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Helping preschoolers learn about other cultures

January 7, 2022

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

I currently work at a school daycare, the John Ross Robertson Child Centre in Toronto. With young children, there are countless teachable moments. One morning, in front of a group of preschoolers, my colleague Lisa said to me, “Sing a Chinese song.” I was more than happy to do so.

Even though the little ones didn’t understand a word of it, they all listened! I explained to them that it was the Chinese version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and translated the lyrics into English for them. The song goes:  The crescent moon,  a small boat, a small boat with two pointed ends. Sitting on the small boat, I only see twinkling, twinkling stars and blue, blue sky.

“Sing another one,” Lisa told me. I gladly did just that. It goes: 月亮在白莲花般的云朵里穿行,  晚风吹来一阵阵快乐的歌声, 我们坐在高高的谷堆上边,  听妈妈讲那过去的事情

I once sang this song to school-aged children and told them that they would recognize one word – “Mama”. Our languages are very different, but there is something in common.

During this year’s Hanukkah, Lisa was reading a picture book about the Jewish holiday, the Festival of Lights. She showed the children a menorah and candles and sang the traditional children’s song: I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay, and when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play. Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay, Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

With early childhood educators like Lisa, children can learn and appreciate each other’s cultures at a very young age. The school, the society at large, will become a more welcoming place for people with diverse backgrounds.

At this moment, my very first English poem about the joys of Christmas is on display at the daycare. I wrote it thirty years ago when as a newcomer,  I received my very first Christmas card from my cousin in Manitoba. I fell in love with everything about Christmas: the trees, lights, songs and spirit.

In January, I am going to put up my little poem about the Chinese New Year Eve at the daycare and share our celebration. I am excited!

In Canada, a country of immigrants, we all come from different backgrounds, but we do share so much in common: love of lights, music, food, family and friends.

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