Friday, January 24, 2014

“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.”

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.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A New Year's Resolution Worth Keeping—Make 2014 the year you read or reread Zora Neale Hustron

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) , a writer closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance, made such a statement during her lifetime but she was buried in an unmarked grave in a pauper’s field, where she lay in obscurity until another young writer, Alice Walker, decided to take it upon herself to bring Hurston’s body of work back to life.  If literature is life unwrapped, Hurston’s, Their Eyes Were Watching God will give you an emotional roller coaster ride of a life time. The book captures and gives new meaning to the words wit and pathos. In her own words:

~ “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at the sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”

~ “I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots.
Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows,
with a harp and sword in my hands.”

Make yourself a New Year’s resolution worth keeping: Make 2014 the year you read or reread, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The world is a better place because people dare to ask the difficult questions.

I believe s good way to start off a New Year is with a thought that both inspires and motivates. I want to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela and it turns out that his birth name gives me such an opportunity. Nelson Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla, which in the Xhosa language means, “pulling the branch of the tree.” In a word: Troublemaker. Indeed the man spent his 95 years creating glorious trouble for oppression, all in the service of justice.

While working in China recently I was referred to as Maa Faan, which roughly translates as annoying or troublesome. The reason for the reference was that I had the habit of asking questions that people found difficult to reply to. This got me thinking about how powerful questions can be, especially questions that spur someone to think outside the box and leave their comfort zone.

I feel very proud to share the moniker of Troublemaker with Mr. Mandela. I agree with Charles Schulz who said:  Life is like a 10-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.”  I firmly believe that the ability to ask thought provoking questions is one of the finest gears a person possess and the world is a better place because people dare to ask the difficult questions.