Thursday, March 21, 2013

Links to Ponder (Thursday Edition)

Before the end of the week arrives, take a moment to peruse the following articles and issues that have cropped up lately. The topics presented here either raise or challenge questions that I feel are constantly prevalent in the discussion of children and "their" literature.

1. A recent NY Times  article titled The Stories That Bind Us discusses impact that family narratives have on children's development. "The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned."  Simply by the act of storytelling. The article describes in brief the research efforts of psychologists from Emory University in assessing this hypothesis. It could have continued into a larger analysis on the implications of sharing family history, traditions, positive moments--particularly, the history and importance of oral narratives at all. Storytelling, especially for young people, takes on a deeper purpose and suddenly does not seem so "childish".

2. You may have heard or read about the ongoing battle over Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis in the Chicago Public School system. Originally it had been announced that the graphic novel would be removed from classrooms and school libraries, but that decision has since been altered and with the Chicago Board of Education's approval, it will remain in libraries but not be taught in 7th to 10th classes for now, only accessible to 11-th and 12th graders. Evidently officials fear presenting children with images and stories that include torture and violence, despite the growing relevance of those acts in our culture today. Is it inappropriate? Do we consider children incapable of handling these issues? And don't they realize that if you ban something as substantial as this, you will inspire protests and increase sales of the book in question--evidently one would be hard-pressed to find Persepolis in Chicago bookstores right now.

3. A little bit of interesting to wrap things up: Century of the Child: Growing by Design (1900-2000) Maria Popova highlights and describes the companion book to a the New York MOMA exhibit: "Through 100 years of toys, playgrounds, classrooms, clothing, furniture, posters, animation, books, and other ephemera, it covers such expansive and interrelated subjects as genetic engineering, the role of play in cultivating creativity, the importance of children in expanding 20th-century economies, the rise of comic strips, and the cultural significance of nostalgia."

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