In this first article from the series Words for Thought, Aparna Raman recommends you read the book The Little Match Girl with your child, reflect on the questions posed and build empathy. Share your experience with us and help spread the love.
The Little Match Girl and other Lessons from Winter
It is winter and it is biting cold everywhere. A weather condition, that sadly, some will feel more acutely than others. Images of street dwellers shivering in front of makeshift fires are relayed on national television, bringing them the cruel irony of fame – they little need.
So what are our lessons from winter? In these times, I recommend for parent-child reading, the story of “The Little Match Girl”. This tale by Hans Christian Andersen highlights the lives of the poor when winter sets in. A little girl who is freezing with bare feet and no warm clothes must sell matchsticks for a living in order to survive. She lives with an abusive father and the memory of a beloved, dead grandmother that is beautifully evoked in her bleakest moments.
I chose this book because winter can be a wonderful time to practice gratitude and giving back. As you read with your child, pause to reflect on the themes of the story. Poverty, child labour, child cruelty, neglect and harshness of living conditions may be large concepts for our young ones.
I would possibly try breaking them into simple questions that would make children pause and connect with the story.
- What does it mean to be poor?
- How would you feel if you had no warm clothes in the cold?
- What would you do if you had no food to eat?
- What would you say if you couldn’t go to school but had to work to get food?
Did you read the book, reflect with your child and help another person during these cold months? Share your experience with us! We would be delighted to hear your stories and spread the love.
Bonding over this book could lead to a little gratitude reflection. Ask your child gently about what they feel grateful for in their lives after reading the story? For example, parents who care, a comfortable home, friends at school, birthday parties and family holidays.
Lastly, follow through by jointly choosing blankets and warm clothes for your house help and staff. Include your child in the process and then sit back to reflect on how far a story can go in building empathy.
Congratulations parents. Here’s to a wonderful and kind 2019!