Quiet Time with My Seeya
A&U Children, 2023
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Right back into the early days of my teaching career that began more than 50 years ago, one of the most rewarding things I have experienced over and over, is the way that kids relate to each other and have fun even though they don’t share a word of each other’s language. Regardless of whether it was in an inner city school in Christchurch, New Zealand where the only two people with fluent English were my teaching partner and I; a new Canberra primary school, where the ESL teacher and I found 42 different languages spoken amongst the children, let alone their families; or another school where those who had arrived from overseas with no English at all came to the Introductory English Centre for six months of intensive study before going to their neighbourhood schools; classrooms and playgrounds alike were always hubs of co=operation, collaboration and communication as through shared body language, hand signals, laughter, smiles, fun and games children from all nationalities and age groups played together, learned from each other and there were no barriers.
And that situation has been captured in this delightful book about the relationship between a little girl and her non-English speaking grandfather. Inspired by a situation in which the author’s Sri Lankan grandmother moved to Australia with only her native Sinhalese so that “most of her outside social interactions were limited to a smile”, the little girl and her grandfather have the best fun doing everyday things with gusto and joy, “show[ing] more than we tell”.
This is a situation that will resonate with many of our students whose own language is not the same as those around them, but who, nevertheless, can share joy and love, happiness and sadness, and from whom, we adults can learn so much. It opens up opportunities to investigate languages spoken within the class families and how humans, as a species, often say more with their bodies than their mouths. It might even be fun to create a series of emojis that encapsulate the emotions and feelings common to all of us so we understand that we have more similarities than differences, and that spoken language is just one element. of communication.