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A Childhood Void of Imagination: The Future of Americas Youth

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Imagine you are at the doctor's office with your children. Unfortunately, you forgot to pack toys and crayons, and there you are, stuck in the waiting room. In order to keep your children's attention you decide to tell them a fairy tale. Many fairy tales have been given the stigma that they are child-unfriendly. Many people believe that big bad wolves and old trolls frighten children, and give them nightmares. What many people do not realize is that fairy tales serve a very developmental purpose for children. No matter how pleasant a life parents may try to establish, children's imaginations will still venture into that dark and scary place creating frightening images.

The problem that now arises is, whether or not parents should allow their children to read these grim and gruesome fairy tales or ban the growing of their children's imagination in order to protect them from the harsh realities of the world. Personally I believe the answer is obviously to allow children to explore their imaginations. In her Newbery Award acceptance speech Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, said, "Very few children have any problem with the world of imagination; it's their own world, the world of their daily life...Haven't we all been badly bruised by peas? And what about the princess who spat forth toads and snakes whenever she opened her mouth to speak...We all have had days when everything we've said has turned to toads" (Madeleine Lengle Website). Why any parent would ever want to take those experiences away from their child, I will never understand.The most popular fairy tale right now would have to be J.K Rowling's, Harry Potter series. In fact three major motion pictures have been made out of these stories. The fairy tale is back and stronger than ever. In my research I found nothing against reading Harry Potter to younger children, even though Harry Potter has some of the most frightening characters in it. I was sixteen years old when I first read Harry Potter, and to be quite honest it scared me. It is the story of a young boy who lost both of his parents and now is somewhat of a Cinderella character living with his aunt and uncle. Parents would rather their children see a movie in which chess pieces come to life and kill people than to let their children read Hansel and Gretel. J.K Rowling said that she based the character of Harry Potter on herself and how she felt when she lost her mother, who died at age forty-five. She said that she made Harry's feelings of his parent's death "much more real" (JK Rowling website). Once again you can see that parents who are trying to protect their children from sadness are doing just the opposite in fact, they are praising these stories.

Madeleine L'Engle once said "because of the very nature of the world today, our children in school receive a heavy load of scientific and analytical subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, that they must be guided into creativity. We can help our children avoid standardization by providing them with explosive material capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly" (Madeleine Lengle Website). What Madeline L'Engle said is very true. Unfortunately, parents today are trying to suburbanize and Barbie-ise fairy tales. Children can no longer go on journeys with their favorite character instead they must read a story in which everything is convenient and a story in which nothing is threatening (New Statesman, 1). The length of these "suburbanized" fairy tales can be explained very simply: it lasts as long as it takes a small furry animal that's lonely to find friends, or a small furry animal that's lost to find its parents; it lasts precisely as long as the average parent is disposed on a Tuesday night to spend reading aloud to children.

Parents of young children today no longer want to be bothered with engaging their children in the expansion of their imagination. They would rather sit their children down in front of their plasma television and have them watch something like "Blues Clues" or "Bob the Builder." Parents no longer seem to care if their children are using their minds instead they would rather have their children do what is popular. When it comes down to it, a four year old really does not care if they are going along with the "norms" instead they would rather be entertained (Berger, 232). This means letting their children explore what is going on inside their minds. In order to do this they must have something that can captivate their imagination and act as a guide to what they are feeling. No child can honestly say that they have had the same life experiences as a character such as Spongebob Square Pants. The concept of being normal has taken away from the growth of a child.




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