Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 7 Issue 10 | May 16, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  One Off
  Human Rights
  Food for Thought
  Dhaka Diary
  Book Review

   SWM Home

Book Review

Easy Learning with Colours, Numbers and Cute Characters

Nashida Ahmed and Farah Ghuznavi

A young friend was recently heard saying that school is hard work! And looking at the six-year-old's homework assignments it was hard to disagree. Learning in Bangladesh is a serious business-- competitive environments and a common focus on rote learning in most schools (whether English or Bangla medium) don't really help. Additionally, the globalised world that we live in, combined with our national preoccupation in favour of English-medium education for anyone who can afford it, means that many of today's urban children are missing out on what is on offer in the vernacular.

To make learning a little more fun and to make it easier for parents to ensure that their children are comfortable learning the written word and numerals in Bangla, this review takes a look at a few of the Bangla language options currently on offer for younger children - along with some locally published English storybooks for the same age group (so that nobody accuses us of excessive linguistic bias!)

Shona o Moni-r Ek Dui Teen by Manize Khasru is a book suitable for children just beginning to learn numbers in Bangla. A hard-cover binding helps this book avoid excessive wear and tear at the hands of rambunctious youngsters. The colourful illustration on the green cover has a girl and a boy learning the Bangla numbers on a board in red, which is likely to draw the attraction of the young audience it is targeting. The book uses charming illustrations featuring the brother and sister team of Shona and Moni who take the reader through a series of simple rhymes associated with each number.

These are introduced sequentially, each number being taught alongside a picture in a colour that represents it, as well as a catchy rhyme that follows on the facing page (on the right hand) to drive home the message. The use of rhymes is particularly effective since the patterns of sound created help young readers to make sense of the printed text. This well-illustrated offering makes a young child's introduction to numbers a pleasure, and the book is a steal at Tk. 80, having already sold out at most outlets.

Lal Murgi by Zishan Rahman is a short story book, published by the BRAC Education Programme (BEP) as one of the learning materials used to teach students in BRAC schools. The title story, Lal Murgi, has been adapted from a very popular English fable, 'The Little Red Hen'. A bright red hen is seen cooking in her yard where, as a mother hen, she wants some help to prepare rice cakes for her family. But neither the father of the family nor any of the other family members are willing to help when she asks them though they are all quite happy to help her eat the rice cakes once she has finished preparing them all by herself!

But wisely, the red hen refuses to share with those who were too lazy to do any of the work. The story makes the important point that deserving something requires the contribution of an effort. For a generation of privileged urban children growing up with a strong sense of entitlement (unlike many in the BRAC schools), this is a lesson well worth learning! The story uses short and repetitive phrases to help develop the language skills of young readers.

This book also contains a short piece of nonsense rhyme about cats of various colours with a description of the activities of each feline. It would have been even more effective if the cats were actually displayed in the colours described, but perhaps that would have been too expensive to print as a schoolbook. Nevertheless, this piece is an item made for pure enjoyment!

Bondhur Khoje by Tanima Afroz is a story about friendship. The cover features a brown puppy and a multi coloured butterfly, their expressions and body language indicating an animated exchange. Both these characters are introduced at the very beginning of the story. The puppy is lonely and in search of a friend. In his quest for friendship he meets a beautiful butterfly who is also searching for companionship. But although the two become friends, they feel the need to bolster their numbers in order to play hide and seek properly. So they decide to search for more friends, encountering rats, cats, pigeons and many other creatures during their journey.

The story unfolds with each new set of friends introducing a new number to the reader, thereby fulfilling the twin purposes of learning about the value of friendship as well as addressing the more mundane challenges of numeracy. All the pages are printed on glossy paper with attractive illustrations of the various characters that emerge over the course of the story, and the book is a bargain at the price of only Tk. 60.

Our two English language offerings are both by Niaz Zaman, and also aimed at younger readers. The first, The Cat Who Loved Hats uses word play to describe the textures, shapes and colours that readers must navigate as they learn about a cat who is obsessed with hats. This story may be considered to have a subversive subtext relating to the consumerist world we live in, and the risk of getting caught in an (apparently) endless cycle of buying more and more “stuff”. The underlying theme of the story gently touches on the moral that excess is rarely a good idea. But of course, all ends well for this particular “fat cat”!

The second story Swim, Little Fish, Swim is the delightful tale of a small fish who ventures alone, somewhat unwisely, into deeper waters. In the process, he encounters a scary, shadowy menace that sends him fleeing back just in time to the safety of home and family. This story makes the very valid point of “stranger danger” and the need for children to listen to parental advice. Unless, of course, you have the kind of child whose eyes light up with excitement and anticipation just as the dark shadow appears in which case, you're in trouble! Either way, this is your window of opportunity because let's face it if they don't listen to their parents at this age, kids are certainly unlikely to do so at a later stage! So try brainwashing them while you still can (just kidding…)

This story of the little fish is beautifully illustrated, the bright colours and expressive drawings by Primula Siddiqui likely to be a big hit with young readers. Both books are reasonably priced at Tk. 60 and Tk. 80 respectively.

These books are available at most good bookstores, apart from Shona o Moni-r Ek Dui Teen (which is currently only in stock at Aranya on Kemal Ataturk Avenue) and Lal Murgi (which can be obtained from BRAC).

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008