They’ve been learning about Chinese New Year in preschool this week. How did I know? Did the kids wear red? Did they make a paper-mache dragon? Did they get little envelopes of goodies?
I wouldn’t even have known that they were doing a C.N.Y. unit at school if it weren’t for Jeffrey’s ongoing efforts to push the boundaries of our dinnertime rules as far as they can go.
It’s difficult to teach table manners to any kid, but Jeffrey can be more of a trial than most. He gets up between bites, always wants to dump food in his glass, and frequently gets absent-minded and begins eating with his fingers — until the Great Scolding begins. (I long wistfully for the day when dinnertime looks like dinner, not a training montage from No Time for Sergeants.)
Anyway, this past Friday was a little more hectic than usual. Jeffrey kept forgetting to eat dinner with his fork, and I finally threatened to take his food away if he forgot again, when he suddenly stood up and held his arms up in the air.
“I know!” he shouted. “I can eat the way they do in Chinese!” He then scampered off to the kitchen and began rummaging around in the silverware drawer.
The “Chinese way”? After a few moments, we got it.
“Jeffrey,” I called out wearily. “We don’t have any chopsticks.” He didn’t hear me, but reemerged with a new fork and knife in each hand. Climbing back into his seat, he then proceeded to use his fork and knife as if they were chopsticks — not that he held them both in one hand to pinch up food, but the way your average American five-year-old might eat with chopsticks: one in each fist, holding them at the tops of the handles, picking up food like the metal crane in a carnival prize-machine.
Ah, multicultural education: is there anything it can’t influence?
Anyhow, this is my new favorite “Chinese New Year” book (although it doesn’t have much to do with the holiday):
Dragon Dancing by Carole Lex Schaefer, illus. by Pierr Morgan. A class of preschool kids learn about dragons in class, and then decide to make a dragon in art class for classmate Mei Lin’s birthday. Morgan’s Asian-inspired illustrations sparkle with clean lines, gorgeous colors, and pretty details, but what really shines here is Schaefer’s alliterative text, which includes very true-to-life kidspeak: Dragons have “boink-boink eyes” and a “ricky-rack back.” My favorite new picture book, perfect both for laptime and group storytime. A Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book (the prize for picture book writing).