Asseverate Assertively

Taking it in SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

When there’s no doubt in your heart

And truth is quite compelling,

Be firm

Be kind

And speak your mind,

For sooth is worth a telling.

 

 

Merriam-Webster’s word for July 5, 2018:

Asseverate

This post continues the blogging challenge in which Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, serves as inspiration a-la the “Daily Prompt.”

Want to join me? Feel free to link to this post on your blog, and/or post a link to your blogpost in the comment section below so others can enjoy it, too. Poetry, photography, short stories, anecdotes: Go for it!

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“Follow” me if you want to receive future prompts, or just pop in when you’re looking for inspiration. Here’s to the fun of writing and our ever-evolving blogging community!

 

Definite Identity

Berlin streetart3 InbarAsif

Photo: Inbar Asif

 

“The fact of being

Who or what

A person

Or thing

Is.”

A name.

A self.

A singularity.

A distinct

Individuality.

A recognition of

An original

Personality.

 

(Poem inspired by the Oxford Dictionary)

 

For The Daily Post

Tintinnabulation

multisyllabic

“I found some words with lotta syllables!” she announced and pulled a crumpled list out of her back pocket.

She and I have been working together for some time. Born very prematurely and with various – if not always visible – neurological challenges, she has had to work hard for every milestone, every skill, each speech-sound. At nine years old, she had good intelligibility in short words and brief phrases, but her clarity was still vulnerable in longer words or sentences.

“Hi-ppo-po-ta-mus,” she read, tapping syllables on the table. “Five!”

I smiled. This girl never needed prodding. Her internal motivation put most people to shame. If she put her mind to something, you better believe it that she’d go the distance for it, and then some. She wanted to be an actress and actresses needed good diction. She was going to make sure hers measured up.

“Ca-li-for-ni-ya and Phi-la-del-phi-a … both five! I-ma-gi-na-ry … five!”

She read several more words, repeating any one that lost a sound or two in the process. When she got it right, she repeated it again, insistent on perfection.

“My dad helped me find them,” she pointed to the list. “We had fun thinking them up in the car. We found lots of words with four … like ‘as-pa-ra-gus’ and ‘par-ti-cu-lar’, but not so many with five. Are there any words with even more, like … with six syllables?”

“Quite a few,” I smiled again. “Some you probably know.”

“Like what?”

“Responsibility.”

“Oh!” She whispered to herself and counted the syllables on her fingers, “yeah, six!”

“Capitalization”

“Like in writing?”

“Exactly like in writing. Then there’s: identification, autobiography, veterinarian, personification, generalization …”

She wrote each word down. Practiced saying it. “Do you know any weird ones with six syllables?”

“Hmm,” I nodded. “How about ‘discombobulated'”?

She laughed. “My grandma says that one.”

“How’s ‘extemporaneous'”?

She twisted her lips. “That’s not weird, just boring.”

It was my turn to laugh. “Fair enough.” I thought a moment. “Infinitesimal?”

“Not weird.”

She was going to make me work for it. “How about …” I winked, “mispronunciation?”

“Ha-ha, very funny,” she rolled her eyes. “Try again.”

She raised her eyebrows and waited. A moment ticked by as words trickled into my brain, six-syllabled but certainly not weird enough to qualify: visualization, spirituality, irregularity, disorganization, availability, cardiovascular. …

The room darkened as clouds passed over the sun and the wind picked up. The forecast promised thunderstorms. I was about to give up to a google search when a chime jangled in my window and with it came inspiration.

“I have it!” I exclaimed. “Tintinnabulation!”

 

 

For The Daily Post

Meddling

cherry tomatos

 

It took a full sixty seconds before she could get hold of her giggles long enough to tell me why she called.

“What’d he do now?” I smiled.

You see, she has a four-year-old and an 18 months old. Both precious. One precocious.

The preschooler omits some speech sounds and makes a salad of most others. He knows what he wants to say (and has much to impart from dawn to evening), but the production message from his brain to mouth muscles doesn’t always come through organized. We’ve been working on improving motor planning and sound production, and he’s been making steady progress. He is a studious little dude and follows instruction well enough, but what he really adores is experimenting: With his father’s shaving cream and his mother’s makeup, with his little brother’s haircut and diaper-rash cream, with words and their meaning.

“I was making him a salad,” the mom hiccupped, still not quite over her laugh-a-thon, “and silly me, I thought I could slip in a tomato.”

I grinned. Silly indeed … This boy loves some vegetables … but he is also the kid who declared “tomatoes are mean because they look like cherries but they taste yucky.”

“So, he takes one look at the plate and shakes his finger at me, saying ‘Mommy, I told you five times already. Why you meddling my dinner?'”

 

 

For The Daily Post

“All kinds of upset”

 

The young girl stomped up my stairs red-faced, eyes shining with unshed tears, her usually tidy light hair disheveled, one pigtail-holder dangling dangerously close to losing hold. She slammed her book-bag on the floor, pulled at her coat sleeves and sat huffy by the table, arms crossed.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

Well … I was far from convinced … It seemed more like anything but.

“Sure looks like something is going on …” I offered, “you look upset, and you usually don’t just throw your bag on the floor and sit down … ”

“Sorry,” she mumbled and reached over to right the bag, not seeming particularly enamored with me, either.

“Oh, I don’t care about the bag,” I stated, realizing I could have certainly worded myself better. “I was just saying how you looked upset. I know that when I feel like tossing a bag onto the floor like that it is usually because I’m feeling upset.”

“Yeah.”

I waited.

“So I’m upset, okay?!”

The I said what you wanted me to say, so are you happy now? tone was evident, and it made me smile.

Wrong move. The girl’s forehead darkened. “What? So it’s funny?”

“No! Not at all!” I back-paddled, volume of smile lowered considerably. “I was smiling with affection. You don’t have to talk about any of this if you don’t want to. I’m just sorry that you are having a rough day.”

Silence. The child backed into the chair, progressively slumping as if all the air leaked slowly out of her. I waited. When she said nothing, I placed my hand on the table close to her, offering support. She looked up at me, unhooked one arm and played absentmindedly with my bracelet, then took my hand, and looked up again. Her green-gray eyes were brimming now and I could see that there were two trails of dried tears already on her cheeks, prepared to shuttle the incoming ones.

“I hate it when everyone tells me what to be!” She blurted, voice choked.

“Yeah,” I said softly.

“I am upset!” She stated. “A lot! All kinds of upset. Remember how we worked on feeling words and synonyms and opposites and all that stupid nonsense?”

I smiled. I did remember. Of course I did not think that any of it was even close to nonsense (especially not ‘stupid nonsense’ …), but I didn’t think being persnickety would help and so I kept my mouth shut about that.

“Well,” she half-smiled, realizing. “Sorry … not stupid nonsense, but sort of. It was really boring … but, anyway … I’m also feeling really annoyed and irritated. Disgusted, too. All part of upset, isn’t it?”

“Aha,” I confirmed, figuring that as she was doing a really good job herself, the best I could do was keep myself from interfering or thinking I knew what she wanted me to say.

“So I am. Upset. Angry. Frustrated. Whatever. Why do adults get to make decisions about my life? It is my life, not theirs!” She looked up at me, her pretty face now more sad and disappointed than angry. Putting feelings into words often does that … Verbalizing helps emotions clarify and flow.

“I’m sorry,” I said. I did feel sorry. I hate seeing children upset, and I know how helpless kids can feel sometimes–some of them absolutely all too often and this particular child more often than I’d like her to.  I also felt proud of her. For a girl who not too long ago had very few words with which to describe anything, let alone her own feelings, this was seriously wonderful progress.

“My mom says I can’t go to sleep-away camp,” she finally spat out, letting go of my hand in dejection and curling back into herself. “She says that ‘I need the summer for catching up with schoolwork’ … What about what I need? What about if I need a break?” The tears cascaded now, the unfairness of it all flooding her.

I sighed. This was going to be the girl’s first time at sleep-away, and she was looking forward to the four-week-adventure for just about forever. Her cousin and a good friend were also planned to go to the same “sports and fun camp”, as she called it, and it had been my impression that the parents were naturally wary to have their little girl away for the first time, but still supportive. Whatever brought this on, I did not think that canceling the camp was a good solution, and certainly not for supposed academics.

She looked up at me, suddenly suspicious. “Did you tell her that I need to stay home to do school work all summer?”

I certainly did not, but even before I could say anything, she took a breath and shook her head, “I know you wouldn’t, though. You always say playing is important, too. You don’t even like homework for kids with long schooldays. I heard you tell my mom that, on the phone …” she looked up mischievously, imparting a secret. “Don’t tell her … she doesn’t know … but I listened on the other line …”

I chuckled. Eavesdropping is not the most polite thing, even if I couldn’t say I blamed her for being curious to know what was being discussed when the topic was herself.  Talking about boundaries and appropriate behavior could wait, however.

“You’re right,” I said. “I do think playing is important. As important as learning. Sometimes even more important. I’m not sure why your mother said what she did, but if you’d like me to, I would speak to her about the summer camp. In fact, I want to know from her what this is all about.”

Hope dawned behind the tears. “You’d tell her I should go?”

This got another chuckle. Smart cookie, this one. “Well … I certainly think it is a good idea to have a break, and personally I would like to see you going, but parents have all kinds of considerations … I would like to speak to your mother about this but I don’t know that I will tell her that you ‘should’ go.”

“Okay …” she deflated some. “I wish you would tell her, though. She’d have to send me there if you say so.” Sigh. Shrug. The child finally unzipped and emerged from her coat (I was wondering how long she was going to let herself be cooked, with the heat on in the room besides). She hung the coat on the back of her chair and moved an arm–slightly defiantly, I thought–over her eyes and cheeks. Why bother with a tissue when there is a sleeve nearby … and when she can thereby show her discontent for my not promising to order her mother around some …

I smiled, and she smiled back, blushing slightly. Kids know when we see through them (though we are sometimes far less perceptive when they see right through us!).

We went on with our session, but before she got picked up by her babysitter the girl stopped me mid-sentence as I was discussing a task we were completing. “You won’t forget to talk to my mom, right?”

“I won’t,” I promised.

“I mean, don’t forget to tell her I was really annoyed and angry and frustrated and all kinds of upset about it!”

 

You bet’cha, little one. And so well done … No way I would forget, and me all kinds of proud of you for that …

 

Feelings

 

How early? For how long?

book time

I’ve received a query from a parent: “I heard reading to children is good for them. Is it true that it helps language development? How early should I start reading to my baby and how long should I go on reading to her?–Parenting Neophyte…”

It is a good question and one I get often and love getting. It is always worthy of an answer.

Dear Parenting Neophyte,

The facts are clear: Reading to kids is great. Introducing children to books is important for language development, listening skills, later literacy, and general cognitive potential. Stories expand vocabulary, increase imagination, teach social skills, improve narrative. Reading to your children is good parenting and a good investment in their education and future.

As to how early one is supposed to start reading to children and how long one goes on doing that–the simple answer is: “as early as possible and for as long as kids would let you …”

The more detailed reply is that even newborns find interest in clear patterns and drawings, in contrasting colors, in faces (especially in faces), and pictures of familiar objects. They listen. They pay attention. They track. They make connections between sounds and experience. Unfold an accordion book when the baby is playing on the mat. In the stroller. In the playpen. Give them a soft-book to hold in the stroller or to reach for when they loll on the floor during some ‘tummy time’ (check for lead-free paints and non-toxic materials, of course–babies put everything in their mouth!). Certainly introduce picture books as part of every night routine. Talk about the pictures with your infant, point to familiar animals and items. It is not about testing how much they understand or what words they can say or point to. Rather, it is about having reading books become a link in the nightly ritual of cuddling and comfort, connection, familiarity, language, narrative, and stories.

Babies who are read to often gravitate toward books as playing objects, they leaf through, turn pages, pause, look, and ponder, even as they mouth the corners and tear out what they manage to … (all great motor and visual spatial skills, by the way). They also learn to point, to wait, and to associate pictures with words and sounds. They learn to anticipate the next picture, to predict what’s to come. They learn to trust their memory. They rarely tire of adoring the confirmation of seeing the same picture appear as it did the day prior.

For sure, the repetition can be tedious (you’ll know what I mean when your toddler asks for the same book in the two-thousandth time, and wants to read it “again” and “again” and “more time!”), but it is part of children’s normal development during infancy and toddlerhood to like things repeat. So take a deep breath and even as you introduce new books once in a while, and expand the child’s repertoire of stories, do cave in and read “goodnight moon” one more time …

As for the question of “how long to keep reading to children?” The answer truly is to do so for as long as possible. Many professionals recommend reading to children straight through middle school, and certainly throughout the elementary school years.

It tends to surprise parents when I recommend that. Very often they tell me that they’d stopped reading to the child when he or she learned how to read independently–sometimes during the first or second grade. They thought that the move to independent reading marked the end of “needing to be read to” and in fact often had reading time revert into the time of day when the child read to them … It was almost a rite of passage. A mark of moving into the reading world.

Granted, there’s still plenty of bonding potential in cuddling with your child and witnessing their reading progress. It certainly feels good to the parent to measure their child’s progress … and to a child to know their efforts are appreciated. However, being read to is a very different task than reading aloud as decoding practice. The two have very different goals and encompass very different language levels. The books children read are often matched with their decoding ability, rather than their language level. Also, even in later elementary grades, when reading skills allow children to decode most common words, books are chosen with the child’s comprehension level in mind, not necessarily their exposure to higher linguistic material.

Reading TO children is a whole other world of learning opportunity. It is primarily a listening task and allows the child to relax into the story and delve into language while losing oneself in it. Being read to opens space for a child to draw inferences about connections, context clues, idioms, character descriptions, sequence, cause and effect. It is a time for a child to consider possible outcomes, predict to himself what might happen next, check a hypothesis, internalize some of the story characters, discern who they like and who they don’t, who they may want to be, where, how, why. It opens an opportunity for discussion that is very different than the ‘reading comprehension testing’ that happens with school books or those the child reads independently. The books you read to your child become fodder for conversation and self-discovery: what did they like about the book? what did you? why did so and so do this or that? would you so the same? what is your favorite character? which is mine? how come?

Children who are read to through 8th grade, have larger vocabularies than children who are good readers but are not being read to (and we are talking vocabularies that are larger by tens of thousands of words–not just by a small margin!). As a group, they have better listening skills, better auditory processing and auditory memory skills. They have better narrative skills. They use a more varied lexicon in their own writing. They have bigger cache of idioms and expressions that they can infer meaning about. They can converse better and show wider world-knowledge.

Children who are read to tend to enjoy books better than kids who are not read to. They tend to love reading more. They choose a wider variety of books and have a wider foundation in classical literature (read: the books you read to them may not be books they’d otherwise pick up to read themselves … but having listened to them, they may get the ‘book bug’ to look for more classic literature on their own). Want another bonus? Reading to children improves connection with parents and allows children to feel comfortable talking to their parents more, and about more topics (not to mention that stories often bring up issues that they may otherwise not talk about …)

In some families, reading to each other continues as part of family time well into high-school, with teenagers taking turn in reading aloud. Sure, it may seem odd to consider teens today being gung ho about spending an hour “reading boring books aloud” and being commanded to have their thumbs idle (no music, no chat, no texting). However, for families who started early this is often a natural continuation. In families starting a little later (and it is never too late, actually), the benefits are real even if they are grudgingly (or perhaps never verbally) acknowledged. Having your undivided attention is a precious commodity (yes, you have to put down that phone, too …). Knowing you are listening is priceless. It opens yours even as you raise your child to have a more open mind.

Reading to your children builds your relationship with them while also building their relationship with themselves, their inner worlds, the world around them, and their academic and cognitive abilities. It is truly a ‘one size fits all’ intervention. There are no downsides, other than extra cuddle time, honest conversations, and the distinct possibility of difficult questions about life that literature inevitably brings up.

The only warning necessary is … that reading to your child can damage their ignorance …

reading