Have you seen a baby praying mantis before? For a creature that looks a lot like a terrifying space alien, they’re pretty cute.
For months now, we’ve had two of these praying mantis “egg cases” in a plastic container in our house. Apparently, when colder weather approaches, the female mantis squirts out a big batch of eggs in a sort of frothy mass which soon hardens. Last winter my son found two of these egg cases sticking to the backs of plants and he wanted to adopt them—so we’ve been waiting patiently for the babies to emerge ever since.
In fact, we were getting worried that they wouldn’t hatch before we left on our trip to the U.S. next week. After all, we didn’t want to come home to a house overrun with an army of hungry mantises.
But on Sunday morning one of the egg cases finally came to life, with dozens of babies pushing their way out. Of course, it was a thrill for us all (I had never been invited to a birthday party like this before!), but Roy, finally a proud “father,” was especially delighted.
“You’re the Daddy”
In the afternoon, I had to drive Lulu to a dance rehearsal, for a big performance looming in late June. But before I left the house, I studied Roy, who had already spent much of the day lying on the floor and gazing raptly into the plastic box.
“Are you going to read to them?” I asked.
“What?” he replied, his eyes still glued to the container.
“Well, you’re the Daddy, aren’t you?” I explained. “Shouldn’t you be reading some books to your children?”
He looked up and smiled, and I realized this playful suggestion was about to pay off in additional reading practice while I was away with Lulu.
So I searched our bookshelves and found three picture books that featured bugs. “I think they’ll like listening to these,” I told Roy as I placed them by his side. He promptly picked up the first one, called Bug Safari, and began reading it to the baby mantises. And when he reached the part where a praying mantis appears in the book, he got very excited and began reading to his “kids” in a loud, spirited voice. (I can’t be sure, but I think the baby mantises got kind of excited at that part, too.)
Boost independent reading
What’s the moral of this little story? I mean, besides something like: Patience is needed not only for children, but also for praying mantis egg cases.
Perhaps it’s this: Once your children have begun to read in the minority language, look for opportunities to boost independent reading by playfully encouraging them to read to pets, dolls, stuffed animals—even a batch of freshly-hatched baby mantises.
Like Roy, most younger children will probably take to this idea with glee, particularly if the books can connect thematically with their “audience”: books on bugs for insects, books on cats for cats, books on bears for teddy bears, etc.