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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

How’s your insurance?

I was talking recently to a local Lion’s Club and I advised them to seriously consider an annual check-up. In my humble (medical) opinion, the advantages of finding medical problems at an early stage far outweigh not knowing.
For example, correcting hypertension at an early stage makes medical sense. You must agree that correcting hypertension is better than brain surgery and intensive care after a stroke caused by high blood pressure, never mind pain and suffering and living the rest of your life as a tomato or an even less colorful vegetable!
Likewise, correction of high blood sugar today beats having your leg surgically removed because of diabetic problems in 20 years time!
However, Peter Smith from AA Insurance Brokers brought out an interesting situation, which could be vitally important for someone finding they have a chronic problem. If you have your check-up and find that you have high blood pressure, and then go and take out insurance, it is too late. You “know” about your blood pressure problem at the time of applying for the insurance, so it becomes a ‘pre-existing condition’ and your insurer is within its rights to refuse to pay for the further treatment of your blood pressure, or for any other conditions caused by high blood pressure. Including the stroke.
The simple answer is to make sure your insurance policies are in place before having the annual check-up. In fact, I strongly advise everyone to take out medical insurance. You do not know what is round the next corner. It could be a motorcycle coming the wrong way up a one way street. Even I have insurance, and I work in the hospital, so I don’t really need it - but I can also be run over in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Nakhon Nowhere!
So back to check-ups. Many people work on the principle that they would rather not know about any underlying or sinister medical conditions they may have. After all, we are all going to die one day, aren’t we? I have always said that despite all the advances in medical science, the death rate will always be the same - one per person!
However, check-ups are inherently involved in that important feature called the Quality of Life. Longevity alone, with no quality, just isn’t worth it in my book.
The guiding principle behind check-ups is to find deviations from normal health patterns at an early stage. Early enough that the trend can be reversed before damage has occurred. Examples of this include blood pressure (BP) increase which is generally symptomless, and blood sugar. It requires sky-high sugar levels before the person begins to feel that something might be wrong. And by then the sugar levels have affected vision, the vascular system and many other systems, all of which can decrease your quality of life in the future.
Respiratory conditions also rate high on the list of medical events that can decrease your quality of life. Yet the majority of these can be found early, and treated successfully.
Cardiac conditions and abnormalities, be that in anatomy or function, can also very adversely affect your quality of life, but are very easily found during a routine check-up. Various blood tests and an EKG can show just how well the cardiac pump is functioning, and also how well it will continue to function in the future. The inability to walk more than 50 meters certainly takes the fun out of shopping, yet this can be predicted - if you have some serial records!
Another of the silent killers can be discovered in your lipid profile, with Cholesterol and its fractions HDL and LDL, being intimately connected with your cardiac status. Again a situation where detecting abnormalities now can mean that you can get through the deadly 50-60 year age bracket in the future with clear coronary arteries and a clean bill of health.
Renal (kidney) function and liver function can also be monitored through an annual check-up, as can prostate size (indicated by the PSA blood test) or breast tumors (by mammogram).
Take my tip, insure and get your check-up. That makes good sense.

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Please save me from the choppy swirling seas of desire. Either that or throw me a life jacket so I can enjoy the ride. You see, I think I arrived in Thailand 30 years too early. Sure I like the food, the lovely people and the cute way they slip 10 green chillies into my green papaya salad just for a laugh. But I look around and feel inadequate. Where’s my barely legal wife? Where’s my previous marriage experience? Where are my offshore assets, my pension, my triple bypass? Am I a bit immature for all this?
I must confess... After a couple of badly needed light refreshments, I accidentally found myself a really good girlfriend. She is steadily dissolving every reason I have to do a runner (although I still have a few up my sleeve). I’m not completely afraid of commitment, it could be a wonderful thing. But if I give up on the Dream, how will I ever write the chapter of my life titled “The fork of tragedy comes with a spoon of hope”? I could spend my retirement writing books and lecturing farang newbies on the subtle differences between love and sex.
I can still ditch her, go home, work hard, get a big mortgage, a big car, and a bigger bald spot. And in 30 years time, if all goes well, the Dream will be mine. It will won’t it?
Naive Nick
Dear Naïve Nick,
You’ve got it all wrong, Nick, my Petal. The fork of tragedy comes with the knife to cut out the heart, and the ladies round here are excellent cardiac surgeons. You are caught in a tragedy of your own making, and you know it. Caught in the “choppy swirling seas of desire,” you described it. And that is precisely where it (and you) become flotsam and jetsam. There is a large difference between ‘love’ and ‘desire’. You ask for a life jacket, and yet you know that there isn’t one. The Good Ship Desire does not come with life jackets or even lifeboats. When that good ship goes down, all hands go down with it. You are ready to lecture to farang newbies on the subtle differences between love and sex. Or so you say. There are no “subtle” differences, Nick. You are still in the ‘kid in a candy store’ phase, which hopefully will not take you 30 years to understand and then live through. This is the dream, but it takes resolve to be not just a dreamer. Slow down, sniff the sewers and apply yourself to working here, rather than permanently playing. Mortgages and bald spots will come in time, wherever you are. You may as well be in an enjoyable environment with a great climate.

Dear Hillary,
Is it impossible to get a Thai person to be anywhere at the correct time for appointments? I make arrangements to meet people and by the time they eventually show up I have a bill for 500 baht for beers while I was waiting. This is not a random occurrence, but nearly every time. How do you get them to come on time?
Rolex
Dear Rolex,
I’m afraid that punctuality is not part of the territory here. The Thais are not ones to get upset by time constraints which westerners make up for themselves, and I’m afraid you will have to get used to it. When you know the Thais better, you can say how much it upsets you. How about suggesting you pick them up if you are going shopping or to the movies? You at least get to wait in the air-conditioned comfort of the car, rather than forcing beers down your throat.
Dear Hillary,
While I am sure many of the questions you get each week are not real, let me assure you that mine is. I am a forty year old divorced (16 years ago) British subject and I have a twenty year old daughter who lives in England with my ex wife. After my experience in the UK I have not had any real relationships with anyone over here, just the odd fling with a couple of girls, and certainly nothing serious. Now I find I am becoming increasingly attracted to a young Thai in our office. We go out some evenings for dinner after work and I enjoy his company very much. This next month my daughter is coming over for a holiday (I have not seen her for four years) and can you see the problem? I want to introduce her to my Thai friend, but do not know how she will react to her father having a male friend?
James
Dear James,
Not real? Petal, yours is real, isn’t it? But for goodness sake, James, you are 40 years of age, not 14. Your daughter at 20 years old in the UK is probably dating two Pakistanis, a West Indian, the Huddersfield United football team and her hairdresser is living in sin with a gigolo from Golders Green. Wake up! This is the 21st century, not the 18th. Stop worrying and start to understand that life can begin at 40. Or alternatively remember that today is the beginning of the end of your life, and start enjoying it before there isn’t any left!


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Don’t believe anything you see

Take a look at this week’s photograph. A simple shot of an abseiler, but how was it taken? Did the photographer grab camera, ropes, cleats and all the rest of the paraphernalia to get it, risking life and limb? Simple answer - no!
The shot was one that was taken to illustrate an article on outdoors pursuits. I took it, and I can assure you I am not one for heights or hanging from ropes and clicking away with the free hand. The shot was taken in the horizontal plane, with an assistant to hold the rope taught, so turn the newspaper 90 degrees and that was the original shot. Simple, easy and illustrates the concept perfectly, even if it is a fraud.
Photography is one of the least truthful pastimes you can take up. For the pro photographer much time is used in working out how to achieve the end result as simply as possible.
Here are a few examples where the photographer has to stretch the truth somewhat. Ever tried photographing champagne? There’s never enough bubbles to keep art directors happy, so the photographer drops some sugar into the glass. Only a few grains are enough to give the almost still glass of champers that “just opened” fizz look to it. You also have to bring the light in from the back of the glass, as well as from the front. This takes two flash heads, or at least one head and a reflector.
While still on wines, if you try and shoot a bottle of red wine, it comes out thick dark maroon or even black. So what does the pro shooter do? Well he has a couple of courses of action. First is to dilute the red wine by about 50 percent and secondly place a silver foil reflector on the back of the bottle. So what happens to the half bottle of red that was removed to dilute the wine? The photographer has it with dinner.
And so to food photography. This is one area where there are more fraudulent practices than any other. Cold food can be made to look hot by sprinkling chips of dry ice to give “steam” coming off the dish. Not edible, but it looks OK. Cooking oil gets brushed on slices of the cold meat so that they look moist and succulent.
That is just for starters. Food needs good illumination. Brightness is necessary to stop the food looking grey and dull. If you want a “warm” look to the food, then you use internal reflector tungsten bulbs as well, but be warned, if you use the tungsten light as the sole source the food, it will turn out very orange. Lighting is just so important. If you do not have bright sparkly light then potatoes will look grey, and even the china plates look drab and dirty.
In places such as the USA, there are very firm rules about photographing food. You are not allowed to use substitute materials which “look” like food, but are actually not. This covers the old trick of using shaving cream as the “cream” on top of cappuccino coffee for example, or polystyrene foam as “ice cream”. Personally I think this is a load of ballyhoo, because the photograph is just to represent what the food will look like - you don’t eat the photograph!
Even in simple portraiture, the concept is to show the sitter in the best possible way. For example, if the person has “bat ears” the portrait should be taken with the head turned so that one ear disappears from view. Not “lying” but presenting mother nature in a different way. And always remember that when all else fails, it’s a quick trip to the retouchers.
Another piece of photo-fraud I have done was inserting an architect’s model of a hotel, as not yet built, into the aerial shot of a beach resort city. It took two 12 hour days in the studio to photograph the architect’s model and another day in the lab to combine the images.
Never believe everything you see! Especially if I shot it!


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

In the Kingdom of the Blind...

We always read Robert Skepper’s reports with a mixture of admiration of his knowledge of the stock markets and what makes them tick and also frustration at his inability to recognise that stocks are just one piece in the giant jigsaw puzzle that is investment.
These are the attributes that make a successful stock picker but these are not the qualifications needed for a successful multi-asset portfolio manager. It’s difficult to find a stock-picker who can be completely impartial about his chosen métier - there are not many that can progress to becoming the most successful long/short equity mangers, harnessing the positive power of stocks during the good times and exploiting the potential of short selling to protect/enhance the value of the holdings during bad times. Even good long only managers have a problem recognising that bear follows bull as surely as night follows day because that would require them to do what we suggested last week about CNBC - put up the ‘Gone fishing, back in 3 years time’ sign.
Robert Skepper’s latest report exemplifies this - with his typical Panglossian take on all things equity-related, he sees the recent corrections as being good for the markets - claiming that central bankers are likely to be heaving a sigh of relief that the bubble has burst before, in his opinion, it spiralled out of hand, which he admits would have undermined the real economy.
While recognising that a private equity bubble and property bubble have co-existed side by side he feels that these have been nipped in the bud, just in time. His view is that the steady tightening of credit, orchestrated by the central banks over the last two years, has had its desired effect and that writing down the USD20 billion or so of sub-prime toxic loans will simply mean that the banks involved might end up losing an amount similar to “all the juicy fees that they have earned from them in the last 12 months... but it is not worse than that, and whilst one weeps for the evaporated bonuses of these poor bankers, I think it has been stopped long before the whole system got polluted with bad debt. That is in fact very good news. The bubble has been burst before contagion has spread too widely in the economic system. The same can also be said for the property sector. The bubble is over in the U.S.A. - no more false boosting of consumer spending via re-mortgaging the rising house values (now falling). Spain was hit next, and the U.K. stock market has taking the view since last January that the game was soon to be up in the U.K. also ... So again a bubble has been burst but well before it had got dangerously out of hand - as it did in Tokyo in 1989 where the Emperor’s palace and gardens had a notional property value similar to the State of California - so the following decade in Japan of falling property prices fundamentally weakened the entire Japanese banking system with knock-on consequences for the whole economy.”
Unfortunately Robert, it is more widespread than that.
It’s not just sub-prime, it’s all forms of mortgage lending, Alt A and prime as well. Properties are falling in value, loans have been over extended and the majority have been overvalued. 104% LTVs (based on inflated values which are now falling by the month) to reasonable married clients on 5 X combined income aren’t really the bluest chip and there’s too many of those out there. Self-cert, Alt A, liars loans, call them what you will - these are really sub-prime by another name that only look good in comparison to the new sub-best of prime borrowers who wouldn’t have merited any category in more sensible times. Systemically mortgage risk has been totally mis-priced but that only becomes evident when it all goes wrong.
It’s not just private equity collateralisation loans - sub-blue chip corporate debt has been trading at unsustainably low spreads. Systemically corporate debt has been totally mis-priced but that also only becomes evident when it all goes wrong.
It’s not just in the US but also in emerging markets where debt has also been trading at unsustainably low spreads. Systemically emerging debt has been totally mis-priced and little discernment applied between different emerging market fundamentals and prospects but that too only becomes evident when it all goes wrong.
It’s not just debt - when the debt markets take such widespread pain then the real economy starts to suffer too; liquidity suddenly disappears and business dries up without the money to go round to support it. Suddenly there’s no sustainable demand for property and massive oversupply quickly builds up. Robert Skepper’s beloved equity markets react by going into free fall. In support of his views Robert cites an article by Anatole Kaletsky published in the Times recently.
Mr. Kaletsky’s basic premise doesn’t dispute our conclusion that the 02-07 bull market is over. How could he? He accepts that. However, even though the demise of every major bull market has been followed by a major period of economic and equity market consolidation, Mr. Kaletsky expects that the consequence of this correction will be ... er, another bull market.
Why does he think this? Kaletsky claims that bull markets, like royal dynasties, do not just die of old age nor do they expire for everyday reasons such as a change in risk appetites or a corporate bankruptcy or two. He lists the requirements for a real end to the bull markets as being:
1) The global economy must move into recession, decimating corporate profits; or
2) Interest rates on government bonds must rise sharply, to well above the long-term economic growth rates; or
3) Stock markets must get so overvalued that equity prices start to fall of their own accord, even without any pressure from high interest rates or weaker profits.
While I wouldn’t have set out the criteria like that I would make the following points:
1) The whole point about the sub-prime contagion is that as we explained in another recent article, the impact will be across most supply sources of liquidity and therefore into most aspects of the economy. Liquidity is disappearing rapidly. We may not be in recession yet but the markets have recognised that the reality is imminent.
2) The yield curve has been inverted for some time now - real money costs are distorted and this is another recessionary harbinger.
3) The biggest asset bubble in recorded history has taken place over the last few years - if assets such as stocks and property aren’t overvalued at current levels then they never have been.
Just as Robert Skepper tried to say that the only effects of the sub-prime fall-out would be felt by the banks involved in the deals, Anatole Kaletsky tries to argue that only LBO targets will suffer price falls. He therefore believes that even though liquidity will dry up, money from somewhere unexplained will rush to flow into equity markets. Quite why and how isn’t explained - just take a leap of faith and assume that the money will be there and that those holding it will be desperate for it to be poured into equity markets, other than by saying that these now offer “unprecedented value for long-term investors.” Ah, yes, the final refuge of the equity scoundrel - a bad time to invest will eventually become a good one so justify it as a long term investment. Unless there is a new investor class of high net worth lunatics (HNWLs), we can’t foresee any stampede to equity markets right now.
Kaletsky’s belief is ultimately founded on a personal creed that the US economy is about to enter an expansive phase - would this be the same lunatics that are buying stocks who will also be aggressively consuming or is there another category of indefatigably rich consumers whose existence is known only to Kaletsky?
He may be right - but the conditions for this to be so would be that:
1) Global liquidity would have to come from hitherto unknown sources
2) Abundant equity investment would have to come from Kaletsky’s HNWLs
3) Consumer spending would have to be driven by a group of persistently rich consumers know again only to Kaletsky
If you believe all of that, then steam into the equity markets and worship at the alter of Mr. Kaletsky. On the other hand ... maybe the equityphiles are just becoming more and more desperate?
Both Robert Skepper and Anatole Kaletsky are right to suppose that not all stocks will suffer equally and that there are still pockets of value out there but they’re getting fewer, further between and riskier. A long/short or equity hedge approach is rapidly becoming the only sensible way to expose oneself to the risk of stock markets right now. As long term readers will know we are a great fan of MitonOptimal. Though I may be biased about the investment philosophies of Scott Campbell at MO and with my supposed one-eyed take on things, the sooner people realise that a multi-asset classed approach is the best way to counter all the investment problems that we are about to be thrown our way then the better it will be for everyone.
 

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]


Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

There’s been a shortage of concerts in the city recently after a great flurry of activity at Payap a few weeks ago, so two events this week are especially welcome. The first and bigger of the two is at the main auditorium at Central Kad Suan Kaew to help celebrate the King’s 80th birthday on Wednesday. It starts at 15.30hrs and is given by the Chiang Mai Philharmonic Band and the Symphony Orchestra-both, I assume, ad hoc ensembles.
Highlights include a concerto for flute and harp by Mozart, some light music including a suite derived from songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and naturally in the third section music by the birthday celebrant himself, the King, whose music is justifiably popular throughout Thailand and beyond.
Just three days later at the AUA auditorium, a stone’s throw from Thapae Gate, the Santi Music School will present a concert of classical music (Brahms and Beethoven included) in conjunction with some guest players. It starts at 17.30 and tickets are 200 baht with concessions. See you at both.
Another event not to be missed this week is the Fair, handicrafts, musical and food event in Soi One off Nimmanhaeminda Road, which runs for the rest of this week.
This annual event is a real treat, a relaxed happening that should appeal to everyone. Let’s hope the nearby Amari Hotel has its open air pasta restaurant again offering a chance to have otherwise expensive food at market prices. And while you eat you can listen to live jazz, Thai or other bands. There’s no admission charge but take some cash because there are plenty of tempting stalls, plus dog charities, to support.
I’m not sure where the expression ‘not worth the paper it is written on’ stems from. Shakespeare in some form or other? Certainly it applied to Shylock’s contract for a pound of flesh. It doesn’t much matter, since the meaning is clear: a document, of seeming legality, signed by people of seeming authority but which has no true value. The phrase sprung to mind immediately I read a headline stating, “Burma to Sign Asean Charter’, below which was the nonsensical promise for its members to find ‘a common position to engage the Junta.’
So to ask a simple question. What validity would such a charter have? One of the key points to the agreement is that it ‘would strengthen democracy, enhance good government and the rule of law and promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms’. Now I am well aware that few, if any, of the members of Asean are blameless in such matters, with punitive laws, use of the death penalty and treating homosexuality as a crime just for starters. But Burma has a track record that is considered the worst in the world. Since they are in some heady competition for that dubious title it is impossible for them to be considered as legitimate signatories to such a Charter.
They would - just for a start - need to free Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, free all political prisoners, make reparation to those injured, harassed or tortured - including hundreds of monks - and move towards democratic elections.
Education and health care would need to be allocated the budget, which the generals squander, or use to keep their 500,000 soldiers from rebellion and freedom of expression and of the press to be restored. It is perfectly obvious that they have no intention of doing any of these reforms, despite the sops they throw out to the world press and to emissaries from the UN and elsewhere.
Fortunately the Charter has to be ratified by all ten member nations and already the Philippines, via their Foreign Minister, Alberto Romulo, has raised objections, stating the obvious. That if Burma signs and is then allowed to continue as before then the Charter will not be worth the paper it is printed on.
The generals are, it has to be admitted, cleverer in some ways than they appear and certainly stronger and more devious that those who (seemingly) oppose them. They make just enough gestures to appear to be moving towards conciliation. This week some 30 plus Thai prisoners held in their notorious jails will be released as a gesture to celebrate the King’s birthday. Excellent of course but what about their treatment of hundreds of others stranded on the Thai/Burmese borders, where mines are in place and work is impossible? Thailand helps and feeds refugees, but it should not have to. People do not flee a country in which they are born without reason. And if you need further information as to why they flee may I direct you to the excellent monthly magazine The Irrawaddy which is published in Chiang Mai and widely available. You can also access their web site at www.irrawaddy.org as no less than 31 million people did in September. The people of Burma deserve our ongoing support and another headline which stated that ‘Burma is the unexpected victor at the Summit’ needs to be disproved.


Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Forget It: Part One

Since it’s my birthday this week, in honor of getting older and forgetting more, I thought I’d write a follow-up to my “Forget It” column from the past, but I couldn’t really remember if I’d ever actually written one. With the invaluable aid of my computer’s memory, I discovered I hadn’t written a column, but indeed included a “Forget It” chapter in my new book Life in the Laugh Lane: facts, fiction and photos from America to Asia, which you can purchase online at www. giveandlive.org or at a couple local bookstores. (All profits go to the needy children at Children’s Garden orphanage near Doi Saket, so you’ll be grinning while you’re giving.) Here it is with additional incriminating evidence of my continual brain cell loss, if I remember to write Part Two next week.

This may have been me because I didn’t take the photo.
When I traveled across America on concert tours, my van would be filled with somewhere between a million and a gazillion things. Slowly but surely and stupidly, I’d forget stuff along the way until I had nothing left to lose and would head back home. The obvious reason for this behavior is psychological: a person leaves things behind because he subconsciously wants to return there. (Could this be why I never left anything in Cleveland, the Land of Cleve, the Mistake on the Lake?) I considered using the Hansel and Gretel approach - leave breadcrumbs along the way so I’d be able to find my way back home. Maps may work better, but I keep misplacing them.
It was difficult to retrace one’s steps on a national tour; even if I think I might possibly maybe kinda sorta know where I left something, chances are I wouldn’t be back in that area for a few years.
“Hello? Is this the Shell station between Boston and Bangor? The one with the yellow sign, gas pumps and the phone? I think I left my leather jacket in the men’s room and I’d appreciate it if you’d keep it for me. When will I pick it up? Well, why don’t you wear it for a few years and then will it to your son because I won’t be back there until I’m very old. Just tell him an elderly man named Jones will stop by sometime during the next century.”
Socks, pens, combs and keys are absolutely impossible to keep. I might as well buy these and sporadically fling them from the van. Or drop a few dozen over the Grand Canyon from a tourist helicopter so I’d enjoy the experience and have a vague idea where they went. Pens can be replenished from bank tellers and store cashiers, but I’d never try to walk off with their socks. If I haven’t lost a sock in a few days, a washing machine will eat one. It’s the Universal Laundromat Law: “Every load of laundry costs four quarters and one sock.” The machines should be honest and up-front about it with five slots - four circular slots and one shaped like a sock so you could donate the argyle of your choice. To ameliorate the problem of unmatched extra socks, I have purchased all black socks so at least I come out even every other time.
These are mundane examples when compared to some of my more sophisticated, advanced forgetting techniques. While on a college tour, I still needed to get snail mail, so every couple of weeks my assistant back home would box it up and send it to a school where I’d soon perform. Sometimes I’d forget to pick it up - or as I like to remember: they’d forget to give it to me - and I’d leave town without the mail. This was a splendid way to lose something I didn’t even have yet. The alien mail would go back to the university mailroom (another word for “time warp”) and then on to another university mailroom in a remote sector of the uncharted universe, and, once again, someone had to remember that I must pick up the box, that someone certainly not me. My assistant should have just thrown it in the trash in the first place.
Packages were once sent to a friend’s address in Nashville. He wasn’t home when I got them, so I stopped 30 miles down the road and called to make sure I’d picked up all the packages. The news? I had. The bad news? After making the call, I left my address/appointment book in the phone booth. It takes a severe commitment to stupidity to forget something because I stopped to call to see if I forgot something.


Doc English The Language Doctor: Buying the right books for your child

Do you have, or are you expecting to have children in Thailand? Are they struggling to learn two (or more) languages at the same time? Are they bored and de-motivated with learning English? If the answer to any of these questions is an emphatic ‘Yes!’ , then this column is especially for you.

Perhaps you don’t have children, but may also have a partner or friend whose first language is not English. If so, you may also find this column useful.

Every week we will provide tips and techniques for teaching and learning English at home. We hope you find them useful.

If you have any suggestions or questions about teaching English at home, you can also write in to the Pattaya Mail, or email me at: [email protected] com and I will try to answer all your questions, either by email or via this column.

This week, we go shopping for English books for your child! Happy shopping!

Buying The Right Books For Your Child

Take your child to the book store and give them a budget for books. You can also use books as a reward for good behaviour at the end of the month. You will need to choose an even selection of fiction and non-fiction books and you will need to find books that separate into these categories:

1. Books that you want your child to read by themselves

2. Books that you want to read to your child

The books that you will read to your child can be slightly harder (and a little more exciting), allowing your child to develop their listening skills as well as their reading skills. However, the books you want your child to read by themselves should contain text and stories that are not too difficult for them to read and understand.

You should guide your children to books that you feel meet their language level, but you should also allow them some choice. It is better if you can find a Reading Scheme. A ‘Reading Scheme’ is a series of books (usually stories) arranged in levels of increasing difficulty. Stage 1 usually has few or even no words, stage two has more words of one or two syllables, stage 3 has more words, words with more syllables, more grammar patterns, etc. Each Reading Scheme story may contain similar characters, or stories on a similar theme, which makes it easier for your child to relate to and means they don’t have to learn about a load of new characters or situations each time they read.

I find the ‘Oxford Reading Tree’ Reading Scheme very good as children seem to enjoy the characters and stories (no I’m not on commission!). It also contains many ‘high frequency’, or common words that children need to learn in order to progress in English. However, any other reading scheme that roughly follows an English, American or Australian curriculum will do. Books printed in Asia are great because they are much cheaper and you can afford to buy a lot; however, beware of buying books with nice covers that contain dull stories and text. They may appear child-friendly but in reality may be way too difficult for your child (containing long, uncommon words, technical words, etc.).

When buying books specifically to read to your child, these can be above their reading level. At first, try to find books that reflect your child’s interests and your situation. For example, books that contain lots of references to people, places or situations not found in Thailand will be harder for your child to understand and the stories harder to relate to.

Try to find books that appeal to you also, as your child may reflect your taste in books. It’s important to talk about the story during and after you read, so you want a story that appeals to you both, otherwise you’ll have nothing to talk about!

Finally, buy books, talking books, magazines and newspapers (such as the Pattaya Mail!) regularly for yourself also. You should keep lots of books and magazines on display around the home and be seen by your child to be reading regularly, so that they maintain a positive image of books and reading.

Next week - reading for the first time with your child.
Happy Reading!
Doc English