BENGALURU: Don’t make us read.” Little P glares up at me. His friend stands behind him, his eyes burning with rebellious fire. The little guy comes home to practice reading but that day school was long and especially tiring and my Reluctant Reader wanted Little P to convince me to give him a break.
“Sure.” I say, opening my cupboard to pull out a stack of board games. “Here is the game,” I tell them. “You boys own a board game store, and I am a customer shopping for Christmas presents.”
Have you met a child who doesn’t enjoy a good game of pretend? The two six-year-olds kick me out of the room as they prepare their shop. I give them a large piece of paper with art supplies and they are at work writing the name of their shop.
“Aunty, how do you spell board?” my Reluctant Reader pops out to ask.
When the shop opens, I enter as an old lady who has forgotten her reading glasses. Each boy takes turns helping their old customer.
“What does that say, dear? I can’t see because I am so very ancient,” I ask in a quavering voice that makes the boys quake with laughter. But ever eager to please a customer, Reluctant Reader composes himself and looks at the words I point to on the box. “Play and Learn” he sounds it out slowly and a little painfully.
We use Monopoly money for payment and without realising it, the boys are adding their earnings, subtracting to give me change and counting by twos, threes, fives and tens when they figure out that it is much faster to add up their money than count on their fingers.
They soon run out of stock and look disappointed. It is time to leave. Reluctant Reader looks at me guiltily. “I will practise reading, tomorrow,” he promises, but the truth is that he has read more than he would have if I had asked him to read to me from a book or from a list of sight words. He had read the names of games, instructions on how to play them, who manufactured them and where; compound words that he would have been intimidated by if he had encountered them in a book or if he had had to read them out to me instead of a senile old woman who was blind and verging on deaf.
And Little P, impatient and impulsive, learnt to wait patiently and assist only when asked. He might hate handwriting practice, but when it was time to make the bill he wrote slowly and painstakingly so my poor eyes could manage.
All in all, it was a productive afternoon for both teacher and students.