“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales, “said Einstein.
I don’t know the context for this tidbit of advice, but I like it anyway. It jives neatly with other Einstein-ian rules-of-life because of his remarkable valuing of imagination.
I could go on and on about why imagination is so powerful, but assuming for the moment that it is, I’m here to say that children’s literature is an imagination-generator, a storehouse of wonder, a Strega-Nona-potful of Ideas, which is another reason for introducing children to the world of reading.
Children’s books help us see the world differently and seeing something new often brings about a sense of wonder. I like to think about two different kinds of wonder — first, the sense of marveling, and second, the sense of wanting to know more; call it curiosity. Books foster both.
Children’s books help us marvel over the extraordinary, and see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Books are full of glories to marvel over… …the glory of a frog
…an underwater world.
We exclaim over tiny worlds
and utterly-other worlds.
We are flabbergasted by the things people in our stories can do!
But to wonder is also to be curious, to wonder about things Out There, and things Inside our deepest selves.
Books lead us beyond marvel, to ask why or why not, and how and what if.
Why do colors dance in the sky?
What if……a teeny family really did live under my kitchen floor?
How did he have the courage to do that?
How did he feel?
Would I behave better or worse?
How does that work?
This kind of thinking – wondering, imagining, conjecturing, reflecting, is vital for all of us, including our children with their growing minds.
Charlotte Mason, a 19th century British educator, reflected a great deal on Ideas, and the dynamic force of the phrase, “I have an idea!”
“We must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food, ” she writes in her book A Philosophy of Education. “Probably he will reject nine-tenths of the ideas we offer…He is an eclectic; he may choose this or that; our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety…One other caution: it seems to be necessary to present ideas with a great deal of padding, as they reach us in a novel or poem or history book written with literary power…out of a whole big book he may not get more than half a dozen of those ideas upon which his spirit thrives; and they come in unexpected places and unrecognized forms.”
Ideas beget ideas. One thing leads to another. Children’s books are sparks that light fuses of Ideas and Imagination, of Wonder and Curiosity.