Children come into the world breathing out questions, full of curiosity and stories build on their curiosity, grow their imaginations and expand their capacity to think creatively. It stands to reason that Eleanor Roosevelt said, “At a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”
The imaginary friends children create is an endearing aspect of childhood. The pleasurable moments these imaginary friends offer would seem to be reason enough for their existence but we have come to see some of the far-reaching benefits of imaginary friends on literacy.
A study has recently found that children who had an imaginary friend tended to provide a richer narrative when asked to retell a story compared to those who did not. Specifically, their stories tended to include more descriptors, dialogue, character names, temporal-locative-causal details, and more verbatim recall. Interestingly enough, these two groups did not differ in their vocabulary ability, nor did they differ in their ability to comprehend stories. What seems to be the case is that highly imaginative children, the kind who are likely to conjure up imaginary friends with detailed and original characters, are also better storytellers despite equivalent language abilities to their peers who lack such imagination. It is this capacity for rich fantasy, then, that might make a child a good storyteller; the kind of child who might later grow up to become a successful fiction author.
Just in case you have lost touch with the child inside of you, reading Come Away from the Water, Shirley, by John Burningham will put you back in that enchanting world of imaginary friends and adventures. This charming books looks at what goes on in a young girl’s imagination during an ordinary trip to the beach.
Reading books to children that celebrate curiosity and the imagination is a precious gift that every child deserves.