We recently went to the Carnegie Library in Hazelwood to sit in on an event where young children can practice their reading skills with professionally trained dogs.
The children there were excitedly learning how to approach a dog politely, and very eager to read books to the puppy that was there. After the event ended, we slowly started to chat with them on what they were doing, and invited them to make Valentine’s Day cards for their moms with us.
They wrote little messages to their Moms, expressing what they loved most, or appreciated the most about their Mothers, then folded up the paper to keep the message inside. On the outside, we prompted them to write down their aspirations/dreams to what they want to be in the future!
The children were at first shy, but then became very excited to pick colored paper, and to write small and encouraging messages to their moms. We started off having only 2 kids, then they all started to crowd around us! Many of the children were so young that they were still having trouble with spelling some of the bigger words, but seeing them trying to express how they felt very sincerely was very heartwarming. One of the younger girls, Angela, she expressed how she loved hugging her mom, the warmth from her mom, and she loved how her mom would read to her.
Angela was very eager to write down messages to her mom, even though she was struggling with the spelling. She never asked me to write it for her – she just asked me for guidance for how to spell larger words, and wrote them all by herself!
All of them were very friendly, and some of them were especially talkative. They are at the age where they are still very excited about what they learn at school, and remember a lot of it. One child had very deep knowledge about exotic animals like lemurs and fossas, and he was very excited to test us on our knowledge of role models and significant figures in African American history that he had recently learned at school.
In the top photo I asked him why he wasn’t smiling, and he told me that he looked funny when he smiled, and he showed me his bright smile. I told him that I also had the same problem, so we took a selfie together! 🙂
Most of them were still at the age where they needed a little bit of prompting and examples for bigger questions like “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, but some did have very specific dreams. Angela said she wanted to be a doctor, Jasmere said she wanted to be a teacher, another girl said she wanted to be a lawyer since lawyers made a lot of money (either that, or she wanted to work at Walmart, and many of the other kids said they wanted to be chefs, but I definitely think that is because I gave them an example of how I wanted to be a chef when I was younger. I do think that at this age, children aspire to be things that they hear older people say, especially older people that they like or respect, like their parents or their teachers, or TV shows.
When we asked the kids who their best friends were, they pointed at certain groups of kids within the library – this really shows how having a central area where they can play together after school or on the weekends is necessary for building a stronger community. Childrens’ friendships also brings parents together, strengthening more ties. Even though none of them go to the same school now, just being able to be in the same space every week helps. They all come to the library every Saturday and stay the whole day, mostly because their parents have to be at work. There were some kids that were here with their parents too.
When we were talking to these children, we had the 3 ideas that we came up with last class in our minds, especially the photobooth one where they can envision their own dreams.
- Children are very clear on what they like and what they are interested in, but they do not clearly know they want to be in the future.
- Children with clearer images on what they would want to be in the future seemed to have had role models in their lives where they have seen a real-world example of someone they know (or through media) doing that certain occupation.
- At this really young age, role models affect them a lot since they are so eager to learn and absorb everything. Many of them talked about their moms and also things that they have most recently learned in school.
- Simple activities like these excite them, and once one starts working on something, all of them follow suite. It is really important to notice what they are writing and what they are drawing. This really clearly shows us what kind of things that they actually like doing, since a lot of the children like to copy each other when they talk.
- Children really like to show their skills and knowledge, so it is important to just have someone that will acknowledge their thoughts and listen to them chat. They are also very tech-savvy, so just from me having my phone on me, we learned a lot about new exotic animals and important people in African-American history!
- It is important to have safe spaces for children to play and learn within, since many parents work during the weekends. This also really influences them on what they think about, and what they like to do in their free time.