Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Imagination Drain

I have encountered several people lately who seem to think that there is something wrong with encouraging our children's imagination.  If these individuals are to be believed, we should not encourage our children to read certain types of things because "they need to focus on the real world.

There are people who seem to think that cartoons are a "normal phase" for a child, but that encouraging them to read the Harry Potter books, or discover Narnia, or Middle-earth is irresponsible parenting!  And these people seem to gravitate toward me and then lecture me endlessly in an effort to "enlighten" me about this perceived parental shortcoming.

Um...yeah, right.

Book have always been my refuge.  When school was unbearable, I read.  When faced with the endless summer of a latch-key kid, I read.  I have ALWAYS read.  And my kids read...a lot.  They see me reading, and they grab a book and join me.  Sometimes we read aloud and sometimes, as my seven year old son puts it, "We will read quietly, in our heads, and snuggle next to each other."

My children have learned friendship from Harry Potter, bravery from Bilbo Baggins, self-sacrifice from Peeta Mellark, and--here is the most important part--we TALK about what they read.  We read some of the books out loud in order to touch on things that might need explaining.

Yes, my children have cried through books when characters die...and I cried right along with them.  In life, people die.  Encountering death in books gives us a way to talk about some of these big life-things before Life dumps them in our lap. 

This "real life" of which the naysayers speak also has death and betrayal and sacrifice and hard choices (or hadn't they notices?).  I am trying to help equip my kids to deal with these things.  So we read about it, and we talk about what we have read, because reading has never failed me.

So, yes, my children may know an insane amount about Harry Potter, and they may be able to quote huge chunks of The Hunger Games, and they may know more about Middle-earth than some might consider healthy but...along the way...they also learned a few other things, too.  Things that I am darned proud of.

Rather than pull the imagination drain and trying to tell my ten year old (who HATES the sight of blood) that she "needs to be a pediatrician because it is a steady field with a good income" rather than "following your mother's fantasy of becoming a writer," maybe you should actually LISTEN to her when she tells you that she loves books, and loves words.  Maybe you could even encourage her a little when she tells you that she has a story she "simply has to get out." 

I have always told my daughter that words are powerful and that they can be used for good, or used for evil, and that she had a responsibility to watch her words to make sure she used them wisely.  To those who try to deny the importance of a child's imagination...OF ANYONE'S IMAGINATION...I say to you:  You need to watch your words.