Thursday, September 24, 2009

More sophisticated reading



"In children's literature the grown-up wants a comforting image of childhood, or just a familiar name or story; the child wants a boat, a way out, an example of the life beyond. The parent wants to get back, the child wants to get out." -Adam Gopnik

"In a study conducted in 1978 by four psychologists, subjects were asked to read three passages of increasing difficulty. When they heard a clicking noise, they were asked to press a button. Reaction times, surprisingly, became quicker as the passages became more intellectually challenging, suggesting that the straight-forward style of stories for children—with emphasis on scene setting, lively dialogue, and dense characterization—has a real capacity to secure our undivided attention, absorbing and entrancing us in ways that more sophisticated reading cannot." -Maria Tatar, Enchanted Hunters

(image is George Dunlop Leslie, Alice in Wonderland)

3 comments:

Catherine Lacey said...

Where are these quotes from? They seem to be speaking directly to me right now. I've been thinking a lot about children in literature, children's literature, children narrators, etc.

Leigh Stein said...

From the Maria Tatar book! It's excellent. I'll lend it to you when I'm done. Another book I love is http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Tell-Grown-Ups-Subversive-Literature/dp/0316246255

I read it when I was working on my play adaptation of Hilare Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children.

newyorkette said...

I'm confused. I thought they reacted quicker in the more intellectually challenging passages. And that's not considered "sophisticated" material? Huh?

Anyway, I remember as a kid being able to tell the difference between books written by adults who wanted me to buy their trite idea of innocent childhood, and those who wrote books that were just fabulous. Like Frank L. Baum. I loved the transgender Ozma, for example, and the neurotic Glass Cat. I hated Harold and the stupid crayon, and Where the Wild things are just seemed to suck away my imagination.