Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maria Montessori's birthday

Dr. Maria Montessori, 1870-1952

Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori

I and my five Marlin siblings, born 1934-1945 and all living, were brought up largely by my mother (Hilda van Stockum) and grandmother (Olga Boissevain) until we went away to school. 

Both of them were trained directly by Dr. Montessori, so in a way the family was a mini-Montessori Pre-School.

My sister Sheila O'Neill for decades has headed up several  Montessori Schools in the UK, notably High Elms Manor School.

I am reminded today by Lake Wobegon's Garrison Keillor, in his daily newsletter, that it is her birthday.

Here is what he says about her.


It's the birthday of Maria Montessori (books by this author), born on this day in Chiaravalle, Italy (1870). She was a bright student, and she wanted to study engineering. So when she was 13, against her father's wishes, she entered a technical school, where all her classmates were boys. After a few years, she decided to pursue medicine, and she became the first woman in Italy to earn an M.D. degree. 
As a doctor, she worked with children with special needs. And through her work with them, she became increasingly interested in education. She believed that children were not blank slates, but that they each had inherent, individual gifts. It was a teacher's job to help children find these gifts, rather than dictating what a child should know. She emphasized independence, self-directed learning, and learning from peers. Children were encouraged to make decisions.
During World War II, Montessori was exiled from Italy because she was opposed to Mussolini's fascism and his desire to make her a figurehead for the Italian government. She lived and worked in India for many years, and then in Holland. She died in 1952 at the age of 81. She wrote many books about her philosophy of education, including The Montessori Method (1912) and The Absorbent Mind (1949).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Little Old Bear" Sells at EH Children's Fair

The annual East Hampton Library Children's Fair was a big production this year. The food and drinks and rides were all free during the afternoon of August 12 (the previous evening's authors' cocktail party and small dinners brings in the money and this is a give-back investment in future readers).

I was in the book section, discussing the appropriateness of specific books by my late mother Hilda van Stockum for different children. The conversations were held with the children themselves or with their parents or grandparents. The children outnumbered the adults; many of the children were impatient to get to the next source of excitement, but there were enough left who were genuinely interested in getting to know new books that it was fun.

Because of the construction work on the expansion of the East Hampton library, the Children's Fair was held at a nearby farm, eliminating the need to hunt for parking on the streets.

Altogether, parents purchased 42 of van Stockum's books. The biggest seller was "Little Old Bear" (Boissevain Books, 2010), which accounted for one-quarter of van Stockum sales.

I must have read out "Little Old Bear" some 20 times. I had a large-sized version of the book to read from and hold up. In no case did I lose my audience - there was always at least one child that couldn't wait to see how the story ended.

For next year, I made a few suggestions. For example, reading out books at the table seemed to get attention from both grownups and children. I have suggested that I and other authors read out more than one book and that the readings be scheduled ahead of time so that parents can target a certain time slot. Maybe there could be a way to set up a Power Point presentation that could accompany talks.

Another thing: It was a struggle to talk to people and sign books ("from the author's son" etc.) and also handle the paperwork for the books. If each person who attended would register and get a number, all I would need would be the number.

So much was going on that some parents seem to have been suffering from the Disney World effect, i.e.,  they felt under pressure to get to all the events. But what came through clearly was the earnestness of both the parents and the children to understand the nature of the stories in the books displayed all around them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

East Hampton Library Childrens Fair - August 12

Little Old Bear will be featured at the Fair.
The East Hampton (Long Island, NY) Library is having its annual Childrens Fair on Sunday, August 12. 

Admission is free!

Since the Library is being extended, the event this year is being held in a tent on a farm across the road. 

More details including the exact location of the event  are hereI will be there with copies for sale of books by Hilda van Stockum!