the next animal we were going to sing about from my enticing red box of farm animals. She wouldn't at first, then she began to point, and then, because I (purposely) picked out the wrong animal, she had to use her pudgy fingers.  I asked her what sound the animal made.  She wouldn't vocalize.  In fact, her face remained serious, almost sullen, the whole time I interacted with her.  However, every time her mother said, "Well, if you don't want to do it, we'll go," the little girl burst into tears.  She never did talk back to me, or give me the inkling of a smile, but she listened and we communicated with fingers and nods or shakes of the head.  The mother, I think, was a little embarrassed about her girl's shyness.  I managed to tell the mother that the girl had wonderful curiosity, was very observant, and to just encourage the child to participate at any level, not to criticize,or even push her yet.  The girl was three years old.
Farmers Mkt, Lawrence, MA

While the enthusiasm of my first group of listeners supplies me with energy which I then put into my storytelling, being able to get the little girl to come forward and interact with me non-verbally, and trust me in her baleful way, is one of the priceless rewards of storytelling.    This girl was not in any organized early learning program; she is just the candidate that the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant is trying to reach.

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