On books and exploration…and being six.

A decidedly fishy smell emerged from somewhere along the infant corridor this week.  I shall not name names because, as you will see from the photo, having a real fish to investigate (no dissections, apparently) was such a real thrill for the children. To get hands on is something that can transform a child’s perception of the world; learning through the senses, being unafraid to explore with touch, smell, taste, hearing and with your eyes.  My son will pick up any thing small that crawls – or at least attempt to.  Regardless of my reticence to handle certain large arthropods, I have been mindful to ensure that he doesn’t have the same fears.  We have taught him to be gentle, to observe and to replace any hapless bug that he has scooped up back where it belongs.  We want him to explore and we want him to learn and through this we hope he will develop a sensitivity to his surroundings and the living organisms with which he shares his world.

And that journey of discovery can also continue through the experience of others.  Books, whether fact or fiction, are the gateway to so much knowledge and understanding of our own world and to worlds that have been created by authors for us to explore and to wonder at.  The 3rd annual Hertford Children’s Book Festival started this week.  At the Gala Evening last night we heard from a range of authors and witnessed the power of performance from Andy Daniels as Private Peaceful.  The readers brought excerpts from either their own books or from books they have loved themselves, as children. Listening to them allowed us to recognise the power that books and authors of children’s books have deep into adulthood.

For instance, Sue Vincent read “Us Two” by A.A. Milne and such a simple, lyrical poem describing the imaginary world of a child is so sweet and tender.  Yet, as an adult, looking back at the imagination that could take us to places as described in “Us Two”, we can see what we lose as we grow up; how the “real” world engulfs fantasy and imagination and removes the delight of discovering the new.  And also, it is that loss on innocence that keeps us yearning for a world in which all we needed was to hold the hand of our favourite toy and everything would be alright: we could go anywhere, do anything and be anyone.

So for me, it is a privilege to be involved with the education of young children; helping them to negotiate the complexities of a world that are only starting to discover.   And ensurine that they go forward armed with their imagination, the thirst for adventure and a love of learning – whether that comes from books or exploring the world with their own senses.

And that goes for us adults too…

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever.
I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

(“Now we are six…”  A. A. Milne)