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Take Five: What Sound Does a Rabbit Make?

by Margaret Nielsen


After spending a few hours with a 14-month-old boy and a three-and-a-half-year-old girl yesterday, I am convinced that there should be courses for grandparents on Literacy for Little Ones. Our two grandchildren have been fed on huge diets of books since they were born.

What a delight it is to a retired teacher, still obsessed with language, to see such enthusiasm for reading and being read to. But in the midst of the frenzied readathon yesterday, I was confronted with a problem.

When an eager tiny finger points to a picture of a horse, Grandma is expected to produce the word followed by the sound. Now I dont find the horse sound a problem, though a gentleman I know who has never been within a stalk of hay from a horse, does tend to sound a bit like a sheep in his animal noise efforts. And this can be very perplexing to a tiny pupil.

Cow, pig, cat and dog voices are fairly simple to mimic. And birds are a piece of cake; unless youve just had the remains of a tiny persons muffin stuffed into your mouth while you are trying to whistle. There can be some confusion between calves and lambs, and mice are a bit tricky.

Imitating the sound of poultry can be very trying. I tried my very best to sound like a hen, but ended up sounding like a cross between a duck and a rooster. This can be a bit confusing for the eager beaver reader when hes pointing to a chicken.

Please note at this point, only the farmyard species have been covered. When a jungle picture book lands forcefully on your lap, I defy you to tell me what sounds a monkey or giraffe or hippopotamus makes.

How about a zebra? Good old MGM lion has taught us all to produce a fairly realistic interpretation of a roar; though I must here confess my 14-month-old does a much better job of it than I.

My most difficult challenge was to produce the sound of a rabbit. You can screw up your nose and wiggle your lips frantically while displaying your front teeth. You can to resort to Bugs Bunny saying, Eh, wats up doc? You can pretend to nibble grass or a carrot.

None of the above convinces those trusting blue eyes staring at you so unblinkingly. At this stage its probably a good idea to quickly find The Three Bears and give them human voices. Yes, a Literacy for Little Ones for Seniors to make Sounds Course would help grandparents enormously.

Margaret Nielsen is an Australian writer, former teacher, mother of five and grandmother of six. After 45 years living in "bush" towns, Margaret and pharmacist husband Barry retired to the small country community where they met. Margaret is passionate about music, theater and people. E-mail

©2001 Margaret Nielsen
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