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The right to silence: A phone call with a fish




When I read the review of A phone call with a fish on Italian newspaper La Stampa I instantly thought it could be an inspiring read for us.

The story
A young girl tells about a school friend who is not willing to talk.
While the teacher says it's only a matter of time and self-confidence, the other children and parents suggest that he might have an issue.
She will be the one managing to connect with him, thanks to her curiosity, resilience and open-mindedness.

The narration is fluid and easy (in the sense of easily/quickly understandable), and the school setting makes this story very much real and familiar to any child.
My daughter listened in silence the first time we read it, which she only does when the story resonates with her, and when she identifies with one of the characters.

What will the girl do?
Why is the boy not talking?
What do the other children think?

Question generation is an essential process that young children learn to master with time, in order to deepen their comprehension when reading.
The story itself has a few reading levels, and the end is left open for interpretation.

There are many reasons why a child might not talk.
Toddlers themselves start to talk at different times despite they might have received the same amount and quality of stimulation from their parents.
Older children might resist verbal expression because of shyness, or because they are learning a new language (this was our case) or for any other familiar issue.
The reason itself is not essential here: A phone call with a fish is more a reflection about the right to silence for any child (for anyone, really), about its function and importance alongside words.




When the girl tries to play the 'silence game' to see how she feels, she ends up overwhelmed and after a while she goes and gets her friend, has a laugh and a chat to release tension and overcome boredom.

'Talking is like breathing' - she says.

Actually we need to stop talking to properly breathe. We need silence, and we need to just be, in order to find ourselves and self-discipline, as much as we need words to nurture our social dimension as human beings.

All preschoolers should read books like this because the process of normalising diversity, especially when it comes to emotional diversity, starts at this age.

In this sense this is another very Montessori-oriented book.
The first time I visited a Montessori Children's house (read=preschool) I was familiar with the method but not so much with the practicality of it in certified schools.
The first thing I noticed was that many children were absorbed in some activity, some were working in groups and quietly talking, but others were not.
Some children were just wandering in the room 'doing nothing', in silence.
The teacher explained that in a Montessori environment each child is free to be active or not, to talk or just think, rest, observe. That each child follows her own learning path and that no one is forced, not even encouraged to bond with other children, or be sociable or active. All feelings and personalities are acknowledged and accepted.
The idea of silence as a form of respect towards ourselves and towards others is definitely supported.
This is of course valuable in any educational approach.

A phone call with a fish is a book that finally normalises silence, among hundreds of books celebrating verbal expression and extraversion.

The English edition by Eerdmans Publishing will be out in October 2018 :)
You can pre-order it on Amazon.

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Telefonata con il pesce [2017]
by Silvia Vecchini
Illustrated by Sualzo
Italian Edition by Topipittori
Reading age: 4+
Themes: Diversity, Learning about emotions, Self-development





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