My 5 year old is a complete boy, sprawling with jumping energy, very lovable, very smart, without needing the nuances of his sister's style, he is confident and confortable in his own skin, and the best all, he can read! I am seriously thrilled with that. I recognize that he has been under serious pressure to concentrate more on his reading in recent times. Serious pressure, you can't even imagine. He had his TV time cut to the barest minimum and had to do away with all the animations he loved, even some I love myself. Come to think of it, by age of 5, I feel like the guy has watched more animations than I ever watched since I was born. What! Some days, the TV is banished to Disney Junior - Mickey Mouse, Zou, Handy Manny, Winnie the Pooh, Sonic The UnderGround, (I have also come to really enjoy Winnie the Pooh myself, especially Winnie the Pooh's Tales of Friendship), Rescue Heros, Dino Squad, Imagination Movers (not really an animation), Lazy Town, just to name a few.
To be honest he improved extensively in several ways, mannerisms, imagination, knowledge, spoken English, vocabularies, expressions, and I loved his progress, and his sister's. The biggest surprise what the day my wife brought home a book on dinosaurs and my son could identify the dinosaur species by name. As knowledgeable as I am, I never even knew dinosaurs had different names. One must give kudos to the guys that write those children stuffs, a lot of them work hard at using their animations as a tool to impact knowledge. The interesting thing was that everyone is our house became drawn into the animation stuff. Firstly, my principle as a father which is "participate in the children's lives - i.e. watch the same TV, sit and play on the same game, read together, take them along in your businesses", got me to sit and watch the same channel with the children becuase I generally want to know what they are watching, I also want tobe able to speak their language. Truth is I did not have to give up much to achieve this, I rarely watch football (I’ll rather hear the football news and watch the football documentaries than watch the match itself), my favourite channels are Food Network (and I don't eat as much), TBN, One Gospel. CNN and Ebonylife, and most of them, have just bits and pieces of programs that I really like, afterwards, the children take over, infact they watch theirs and when they are tired, we can have time to watch ours. In short, we made theirs ours.
But as the cookie crumbled, we all fell in love with the programs. Oh! What TV program is better than Winnie the Pooh Tales of Friendship? That closing song "Now the day is nearly through it's time for sleepy head, but there's something we should do before we go to bed. . ." I love that song, I googled it, followed my children as they sang it, I loved the stories so much I would give up the News to watch them. Guess what, I started to write my own animation charactered stories. I wrote Winnie the Pooh Bible stories, and wrote Mickey Mouse Bible Stories. And as you may rightly guess, the children loved it, both at Church and home, it resonated with them so much, it was impressive, What better way to teach children about prayer, forgiveness, faith, love, giving and salvation than to use my bible stories, I loved the idea. And I did not have to draw the characters; all I had to do was make the available pictures tell my stories. The first time the children saw Mickey and his friends in church at Mickey Park, they were exhilarated, Mickey and his friends slid up to church at the clubhouse. Another story was how Winnie the Pooh and Tigger learnt forgiveness as they went in search of Pooh Bear's hunny that disappeared from his hunny pot, only to find a large pot full of hunny on a hunny tree. I love it! The day I knew that I was finally won over to the children's channel was the day we were supposed to go out and they started Imagination Movers Concert on Disney Junior, I tell you, the whole bunch of us were so excited, we sang along, screamed at the performances, we just had fun.
So you can imagine what pressure it was to get that entire TV time cut off, except as reward for doing homework and reading his books. Initially it was tough on all of us, but we stuck through, early morning crying bouts and he goes through the drills - "Look at the book”, "Sound that letter", Okay, "Go to your wardrobe door and sound every tricky word on the board". Nights without hi-fives for reading through because you needed him to be sober and feel the seriousness of the drills. Pressures from all sides, as my wife puts pressure on him doing his homework, I am putting pressure on him reading, Infact I started to give him my own books to read! He stabilized, got a number of stars at school, became more sober and started concentrating more. I realized that though the TV programs were very good, they were often times hyper stimulating for the child.
But to come to think of it, it is amazing how the world has changed. What these kids do at age 5 academically, a lot of us couldn't even imagine. Before my time, children couldn't even start school until their hands could stretch over their heads to touch their ears (whoever came up with that thought?). By the time you can do that, you will be well above 7years if you were a tall child and over 8, if you were small sized. Back then, they had standard schools, not primary. So when children go to school to enrol, they would have them stretch one hand over their heads to touch their ears. If it touches, congratulations, else, till next year, Very ridiculous. By the time the child leaves school, he is so old, he will have to adopt a new age - the Official Age it is called, else he would be above age for employment.
By our own time, they had mellowed on that, and also changed the name from Standard School to Primary School, thanks to "Eko Ofe" (free education) in Yoruba Land pioneered by Awolowo and Bola Ige. The only thing was that you had to be 6 years old to be in primary 1. Majority of us attend public schools, very few private schools existed at that time, and since most people attended the free public schools, parents did not have to bother about making any image or saving any face by having to pay exorbitant fees.
When I see what these children do today, I am so impressed. I recall that in my primary school in Ibadan, in the early 80s, the teachers teach English in Yoruba - they would say things like "E mu iwe NOEC yin jade" (Bring out your NOEC textbook). NOEC was the acronym for the New Oxford English Course that we used for English language at that time. And we would read the English, and the teacher would speak Yoruba to correct the pronounciations, "Gbogbo yin, e ma wi tele me - Hand, Book . . ." translated, "everyone repeat after me - Hand, Book . . ." The interesting was that we all learnt how to read, and we all grew and became doctors, business people, accountants, engineers, writers, pastors, all sorts, and we all learnt our mother tongue.
I am sure it was because of the time when they taught English with Yoruba, that a time came when vernacular speaking became prohibited in schools, everyone wanted their children to speak good English, it worked, and even overworked. So what do we have now, school using English to teach Yoruba and Igbo. Urban children who can't speak one word of Igbo or Yoruba, yet cannot speak Queen's English, dearth of appreciation for our own culture, food and lifestyle. Even yours truly has fallen prey - my kids can't speak Igbo, even though both of us parents are FBIs (Full Blooded Igbos). They can't speak Yoruba either. That, to me, is an issue. My wife has started trying to teach the children Igbo, but guess what? She is using English to teach them Igbo. She will point to the mouth and say, "What is this?" and the kids will answer "Onu" . . . See how the world has changed. But you know what, given the recent Naija spirit expressed in the spoken word, music and arts, I foresee a future where it will be hype to speak your mother tongue, and not just speak, it will be hype to be able to sing, rap, write poetry, lyrics and books - Infact it is already hype - See how people enjoy the Nigerian music of today - Igbo raps, Yoruba anecdotes, even Benue and Hausa lyrics etc. I also just love it when I read new Nigerian authors, and they write Igbo sentences in their works - See how Chimamanda includes Igbo words graciously, not to talk of the Veteran Chinua Achebe.
What do I say! I am so proud of my son because he can now read, now I can give him all the big books to read., who says I can't introduce Biology, computer programming, code writing and Chemistry before he is 7 or 8, and also start teaching the guy Calculus. Just musing!
I am proud of those teachers who have developed Jolly Phonics as a way of teaching children to read, instead instead of those poor techniques they used for us. I am also proud of my wife, who has decided she must teach our children our mother tongue, even if she has to do it in English.