Reading has always been a huge and important part of my life. As a child, I would spend every Saturday at the library with my father; either exploring the free reading section or with my nose buried in a book while he delivered home readers to the elderly. I'd fill exercise books with fictional stories and bedtime tales were never missed in our house hold, no matter who was to narrate. As result, I excelled in school when it came to English & creative writing & I can't go into a bookstore without leaving with a hole in my wallet.
As an adult, life is rather busy and finding time to read is hard (especially with the allure of handheld devices) which is why I've made it part of my morning routine. I get up, check my social media and my emails, make breakfast and then I read a chapter of my current book while I eat it. Its a really nice way to start the day, and it helps my make time to read for pleasure; even if it means I now devour books at a fraction of the pace I am used to.
Over the past few months I've been making my way through 'Beyond The Tiger Mom : East-West Parenting for the Global Age' by Maya Thiagarajan.
The book is a follow on from Amy Chua's 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother' (controversial, but hands down my favourite non-fiction book). It unpacks the cultural differences in Eastern & Western parenting philosophy and culture at large when it comes to education and academics. Thiagarajan is a Singaporean mother who commenced her professional teaching career in the United States. She later returned to teaching in her native Singapore when her own children were primary school aged. She quickly noticed the children in Singapore had distinctly different study schedules to the children she taught in the U.S, and the feedback from parents in Singapore was very different to that of her U.S peers.
She explores the emphasis placed on maths, science and information technology in Singapore at large. Not just in school, but in an industrial sense in a country with very few natural resources. One thing that struck me was the revelation that the emphasis that Western culture places on making sure we read with our young children, some Asian cultures place the same amount of importance on introducing and familiarising young children with numbers. This includes counting things when they see them the same way we might ask our children to name them, singing maths based songs in place of nursery rhymes and asking their children to identify shapes the way we do with letters and sounds.
Thiagarajan also supports the love Asian parents have for one on one tutoring (with almost all of the mothers she interviewed having their children in some form of intensive after school tutoring) , acknowledging the pitfalls of the western education system in regards to over crowded classrooms and "teaching to the middle"; where kids who need a challenge as well as those who need additional support are lost in the fray.
I'm focussing here on the aspects of the eastern approach that I found most interesting, simply because I am already well acquainted with what works from the Western model (reading and freedom of imagination for creative problem solving) but the book is actually a very balanced examination of what has been proven to work from both sides of the world, and advocates a healthy combination of the two.
It is full of anecdotal discussion spliced with statistical evidence and is broken down into chapters, each of which contain a really helpful dot point tips for parents covering take-away topics such as;
How to build a math-rich home
How to build a language rich home
How to help your child memorise information
How to encourage critical thinking skills
How to supplement your child's Education
How to help your child develop a growth mindset
How to create a supportive community for your child
I was drawn to this book because as someone who suffers from dyscalculia, married to a man who has struggled with dyslexia, I am very interested in how we can help our future children stay on top of their education, in both areas as we both place so much value on it. I did plan to lend this book to a few friends after I was done with it, but I've since decided I'll order the copies for their birthdays. I'll be keeping my highlighted and dog eared copy very near by for when our time comes!