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"The Island of Dr. Moreau"


Can a not-quite-reading five year-old benefit from literary discussion groups?  I think so, but perhaps not in the way you might have expected.


Five year-old No,. 2 and I went to a book discussion of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" this week.  This is one of our homeschooling sorts of things that tends to raise eyebrows, and cause confusion among other adults.  I imagine, although few of them ask, that said adults wonder what 2 is getting out of such occasions, especially since he's not reading yet.  It is true, 2 hadn't read the book, but to be fair neither had I.  7 y.o. No. 1 and and I read through a graphic novel of the book the day of, and hit the highlights with 2.  Not being 2, I can't say for sure what he gets out of going to these events, but I can outline what I hope he'll get, what he's told me he wants, and what I've observed.  Here we go.

Getting the same perks
2 has seen No. 1, (who reads copiously and among many other things wants to be a writer), head out to many, many book talks, meet-the-authors, and writer's lunches with me.  He'd like to do everything 1 does, so he's been interested in going to these for awhile.  2 is taking his time learning to read.  Going to talks has been a bit of a carrot I've used to try to encourage reading, it's also been a carrot for 2 to learn to maintain and occupy himself (either listening, reading, or drawing), at events we attend.  While he hasn't learned to read completely yet, he has practiced really well at maintaining a certain calm, and keeping himself occupied.  Consequently, he's beginning to get to reap the rewards he asked for: to attend events like No. 1.

I've been keeping an eye out for events that 2 would specifically enjoy, and they've started to appear.  2's very outdoorsy, and an excellent wildlife spotter.  He points things out to the family on our hikes that all the rest of us missed.  He's also crazy good at realizing the tigers at the zoo aren't actually asleep inside when we can't see them.  2 tends to point out that no, the tiger is actually up in the tree right over there looking right at us.  (He would be a great kid to have in the jungle :)  So, when there was a talk on a California wildlife book a few months ago, 2 and I attended.

2 is also very much into monsters.  The talk on "The Island of Dr. Moreau" seemed like a great fit!

Learning to Hang
OK, so 2 wants to attend these sorts of things largely because he sees No. 1 and I head off to them so frequently.  But what about me?  What's in it for me?

The driving reason I want the kids to go, (perhaps surprisingly, and perhaps not), has nothing to do with literary knowledge.  I want the kids to see what 'adults' do.  I got the opportunity to tag along with my parents to a number of events as a kid.  When I was a 'grownup' and had to/wanted to go to these sort of events, (talks, book groups, public forums, what have your), it was a no-brainer.  Of course  I could do that, I'd been doing it since I was a kid.  I'd like for the gang here to have the same nonplussed attitude as they enter 'grown-up' society.

Unintentional Retention and the Value of Being Rounded
It's not one of my real care-abouts, but it's kinda cool.  No. 2 has told a variety or people this week what "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is about.  He and No. 1 tend to pick up pieces of information from these outings, many pieces of information actually.  Sometimes the information comes out almost immediately, sometimes they'll regurgitate some factoid weeks later.  When I ask where they learned that, they'll remind me, "You remember that meeting we went to where the person was talking about animals?  They said it."

To me, this is all kind of like a university education.  You know, when people tell you it's good to have taken some liberal arts courses so you'll be well-rounded?  If that really has value--and I think it does--why not start since now?  Why wait till your 'older'?

What non-standard events do you enjoy with the kids around you?  What should we try next?

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