During read aloud, I read Something from Nothing to the children. It’s a story of a little boy, a Jewish boy and his blanket that gets worn and turns into a vest that gets worn and turns into a necktie, then a handkerchief, then a button, and then is lost. I am surprised to find a tear in my eye at the end of the story when the protagonist of the story, a no-longer-little boy, does indeed create something from nothing. From his experience, he writes a story. And maybe my tears are there because I turned forty yesterday, and you, (yes, you Bud), wrote about getting unstuck on my birthday, and maybe it’s from all those stories I haven’t yet written. More likely, though, it is about a preschooler named Marisa*, institutionalized classism, and technology in early childhood.
“You called the cops on us,” was the opening line in an uncomfortable conversation, because, in fact, we did. Or, at least, someone at the school did. “They came to our house.” Marisa’s mom was embarrassed and ashamed.
In the weeks following this conversation, the warmth and ease of an interaction with Marisa’s family disappear. Note the awkward shuffle. The intention behind my smile. Do they notice that I still care? The eye contact that attempts to reassure. It’s okay, actually. It’s safe here. Despite. The hugs and encouragement for their daughter. Because they keep bringing her to school.
I watch Marisa as she manipulates our new ($500) iPad. She, like all other preschoolers, has learned to navigate the apps with ease after the initial tentative question: “How do you turn it on?” She collaborates with others as she works on literacy and numeracy, and sometimes just something fun. A doodle, maybe some piano.
And then I pause. What kind of lending library could I build with $500? Oh, yeah, I remember. The kind in which I never expect the books to come back. The kind that houses my all time favorites. The ones that have characters Marisa (and others) can relate to and understand as well as the ones that tell of an experience different than her own. With beautiful illustrations. The ones that will be asked to be read again and again.
Or, maybe, the story doesn’t have to live in a book. How can we give young children lasting, meaningful stories from nothing**? And, how does our expensive technology enhance or impede that?
**See future post on oral storytelling