Prosody Logo Greg Kochanski Prosody Logo

One book that my daughter brought home recently is very poorly done and ought to be retired from use. It's a little 10 page kindergarted reader about shadows, and the shadows are drawn completely incorrectly. The book is Hide and Seek, by Carol Saucien and Marie-Lousie Gay. Harcourt Brace Co, ISBN 0-15-306683-0

Without listing all the sins, I'll just say that (with one exception) none of the shadows in the pictures are even remotely possible. This kind of sloppiness helps no one, and hurts most the children who need the most help. Children have an amazing amount of stuff to learn; let's not tax their abilities unnecessarily by introducing gratuitous confusion that doesn't really even help the story line.

If you just look at "Hide and Seek" just as a story to teach reading, it's not a bad book. It certainly wouldn't be missed, and it's just mass-produced mediocrity, but children may get some reading practice without being particularly bored. But, that's not a sufficient excuse to keep it around. Subject categories are not firm in the children's minds at this age, and there are not firm boundaries in the curriculum. Will kids know that the shadows aren't the important part? Will they know it's a reading book, not a science book?

The problem is in the secondary learning. Secondary learning is what you learn from all the little background details and assumptions. Often these background details are more-or-less right, even in works of fiction. Secondary learning is how - if you read pre-WWII English murder mysteries - is how you learn about social classes. It's how - if you read The Adventures of Baron Munchausen you can learn that the Ottoman Empire was still reasonably important in the 18th century.

But, Hide and Seek presents some amazingly wrong insights into symmetry (a left-facing shadow from a right-facing character), and propagation of light (shadow feet not connected to the character's feet). And let's hope no one remembers any of the geometry from the book.

So, I doubt that it really adds to anyone's education. It's just another underwhelming product of the companies that cater to our schools.

[ Papers | | Phonetics Lab | Oxford ] Last Modified Sun Oct 8 14:34:54 2006 Greg Kochanski: [ ]