What Great Books Do For Children
Reading is one of the leisure activities associated with sharp and bright mind. This is mainly based on the fact that one gets exposed to a wide range of issues and topics, thus gaining immense knowledge. Nevertheless, a reading culture is not common in every society; it varies from person to person.
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As a result, sometimes members of the same family can have opposing attitude to books and reading in general. While reading is an edifying activity, especially for children, the content and topics of books significantly influence the reader’s view towards life (Behrens and Rosen 1).
This is to say that young people, who may not understand the significance of reading, need to be assisted in choosing their reading materials. For instance, great books have priceless impact in children’s life. By digesting authors’ views, children are able to gain a deeper understanding of the issues, which they can face in life.
In Arthur Schlesinger’s article, What Great Books Do for Children, the author discusses some of the reading experiences, which young people go through. From the introductory part of the article, we learn the role of parents in instilling a reading culture in their children. Even though children may lack reading skills, parents go extra miles to ensure that they understand what is discussed and analyzed by great authors.
Arthur remembers how his mother helped them to read books by reading them aloud during their early years as children (Schlesinger 47). This is indeed a common approach by most parents, who ensure that their children start to appreciate reading skills when they are still young. When a book is read aloud by another person, it is possible to omit sections, which appear to be boring, static or irrelevant to the audience. This is what Arthur’s mother preferred while engaging the mind of her children.
It is important to note that some children like Arthur usually have the passion to read without being compelled by parents or teachers. The passion to read great books can be found in any child, regardless of existing conditions. Arthur agrees that children who grew up decades ago enjoyed reading more that the current generation.
This difference is associated with the advancement in technology, and mainly with television that replaces reading books. He says, “Now that television has replaced the book in the life of the young…” (Schlesinger 47). It is however worth noting that most people who were exposed to the old approach of reading books have living memories of the fun they derived from great books.
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According to Arthur, books have greater and deeper meaning to children as compared to adults. Most children get influenced by the kind of books they read. They also get insights on future issues, which they are likely to encounter in life. Importantly, the author believes that most people exhaust their reading potential by the time they are twenty five years old. In other words, it is important for children to develop a reading culture when they are still small, for this to be helpful.
Before a child gains reading power and autonomy to choose what to read, parents have the role to select reading materials for their sons and daughters. Arthur was exposed to books like The Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales and Arabian Nights. Nevertheless, My Book House became his companion, covering a wide range of topics like mythology, poetry and fairy tale among others (Schlesinger 47). This was a holistic volume for Arthur, exposing him to different aspects of life and meeting his reading needs.
Most of the books, which were read by Arthur’s generation, cannot be approved today because of the themes they carried. They were dominated with violence, fantasy and superstition among other issues, which the current society does not appreciate. Today, children are exposed to books, which have educational value and can help them to face real-life challenges. Better still, Arthur argues that some of the old tales and books are more applicable and relevant than what children read in the present-day society.
He says, “The classic fantasies may well be more realistic than the contemporary morality tales” (Schlesinger 47). Even though today’s books are thought to instill good behavior among children, Arthur has a different view. The writer reiterates that issues of morality are still rooted in the contemporary society, despite the fact that old legends have been replaced with modern books, which are thought to improve moral standards.
Additionally, the author of the article notes that the childhood is quite short. As a result, the number of books children read during this stage is finite. Unlike what current books cover most, great books are supposed to expand the imagination of children and shape the behavior of readers. This kind of literature helps children to have a different understanding of issues, to give life a new meaning.
Moreover, traditional literature for children is dominated with Western imagination, which introduces readers to the unknown world. In other words, these books carry more perceptions, featuring the negative side of human nature, thus strengthening their character. He notes, “… life is harsh before it is happy and thereby reassures them about their own fears and their own sense of self” (Schlesinger 47).
Universality of the Folktale
In his article, Universality of the Folktale, Stith Thompson focuses on the role of story-tellers in the society. It There are no doubts that people like to hear stories regardless of the existing conditions. In most cases, listeners are usually less concerned with the nature of the theme being covered. In other words, it is possible to find people who will listen to an old legend or some recent story. It is a kind of listeners who are convinced that there is no other source of reliable information, entertainment and education other than storytellers.
Tales of the past and present are common across the world, including Central Africa, Brazil, China, Japan, British Columbia, and Australia. In most of these societies, the best story-teller attracts more followers, who always long for a session of story-telling. He says, “… the priest and the scholar, the peasant and the artisan all join in their love of a good story and their honor for the man who tells it well” (Thompson 3).
Furthermore, the author notes that there were other forms of entertainment before the art of story-telling was developed in various societies around the world. For instance, Odysseus is well known for entertaining the courts by telling about different adventures at the court of Alcinous (Thompson 3).
On the other hand, priests communicated their messages through sermons, which were sometimes edifying, while old peasants concentrated on tales of wonders and adventure. Novelists wrote novels, while those with poetry skills have continued to polish them to-date. These tell us how story-telling has developed and advanced throughout history, with the introduction of cinemas, through which stories are told using gestures and voices, perfected by actors.
Although stories tend to have some common features, there are still a lot of differences between them. For instance, modern forms of tales have a narrow scope, which varies from what was preferred before. Currently, narratives are presented as verses and sometime in prose as well as short stories.
For this reason, the 21st century generation may have nothing to do with songs, bards or poetic narratives, which were highly recognized in older days (Thompson 4). Nonetheless, the desire for historic folktales and traditional tales will always compel the world to remember the traditional period of story-telling.
Analyzing the changes, which have occurred with regard to literature, it appears that modern story-writers experience difficulty in exploiting the originality and systematic plot of a given piece of art. On the other hand, those who present folktales are usually confident to deliver those stories which have been passed on to them by forefathers.
Due to this complexity, some authors have discovered ways of winning the public trust traditional by acknowledging various authorities in their plots. In other words, writers in the Middle Age depended heavily on authorities for their plots and general theological opinions.
It is doubtless that there are countless collections of stories in various parts of the world, which have been produced on the basis of traditional literature. These are found in India, Italy, China, England, and France among other regions of the world. In order to make the stories more applicable and relevant, most narrators and writers introduce changes on characterization and plot.
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Thompson notes that these efforts of copying and retelling traditional stories may either improve or undermine their quality. Nevertheless, this ensures that traditional principles and elements of writing are well-preserved for future generations.
Through modifications, it has been hard to draw a line between current collections of narratives and original folktales. Even though they appear to be dissimilar, they focus on ensuring that tradition is preserved for future generations. Thompson says, “… the narrative always attempts to preserve a tradition, an old tale with the authority of antiquity to give it interest and importance” (Thompson 4).
Regardless of the differences, it is essential to appreciate the fact that most stories, which have been told for hundreds of years, were originally done by folk-tellers. Importantly, some of the best pieces done by great writers like Homer and Grimm have been converted into oral tales, bearing no elements of having been written or printed before (Thompson 5). Oftentimes, stories are taken from original tellers and circulated around the world, before they are retold by another person, who may end up assuming the authorship of such literature. As a result, some of these tales do not have the same effects as they used to centuries ago.
Notably, stories vary greatly depending on certain issues like the culture of a given society, even though they serve the same purpose. Civilization has also affected the art of story-telling, with regards to how people derive satisfaction from different forms of entertainment. Importantly, Thompson notes that religion has preserved traditional tales by giving reference to ancient days. The variation in art around the world denotes the diverse nature of human culture. In order to understand the origin, function, purpose, and the overall structure of folktales, it is essential various scholars (Thompson 6).
Behrens, Laurence, and Leonard Rosen. Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. London: Longman Publishing Group, 2010. Print.
Schlesinger, Arthur. “What Great Books Do For Children.” The American Enterprise 12.5 (2001): 47. Print.
Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. California: University of California Press, 1978. Print.