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It’s a Scientific Fact! Baby Praying Mantises Can Get Your Child Reading More in the Minority Language!

Baby praying mantises emerge from the egg case.
Lulu watches the baby praying mantises emerge from their egg case.

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.

Birthday party for praying mantises.
Fun fact for your next cocktail party: According to Wikipedia, the female mantis has been known to practice “sexual cannibalism,” biting off the head of the male during or following the mating act.

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.)

Reading aloud to baby mantises.
Roy reads aloud to his “children.”

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.

Know what else can promote literacy? Rats in the bathroom! For details, see How Rats in the Bathroom Can Boost a Child’s Bilingual Ability.
How about you? Would your children enjoy reading to little creatures or favorite toys?

4 Responses

  1. That is a good one. My 5-year-old can’t read yet, but it doesn’t stop him from “reading” to his stuffed animals (the same stuffed animals who keep him awake all night with their talking, the naughty things!).

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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