I just finished reading out loud this story to Jiejie last week. It took me all of 1.5hrs and two glasses of water to complete the story, by the time which was 10 pm. Ever since she reads independently, I have not been reading much to her and have conveniently ignored Chinese books too. 😦 Well, just mid last week, friends in her class chat group started alerting everybody about the urgency to complete a Chinese book review to be submitted the next day in preparation for next week’s show and tell. I also caught warnings that the book is not an easy read too. It was unusual of such commotion in the parents’ chat group. While the topic of discussion was on-going, I was busy driving, settling the kids back from school and then to set them into their routine of homework and revision and nap after we got home. I flipped through the book and knew I could leave her alone to the task. The need to read the book with Jiejie nagged at me for hours ever since I got news of the urgency. By the time I was ready to share the book with Jiejie, it was already past 8 pm, with the dishes left unwashed, pleading for my hubby to help after he got home from meeting.
Aside from the urgency to complete the book review, I found out that the book review is to be written down and presented in the form of Chinese Show & Tell for next Tuesday. After worrying for a few hours, I found consolation that Jiejie had already quietly completed her book review while I was working with Didi. I was seriously thankful that she knows her priorities amidst the revision work I had prepared for her to do for the next two days of Chinese and Maths tests.
The book review was presented in a 2-page sheet with 3 major topics, each topic guided with 3 questions relating to the story book. The kids were only required to choose one topic and complete their 3 questions. I quickly glanced through her completed questionaire and realize that she also had, as usual, simply answered her sentences with short sentences, much lesser than what she can do. From her answers, she also had not understood the story well enough. Since the worksheet is meant for Show & Tell, I offered her a story-telling session and explained that she should not just present her Show & Tell with 3 short sentences. It would be so awkward and she would not be able to grasp a high score. Gladly she took up the story-telling session offer and sat next to me to listen. I decided to take it easy as we read the book, to make it a real story-telling session instead of rushing through it like it’s for exams and defeating the purpose of letting her enjoy the story.
Throughout the 1.5hrs of reading, we had meaningful discussions, with my best given in explaining the meaning of the Chinese Idioms to her too. It was a great bonding session. By the end of the session, I realised it had been so long since we shared a book together. It once again reminded me to read stories to the kids – in Chinese.
<<漂亮妈妈丑女佣>> is a story about a Primary 4 girl by the name of 珊珊. The story started with her verbal victory over her mum at the school gate on her first day of school in a new school. 珊珊 successfully “chased” her mum away from sending her right up to her class, claiming that she knew the way and that she is independent enough. With disappointment and uncertainty, her mum left her at the school gate and went home. She secretly rejoiced over the “battle”.
The opening already got Jiejie questioning me – Why wouldn’t 珊珊 want her mum to send her to her class? Given the opportunity, she would be so happy to have mum with her. Like what I had enjoyed, she had often said that she would want me to send her to school daily, all the way through university. Like my mum always say, Jiejie is such a 小甜心! I had been shuttling the kids ever since I stopped working full time. I had also shared with the kids that my parents had lovingly sent me to university and my first job site when they started semi-retirement. It happened all the way until I got comfortable enough to get to work with my first vehicle – a company issued pick-up truck.
珊珊 quickly attracted lots of attention from her classmates ever since she got transferred to this new school. From her fancy stationary and non-repetitive fashionable apparels (the students are allowed to wear anything on non-uniform day which happens weekly. They call it 便服日.) to having her daily bento filled with a variety of good food delivered during lunch time, her classmates deduced that she comes from a well-to-do family. 珊珊 conveniently rode on the fame and attention showered upon her.
珊珊 is weak in Mathematics. Since the day she joined her class and got assigned to sit with another girl by the name of 佩玲, they have been best friends, with 佩玲 unreservedly helping 珊珊 along in her Mathematics whenever she was struggling. On this day with a horrible storm, the same dark-skinned lady with an ugly scar on her face who delivered bento daily at the school gate was seen standing outside the classroom, dripping wet from head to toe. In her hands, she carried a bento bag and stood patiently waiting. 珊珊 did not notice her presence as she was busy with her maths until 佩玲 nudged her.
Upon seeing the lady, 珊珊 reacted strongly with her pencil thrown on the table, stormed out of the classroom, grabbed her bento bag and then shouted at the ugly lady. “WHY are you here?! DIDN’T I tell you not to appear outside my classroom?? Do you NOT understand instructions?!!” All these while, the classmates watched while 珊珊 ungratefully demeaned the ugly lady who brought bento for her in the storm, who quietly allowed 珊珊 to shout at her without so much of a thanks. When the ugly lady finally left, she turned her head to watch with a resigned look on her face, only to hear 珊珊 telling her classmates that she is her maid.
Jiejie was puzzled why 珊珊 had to be so mean to her helper. I did not reveal much from the story line yet but told her that she is right to have the basic courtesy and humanity to question 珊珊’s actions. No matter what level or background someone is from, a favour given is a kindness received and one has to be thankful for it.
When asked why her parents had employed an ugly maid, 珊珊 replied that her mum preferred an ugly one so that the maid will behave herself and know her place in the family. To many of us, it would more or less mean that the helper would be unlikely to “choot pattern” during her engagement especially when the employers are not at home. All these words, were heard by the ugly lady and she merely walked away sadly.
By now, 珊珊 was seen as as a child coming from a wealthy family. She adored the fawning and attention she received from her classmates.
On another day, it rained early in the morning and 珊珊 had a brand new dress soiled by the splashes of rain. As usual, the ugly lady delivered her bento and because 珊珊 did not appear at the school gate (doing maths again), the ugly lady sent it up to her classroom and waited patiently in her soaking wet clothes. As if a dormant volcano that suddenly erupted after decades, 珊珊 released her all her pent-up anger at the ugly lady without any reservations.
An accident changed 珊珊’s life forever. On this day that her classmate ran to inform her that her maid had met with an accident at the school gate, 珊珊 finally showed her inner feelings she had for her mother. As you and I would have guessed it correctly, the ugly lady was actually her mother. All these while, she had been embarassed of her mother’s looks and her family’s poverty. She had taken advantage of her mother’s love for her as her entitlement to being bratty, even to the extent of claiming that her that her mum was actually her family’s domestic help. With her mum bleeding profusely right now and not reacting to her cries, would she lose the support and love all of a sudden? Would she become an orphan?
This supplementary reader loaned by school is not an easy read for the P3s at all. While I had no problem figuring out some of the highly-difficult Chinese Idioms and phrases, I did find myself stumbling over some Hanyu Pinyin (HYPY) pronounciation and awe-struck by the author’s choice of words. Some of them are way beyond everyday-use of common Idioms. If you ask me to recall and reapply the Idioms used right now, I frankly admit that I am unable to – even over simple things like describing bad weather. I’m not talking about 雷电交加，风云密布，天色灰暗, 风和日丽 . 😦
I can safely say that most P3 kids would not pick up the book if it is not given as a homework. Even if the book is fully printed with HYPY to assist, the cluttered pages, small fonts and difficulty of the words would only make things worse. Had it not been issued by the school as an assignment, I would not have discovered the need to shift my focus on the kids’ school work back to Chinese. I had relied on a Chinese Writing/Oral Enrichment class for Jiejie while Didi goes for regular enrichment class being the only one offered for P1 kids. While they have been coping very well in the language, I have overlooked the need to constantly encourage them to read Chinese books. Similar to picking up independent reading for English titles, what I should do now, is to read Chinese titles to them on a daily basis. One day, hopefully still not too late, they would be willing to pick up and read a Chinese title on their own.
However I need to add that this book is a great resource for imparting values and promote higher level reading beyond illustrated books. The HYPY helped alot with pronounciation and is going to be helpful to the kids as well. Slowly (and painstakingly it will be), they would be able to pick up word recognition without the heavy reliant on HYPY.
<<漂亮妈妈丑女佣>> is part of a series of value-based story books by Taiwanese 李光福. <<漂亮妈妈丑女佣>> teaches us to be grateful in life and not to take things for granted. Other titles in the series are as shown below. I would be ordering a set and hope to make use of them well. You can find the titles under this series from the photos below and should be able to find the books on 当当 or Taobao.
This series is printed in A5 size, about 80 pages in all with illustrations everywhere and some activities at the last 10+ pages of the book. A summary of the values behind each title is found listed below.
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~ SAys! Shirley 🙂