You don’t tell a fiction author and indie publisher with a background in science that fantasy for kids is “evil” and “satanic infiltration”. Even if you are only the messenger – you shall get eaten!
Boy, was I naive! I always thought (with a resigned little shrug) that readers were a minority because it’s just not such an “in” thing to do. I would never have suspected that right in our midst, the (mis-)leadership of some very influential Fundamentalist places here in SA is actually scaring kids out of reading stories.
Scare kids out of reading? Scare mothers out of buying books? Guys, we have an actual enemy here!
It follows logically, dear Watson, that if that influence is neutralized, automatically more children will read – all those who wanted to but were too scared to pick a book they would really enjoy. Like, for heavens’ sakes, Harry Potter. Or, for wailing, “Pink Wish Ice Cream” (it simply doesn’t get more benign than that!)
First, let’s look at the damage they are doing.
Here’s a bit of research:
(Summary: They fMRI-tested – brain-scanned – a group of people after giving them a bestseller to read in sections. The readers came in after reading, filled out a comprehension test to prove they had actually done their reading homework, and then sat for the scan. MRI established that the areas in the brain that were activated, surprisingly, were not only the language centre, but also the areas dealing with physical sensation and movement, as though the reader had actually been in Pompeii instead of in a novel. This effect lasted for around 5 days after completing the novel.)
So what is happening here? Further articles show (specifically referring to seminars by neurobiologist Manfred Spitzer) that children learn in a 3D way, exploring the environment and experiencing things. Once they have experienced 3D stuff, they can read a book (or be read a story) and the imagination simulates the 3D experiences in it. They “really” crawl through those caves with Tom Sawyer (although none of the kids I know has actually read Tom Sawyer, it’s getting very dated), and they “really” ride on that unicorn with Princess whatever-she-might-be.
In other words, what that study shows is that a human brain (even in adults) simulates the movement and sensations of the main POV in a well-written fiction book. This world of experiences stretches a mind much further than mere fact books can. If you’re reading “about” the migration habits of bats, you’re not mentally putting yourself inside that bat and flying.
The Saboteurs (as I shall call them from now on) wish to deprive children of these experiences. That is the same as stunting brain growth, curbing reasoning capacity and stopping the development of abstract conceptualizing.
(We’re past the first 140 characters of the post, so now I can write to you as one adult to another.)
Now, let’s look at the consequences of this damage.
Those self-same fundamentalist leaders have been campaigning against independent thought since their inception. Let’s not go into old grudges and the Burning Times – what the heck, let’s! … or, alright, let’s focus instead. Can anyone maybe supply a list in the comments of all the scientists that were burned by the Church for pointing out certain natural laws and observations? And Gutenberg was such a heretic too – now everyone could afford a bible, learn to read and actually check up on what the Church was telling them.
Western civilization is built on rebellion against restrictions. Whenever someone pushed a “thinking law” aside (“a human flying? Preposterous! God would have given us wings”), an innovation follows (the “crazy” Wright brothers and their flying machine). But how are people ever going to challenge existing concepts if they are not ever challenged into independent thought?
Fiction builds independent thought. And “going back” into the past to what we think Pompeii was like is no less fantasy than going into a parallel reality and riding a unicorn. Here’s the crux: All fiction is fantasy, so it is simply a matter of where you draw the line.
Apparently kids who read voraciously have an advantage over non-readers:
- According to one article, an illiterate girl is 40% more likely to have a teen pregnancy
- Illiterates are 70% more likely to go to prison (that is a scary statistic)
- and non-readers are less likely to get a good education than readers are, and have a 60% higher dropout rate from high school.
- High-school dropouts as a group earn on average a million $ less than high-school graduates. (The source was unclear on this – I suspect they mean, on average over a lifetime. Still an extra million $!)
Reading is the very foundation of our educational system.
The Saboteurs want more people dropping out of the educational system, by all looks! They want to prevent more thinkers, innovators, designers growing up.
The Case of Montessori
When my oldest was a toddler, I looked into playschools she could attend (as I had to work). An associate advised me, when I considered the excellent Montessori system, that it wouldn’t be suitable for my child because I was raising her on fairytales, and Montessori apparently strictly forbids all fantasy.
This sounds like a chunk, but here is at least a link that throws some light on this:
and I quote directly from that blog,
Montessori acknowledged the controversy surrounding her views on fairy tales in 1919, when she spoke to the Child Study Society on the topic: Children’s Imagination by Means of Fairy Tales. Montessori joked with the crowd that this topic was dictated to her; she would not have dared to choose it herself and face the audience! To her criticism of fairy tales, she answered, “When I have been so bold as to express my opinion of the value of the fairy tale, people have jumped to the conclusion that I was fiercely opposed to it. I do not really feel any such intense antagonism.” Her point regarding fairy tales was simply, “Imagination really does not enter into the problem, because in telling fairy tales it is we (the adult) who do the imagining. The child only listens.”
During that speech Montessori told the listeners, “(The young child) cannot distinguish well between the real and the imaginary, between things that are possible and things that are merely ‘made up’.” During this speech in 1919, Montessori was attempting once again to clarify her position regarding education based on cultivating credulity, instead of on reality. (Times Education Supplement, 1919, reprinted in AMI communications, No. 2, 1975)”
(Such were the views in 1919? “The child only listens.” And then expresses its own version of the fairytale during play. Wish the people who made such “theories” up would observe actual children first!)
What my associate also mentioned (which I haven’t searched for online yet to verify) is that Montessori developed her system around children that had “dissociative disorder” (used to be called schizophrenia). Of course you do not tell a schizzoid person a fiction story – he will really not tell the difference! But most kids are not schizophrenic.
But, “children between 3 and 6 can’t discern between reality and fantasy” – that’s a pretty sweeping statement. Kids are not that “doff”. This “wisdom” comes from the outmoded Freudian classification of childhood phases, before researchers actually got on an eye-level with kids and started conversations. Any story-reading parent could have laughed these psychologists out of the room.
Not allowing a child any fantasy might result in them believing every word they read, in future. Maybe that is the core problem here! “It’s just a story” was our standard response we got from Mom if we bawled our eyes out about some or other story character being slain, or worse, left out in the woods by uncaring parents. It wasn’t so much Hansel and Gretel we were concerned about but the concept of being abandoned by parents, and though we knew it was just a story, we felt so sorry for them!
C’mon. How many 4-year-olds do you know that dress up as little fairy princesses, wave a wand around and proclaim, “I can do magic!” ? Do you honestly believe they honestly believe this? They know they are playing! Just as the child playing “firefighter” knows he’s not really killing a genuine fire. (You hope. Refer to post on “boys”.)
“Mommy, today I’m a cat!” I should have listened more carefully when that brain-dead nursery school teacher at that abusive school told me that when kids come dressed up as “Superman” they “become” Superman for the day. Really? Do they go flying around saving people? Clearly the adults at that school have a reality-disability. Maybe didn’t read enough fairytales to tell the difference.
Children – even preschoolers – know very well the difference between fantasy and reality. Maybe that is the problem here – our Saboteurs want their fairy tale to be believed as The Whole Truth, without a questioning mind thinking, “how is this even possible?”
To bring this power-rant to an end,
So what are we going to do about it?
I suggest the following steps:
- We promote books! (Have you hugged an author today?) – and yes, ebooks are also fine, Kindle is fine… the format does not matter, the contents do.
- Parents, read to your children! Make “storytime” the warm, safe family time it always used to be – create that safe environment for your children where they feel loved, pampered, and worth your time.
- Join a book club! Or two. If you want to come and play in the P’kaboo Book Club on Facebook, please feel welcome, any time! Anyone welcome to post.
- Consider reading to a class of kids even if you’re not a parent but you have a bit of free time that you’ve allocated to volunteer work. Reading to kids initiates their love for stories – and it’s the love for stories that gets them to go to the effort of learning to read themselves.
- Spread the truth! Children can discern between fantasy and reality, even at age 3. Fantasy is not evil, it stimulates the brain-box, and is the basis for creative and critical thinking. And the Saboteurs have an agenda; an agenda that doesn’t even suit their followers, if they only could see through it!
Linking to another blog on this, below.
Here is an Amazon-sponsored blog (man, I wish they’d sponsor me too!) on kids and kindles.