January 20, 2010 at 10:18 am | Posted in Book Blather, Reading with Kids | 8 Comments

My five-year-old niece told her mother the other day:

If ever I’m sad or depressed, you can say I’m crestfallen.

Her mom asked, “Hmm, where’d you learn that word?”  My niece said, “From TV.”  Note that she’d been five for approximately two months.

Last night Rocket Scientist and I were talking with Sweetie Junior about the American presidents.  She had asked whether there hadn’t been a president “who wouldn’t eat spinach or something.”  We started going through all the recent presidents who were on record regarding a vegetable preference, and it turned out our little bunny did not know who Ronald Reagan was.  RS slapped his forehead.  She said, “We don’t have history this year!”  I told her if she could name 25 presidents in half an hour I would give her $25, and if she could get them in order I’d double it.  We had a bit of fumbling, and I told her she could use a notebook if she wanted. 

So it turns out we have an “RFK” and a “James Adams” among our nation’s leaders.

I tried to do it myself, and got up to about 33.  I realized later I’d somehow left off Garfield, both Johnsons, and Chester Arthur, but I was able to list about a quarter of the presidents’ wives.  The last time I was called upon to perform this act was 1992.

Anyway, we’ve had a similar problem in the past, with geography.  We told SJ we could go to a movie if she could name all 50 states.  That wasn’t going to happen, so we reduced it to any two of the first 13 colonies.  She gave us New York and “East Virginia.”  “East Virginia?!” said her father.  “No, wait, North Virginia!” she cried.  “What are they teaching you in that school?” I wanted to know.

This time, as a joke, I said, “If you can’t name even 10 presidents I’m pulling you out of that school!”  She could only get to six.  She couldn’t even get the easy ones – she already had one John Adams and one George Bush, but didn’t remember there were two of each.

What this all has to do with reading is that there is a certain context involved.  We often read aloud together, and it’s disheartening to realize how few facts are nestled in that little head.  You’d think a straight-A student, especially one who’s a big reader, would… know more.  When we found out her school had avoided the creation/evolution debate by teaching neither, and that she’d never given a moment’s thought to Where People Came From (she said they were learning Sex Ed next year), I said, “Aren’t you ever curious?”  She said, “…No.”

If ever I’m sad or depressed, you can say I’m crestfallen.



RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. That is so sad! It makes you wonder what to do? Obviously you have to find ways to supliment her at home, but SHAME ON THE SCHOOL! What are kids learning? And what about all the kids that don’t have parents like you to realize that something is missing? Crestfallen is an appropriate word here. 😦

    • The kicker is that she’s 15 and a freshman in high school.

  2. But just to be clear, SJ has had Sex Ed of some kind before now, right? Because in my mind Sex Ed at 16 is way too late. Wouldn’t most girls be menstruating by then?

    • Oh, she “knows how babies are made.” She just hadn’t had it covered in school. I agree that high school is too late; I think the first time I took a health class that covered all the details, I was 11. It came up again every year for the next three years, just to make sure we really understood… that the new baby is brought by the stork to the cabbage patch.

  3. Oh, you should have called me! In fourth grade, I learned a handy dandy song to list all of the states in alphabetical order. Then in fifth grade, I learned another one with all of the presidents. And I still remember them both today. I have won countless bets and a few trivia contests based on the fact that I can name more presidents, in order, then pretty much anyone I know, thanks to this song. And I’d be happy to teach it to you and Sweetie Junior.

    Now, not being curious about WHERE PEOPLE COME FROM? That’s a whole other barrel of monkeys. Robie Harris’s IT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL is a good, comprehensive sex-ed book for kids about SJ’s age. Have fun with that one.

    • Will you come and live with us? We have access to a hot tub! 😉

      As for “where people come from,” I meant it in the sense of “why are we humans and how was the Earth made” rather than in the “how copulation works” sense. We watched “Inherit the Wind” when I was in 7th grade.

  4. Crestfallen is so cute. 🙂

  5. Wow, it is a sad state of affairs when TV is actually a better teacher than the public school system.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: