A Doorway to a Bigger World: Part 3: Imagination

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IMAGINATION

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”. Albert Einstein

Imagination, WOW! Saving the best for last! Stories are a great source for developing imagination. Imagination is at the heart of all great achievements. Everything we achieve in life begins as a thought in our imagination. If we don’t use our imagination we only limit our achievements. Reading develops imagination by helping children to believe in possibilities beyond their own experience and that to me is like offering a child the potential for an incredibly fulfilling life. So how exactly does reading stimulate their imagination?

  1. Reading develops the skills to visually imagine something in order to make sense of it. Children need to be actively engaged in the story in order to become a part of the story and be able to critically and imaginatively process the information in front of them. To actively engage in a story demands a visually imaginative mind to comprehend the ideas and meaning conveyed. To explain this further, if a child is still learning to read they first need to visualise the letters in relation to each other as meaningful words. They then have to figure out what the individual words mean within the sentences and their meaning within the context of the whole story. This requires the ability to imagine things from different perspectives in order to make sense of why they are put together that way. Then just to make the whole process that little bit more mind blowing, by this time more images, more ideas and thoughts are popping into their heads creating their own interpretation of the story. With all this going on simultaneously, it’s no wonder reading can be a real effort for many.
  2. Reading stories can provide inspiration for pretend play. Role play and pretend play, whether in the playground or independently at home is a way for children to act out and practise real life scenarios or conjure up their own make believe world.
  3. Books leave room for the imagination to grow. Picture books and films are a representation of the author’s and illustrator’s imagination. However, unlike films and television, a book cannot create the whole picture but inevitably leaves some gaps for the child to fill. Children are still required to imagine the feelings, the setting and sounds on a larger scale and it is the words which force these new images to appear in their minds. A book is a series of static snapshots of the story whereas television can encompass so many more continually active frames to the story. So an author’s creativity becomes the trigger for the child’s imagination to take part in the story, whereas television is more akin to passively viewing someone else’s idea.
  4. Reading introduces the possibility for new experiences. This may simply be through reading about an event or person they have no prior experience or knowledge of or it may be the idea that something is achievable that they previously thought was not. The point is, reading opens up their minds to consider what might be possible and it puts no limits on imagining what is possible.
  5. A large vocabulary leads to a creative communicator of ideas. Books by their very nature are bursting with words. The more words a child is familiar with the easier they find it to communicate their ideas and share what’s in their imagination. In turn by talking to others, more ideas and inspiration are absorbed in their minds which can only lead to an even greater imagination.

For more information on pretend play here is an article from Psychology Today Reading for Imaginative Play .

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