Walk into a bookstore in Asia, and you will soon notice a difference. Sure, there’s a plethora of cute and practical stationery items, but the children’s section is also quite different from that of Western bookstores. How so? On my recent trip to Asia, I went into a bookstore in Singapore looking for vocabulary pictorial flashcards and children’s books written in Chinese for my toddler. I found both in the children’s section, but was surprised to also see many story books marked with a bold ‘E.Q.’ on the front cover. It turned out that these books contained collections of simple stories all with the same theme: moral character building. The stories within these books had different characters, plots and storylines, but each had a specific teaching or moral point at the end. Examples are: do not steal, covet, litter or waste food; put toys back or clear up properly; the importance of not being lazy; being courageous…you get the point. I also saw that many of these children’s story books contained a little parent message at the end of each story, talking about the key message of the story and how to discuss this with the child.
What is E.Q. and what is I.Q. ? One definition of Emotional Quotient or E.Q. is this: a (notional) measure of a person’s adequacy in such areas as self-awareness, empathy, and dealing sensitively with other people. Intelligence Quotient or I.Q., on the other hand, often refers to a score derived from one of several standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence. Yes, in English culture there are such well known stories as ‘Peter and the Wolf’, but other than a few select stories, I haven’t really seen as many books composed of collections of stories all focused on specific character building traits. In libraries, there are plenty of genres like fairytales, fantasy, and science fiction, but I have yet to see a section of children’s books specifically on moral character building. In the English language, I’ve also noticed some nursery rhymes and songs which sound great but don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense (and frankly slightly scandalous!). A few of these come to mind–think of ‘Queen Queen Caroline who washed her hair in turpentine’, the old woman in the shoe who gave her children broth then ‘whipped them all soundly and put them to bed’. and finally goosey goosey gander who met an old man that wouldn’t say his prayers and so he ‘took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs!’
In both western and eastern cultures, intelligence is very highly regarded and sought after. But perhaps there needs to be a greater emphasis on building awareness of E.Q. in our children from young in the West? Just a thought to ponder.