Reference Books and the Curious

English: An adult male Downy Woodpecker, Picoi...
English: An adult male Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens in Ottawa, Ontario (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at my woodland retreat this weekend when my cell phone rang with “Grandma answer the phone!” I had added my granddaughter’s voice as a ringtone and I smile each, and every time, I hear it. When I answered, Katherine excitedly started describing a new bird at her feeder. How I enjoy being her favorite reference for birding! After a fun talk, we decided she had seen a Downy Woodpecker. My questions about what she had seen, hopefully, schooled her about what to look for in the future.

Although I hope she never gives up on seeking my opinion, I realized that she needed a few reference books for those rare occasions when grandma does not have cell service or ,(rarer still) doesn’t know the answer.

Yes, the internet offers quick access to information BUT I think reference books have a different and equal value. First, looking things up, using your head, not a vague definition, can really challenge a young mind to filter information… people need a triage of sorts for describing things and narrowing down their searches. Too often, someone will call the information line for a phone number after exploring only one avenue for the yellow page listing. Lazy! Can’t find hair dresser?…try beautician…try hair salon… and so forth.

I have ordered Katherine a guide to Eastern US Birds from Amazon. On top of fine tuning her vocabulary, she may have fun with discovering new birds to be on the “look out” for. Many times I start a search for a specific bird (in a book) which ends, half an hour later, having been drawn into information about others.

Books are portable, personal and they smell good too! Never overlook what they can offer, above the computer, to the young and curious among us.

Consider Nursery Rhymes

The deficiency our  kids were having when it came to recognizing classic Nursery Rhymes was allieviated, some, when the movie Shrek came out. Thanks to that movie, kids are asking about Humpty Dumpty, and the gang, who remain frames of reference in our culture. Humpty Dumpty started as a political cartoon and still holds a message of which educated Americans are aware.

Laying a cultural education is a primary duty of preschool teachers and parents. I realized that one of my day care kids had never seen the Wizard of Oz by age 8. We made a date and watched it together. The same day care friend had a movie date with me at age 16 to watch, To Kill a Mockingbird.

There are icons in our culture that should not be overlooked. Subjects,themes and morals crop up in daily life and being familiar with them, makes one truly educated and “in the loop”.  Jack Sparrow, from Disney, reintroduced pirates to childhood. Lots of kids had no reference for them in the previous years.

If you are interested in the well-rounded and fanciful education of a young child, do consider the Mother Goose classics.