Some time ago, I was invited to volunteer as “captain” for a literacy project based on a series of Bookstore Trip to introduce kids to reading real books and sponsored by a non profit organization of Mercer County. At first I thought I would get a white captain’s hat with gold ribbons, but instead I received a T-shirt that did not match the rest of my outfit. For a good cause it doesn’t matter if it’s not a good color match; therefore, I managed to wear the bright shirt even if half hidden under my suit jacket.
At 5 pm we all met at a bookstore in Princeton, NJ, and anxiously awaited the bus full of kids from the nonprofit organization. Some people were asking how many children they would be paired with, if we already knew their names, etc., and everybody was trying to think about the best way to greet the children upon their arrival. Then the bus arrived and we could finally see the children on board with their big eyes wide open looking outside the bus windows to that bunch of happy grown ups, in bright T-shirts, anxiously waiting for them on the sidewalk in front of the bookstore.
After everyone was “paired” with one or two kids and we all scattered throughout the bookstore, it was clear from the jolly atmosphere that we were all having a lot of fun -- I mean children and volunteers. I was paired with Omar, a very quiet six-year-old boy, and it was definitively what is called a “perfect match!” Omar doesn’t speak much, while I tend to speak a little more, so we got along very well.
After some time spent checking the shelves of the bookstore, Omar picked an illustrated book about ninjas, dragons, lizards and other curious creatures I had never seen before. We started reading the book while drinking delicious hot chocolate and ended up arguing whether or not a green ninja on a white dragon is better than a black ninja on a giant dark green lizard. My thesis was that the lizard is definitely stronger, because it has 12 claws, and the dark ninja is mightier than the green; how can you argue with that? But Omar, being only six-year-old, was not convinced with my argument that the lizard is better than the dragon. After I exhausted all possible explanations, Omar pointed out to me with a smile that if you count the total dragon claws (I had counted only those on the wings), he also has 12, and since he can fly, he has air power superiority (not a direct quote.) Well, what could I have said to that? At the end logic forced me to concede to Omar.
We both enjoyed drinking the hot chocolate, browsing and reading the book, and talking about lizards and dragons so much that time flew. I have been told that they have never seen little Omar that talkative and that, together with his smile, was the best reward.
After all there is no better way to make children develop their personality than making them defend their own point, even if, as in this case, their point is completely wrong. I mean, after all who doesn't know that giant lizards are stronger than dragons?